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Major theme spoilers for the fight with that Wolgraff’s-voice guy

Butch:

Well, yesterday, went to a parent teacher conference, came back to fighting family, people having their screens taken away, and two hours of calming everyone down.

Sigh.

So I didn’t play. But I DID ponder previous posts, and I found a little nugget that was worth discussing before we discussed all the other stuff that was worth discussing.

You said, back in April, in reference to your end of Bairdotr’s story (that you didn’t live with cuz Mr. O totally cheated), cutting and pasting here:

And Bairdotr is at least physically adult, although one could argue her lack of experience in the human world makes her comparable in some ways to a child…

Which was a good point! And became a more interesting point in light of how my stories, plural, ended with her.

The first time, she embraced her independence. She acted like, well, an adult. She said “I’m going to make my own decisions.” Moreso, she said “These people” (this man and this woman) “TAUGHT me how to be independent!” She grew up. The second time, she was ABOUT to stay “young,” but Wograff…what, declared his love? Or something? She grew up right before our eyes.

Which, well, I’ll quote you again:

And it absolutely is the wrong choice, in the game-world …. . Jareth’s comments made it clear that he didn’t actually care about Bairdotr, he just saw her as a sort of amusing pet. He also seemed to suggest that he was intrigued by her immunity to rot and might be going to experiment on her, making her not even a pet but a lab animal. It’s objectively a bad choice, to go with that guy!

It IS a bad choice! The GOOD choice, the RIGHT choice, is to grow up and to stay in Rivellon, with the PCs.

Which means, the right choice is to accept sin. To shed the innocence of childhood. Experience and knowledge and all that….that’s sin, right? Original Sin, even? And here, that’s what SAVES Bairdotr.

(Or keeps her crazy/deluded/whatever, which I am sticking with, and you’ll see why soon enough if you ever play cuz cutscenes. And before you go there, I think, in this context, crazy/deluded IS good. Cuz cutscenes.)

More “sin is good.” Which makes me nervous. Why? Cuz this post also illustrated how we have to live with the traits we got through choices we didn’t know we were making. Obedient and forgiving and all that. Know what trait I have?

“Spiritual.”

I don’t think that’s gonna be a positive in this game.

There! When we don’t play, we can recycle! We never reuse games, and BOY do we never reduce.

Feminina:

Also didn’t play. So yes, let us mine past discussions for more discussion!

One thing that strikes me now, which you politely didn’t stress in your brief mention of how we missed these themes because we cheated, is the implication of missing that choice.

Our Bairdotr never chooses either to leave, or to stay. She never gets to grow up: she remains perpetually in a ‘child’ state not by her own choice, but because the circumstances never allowed her to mature.

And I think in the larger sense, it doesn’t really matter that it was our decision that resulted in the circumstances not allowing it–it could also have happened accidentally if we had stumbled on Jareth when traveling with someone besides Bairdotr (see: Jahan), so the real point is not that we’re monsters (though I won’t argue that), it’s that the game is built so that it is entirely possible that things will simply never align to allow a character to ‘grow up.’

It’s not her fault! Potentially, it might easily not be the PC’s fault either: they might just not know (as we didn’t know with Jahan, who is likewise trapped in a state of unfulfillment which could be read as arrested development and a failure to completely mature and ‘move on’).

And it’s entirely possible that this is just a flaw in the game design, and they weren’t really thinking. Certainly we complained about the fact that you can just miss companion story and have no way of knowing it, and viewed it as a shortcoming.

But I wonder if maybe it’s also part of a theme (intentionally or no), not so much of sin, sanity, etc., but of an essentially random quality to life.

It’s dumb luck on these companions’ part whether they ever get a satisfying conclusion to their story: did they hook up with conscientious PCs who make the effort to travel with each of them (and have the good fortune to stumble into their stories early, die, and then come back later), or do they get stuck with the ones who are all about party balance with the same two people, and saving the good arrows?

You do the best you can, but sometimes things just don’t work out, maybe it’s saying. You can get stuck in a delusion, or kicked out of a delusion, without ever really understanding what’s happening–without ever growing up–because things just never came together for you.

There’s only so much we can control, and all our decisions to sin or not to sin, the actions making us spiritual or materialistic, are ultimately played against the limiting backdrop of the time and place we were born into and the people born there with us.

We don’t all get the chance to grow up.

Butch:

That was polite? Oh, you’re being sarcastic. Carry on.

Well….see, even though I haven’t finished Jahan’s quest, I did get the pre getting slaughtered dialog, the lead up where Jahan shouts his intentions and motivations before charging into battle and getting me slaughtered. So I know some shit about that. I don’t know how it’s going to resolve, but I think it’s going to be a very interesting counterpoint to this particular discussion. I’ll let you know. If I ever play.

And before I get deep, we viewed it as a shortcoming not really because we saw it as a narrative shortcoming, but because we LIKE companion quests and we were kinda annoyed that we missed out on them. We knew there was interesting themeage there, and (ironically, given you ended up skipping it) we wanted to play it (or, in your case, at least have the chance to). The way we play, we like completeness. If we skip something, we want it to be because we skipped it.

Take FONV. We missed a lot of the companion quests. But that didn’t affect the overall narrative. We were just irked because we missed them, and we knew they were there, like when you go to a restaurant and they’re out of the thing you want. It’s irksome. Not because the thing you end up ordering sucks, but because you want the full range of choice.

But do we deserve that? And is it really a shortcoming?

You could read it the way you describe, and, if you do, it still fits into the rather…maybe not ANTI religious themes, but certainly the themes were obedience/adherence to a dogma aren’t right. Most religions, especially the ones that involve some concept of sin, don’t buy that if you do the best you can, things don’t work out. You can, or God does, control it all. There is no luck. It’s all a plan (and not like our plans, but plans that actually happen because God says so). My in laws, for example, really, REALLY believe that if they do x, y and z, they’ll get to heaven. Period. You do the best you can, you follow all the rules, check all the boxes, it works out. No luck, no limiting backdrop, no randomness.

And really, in their world, x, y and z boils down to “avoid sin.”

This game, by adding some degree, if not a high degree of luck, is the antithesis of that.

And, in some ways, of games in general. Pretty much all games, if you solve the puzzles and do the QTEs and kill the Kevins, you win. In the end, there is no randomness or luck. Do what the game asks, get the kiss at the end, ride off into the sunset, credits.

This game, less so. And I don’t expect a kiss and a sunset before the credits, either.

Feminina:

Well…sort of. I mean, luck, or cheating. If we knew what boxes to check, we COULD check all the boxes and get all the story. And I expect that if we kill all the Kevins and solve all the puzzles we will ‘win’ in that we get to the end of the story. So I don’t know if this game is breaking a ton of new ground (meaning no disrespect to it).

As you say, FONV (good comparison, I’d forgotten about that) also had a lot of companion stories that you had to luck (or cheat) into, and just as it is here, those stories were probably interesting, but don’t affect the ability of the player to get to the end of the game. I feel bad about Bairdotr and Jahan being trapped in eternal no-conclusion-land, but I don’t think it’s going to mean we can’t get to the end of the main story. Will it have some effect on the way the main story ends? Possibly! But kiss and sunset or no, I’m confident we’ll get to an ending of some kind.

I mean, it would be breaking new ground if there were paths you could stumble on that would literally just lead to the game giving you nothing to do and no way to reach the end. It’s pure luck whether or not you ever finish this game! That would be possible, and different. And we would (justifiably, I think) hate it.

Butch:

Ah, but “if we knew.” If we weren’t cheating, we wouldn’t know. Let’s face it: If Jesus himself came down and pretty much proved my in laws were right, and we should really do x, y and z or face eternal torment, we might start going to church. If we played this game straight, we would, like in real life, be taking our chances.

We would hate it if the game didn’t end, and it isn’t ground that, I think, should be broken. We talk about how games are cool because they, as a relatively new genre, can toy with how narrative gets delivered, but it’s still a narrative. Maybe games haven’t solidified their rules, but narratives have, and they have a beginning, a middle and an end, no matter the genre.

Speaking of ends, PLAYED! And turned down the difficultly. And it was STILL hard and cost me a bloodstone! But I did it. (By the way, can you make bloodstones? I could use another.)

And…gotta think on this. First, irony. The ONE TIME you don’t get XP for killing minions. NOT. ONE. Only the baddie. Should’ve cheated. Fuck XP.

But…Hm. Themes? Seeing themes? I have a bit of an idea, but I gotta ponder.

Feminina:

The important thing is that you defeated him. And the bitter irony is that his minions (being aspects of himself or whatever, I suppose) didn’t even give you XP. You can’t catch a break.

We didn’t use any bloodstones, but we did have a couple of ‘huge’ healing potions that were chugged during the course of that battle. And I don’t know if you can make bloodstones or not. I suppose you have to sacrifice something to do it, so…I mean, if you’re going to be killing people anyway…but no doubt they won’t let you charge it up during normal combat, you’d probably have to specifically set out to murder someone for the stone or something (we were supposed to be able to do it with the chicken back in the temple, but I didn’t kill the chicken, so I don’t know what happened).

In closing, I don’t know.

And no more do I know why that fight was relatively easy for us and murder for you. I wasn’t trying to mislead you! I really didn’t think it was that bad when I told you it would be fine!

Ha. This is always the way for us with this game.

“I meant well! I thought it would be OK!”

And then someone ends up dead.

Butch:

Art imitating life.

I tried to combine a stone with a “tormented soul.” Nothing.

I’m still pondering themes.

Feminina:

I think tormented souls help make weapons magical. Enchants them with strength and dex, says the internet.

Which makes me feel a bit weird about using some of the loot we’ve picked up, I must say.

Magic: powered by tormented souls! (That feels vaguely familiar to me…have we encountered this concept before in another game?)

Butch:

Have we? Probably.

Ok, themes.

Sin to win. Again. And insanity. Hear me out.

See, the mute guy wasn’t being all that bad. He was born weak and frail. He wasn’t really an immaculate; he was playing along because he was trying to fix himself. He was being mocked. He didn’t kill anyone. He was just a desperate, sad, wretched man. He’s usually the kind of person we help.

And…here’s the thing: Wolgraff explicitly attacked him first. He threw a dagger. The guy, maybe, wasn’t about to fight us. We started it. We started the fight against the poor, sad, disabled man. We didn’t help him. We didn’t care.

That’s….kind of mean. And not “the right thing,” really.

As for sanity……

The “good” outcome of all these quests seems to be to solidify the NPCs in Rivellon. Bairdotr decides not to go with the “doctor” figure. Madora’s own ideals of being a bloodthirsty source hunter are set in stone. Wolgraff finalizes his own place in Scarlett’s delusion. (Remember, he doesn’t get his voice back: he gets a voice he’s “never heard,” he says “I’ve finally FOUND MY VOICE,” he’s finally become “himself.”)

I also know some stuff about Jahan.

Scarlett’s “success” is keeping people here, with her, or bringing them deeper, reconciling them better, with her own nutsiness.

Maybe the latter. Maybe not “driving them to delusion,” so much as having their presence make sense in her own head. You asked earlier, did I think everyone else was nuts or did I think Scarlett was just trying to fit other people into her own construct of reality, and it seems that’s exactly what she’s doing with “good” outcomes. If they fit her world, they stay. If not, they go, or never “find their voice.”

Feminina:

Well, first off, we haven’t finished Wolgraff’s story yet because we haven’t been in the temple of the dead or whatever to get the last ingredient we needed, so I don’t have any thoughts on that.

Secondly…I feel like that guy was kind of evil? I mean, true, he wasn’t killing anyone, but he was stealing from them, and all the mute animals we’ve met seemed really sad about that loss. He didn’t just run off with some small thing: he took away an important part of their identity, which they can never get back. True, it’s not quite taking their blood/life, but he was similar to the Immaculates in that he was taking an essential part of another creature and using it up for his own purposes.

He wasn’t just “trying to fix himself,” he was trying to fix himself AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS. By forcibly taking something he knew they didn’t want to give. The fact that he didn’t kill them in the process is something to consider when we think about how bad the crime is, to be sure, but so is the relatively trivial nature of his own need.

As far as we know, he didn’t HAVE to speak to live, any more than the animals whose voices he stole did. If he just wanted to communicate, he could have written notes, like Wolgraff. Used sign language. Whatever. Being mute was a non-fatal problem HE had to deal with, and he chose to make it the problem of a whole bunch of other creatures as well, in order to (temporarily) spare himself some mockery and fit in with a crowd. (A crowd of murderous jerks, lets not forget. Saying “he wasn’t an Immaculate, he was just going along with them for his own reasons” is no more exonerating than “I don’t personally dislike black people, I’m just going along with the KKK because it gives me a chance to show off my new sheets.”)

Dude was not exactly a sympathetic figure in my mind.

And yeah, OK, he MIGHT not have been going to attack us (although, he was going to attack us), but we didn’t start it, either: Wolgraff, representing the wronged creatures, did. We can argue with Wolgraff about that if we want, but his choice isn’t on us. We didn’t have an option there to encourage forgiveness or anything: he just did what he was going to do.

So personally, I have basically zero concerns about the poor disabled guy. Agreed, in other circumstances he could have been someone we’d want to help, but those are the circumstances where…you know, he wasn’t stealing an essential part of themselves from innocents and taunting them about it.

In other circumstances, like the ones where he wasn’t mad with power and killing everything in sight, we might have been good friends with Braccus Rex. We can imagine alternative situations all day.

I do think this dude was a really interesting case in that he’s kind of a Vampire Lite. He doesn’t kill others so he can live…he just steals voices so he can speak. His crime isn’t as serious, but neither is his justification. It weirdly balances out to the point that I think he’s basically as bad as if he were in fact a vampire, you know?

Butch:

Oh. Heh. Right. Heh. My bad.

Wait…you think that muting a dog is up there with killing things? Sure, the dog was sad, but I don’t think it would trade places with a dead animal. WE kill things all the time. And, more to the point, we HELP people who are suffering all the time. If this was some poor beggar who had a quest, we’d help. Shit, Wolgraff WAS a poor beggar and we helped.

And before you’re all “Yeah, but would we steal from an animal,” how many hams have you looted?

Ham. With which we fix ourselves. Temporarily. Yes?

Shit, I used a bloodstone in this fight. This very fight!

Again, you could very much say it’s a matter of perspective. From some points of view, Source Hunters are murderous jerks. How do we appear to Kevin? And we eat ham and we kill people just cuz people ask us to for less than this, etc. We didn’t like this guy because he was all growly scowly. And Wolgraff attacked him BEFORE we asked if there was anything we could do to reverse the spell! We could have asked. And, by the time dudes are chucking daggers at you, are you really gonna keep chatting?

Not saying he was sympathetic, per se. But we didn’t give him any chance, and judged him for doing far less than we do all the time.

But true. Once again, the end of a companion quest rests on someone else. Interesting.

Zero concerns. Mmmm. Ham.

Feminina:

Now now…I specifically did NOT say that muting was on par with killing. And sure, if it had been a question of “what punishment do you think this man deserves?” I personally wouldn’t have picked death. I would probably have said “stay mute forever and spend your life trying to make it up to the animals you harmed,” but that’s me. As noted, Wolgraff felt differently, and once the fight was underway, we couldn’t exactly decline to back him up.

As for hams, I loot them, true, but I don’t kill pigs to GET hams. I only use hams from pigs that are already dead! It doesn’t hurt the pig any further if I use the ham at that point.

Just like I only loot the graves of…people that are already dead. Ahem. But I don’t pick the pockets of the living! Because I’m so nice!

Unless I’m trying to pick a fight with them so I can kill them. Ahem.

Butch:

Ahem, indeed. Ahem, indeed.

Sinner.

Feminina:

Hey, I believe I noted earlier that I was not arguing we aren’t monsters.

Hm…perhaps it was poorly phrased.

Tp quote myself, “…so the real point is not that we’re monsters (though I won’t argue that).”

Which could be read as “I won’t argue FOR the point that we’re monsters”, or, to put it another way, “I don’t think we’re monsters.”

What I actually meant was “I won’t argue AGAINST the point [contention] that we’re monsters,” or, “I do think we’re monsters.”

Anyway, what I mean to say here is, I have never (intentionally) tried to suggest that we’re not monsters and sinners. I just want it on record that we’re nice, well-meaning monstrous sinners.

Butch:

“Hey, I believe I noted earlier that I was not arguing we aren’t monsters.”

T SHIRT!!!!!

“Hm…perhaps it was poorly phrased.”

Also a T SHIRT!!!!!

You’re proud of all that, aren’t you?

Rightly so.

Feminina:

Pride is a sin!

So yes, I’m very proud.

Butch:

And rightly so.

We did well this week! Considering the only thing we did between us was finish Wolgraff’s bit and die.

 

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