Spoilers for the lizard trial in Heavy Rain
I got nothing new. I’ll likely play later. Gotta exercise and all.
But here’s something I’ve been pondering a while. David Cage sure likes faces. The load screens, the credits, the menu screen in Beyond. You think he’s trying to say something? Or do you think it’s just something he did as a load screen and kept it up in Beyond as a signature, like Fallout using “Please Stand By” and all that?
It is a good signature. And it kind of stresses the fact that the games are about PEOPLE. It also, on the load screen, tells you something about the chapter you’re about to see: in Heavy Rain, we see the person we’re going to be playing, and in Beyond we see the age of the Jodie we’re going to be playing, so it’s slightly informational.
But yeah, it may also be partly that he’s showing off his highly realistic facial animations. Admire the motion capture! ADMIRE IT.
Probably the latter.
BUTCH’S FITNESS TIP OF THE DAY: Do NOT lose track of time!
I’m gonna go try to at least do the damn third trial before I get Meatball.
This healthy shit takes too much time.
Well. That was yucky.
I dunno, man. That seemed gruesome for gruesome’s sake. More on that in a bit.
Then ran away from the cops, which was a very cool scene, I thought. Doing it in split screen like that was a nice touch. And making a “good guy” that you’ve played be the “bad guy” in that was really cool. One of the best scenes so far. More on that in a bit.
Then did Jayden’s bit where WHAT HEY LOOK a random clue! Where’d that come from? I HATE that in mysteries! “We have to move the plot along so CLUE just because why not?” And managed to not take drugs by taking a shower. Here we go again with showers. Rain imagery. Ethan’s ordeal starts with him in the shower (remember the man ass? Sure you do.) If you played it my way, Madison’s ordeal starts with her in the shower. And now, we have suffering Norman in the shower. Showers. That resemble rain. But in Norman’s case, the shower/rain is HELPFUL. Keeps him OUT of trouble. It’s not a harbinger of badness. I have to mull that.
And I especially have to mull that cuz I said more on that in a bit and it’s been a bit so here’s my thoughts.
We’ve talked about the things this game does well in terms of mood and narrative and is it a good mystery and all that. We’ve talked about the things this game does badly. But you know what we haven’t talked about? Themes. There’s, like, NO themeage. I must be at least halfway through the game, and one would think that if there as gonna be themeage there would have been themeage already. And I don’t see any.
And we can find themes anywhere. Dragon Age. ROBOT DINOSAURS. Fucking Tomb Raider. There’s not a theme we can’t spot, and, given very little raw materials we can invent themes. But this? It’s….there’s nothing there. It’s just a mystery. The kind of fluff you read at the beach.
And…not that there’s anything wrong with that, I like a good beach read on a hot summer day. But this was supposed to be a masterpiece of video game narrative and…I hesitate to call anything a masterpiece of any narrative if even we see no themes.
If, this late, shower imagery is the best I can do…..
So we talk about “Eww, gruesome” and “Yay, exciting,” but that’s it.
Hardly the stuff of a masterpiece.
Yeah, that was gruesome all right. And exciting! Just like you said.
Did you escape? I–as Madison–was trying to help Ethan, but we were too slow and he got caught by the cops, though I was able to get away while they were arresting him.
Nice to know I’m willing to help a possible murderer, but only to a point.
I agree, the game is light on themes. It plays very effectively as a fast-paced mystery, but doesn’t necessarily reward a lot of deeper thought.
Uh…water, rather than washing away sin, is the means to sin? Water, like other things in life, can be used for good or evil? Origami is creepy?
There’s an obvious fatherhood thing we could tease at, but it’s not obvious exactly what it’s saying beyond “fathers are important.”
Fathers should save their sons? (But not their daughters, since all the victims are boys?) Fathers should make any sacrifice? Or, maybe, fathers should NOT make every possible sacrifice, because some things are too much?
On that, the tagline bit, “how far would you go to save someone you love” is another possibility–it’s tropey but legitimate to explore what a person would do, compared to what a person ‘should’ do (for various legal/moral values of should), when faced with an extreme situation.
And it feels sometimes as if the game’s story doesn’t actually explore that question in any great depth, more just poses the question and moves on, but given that it is possible to fail the trials, it might be possible to consider that failure from an intentional/thematic viewpoint…I mean, I tried saying “no, I won’t drive the wrong way on the highway” and it didn’t let me, but there might not have been anything preventing me from simply driving off the road and refusing to actively participate in the challenge, if I’d wanted to.
And I cut off my finger, but there was a time limit on it, so one could obviously fail to do so in time, and that ‘failure’ could just as well have been the player saying “nope” as the player actively trying to do it, but not managing the QTEs or whatever (probably more likely, since this one didn’t involve 19 fingers on buttons at one time…although the deep breaths in preparation were weirdly difficult).
Also, I failed the Butterfly challenge because I didn’t have enough fingers, but it was also an option to go out through the coward door before you even tried the wires. “Screw this! I’m out!”
So perhaps it’s possible to talk more than we have been about the question of whether there are things we’re just not willing to do.
I did escape! Cut across the train tracks, very tense!
What happened if you got caught? Cuz after that scene, I find myself in my hotel room, the news is on, all “The Origami killer is Ethan Mars….police are closing in on this lunatic” and Madison is there just, like, unpacking groceries. Like, Madison…uh… and they chat and she just casually asks “So are you the Origami killer?” in much the same way you’d be meeting someone new and be all like “So, you like jazz?”
I mean, that’s generally how I break the ice. “So, you like games? Booze? Serial killing?”
Like…even Ethan is all “You don’t know me.” Yes, true, Madison, you do not. And yet, here you are, in his room, just making small talk about the possibility that he is a dangerous, serial killing lunatic. Cuz why not? I mean, if you can’t sleep, what else is there to do but hang out with potential serial killers, right?
So yeah, she’s very keen on helping a murderer.
No. No it does not reward deeper thought.
On origami, I think it’s that last one. Did you ever play LA Noire in the pre blog days? Cuz there was creepy origami in that, too! Killers just LOVE origami!
Like, wasn’t there a gum ad a while back….wait, I’ll find it.
I can’t tell if the daughter should run like hell, or the father should run like hell cuz she saved them all. I sure know I’d be running like hell from that whole family.
And, well, fathers are important. Especially when they make origami out of gum wrappers………
I’m at the “Kill a dude” trial. Which is kinda hmm. Yes, you want your son back, but if you kill a dude then you’ll likely go to prison and what good would that do your son?
And yes, one could say “Well, games put you in the situation where you’re feeling all emotional and have to ask yourself why you did what you did,” but that only works if you are, in fact, emotional about the situation. I didn’t know Ethan or Shaun well enough, so this is really “Care cuz it sure sucks for this guy.” I don’t feel connected with him, so I can just sit there reasoning and thinking unlike, say, killing the doctors in TLOU cuz in that game I was in the moment. I’m not in the moment here, so it’s not really a vehicle that leads to pondering.
I think, in that sense, the game hurt itself with multiple protagonists. Just when you’re starting to get into the head of Ethan POOF you’re someone else and the moment is gone. See also “OMG OMG I’M A DRUG ADDICT MUST RESIST never mind I’m the old guy.”
I think you could just go to the door and say screw this at the lizard trial, too.
But why would you? It’s a game. There’s no reason NOT to do it.
Which….we speak of twists and fake outs. Part of me is thinking that I SHOULDN’T do the trials. That the game is playing with a game player’s sense of “Well, there it is, I should at least try to do it” (as one does) when the “reward” is something misleading or whatever. Part of me is thinking that the way to really get to Shaun is to do what no gamer would do, which is to say “fuck it” to anything challenging.
That would be cool.
And I think it would be ok to ask the question of whether there are things we’re not willing to do, if the game was good enough to put us in the character better than it has for me. Good games make you think “Why did I do that.” I. As in I, the player. This, I’m doing stuff cuz fuck it, it’s not my finger. I want the clue. Who cares?
Which is the game’s fault.
Really, now that I think on it, if you’re EVER doing something in a game cuz fuck it, who cares, that’s a bad thing.
I don’t type “fuck it, who cares” very often. That’s rather damning.
That is damning.
But yeah, the ‘kill a guy’ challenge did make me think “OK, should I actually do this?”
I mean, yeah, I’ll cut off my finger, I’d have to be some kind of monster if I won’t sacrifice a finger to save my own dying kid. But killing another person? That’s a much bigger moral decision, and I did actually think about it. Though, as you say, I didn’t think about it so much AS ETHAN, because who knows what he’d do, I don’t know him that well, so I was only able to think about it from my own perspective.
Which…maybe…is intentional in that it stresses the “how far would YOU go” aspect of the question — maybe it’s deliberately putting that choice back in YOUR lap as the player by not letting you get too into any of the characters’ heads so you can’t pretend you’re just making the decision the character would make.
I won’t spoil as to what I wound up doing.
Well, if Ethan ALREADY thinks he’s a killer…
See, my escaped Ethan said “once I save Shaun, I’ll turn myself in.” So if you’re already going down for murder, whatever. So why does HE care?
And if he doesn’t, why should I?
Yeah, yeah, sure…that’s a way to look at it.
But another way is, maybe I’m a murderer while I’m in a blacked out state that I can’t remember, but does that mean I (either I-Ethan or I-the-player) want to consciously choose to be a murderer right now?
Maybe! I don’t know. Maybe it doesn’t matter that I can’t remember. Maybe it does.
Oh, and I forgot to say yeah, I agree that Madison’s behavior seems very weird. Just for a person in general, and also considering her history of bad dreams.
“Given my traumatic nightmares about being murdered by dudes, there’s nothing I find more relaxing than hanging out with a dude who may well be a murderer.”
I dunno, maybe she’s confronting her fears.
Madison is not the most fleshed out character I’ve seen in a game. No, no she is not.
But you know, maybe the reason this gets remembered as such a narrative video game great is that it came out in 2010. 2010! That is some time ago. Video games were not as fleshed out as narrative devices in 2010. Maybe we should cut it a wee bit of slack.
Or not. After all, DAO and FO3 and TW2 are older…..
Well, as you pointed out, NONE of them are very fleshed out.
What do we actually know about any of them? We could sum each of them up in a sentence:
Father with history of blackouts;
PI stuck in the 1930s;
FBI agent with drug problem;
Woman with insomnia.
We know the most about Ethan, since we’ve known him longest and at least we have some backstory with Jason’s death and his time with Shaun before Shaun disappeared; he feels like the ‘main’ character even if the others all get about as much screen time after the opening sequences.
The other three all spring fully formed into the narrative, and we learn a few things about them as we go, but not a lot.
Though at least the two guys get to spring in with stuff that actually had something to DO with the narrative. Not holding onto objections about that scene or anything.
Wait, I meant to say definitely holding onto objections about that scene.
I think we’re ok holding on to objections.
Man. Never thought I’d EVER object to nudity.
The fuck is with me? Exercising. Objecting to nudity. I’m eating fucking quinoa for dinner tonight.
We don’t learn a whole hell of a lot about anyone, no. Ex cop. That I know. But they don’t explain even how Jayden became a drug addict, or why. Here’s this chill guy with some cool shades and he seems ok, so…what? What’s in his past?
It’s a missed opportunity. Even “ex-cop.” Why’d he quit? There could have been more cool there.
And yes, at least we know why Ethan’s messed up. We were there. We pressed X to Jason.
Yeah…who ARE you, anyway?
Are you really even Butch anymore?
Just don’t lose interest in video games. You must cling to that shred of your former identity.
I shall cling. Yes, yes I shall.
And fear not: there’s still booze.