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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for Barnabas’ search for Leda and some AC: Odyssey story elements

Butch:

Fuck it. I’m doing a few out of the house chores, then I’m gonna play. Probably a lot.

Yesterday, family came over unannounced, then Junior got home at five, ate dinner, and then we sat down to do English homework. An HOUR AND A HALF of writing a page and a half that he had already started.

Mrs. McP asked me if I wrote it for him. I said, “If I had written it, do you think it would’ve taken an hour and a half?” She saw my point in that regard.

So I’ve earned me some playing time. If I can remember how to play games.

Feminina:

Oh man, you have earned that.

And seriously–the whole POINT of doing your kid’s homework would be to get it done more quickly than an hour and a half!

A page and a half? I’m thinking…10-15 minutes? (I’m not saying I’d do a good job on it. Part of the valuable lesson would be that relying on contractors with their own motivation to get stuff done carries grave risks.)

Play some game, man.

Butch:

Dude, we often write more words than this essay had in our first email of the day. When I play, that is. So not that often these days.

OK, I’m gonna go get the chores done so I can play.

Feminina:

Play! Play as if your sanity depends on it!

For it surely does.

Butch:

OK! I did! Not sure what it did for my sanity, but at least I played!

I was going to do the stele thing, but remembered that I was in the middle of Barnabas’ thing (yes, I forgot what I was doing it had been so long), so I met the cyclops and found Leda.

I have questions.

First, who was that guy we left with the cyclops? I totally forget who that guy is. Who is that guy?

Second….so…..what are the themes, here? I’m trying to figure out how weird pig lady, the sirens and the cyclops all relate and I got nothing. This was like three random vignettes that culminated in him finding his daughter.

I suppose we could be pondering whether his vision was accurate or was it just a coincidence. Is that where you think they were going? After all, each time we found something, we could say “It is a sign!” or “It’s just spices.” I kept picking “It’s just spices,” and maybe it was. But, ya gotta give Barnabas credit, his “visions” did lead him to Leda.

Maybe I am finding themes.

Hmm. You know, throughout this quest, I was picturing how it was going to end. I thought “We’re gonna find Leda, and she’ll be dead” for a while. As I was running through the lovely fields towards the cave, I thought “Oh, snap, we’re going to find her and she’ll be happy and be all ‘get out of here, blind dude!'” But what I never thought was “This is silly, we’re not going to find her.” I thought Barnabas sounded nuts, I kept telling him that these things were just things, but I, the player, never doubted we would find Leda.

Now, yes, this is a video game and quests have to end, and that’s not true in real life. Sure. But I was still simultaneously thinking “Barnabas is crazy, stupid or both,” and thinking “We’re so going to find Leda.”

Hmm. Now I must ponder.

Feminina:

I felt like the themes were kind of along the lines of how stories grow and change as they’re filtered through not only drug-induced visions, but also the distancing haze of time.

Because these were all variations of classic tales of ancient Greece, and we get not only Barnabas’ drug- and legend-inspired interpretation (cyclops! sirens!) but also our own memories of those stories (which are more or less compatible with his), and then we compare both of those to the much smaller, drabber truths.

And yet, Barnabas’ visions did contain a grain of that truth, and so perhaps the legends we know also contain a grain of truth, and in any case, these stories can guide us in the direction of truth–actually helping us find what we were looking for.

Does something need to be absolutely true, to get us where we need to go? Apparently not, since, as you say, I was never really in much doubt that we’d find Leda, whether alive or otherwise. It doesn’t make any sense, but his visions, though exaggerated, were right, weren’t they?

So maybe gods and oracles and prophecies can also be true(-ish)?

And of course the fact that the Leda we found is his daughter, not his wife, was another interesting take on the repeated theme of parents and children, especially unknown parents. Barnabas never even knew he HAD a child, and she assumed her father was dead, and what does it mean for both of them to find out they have family?

It worked out very nicely in my game…Barnabas kind of wanted her to travel on the ship with him, but she said she needed to look after the farm, and he said he’d visit…very sweet.

Also like you, I have no idea who that guy was that we left with the ‘cyclops.’ I asked Mr. O’ and he didn’t know either. “Some guy we met somewhere…?” was the best we could do. Apparently some guy who had indicated that he was lonely and/or liked poetry and ash-covered islands?

Yeah: I don’t know. I’m sure we had a 30-second conversation with him at some point, but damned if I know where or when.

Butch:

Hmm. I like that for themes. Especially as it goes right down the middle. After each one, you had that “Must be the gods!” or “It’s just a thing” choice of what to say, but your take would imply that the real choice to pick would be c) all of the above. Maybe the overarching theme of the game (such as it is) is “It’s all bullshit, but it works.” Gods. Democracy. Family. Pick any institution. It’s based on assumptions and mistakes and, sometimes, outright lies….but it works.

Hmm.

Though, here’s where I’m gonna get mad at the game for something I haven’t done and likely won’t do: Didn’t you say you can battle actual mythical beasts? Your very good analysis only really makes sense if there aren’t real cyclopses and sirens. If there are, then….then I don’t know what. Then Barnabas is just wrong.

I did the same.

This was sorta what I was saying above about family being one of those shaky institutions. This isn’t just the first time we’ve found or not found family in this game. Each time, the members of said family had a rich history of stories that their memories were based on. Kassandra, certainly, but Supideo, the doctor, Barnabas…their families are the basis of their own legends. When Barnabas meets Leda, the way they know they’re for real is because they know the same story of their past. It’s incomplete, and likely exaggerated, and parts of it may be wrong, but it’s theirs, and it’s what unites them. We all do that, to some degree. Family history. And is that all that much different from legends and gods? It’s bullshit, but it works.

Or maybe, to some degree, it works BECAUSE it is bullshit. Finding out the truth, peeling back the bullshit, always seems to fuck things up in this game. Kassandra found out her brother was alive, but it wasn’t a happy reunion. Barnabas clung to his bullshit and was rewarded.

The best example is the one we keep coming back to: Supideo. I did not clear up the bullshit, and that family went on, happy and healthy. You cleared away the bullshit, and look what happened.

Maybe the game is saying more than just stories grow and change as they’re filtered through time (as you say) to cover drabber truths (as you say), but we NEED stories that do exactly that. We need our exaggerations, our assumptions and, at times, our outright lies to cover the drabber truths and to keep us happy.

Hmm.

Ah, yes. The “some guy we met somewhere.” I’m gonna look it up.

Ah, him.

He’s the guy we rescued from the sirens, the guy who was a fisherman but who had the soul of a poet and wanted to hear the most beautiful song and look where it got him. So the fisherman poet wound up with the poet who likes to fish. There ya go.

Which probably does have a theme or two in it somewhere.

Feminina:

Oh, that guy! Right! The one the sirens hadn’t drained of blood, who was there because he was searching for beauty!

Well…I guess he found…a kindred spirit who is also looking for beauty. I hope they’re very happy together, writing beautiful poetry on that desolate, bandit-infested island.

And yeah, maybe that’s true, we need stories to hold our lives together, even though our stories are often largely invented and even though we know, or would know if we thought about it, that they’re largely invented.

Maybe there’s a grain of truth there, and maybe there’s just a grain of something we’d LIKE to be true, but in any case it helps shape the way we see ourselves and each other…hm.

And OK, here’s the thing about the mythical beasts: apparently they’re optional add-ons that are sort of extras to the main game. You CAN actually fight a literal cyclops (Mr. O’ did it), but it’s not in the main story. Just as, apparently, in the last one you could literally fight Egyptian gods, but it wasn’t in the main story. It’s this “hey, if you want a special challenge” thing.

So…yeah. It’s this weird side content. I think we can ignore the literal mythical monsters for purposes of our analysis, because they aren’t meant to be something that any normal person would ever run into.

I mean, not that any normal person would run around slaughtering every captain in the Greek world either, but you know what I mean.

Butch:

Well, THEY thought it was beautiful, right? At least in this quest (and maybe some others, I’m overpondering today), beauty is where you find it. They loved that beach, even though telling them you agreed was marked as a lie. And, I must admit, when the cyclops turned out to be a good poet, I was surprised. I thought his poetry would be comically bad. That was a great twist on our assumptions, or mine, anyway.

Hmm. This begs an interesting question re games: If we, as players, choose to ignore them, or, for that matter, never find one, does that mean that they aren’t “there?” CAN we ignore the mythical monsters for purposes of our analysis?

This is kind of one of those artistic questions that I love so much that is so unique to gaming. It would be absurd to say “Well, I left at intermission, but that’s ok, because I’ll just analyse the play as if it was one act.” It’s true, yes, that other media, such as movies or books, are entire works. You read the book. You see the movie. You don’t play a movie to 68% completion and then think you can analyse it (you can’t. Well, not well). Games, I think, you can play to 68% completion and still feel like you played “the whole game.” “Finished” it.

So does that mean you ignore the other 32%? I’m….not so sure. I agree that it matters that these monsters aren’t in the main story. The main story should be the biggest thing one analyses. But is it good critique to just say “We’ll just assume they aren’t there because we’re not going to do the fights?” They are, after all, there. They exist in the game world. Our ignoring them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Right?

Feminina:

OK…this was an interesting point and so I looked it up, and it looks as if I’m completely wrong. They ARE in the main quest. They’re actually in the main quest that we’re at right now, looking for things for dad.

So…hm. Ignore everything I said. I apparently badly misunderstood when Mr. O’ was talking about it.

Although based on what I’ve done and the snippet I read online before I stopped to avoid spoilers, there really aren’t multiple sirens and cyclopses out there in the world where average people are running into them, there’s only one instance of each mythical monster. So the one literal cyclopes, which I haven’t yet encountered, maybe can be taken as the inspiration for a lot of cyclopes legends but which few people have ever actually seen.

Um…that actually makes sense based on…this other thing I did…and what the pillars were saying in Atlantis…

So! I was completely wrong about that!

But I think it doesn’t completely throw off the analysis, because it still works as a theme about how people tend to make things more interesting than they are, and how this ties into our need to hold things together with personal, family and national myths about ourselves and who we are.

We talked about this all the time in RDR2, with the way the West was being mythologized even as we walked through it. People have actually seen dogs, which are real but that’s boring, so let’s call it a lion, which we’ve only heard about! People may actually have seen a mountain lion, but it’s more exciting if we paint stripes on it and call it a tiger! (And then, of course, sometimes the lion actually IS a lion. There are grains of truth.)

And so, in ancient Greece, people have actually seen large men who’ve lost an eye, but that’s boring, so in the drug-induced vision let’s call it a cyclopes!

Butch:

Man, shit. I have to fight medusa and shit? Shit.

I remember that from RDR, but this quest wasn’t about crafting a myth, it was about believing in something totally unreal. Mr. Margaret was dressing dogs up as wild beasts (the lion was real, remember?), and people were fooling themselves, but there were still dressed up dogs. Here, Barnabas didn’t see a cyclops or a siren. He had a dream that Leda did. He wasn’t all “I saw a cyclops!” and the dude was “Uh, Barnabas, you mean me?” Barnabas seemed to have some sort of knowledge of things he, himself, hadn’t seen.

So you’re left wondering: Were these visions sent from the gods? If so, why were they so wrong? But, on the other hand, how were they so right?

Feminina:

Yeah, that’s the question, really whether or not there are actual sirens and cyclopes. If his visions weren’t divinely inspired, how did they lead him so accurately to Leda?

And yet, if they were divinely inspired, how were they so wrong on all the details?

I mean, we also asked this about the Oracle. Are any of her visions true at all, or are they all lies?

Maybe, again, it’s that sometimes there is some actual truth that filters through in visions (from contact with the Isu or something), but our puny human minds just exaggerate it and make it more exciting–first to ourselves, and then to others, and then on and on as the story spreads?

On the plus side, if the mythical monsters are part of the main quest, they can’t be some psychotically difficult “we put this here to make you cry in frustration” combats. They’ve got to be around the same level of challenge we’re used to, only with different enemies.

Which is kind of what we’ve been hankering after anyway. So maybe this will be great!

We’re gonna love it.

Butch:

Well, an easy answer is “coincidence.” Sure, there was a lot of coincidence in Barnabas’ story. There was that. But sometimes very, very coincidental things happen and people go “See? SEE? The GODS, man!”

This still happens today with regularity.

We’ve been hankering for something? Other than an avoidance of busy work and boats?

Feminina:

That is a good point. Sometimes things happen and we figure out how to interpret them according to our story, but really they could just as easily be interpreted as random.

“A guy who lost an eye! That’s totally a cyclopes from the vision!”

Except…Barnabas himself lost an eye. I have two other lieutenants with missing eyes. It’s not all that uncommon.

Perhaps confirmation bias is also part of the theme. How we force things into our stories whether or not it actually makes sense objectively. It makes sense once we MAKE it make sense, damn it!

And yeah, man! You were saying how boring the combat is when all the fights are the same style of sneaking into camps and forts!

At least Medusa is probably going to be a change of pace.

Although just watch, she’ll probably be inside a fort, surrounded by captains.

Butch:

Oh, no doubt. “Medusa’s Lair. Loot treasure 0/3, kill captain 0/5.”

It makes sense once we MAKE it make sense, dammit! should be on the box of every AC game ever.

Feminina:

It’s a good slogan!

But also, it’s actually applicable in a thematic way. Because it is a human tendency to want things to make sense, and to force them into some kind of sense even when they don’t. Heck, isn’t that basically religion?

“Why is there lightning? Why do plants grow? Why do people die? Why did my horse break a leg?”

GODS DID IT.

“But…why would gods…”

SHUT UP, THAT’S WHY.

Butch:

Shut up, that’s why should be on every loading screen in the game. Every ten minutes.

What did I-

SHUT UP, THAT’S WHY.

Why am I-

SHUT UP, THAT’S WHY.

It would be the only thing in the game that made any sense.

Feminina:

It’s possibly my favorite Simpsons quote. Credit where it’s due.

It works in so very many situations.

Butch:

Especially when playing AC.

Feminina:

Which is basically all we do anyway.