Keyboard Geniuses


Mastermind Over Matter

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Gerardi • June 15, 2012

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

Max Payne Vs. The World
The Digest: Max Payne 3

Rockstar Games, the studio behind Max Payne 3, is often lauded for its attention to detail, but as Swadian Knight pointed out on The Digest’s video review of Payne this week, the superstar development house’s representation of Brazil and its beautiful national language is less than accurate:

This game is jarring. I appreciate the effort Rockstar put into making the setting somewhat convincing, but they messed up some of the details pretty badly.

The script and voice work in Portuguese sounds completely alien; people say things nobody says here, and in strange, disconnected ways. And it all sounds very artificial a lot of the time, making it hard to play this game with a straight face. I mean, they named a criminal faction the “Comando Sombra,” and that literally means “Shadow Command,” which sounds like a group of Bond villains.

It’s a rare privilege when games get Brazilian Portuguese subtitles and voice acting, but I’ve yet to see one that doesn’t butcher it completely. Max Payne 3 comes close to Diablo III in how bad it gets sometimes, and only because that game made every character sound like they’re from Rio, demons and monstrosities included. There’s also a lot of inconsistencies, like a level where a kid guides you through a favela while wearing a Fluminense shirt, which is not exactly a popular soccer team in São Paulo.

A short discussion on the merits, or lack thereof, of hipster fashion somehow led to a prophetic comment and speculative Photoshop job from HobbesMkii. I fear we might have a Timecop situation on our hands if these two jackets ever touch:

If April Digest John ever does a digest with June Digest Drew, I believe the entire Gameological Society will go colorblind from jacket overload. Because I have waaay too much time on my hands, here’s what that fantasy match-up would look like.

The horror

Ye gads. Let this never come to pass, and we shall not speak of it again.

Well, Hot Dog! We Have A Weiner

John Teti’s series on British game shows continued this week with a look at Mastermind, the long-running quiz show. Turns out Stephen Beckett was a contestant on the show (specialist subject: The Simpsons) and he told of his experience:

I was a contestant on Mastermind about nine years ago, when the show relaunched after a long hiatus. It was as terrifying as it looks, and very surreal. It was made worse by the fact that my episode was the fourth that was recorded that day and [host] John Humphrys was starting to get a little fractious.

My specialist subject was The Simpsons, a choice that the producers encouraged as a way of netting some younger viewers, but my original choice was the works of Thomas Pynchon—a subject that in retrospect I’m glad I didn’t have to answer on. I came third out of the four in my round, which thankfully meant that I didn’t have to go through the experience again.

I had the idea of answering on The Simpsons on my way to the audition, floated it with the producers, and they really went for it. It certainly made studying beforehand easier, and though some of the questions were really easy, there were some real stinkers too. Several newspaper columnists decried my choice of specialism as harmful to the intellectual cachet of the show, but fuck them. If they think they’re so clever, they should try getting into that Eames chair themselves.

Hear, hear. Nice work, Stephen. In his analysis of Mastermind, John brought up a lack of direct evidence for the show’s origin story, which was supposedly inspired by creator Bill Wright’s memories of Gestapo interrogation. Roundwood2013 offered some more insight:

In [original Mastermind host] Magnus Magnusson’s book I’ve Started So I’ll Finish, he confirms the story of Bill Wright’s nightmares. Bill was interrogated after being shot down over Holland and was threatened with being shot as a spy. Only when the pilot of the shot-down Wellington was captured was Bill reprieved, spending the rest of the war as a P.O.W. His recurrent nightmare of the interrogations inspired him 29 years later to come up with a quiz show with a solitary chair, a spotlight, and an inquisitor.

And once again the comments prove that there is a magical link between British game shows and British sketch comedy. Adam made sure he was the first on the scene:

And now to trump everyone who immediately thought to link to That Two Ronnies Sketch.

Women In Games
Lollipop Chainsaw

The gaming world has erupted with conversation as of late about the way women are depicted in games and received by the community at large. It all started with a trailer for the new Hitman game that featured Agent 47 murdering a troop of sexy battle nuns. (No, we won’t link to it. It’s gross.) Unfortunately, some of the internet’s worst denizens have made it their duty to protect the current state of female-game relations and have personally attacked those trying to change it. A discussion of the recently release Lollipop Chainsaw sparked a great conversation within our own community about what drives people to react in such appalling ways. The whole thread is worth reading if you have a few minutes. Don’t worry, cool heads prevail throughout; very little invective to be found here. James Bunting questioned whether the either-or binary of some comments was necessary:

Are we allowed to have it both ways? I would like to see more video games starring nuanced, fleshed-out female characters (ideally designed and brought to life by artsy female visionaries) and also still be titillated by entertainment starring stripper superheroes who have to fight Freudian symbols.

I would also like to acknowledge the general trend of white male supremacy while pointing out, where applicable, micro-trends within the sphere that offer unearned advantages to other groups.

I guess at my heart I am anti-limitation, pro-inclusion, and pro-exploration, maybe a wannabe cenobite with a sentimental streak. I’m bummed when I hear calls for less of something. Why not more of other stuff? And instead of dismissing the blue-collar white boy who never caught a break as a mere anomaly, why not welcome him into the hallowed halls of the oppressed?

Fyodor Douchetoevsky responded:

Because white males are certainly ridiculously privileged. They are seen as the “default.” This is of course only one (well, two) aspects of privilege, but it is a big one. This isn’t accounting for social class and several other factors, obviously, but being a white male (at least in the U.S., and a lot of other places) provide a huge amount of privileges.

I didn’t really mean to single this out, but when talking about privilege it’s one of my peeves when people try to downplay it re: white males. Sure, the world can suck for everyone. No one is saying that white dudes don’t have problems with anything ever. By and large, though, their experience is very different than a minority experience.

Also, I’m all for different types of women in games. I don’t think we’re really singling out Lollipop Chainsaw right now or anything, but with video games right now, there are only a handful of ways women are portrayed, and most of the time it’s pretty insulting.

The only two decently designed and portrayed female game characters I can think of are Jade (Beyond Good & Evil) and Alyx Vance (Half-Life 2). Now that I think about it, Valve usually does alright (Chell from Portal, Rochell and Zoey from Left 4 Dead). And I do like Saints Row 3’s character creation, which was mentioned elsewhere in this thread. EVERY other female character I can think of is problematic in some way, or represents a very regressive idea of what women are capable of and stuff like that.

So until we start getting a wide range of well-designed female characters, I’ll continue to slag on games that do stuff like this. Sometimes it is fun to play as a sexy lady and kick ass, but mostly games that do it are exploitative/problematic and it prevents me from enjoying it fully.

Where Have All The Weird Games Gone?

In another installment of The Digest this week, John and Drew lamented the dearth of strange games during their discussion of Datura . Merve pointed out that perhaps the lack of weirdness in games is related to an increased emphasis on realism:

You touched on an interesting question in the video: Why aren’t more games batshit insane? I don’t mean to imply that there’s a lack of creativity in modern gaming—even AAA development is bursting with creativity. But there’s definitely a dearth of, for lack of a better word, “wackiness,” even in the indie scene.

Part of me wonders if this is a product of the trend towards realism in games, which doesn’t leave much room for the surreal. I mean, when you’re playing the latest Battlefield game, you’re not going to come across a giant talking mushroom that speaks with a Jamaican accent and spits radioactive waste in your face. But back in the mid-’90s, 3D mascot platformers were all the rage, and the cartoon art style of those games allowed them to remain untethered from reality. Furthermore, the structure of those games, with their hub worlds linked to a set of unrelated levels, allowed designers to do some really nutty things with a couple of levels in each game. The end result was that most of the levels were your standard jungle or castle or cave level, but a few, like Super Mario 64’s Tick-Tock Clock or Donkey Kong 64’s toy factory level, reveled in their wackiness.

More Delinquent Dads
You know I'm gonna be like you, Dad: 18 overbearing fathers in video games

As a corollary to our list of overbearing video game mothers, we put together a list of 18 delinquent dads in video games, and as always, the community had some more suggestions. Critic suggested Ness’ father from Earthbound:

The father in Earthbound is like a bad divorced dad. He’ll give you money every so often and have an awkward conversation on the phone, but you never actually see him in person. Japanese role-playing games in general have a lot of dads who just run off when the main character is young, and then you have to go look for them, continue their quest, and so on.

One of the entries on the list was Dracula, who not only acted like a jerk to his half-human son, but also had the forehead-slapping temerity to name the kid “Alucard”—i.e., “Dracula” backwards. Raging Bear kicked off a joke frenzy about other one-named celebrities and their unfortunately named, alternate-reality offspring:

More one-named figures (who are all, as we know, either vampires or singers) should name their children their own names backwards. Madonna could have a child called “Annodam,” Bono could have a child called “Onob,” Prince could have a child called “Ecnirp.” No one will know where Ecnirp came from or why he possesses such strange powers, until he goes to a conference and someone sees his name tag in a mirror and the terrible truth is revealed, and he will flee back to his castle.

This has been the week in Gameological. As always, thanks for the comments and don’t forget: Sunday is Father’s Day (except in Australia, if Wikipedia is to be believed). Hopefully, your dad is better than those from most video games; hang out with him or something. We’ll see you on Monday.

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2,327 Responses to “Mastermind Over Matter”

  1. Raging Bear says:

    I forgot about Sting, and his daughter, Gnits.

    • doyourealize says:

      Is that “guh-nits”, or just “nits” with a silent “g”? Does pronunciation have to be backwards, or just spelling? There are people who want to know.

      • Raging Bear says:

        She’s tried both. When it sounds like “nits,” naturally, people think it’s referring to head lice. When it’s “guh-nits,” she constantly had people telling her she should be a racing driver or a sniper because she could really “gun it,” even though these jokes never really worked. This is why she, like Alucard but for slightly different reasons, is forever plotting and waiting for the day she can confront and destroy her father.

  2. stakkalee says:

    And of course, right after the LC discussions I see this – Kotaku has an interview with one of the executive producers of the new Tomb Raider reboot and he drops this turd:

    “When people play Lara, they don’t really project themselves into the character,” Rosenberg told me at E3 last week when I asked if it was difficult to develop for a female protagonist.
    “They’re more like ‘I want to protect her.’ There’s this sort of dynamic of ‘I’m going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her.'”

    They also try to stimulate that protective feeling by having Lara threatened with rape.
    There’s 2 issues here, the biggest one being, as @Fluka:disqus  and @effigy_power:disqus brought up in the LC thread, is that this completely erases the experience of anyone who’s not a straight male.
    Second, this is straight-up Women In Refrigerators bullshit, with the male player acting as the “hero” whose motivation is to stop other people touching his stuff.
    I wanted to say thanks to John Teti for really riding herd on that discussion, but in an unobtrusive way.  Usually threads like that get hijacked by trolls tout suite, so kudos.  Incidentally, how hard has it been to deal with trollish comments?  Has it been a trickle or a flood?
    Finally, there’s some good game stuff this week:
    WikiWars (competitive Wikipedia browsing) is apparently a thing –
    The closed beta for FTL launched –
    And Wizards of the Coast is having an open playtest of the new version of D&D –

    Any change the Gameological Society might want to have an editorial playtest party and let us lowly commenters know what they think?

    • GhaleonQ says:

      While I am probably the outlier sociopolitically here, was that quotation (I forgot the context) what you object to or just that what they mean by “protect” comes through with the moaning and dirty violence and all of that nonsense?  Surely, if anything, you’d prefer that most games distance you from the player-character, since that would provide a greater range of emotional experiences?  Protection is certainly a valid emotion toward the avatar?

      Games like Live-A-Live played with this beautifully by, well, read a summary of the game’s plot.

      • Fluka says:

        In agreement with @BarbleBapkins:disqus , my problem with it is that it assumes that the player would never want to identify with Lara herself, rather than just being her protector.  It’s not necessarily a question of wanting to play yourself – experiencing a wide range of emotions, motives, moralities, etc. is great fun.  But a lot of that fun comes, to a certain extent, from getting to pretend to be someone else for a little while, inside the game.  The quote pretty much ignores the fact that someone might want to be Lara Croft, rather than just…uh…be the nice young gentleman who makes sure she doesn’t get killed or (sigh) raped?

        • GhaleonQ says:

          Ah, she’s cool enough to idolize but not cool enough to personify.  That’s fair.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           That sort of deepens my opinion about game developers never even coming across the idea that women might be playing their games.
          I considered Lara Croft a pretty kick-ass sort of heroine back in PS1 days and a welcome change from the usual macho-men.
          I am taken back a bit by the notion that I wasn’t supposed to emphatically want to be strong, agile, super-rich and busty, instead I was supposed to want to bang her and fill my days by making sure that nobody else would?
          That is so caveman-like in a over-protective sort of way that for me it’s actually somewhat more insulting than pantie-shots and chainsaw cleavage. Gratuitous sexuality may objectify women, but to state that nobody would ever think of wanting to be them is downright shocking to me.
          So, according to the quoted developer above, all female heroes in games thus far have been made with the intent of letting the player protect them with their mighty game-pad (or penis-shaped Wii-Mote), watching them as they bounce around for their god-like controller and making sure that no other man, virtual or not, puts his hands over what belongs rightfully to the player?

          Wow. That is a thought about male-dominant gaming I have never even considered and it makes me sick.

      • stakkalee says:

        Well, @Fluka:disqus  and @BarbleBapkins:disqus already covered it, but the idea that the player wouldn’t identify with Lara herself is my main problem.  If you parse what Rosenberg says you’ll even see that he’s suggesting that no one ever has identified with Lara, which begs the question, why does he think that?  In games like this where the protagonist is chosen for you I like to try to play as that character, to put myself in that character’s mind. Why play otherwise?

        But also, like Fluka said, using rape as a character motivation for your female protagonist is insulting, stupid, and unimaginative; like the game designer didn’t even try.

        I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on Live-A-Live and how it relates; I’m not familiar with the game but I looked it up and it seems very interesting, although the plot synopsis I found was very basic.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          Spot on.  I very much see your point now.  Even when she was posing digitally semi-nude for magazines, there was still coverage about how little girls and movie stars projected themselves into her.

          As for Live-A-Live, it’s definitely revealed on the Wikipedia page.  You might have overlooked it.  It’s also on the RPGClassics website.


          You can play a bunch of chapters with different protagonists in any order.  None seem of greater importance than the others, they’re all illustrated by different Japanese comics artists, Yoko Shimomura 1st showed her versaitility here, each has different gameplay, and you’re generally encouraged to “identify” with the 1 most like you.  (I’m a huge Bakumatsu fan, so Oboromaru for me.)  It turns out the medieval protagonist, the most sympathetic, is the villain who exists at all points of time in history (this predated Chrono Trigger) whom you’ve been struggling against.  The final chapter unites everyone to fight him.  You can pick your main team, in which case the arbitrariness of who became heroes and who became villains is reinforced.  If you win and don’t finish him, you get a typical happy/melancholy ending.  If you win and finish him, you’re punished.  BUT you can also play as the bad guy.  There, if you win, you spend the rest of the game wandering the world by yourself, since everyone is dead and you’re the king of nothing.  You can also lose, in which case your “run” option is replaced by “apocalypse,” and you blow up the world.

          OKAY WHATEVS

          As you can see, it plays with projection, hero/villain roles, choice, and plot twists splendidly.

        • Girard says:

          While I think it’s being employed in a tactless way in this game (or at least the way the devs are talking about it), I don’t think it’s necessary to identify with/role-play as your character to enjoy or engage with a game.

          I’m pretty sure it was Ron Gilbert (maybe Schaeffer? I’m having trouble digging up the source) who discussed that in designing the classic SCUMM adventure games, the mentality was that while the player was directing the character, the player was not the character. This encouraged them to round out the protagonist and give them a strong identity independent of any individual player identity, rather than go with a silent protagonist or “AFGNCAAP“.

          Those games were more about manipulating the environment as solving puzzles through or with the character, rather than being the character. Sometimes in the comedy games, the character would address you, the player, breaking the fourth wall and cementing this distance.

          Not that the way this game does it is defensible, I’m just offering a response to your “Why play otherwise?” query.

        • stakkalee says:

          @bakana42:disqus  Fair point, and I concede that mine is simply a personal preference.  Maybe you are one of the leading assholes on this site…jkjkjk

        • caspiancomic says:

           @bakana42:disqus Good points all. Extra Credits recently did a three-part series on JRPGs vs. WRPGs, and one of the defining distinctions they mention is that in WRPGs, you’re intended to “be” the hero and have your goals and character overlap with his or her own, while in JRPGs you’re playing “as” the hero who has his or her own distinct goals and motivations.

          @GhaleonQ:disqus I had heard a little bit about Live-A-Live (how do you pronounce that, by the way?), but based on that description I think this is a game I need to play with a quickness. That sounds amazing.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          @bakana42:disqus Yeah, text adventure games pioneered both types for sure.  2nd person (“You are outside a house.”) and 3rd person (“The wizard calls him to Serenia.”) both came out of there.

          But comedic games are obviously very different.  *thinks for a bit*  Here’s a tough inventory: “Comedic games that take place in the 1st person.”  They almost always break the 4th wall.

          @caspiancomic:disqus it’s classic Japanglish, live like “seeing them play live.”  I think it’s supposed to be Life A Life, but they wanted to play with quasi-palindromes.  it’s 1 of the few games that uses a tactics grid for a regular role-playing game, so it’s even worth playing just for the gameplay.  Throw in the unique story, aesthetics, and Shimomura’s 1st large non-arcade game, and it’s no wonder it was 1 of the 1st fan translated role-playing games.

        • James Bunting says:

          Live A Live is pretty simplistic, but you get something like 8 or 10 vignettes and one or two of them is bound to feel awesome. I love Spaghetti Westers and Kung-Fu Operas, so I got two endophin blasts. The Kung-Fu chapter was by far the awesomest. Plus it has cool boss music.

    • BarbleBapkins says:

       Ugh. I also find it telling that the producer characterizes players’ responses to Lara as going on an adventure “with her” instead of, you know, BEING her since she is the player character and all. Its great to establish some vulnerability and depth to a character and all, but I think that can be done without making one of the few strong (if sexualized in a 13 year old boy’s dream sort of way) female characters in videogames someone who needs to be “accompanied” and “protected.”

      • The_Misanthrope says:

         I will say that, from what I’ve seen anyway, the gameplay seems to be part of this distancing between the player and PC.  The context-heavy, cinematic-heavy style lends itself well to the notion that you are simply making occasional choices while “Lara Croft:  The Early Years:  The Movie” plays.  I could be wrong, though.

        • BarbleBapkins says:

           Yeah that does seem to be the case (and its a whole other can of worms as to whether that kind of QTE heavy gameplay is good for Tomb Raider), and like @bakana42:disqus and @GhaleonQ:disqus brought up above, I don’t think that it is necessary in general for a game to make you feel like you “are” the main character.

          In this case though, the language the dev uses to describe this distance, in combination with the ‘Motivation Rape’ just seems a little off putting to me. But I guess I shouldn’t judge the game too harshly until more of it has been shown.

    • Fluka says:

      In addition to being a Women In Refrigerators bit for the player, it also dovetails with another irritating theme from comics: Rape = Character Development.  Need to give your female superhero motivation for being a strong broad?  Why not throw in a little rape!  (The Tomb Raider folks have since backed off this whole line of “advertisement,” thank god.)

      • HobbesMkii says:

         Other things that apparently builds character for women in fiction: miscarriages, especially for unplanned pregnancies. I don’t know why it seems to be that way, but I hate seeing them. It’s such obvious plot-steering. The writers can have the “unplanned pregnancy” drama, followed by the joy of the pregnancy storyline (with a little comic relief for the dopey dad-to-be), followed by the drama of the actual miscarriage, and the best part is that they don’t have to deal either with the sticky social issues of an abortion or the logistical problem of what the character does when she has an infant to take care of. And soon everything’s back to the status quo.

        Miscarriages: When You Need Your Character to Change, But Not Too Much.

        • stakkalee says:

          “I guess some people never change. Or, they quickly change, then quickly change back.”

        • Effigy_Power says:

           The overt theme is that female characters can only have development that is instigated by men and usually only from a sexual stand-point.

          Apart form that… Lesbians? Those aren’t for real, right?

        • Asinus says:

          I have a friend who would watch Grey’s Anatomy with her mom and I got stuck in it for a while when we had a Sunday(?) dinner tradition for a while. Anyway, yeah, there was the pregnancy/miscarriage subplot with what’s her name and what’s his face a few years ago. When it started, we’d talk about whether or not the writers would have her get an abortion. Clearly she didn’t want the baby and an abortion would have been an actual, difficult thing.

          ONce the miscarriage happened, my friend and I agreed that they (the writers, producers, etc) had taken “the easy way out.” Her mom got a little apoplectic about it and said that no, abortion would have been the easy way. I don’t think we ever got her to understand the point that we were talking about the writers coming up with a socially acceptable, simple solution to the baby question. But, yeah, very lazy, very simple, and avoids controversy while, in some cases, building sympathy.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           I just had an interesting discussion about all this with a friend and he stated that it’s possible that women in video-games are depicted as such in order to realistically depict the state of women’s rights in the world.
          Wow… that may sound like a noble goal, but it actually makes everything much worse.
          It would mean that game-designers are pulling out all the stocks to make sure that the predominately male heroes can fly, eat giant mushrooms, shoot lasers from their belly-button and so forth, but female characters can’t even escape their socioeconomic plight when thrust into a world of dragons and aliens?
          No, not a good excuse at all. But one that someone might heft to their lapel in order to hide what a chauvinistic butt-crack they are.

          “Men, we’ve made sure you can magically throw axes from your eyeballs. Ladies, we’ve made sure that this fantastical world does not betray the problems you have in the real world. Here’s your filthy rags and your 18 children. Let’s go hunt us some cyber-orcs, men!”

    • caspiancomic says:

       Man, this Tomb Raider thing really boggles me. Rape is a really, really tricky subject that I will probably (hopefully) never truly understand, so I’ll try not to run my ignorant mouth about it too much. But I feel like it shouldn’t be strictly verboten as a story or character element in games, just that the Tomb Raider crew was doing it wrong. Rape and sexual assault have been discreetly and tastefully woven into game stories in the past, after all. Angela from Silent Hill 2 struggled with her abusive past, and Silent Hill 3 was thematically built around female adolescent sexual fears like rape, pregnancy, and disease. Meryl is implied to have been raped by Ocelot in Metal Gear Solid, etc. I think it’s probably the subtlety that separates these examples from Tomb Raider’s in-your-face approach. Although I don’t think that conceptually attempting to escape from an imminent threatened rape should be forbidden sight unseen either, just that this example executes that idea poorly.

      Here’s how I see it now, and I’m totally open to the possibility that I’m wrong/poorly informed/don’t know what I’m talking about/a huge asshole and don’t even know it. People are really up in arms about the new game turning Lara from an ass-kicking Indiana Jones type into a pretty little armchair explorer who got in over her head. While I understand this disappointment completely, I always felt like the ultimate goal of the story was to show how the character started out as naive and inexperienced, and grew to be resourceful, capable, and courageous, so I was willing to give her seeming character derailment a little space to breath. But with this whole rapey controversy springing up, it’s given the whole game a  grindhouse “I Spit On Your Grave” kind of macabre campiness, which seriously undercuts the tone they’re trying to set. The scene feels clunky and in poor taste because they’re leaning on an outdated, inaccurate, and offensive “woman + rape = vigilante” trope, which doesn’t mesh with their story or their established and beloved character. People are very sensitive to the tone of a story, and when a scene like this comes along and shatters the tone in difficult to define but definitely perceptible ways, they’re usually willing to be vocal about it.

      But again, I’m pretty much incapable of truly understanding the emotions a scene like this must stir up in someone, so I apologize if it seems like I’m acting the apologist. Although I love games and gaming, and think the medium can do anything that any other medium can do, and should strive to reach its limits and boundaries as a story telling medium, it is certainly not my intention to defend the medium, company, or game in favour of the experiences of any actual human beings. If I’m in any way out of line, do me a favour and let me know.

      • Effigy_Power says:

         First of all, the fact that you’re so careful around the topic shows that you are not someone who takes this likely. As such, you’re okay in my book.

        The point however remains. Rape is something that is used virtually exclusively as “motivation” for women. I strongly doubt that Indiana Jones as a franchise would have worked out well if Raiders would have started by telling everyone that Jones has a penchant for tomb-raiding because his daddy touched his butt-hole.

        It’s this kind of insistence that rape is a powerful motivator for female characters and completely and utterly out of the question for male characters that sets me off. Nobody should be subjected to rape and I find it makes for a poor back-story, but the fact that it’s a female-only trait makes me sort of mad.

        • The_Misanthrope says:

           Well, there is that extended cut of INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE that has a scene with Young Indy where we got to see what REALLY happened in that train-car with the snakes.

          Does it seem like the only way to address sexual assault/rape in a game is to have it as a subtle/implied part of the backstory of an otherwise “normal” female character?  Is there no way to address it as it happens without drawing unwanted attention to it, getting really depressing afterwards, or the typical revenge scenario? 

        • Effigy_Power says:

          Well, that’s true. I don’t think that rape is not a viable part of any narrative. It happens and it changes people’s lives. It’s a dramatic intrusion and the most common form of torture in the world today. It is as such certainly something that needs to be addressed.
          That all said, it is not the equivalent of a motivational speech for female action-heroes. Sadly this is exactly what many games and movies make it out to be.
          Thor gets his hammer, Spiderman gets bitten by arachnids, Indy has adventures as a kid…
          Female Hero X gets raped and beaten, leaving her a kickass action hero out for revenge.
          Again, if anyone can give me an example of a male hero driven by revenge for being raped and I will ease up on that point. The only examples of men being raped I can even remotely recall are comedic farces a la dropped soap.
          I’d also like to repeat that this is unfair towards men also. I’d say that men subject to rape have an even smaller lobby than women.

          What I am trying to say is that rape as a topic is a very touchy subject that requires a lot of emotional maturity and sensitivity towards victim and rapist. I don’t think that it has a place as motivation or aspect of entertainment, because I have yet to see a game-developer with the required sensitivity to address this with the gravitas it deserves.

        • Enkidum says:


          Nick Nolte in the Prince of Tides?

          Yeah, it’s not revenge and it’s not a game, but it’s the best I’ve got.

    • Girard says:

      That Tomb Raider game raises a weird critical question for me that I haven’t fully resolved. As someone who is interested in games subverting conventions and becoming more broadly relevant and ambitious, artistic objects, I am interested in there being more female protagonists in games. For those same reasons, I’m interested in games that eschew cliched mechanics of domination, mastery and violence (even in a candy-coated, Mario way) and explore things like emotional fragility and vulnerability.

      However this game highlights how tricky things get, semiotically, if you try and do both. Your game suddenly carries the implication that a female protagonist is necessarily emotionally fragile, vulnerable etc. To a different extent, this problem plagued the “Super Princess Peach” game for DS – linking gameplay to emotional states is novel and interesting, but having your female protagonist solve gameplay puzzles by hysterically crying is pretty much a disaster in terms of representing a female character in a way that isn’t insulting.

      I don’t think the answer is something like only letting female protagonists take on dominating, traditionally masculine roles in games (it would be a shame if I could only play as a woman in games I don’t find very fun or affecting). The easy response to make is that games should be intelligently written enough that they can handle these issues in a mature, nuanced way – and while that’s a fair response for more complex or narrative games, some types of games (like platform games set in cartoon worlds) necessarily paint in broader strokes and aren’t suited to subtlety.

      Maybe the issue is mainly the place the medium is presently in our culture, and the history of gender representation within it? In the future, when (ideally) a broader, more realistic spectrum of women are represented in games, perhaps an emotionally frail female protagonist won’t be seen as an ambassador for all women in games, and be less problematic? Maybe when games as a medium show themselves deserving of more critical respect, a game like this can criticized with a finer grain, as one would with films like Hanneke’s, or Martyrs, rather than seen as contributing to an overall harmful trend in the medium?

      I’m certainly not trying to mitigate the problems or defend the game, at all. There are some major problems there. I’m just trying to square my reaction to the queasy gender politics of the game to my feeling that a protagonist who solves puzzles and escapes violent assailants is WAY more interesting and heroic to me than one who shoots Tyrannosaurus Rexes with dual-wielded pistols.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        You are pretty much in the ballpark there. I can’t claim to be a grand opponent of ALL depictions of women in games, there are plenty of very good ones. It just seems that the overpowering number plays towards the societal standard of women as loot, arm-candy or quest-motivation.
        Don’t get me wrong, there can be a place for that, if the whole thing is handled with a winking eye towards satire, but that’s not the case here.
        I think you yourself actually give the best example for the skewed view of women when you say that you don’t want “female protagonists take on dominating, traditionally masculine roles in games” exclusively. I am sure you mean well, but it does show a skewed view of how people think of strong women, that is by thinking of them as men. Strong, powerful and justifiably independent female characters are not women pretending to be men, but sadly that’s something we get a lot with the label of “strong female heroine” attached to it.
        Men and women are different and there’s no shame in admitting to that. Sadly most forms of art or entertainment haven’t quite figured out yet how different we really are.

        • Girard says:

          I think part of the problem is that our culture equates “dominating, traditionally masculine roles” with “strong roles.” Personally, I find a person to be stronger who overcomes a (physical or emotional) situation from a point of vulnerability by using intelligence or empathy, than I do a person who exerts martial force to secure physical dominance.

          And while I would never, ever claim that the former condition is inherently feminine, and the latter inherently masculine, I think my use of he term “traditionally masculine” is accurate, and acknowledges that such actions are gendered, but also constructed (as a ‘tradition’ in culture).

          I guess the trick is to ‘rehabilitate’ character traits considered ‘feminine’ (and consequently ‘weak’) in our culture (vulnerability, care, etc.), and make them okay for both male and female characters to have, without portraying the male characters as emasculated or the female characters as stereotypes.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           I can agree with that. I mean, the coin has two sides of course. Men who portray “traditionally feminine” traits are ridiculed and usually serve comedic relief rather than act as the story’s hero.
          And you are right, the problem is due to the term coined by society, which portrays feminine as weak and emotional and masculine as strong and brave.

          I am probably being a little rash due to a certain amount of bitterness here. I’ve long ago accepted that I have to content with traditional or institutional sexism, such as in Major League Baseball. Since I’m going to have to wait another millennium before Blernsball lets women play, I’ve gotten used to the fact that I have no choice but to cheer exclusively for male players and portray those in video games. That’s why I am not amused by the notion that one of the few strong female heroes I could identify with in my early adolescence turns out as a wankdoll for exclusively male, protective wanna-be gods.

          If I am taking that out on one of you here, I apologize, it’s not meant that way. It is just a very sore point for me to discuss, especially since homosexuality is tacked on there as well, which I don’t even want to get into from a gamer-standpoint right now.

          Incidentally, I’d love to see what the GS can muster up in the field of the portrayal of homosexuality in computer games, while we are unraveling society’s hangups here.

        • Girard says:

          @Effigy_Power:disqus : No worries! You’re not coming across as aggressive at all, just interested and interesting.

          And you’re terribly patient and generous when straight-cis-males like CaspianComic and myself (I apologize if I misjudge you CC, I’m making a presumption based on your caution and phrasing above) ask questions that come dangerously close to apologias for the game in question.

          I think it’s great that this is a site where we can really talk about, with a certain degree of unreserve, the things we feel are really important in games, and people are intelligent and cautious enough not to offend or not to take offense too readily.

          There was a brief thread about LGBT characters in games about a month ago where some folks also mentioned it would be an interesting topic for GS to cover. The only non-pandering lesbian characters we could come up with were two travelling companions in The Last Express and Lucretia from Suikoden V.

        • caspiancomic says:

          I had to Google it, but turns out straight cis male is exactly what I am, so no worries @bakana42:disqus. Also, I’m white, so I’m basically having a pretty good time. I’m living in Canada, so that’s another million dollar leg up right there. Also, I’m in my twenties, and that’s going pretty well. What else have I got in here… middle class, that’s been really nice so far… Jesus.

          Basically, I’m representing The Democratic Republic of Privilegonia at the Privilege Olympics and bringing home the gold in every event. It makes conversation about serious, important topics like this difficult for me because I am literally incapable of understanding what it’s like to be oppressed, either as a result of obvious discrimination or hatred, or just by being the victim of oblique or indirect systemic prejudices.

          On the other hand though this is literally the only part of my life that is difficult.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           @bakana42:disqus : I was wondering how I missed that disqussion about gay characters… Very sloppy of me, it had some great moments to intersect my mighty, womany opinions into it.

          @caspiancomic:disqus : I don’t think you have to be part of an oppressed group to at least try and understand them, that’s what empathy is for. Mind you, I can’t honestly call myself oppressed… even as a lesbian, I had a lot of doors open for myself and managed to get through life with just the tiniest amount of loathing, but (this isn’t gloating, just a sad sign of out times) that’s most likely because I am skinny and girlish. Many of my lesbian friends who don’t fill that feminine role have had things much harder and even I have a hard time emphasizing with them, so I can understand your “white male” syndrome to a point.
          Then again, I am sure you might want to put on some lipstick and wear a pretty dress sometimes, yet society won’t let you, which I can wear pretty much any article of male attire I want.
          Guess we’re all trapped in our own boxes.

      • stakkalee says:

        I think the problem, issue, whatever, is that video games, like any other media, are reflective of the social climate in which they’re produced.  There’s certainly room for games that explore vulnerability and emotional fragility, and as long as those issues are handled with nuance they’re fine, and probably very affecting.  It comes down to, what message is the game designer-as-artist trying to send, and how are they sending that message?  Or more appropriately, what message are they sending and are they effective? If a video game reflects the sexism and misogyny of our culture, and does so in a way that winds up reinforcing those stereotypes what good is it as art? 

    • Asinus says:

      That’s an interesting point about protecting Laura. I’ve never been into the TR games because way back in the long long ago, I tried the first one and the camera was fucking atrocious. I was into FPSes on my computer in a big way then and found walls behind me that obscure what’s in front of me or just some thing that I can’t see but, clearly, the player model should be able to were just stupid limitations. I still feel that way to a large extent.

      However, I also wonder how much of the “protect” mentality (if that’s really the case) has to do with how a particular female character is presented. I mean, I can’t imagine doing anything like running and tumbling in larua’s shorts. If TR had been made with a male character, I’d bet he’d be dressed more like the main character in InFamous (or any other number of adventury games)– cargo pants, long sleeves, a back pack, etc. If you have to slide across rocks, you don’t want daisy dukes, you want some tough pants and sleeves so you don’t get shredded up.

      This isn’t just Tomb Raider specific, of course, it’s been something that has been bothering people for quite a while, and rightfully so. The men get full body armor, the women get armored pushup bras and bikini bottoms. They’re moving away from this, of course, but they make them look fragile and vulnerable.

      Know who I’ve never wanted to protect? Samus. I’ve wanted to BE Samus since playing Metroid on the NES. Finding out that she’s a she didn’t change anything– she kicks ass. There have been others, but I’m actually drawing a blank at the moment. But the basic point is whether making female characters seem ill-prepared for their environments makes more people feel protective. I honestly have never felt that (well, okay, maybe in an RPG when I’m protecting a healer or something, but that’s not gender specific) but have felt a little eye-rolly about skimpily dressed female character who is around men who are wearing layers of body armor and practical clothes.

      • stakkalee says:

        And then Other M comes along, and is problematic all OVER the place.

        • Asinus says:

          Goddamn it, really? I haven’t played it and don’t know much about it. That’s a real bummer. Is it more of “We need to introduce drama, so we’ll add some ‘weak woman’ tropes”?

        • stakkalee says:

          @The_Asinus:disqus Yeah, they just really subvert the whole characterization of Samus.  This article from Audrey Drake at IGN covers the basics.  Prepare to be depressed.

      • Enkidum says:

        Someone mentioned Chell upthread – she’s not someone I feel like protecting, she’s just kind of badass. Uh… yeah, I’m drawing a blank after that.

        • Electric Dragon says:

          FemShepherd in Mass Effect? If you tried patronising her, she’d [RENEGADE INTERRUPT] punch you off a gantry or something. I much prefer playing FemShep to MaleShep, and have never had a problem identifying as her (it helps that Jennifer Hale is a far better voice artiste than whatshisface).

        • Merve says:

          There’s also Joanna Dark from Perfect Dark and Cate Archer from The Operative: No One Lives Forever. That being said, sexism is one of the major themes in the latter game.

    • Effigy_Power says:

       I really have a huge issue with this whole affair (which ought to be apparent by my constant and incessant nagging about it) and have let this go through my head while washing dishes… and yes, I am sure there’s a joke in that somewhere.

      One the one hand I want to give game-designers the benefit of a doubt. It’s, at least I assume, a predominantly male field of employment and, you know, maybe men don’t know how frustrating it can be to be an ambitious girl.
      As children, we are more or less reared to be mothers and wives, thanks to the friendly guys at Toys-R-Us and so on. While men go off and play the kind of roles they later make computer-games about, we basically get trained to be really good at Sims and Cooking Mama.
      Later, thanks to the folks at Disney, we learn that no matter how independent, ambitious and brave we are, the ultimate goal in life is to be good enough to be married to Prince Bucket-hair, while boys apparently learn that the strong and heroic get their pick of girls. That of course also teaches us real quick that we better be pretty, since that’s the primary function we have at that stage.
      I am wondering if game-devs don’t know how off-putting this can be for a large number of women who’s dream isn’t a life in suburbia with two and a half kids and a minivan. Hell, even those women would probably love a bit of an escape from reality, which explains the huge amount of women playing WoW, since it doesn’t follow a story hemming us in. Mind you, I could go on about the fact that plate-armor for women is belly-free apparently…
      So… do guys not know this? I am pretty sure that being raised to aspire to being a cowboy-fireman-astronaut-soldier is a lot of pressure on a 11-year old boy, but do they know, at any time in their life, how it is for us?
      Maybe the fault here lies with society not teaching men/women how women/men feel during certain stages in their lives…

      Then I think of the fact that the great liberating work of unilateral equality “Gears of War 3” was pretty much written/produced by a woman and that it’s a great amount of female devs who are pushing the idea that women love social/educational gaming and nothing else. So clearly we can search for a part of the problem in our own camp instead of just blaming chauvinistic elements in yours.

      I don’t know how to fix this, but I really want to. Earlier I gave @bakana42:disqus some undeserved snark about strong women having to portray traditionally male qualities, but when I think about it, that’s exactly what it comes down to. The most awesome and inspiring female characters that spring to my mind at a moment’s notice are Skyrim’s “Mjoll the Lioness” and Game of Thrones’ “Brienne of Tarth”…
      This is all very confusing.

      • Girard says:

        It’s tricky as hell, especially when, as you say, there are women and girls who have an investment in this gender-identity-thing, too.

        When I taught preschool, I found myself really challenged when it came to my kids’ imaginative play and so on. On one hand, I felt it was my charge to help the children freely pursue their loves, the things that excited them, and help them build thoughtfully and creatively on those loves to help them discover ways of thinking and being, and start to get a hold on their nascent little-person personality. On the other hand, left to their own devices, the children often overwhelmingly gravitated to stereotypical gendered activities and dramatic play roles like princesses and superheroes (thanks, Disney).

        Obviously, I didn’t want the kids to be beholden exclusively to those norms, but I didn’t want to create a space where it wasn’t okay for a girl to be ‘feminine’ or pretend to be a princess if that was a role she felt like exploring (and likewise, wanted to create a space where it would be 100% OK for a boy to be ‘feminine’). In that respect, our class was fortunate in that they had the preschool’s only male teacher (me), and my female co-teacher so we could model through the way we ran our room and played with the kids. There were some days when I insisted on being the princess.

        While the kids were at an age when the sex difference and its (relative) permanence were becoming salient (potty training and so on was going on), I think our kids ended up pretty comfortable thinking that wasn’t a limit, and most had an array of roles/interests/identities that could span from princess to police officer. It also helped that we had a good variety of family types (single parents, two-sex, single-sex, step-parents) in our class, which showed myriad roles men and women could play in a family.

        One double-standard we couldn’t entirely shake was that while girls eventually felt comfortable taking on a variety of roles, boys never, ever took on female roles (though they would be domestic daddies or male nurses, they would never be a princess, while girls had no problem being Santa or a king or Spongebob). An early-onset version of the old girls-can-wear-pants-but-boys-can’t-wear-skirts thing that seems to persist.

        Sorry, I’ve gone off on a weird, lengthy tangent. I kind of really miss teaching preschool and got lost in a weird reverie, I think. But, yeah, gender is tough stuff!

        • The_Misanthrope says:

          First off, @bakana42:disqus , thanks for teaching the pre-secondary grades.  We need more men in those areas.

          Second, for all your effort trying to blur traditional gender roles for kids, you get this video:

          “Feminists we’re calling you.
          Please report to the front desk.
          Let’s name this phenomenon.
          It’s too dumb to bring us down. ”
          -Le Tigre, FYR

        • Effigy_Power says:

           That’s an awesome video, @The_Misanthrope:disqus , thanks for that.
          And I agree with him on his point of thanking @bakana42:disqus for having the brass balls to be active in a “traditionally female” profession. That makes you that much more of a man.

        • Merve says:

          I used to volunteer at a daycare that had a policy of not having “gendered” toys, which in practice meant no army or princess toys. Monster trucks and mini-purses were fine, though, and princess books were okay too. So I’m not really sure what the criteria were for determining if a toy was sufficiently “gendered.”

          In any case, the instructors made a point of never explicitly labelling any of the toys as either “boys'” or “girls'” toys. It worked, to the extent that no boy was ridiculed for playing with a dollhouse and no girl was ridiculed for playing with a pickup truck. On the other hand, boys tended to gravitate towards traditionally masculine toys, and girls to traditionally feminine ones (which may or may not be a bad thing; I’m not judging).

          The point is: while allowing children to grow up in a relatively gender-neutral environment may not influence the kinds of activities they pursue, it can engender tolerance in them, and with any luck, they’ll carry that tolerance with them as they grow up.

      • Enkidum says:

        @bakana42:disqus It’s good that at least some preschool teachers are thinking about that. It’s a weird problem – like you say, you don’t want to prevent the girls from doing stereotypically girly things, but you don’t want that to be the only thing they feel comfortable doing. 

        Looking at my kids playing, it does seem to me that although we’re a looooong way away from a totally gender-equal state of affairs, it’s better than when I was a kid. I mean, I would never have felt comfortable admitting to my friends that I watched She-Ra or anything like that (I didn’t, so stop laughing at me, He-man is the only truth!), but my son is happy to talk to his friends about The Legend of Korra or what have you (well, actually, that’s about it, other than Avatar – we don’t watch all that much tv).

        But you’re right about which sex is willing to play outside its traditional boundaries. My girl is happy to play with my son and his friends, and they’re usually coming up with some sort of violent scenario where they’re shooting aliens or whatever. And she’s happy to play more sort of traditional girly games with the girls nearby. But it’s much less likely for my son and his friends to do the latter. Kind of sad, but again, you don’t want to be some sort of play-engineer demanding that the kids only play in ways that meet with your political approval.

        In short, life is complicated, and gamers are overwhelmingly men.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      It really is ridiculous how much stuff like this is coming up lately. I don’t have much to add right now, but I left a comment over on a story on 1up about the “Biggest Gaming Controversies” of 2012. They had stuff like the Mass Effect 3 ending and Diablo being online, but not a single mention of anything related to the many horrible things happening to women in games lately. I apparently had an old account there, so I left a comment saying that I would have liked to see them cover these topics. I got two replies that I saw (it’s a shitty comment system, I just went back to check if anyone responded): 

      “…If you DON’T read the articles or rarely comment in here (obvious by looking at your profile /page)….then kindly step off your soapbox and get the F*ck out of here. Thank You”

      “you sound like a pretentious dick.
      and you’re talking about VIDEO GAMES!! that’s really hard to pull off!!”

      So yeah, thank you all for not being stupid fuckers.

      Also this is my first legit Keyboard Geniuses highlight! THANKS TO ALL THE HATERS xoxo

      • Effigy_Power says:

         I never know if people are genuinely disinterested in the topic or afraid to appear sensitive in front of others.
        From an observational aspect, that seems to be the biggest hangup men have when surrounded by other men; having to be tough and “fuck, yeah” all the time in order not to be singled out. Add to that the inherently competitive environment of gaming and I think that’s something that is keeping evolution of social themes back.
        Men seem to be naturally competitive, which I guess is a throw-back to our own ancestry, and the two responses you got display that better than any sociologist could explain. I used to get angry at such attitudes, but these days I mostly pity people who feel that they have to be in pitbull-mode at all time.
        (Not that women don’t have their own problems with that, though it seems more directed at gaining attention and sympathy, even by devious means)

        Now everyone look at me. EVERYONE LOOK AT ME!
        Good. Now everyone press the like-button!
        [throws tantrum]

        That, basically.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          I find you can easily pick up 30+ likes if you summarize an early era video game in effusive language and then substituting a main character with a famous historical figure’s father.

        • caspiancomic says:

           @Effigy_Power:disqus It may be devious, but you can’t argue with the results.

          @HobbesMkii:disqus I liked that comment so much that I liked this one just for reminding me of it. If @bakana42:disqus rolls into this thread and mentions Catfrenzy again that’s another guaranteed like.

        • Merve says:

          It’s an interesting theory, @Effigy_Power:disqus, and it’s certainly part of what’s going on, but there’s another important aspect to it. Gamers have spent so long defending their hobby from the Jack Thompsons of the world, trying to cement its cultural legitimacy, that they perceive the status of video games to be fragile. Any serious attempt from a gamer to examine social problems in gaming is viewed not just as an attack on the fragile medium, but also as a betrayal. ‘How can someone defend a video game’s right to be violent and then turn around and say that there might be too much ultraviolence in games?’ they think. They’ve spent so much time and effort fighting for the medium that they’re just not used to introspection, and it’s a frightening thing for them.

          The Game OverThinker has a great episode about this called “Supreme Responsibility”. (The meat of the episode starts four minutes in.)

        • Girard says:

           @caspiancomic:disqus :
          Obviously, this conversation was becoming too intelligent and relevant. Please allow me to lower the average IQ of this thread a several points.


          They went looking


          for our beginning.


          What they found


          could has cheezburger.

          CAT FRENZY

          Summer 2012

        • caspiancomic says:

           *Places sacks full of money on desk*

          @bakana42:disqus, you’ve done it again!

        • Merve says:

          By this point, I’ve forgotten what Catfrenzy actually is.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          If I ever need to distract people from massive crablike robots descending from the sky, I’ll hire @bakana42:disqus to make sure they are looking at Catfrenzy… whatever that was.
          These memes pass by so quickly, it’s like trying to identify someone you saw while looking out of a speeding train.

      • HobbesMkii says:

        We don’t want your brand of pretentious highfalutin commenting here at the GS either! There’s just no place for it.

        Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish reading an interview with the author of Moonwalking With Einstein where he talks about using the strategies of social gaming to teach foreign languages.

      • Merve says:

        That article was troll-bait. I thought that 1UP was above that kind of crap.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

          Yeah, I used to subscribe to IGN as a kid and when 1up first started out I read that too. It was pretty much my only game resource. They always seemed to have more integrity than Game Informer and any other game mags. I was really bummed when I randomly decided to check up on the site and saw some crappy articles like that. Oh well, Gameological is here for me now. <3

  3. HobbesMkii says:

    This week I also became the Ur-Gameological Society Member by capturing “Most Active” in addition to “Most Liked.” I swear I won’t let it go to my head, although I will require a sedan chair and bearers to take me to all future comment sections.

    • caspiancomic says:

      Confidentially, my sources suggest that @HobbesMkii:disqus is also high in the running for Gameological’s Prom King.

      I’m actually kind of surprised you took the #1 most active spot. For a while there Aaron Riccio had such a strong lead I thought there must have been secret articles posted every week that only the pure of heart could see.

    • Girard says:

       Dude, you’re even beating John Teti! I think you should stage a coup.

    • Enkidum says:

      How do you find out this?

      • HobbesMkii says:

        At the beginning of the comments there’s a little Disqus toolbar. It’s the place where you see the number of outstanding replies you haven’t read yet. Next to that is a little box with a symbol for two people. If you click that, it brings up what we’ve come to call the “High Scores” table of Gameological Society.

        • caspiancomic says:

           I like that you can safely assume every reply on Gameological is going to be outstanding.

        • Enkidum says:

          Oh yeah, thanks. It would be kind of cool in a ridiculous way if we could get everyone’s scores, not just the top 5 or whatever. That way I’d be able to lord it over whatever lesser beings didn’t quite make it to my level, whatever that level is :).

        • HobbesMkii says:

           @caspiancomic:disqus I actually meant “outstanding” as in “unresolved.” But I should’ve meant it the way you read it.

  4. Swadian Knight says:

    I knew one day my nationality would serve some purpose online besides getting me kicked out of multiplayer.

    • Effigy_Power says:

       Well, that and yelling “THEY DON’T SPEAK SPANISH IN BRAZIL” at 80% of people on the internet.

  5. Mr. Glitch says:

     Hi everybody, Mr. Glitch here with another classic game review!
    The year is nineteen dickity four. Archduke Franz Kafka has just been felled by an anarchist’s bullet. Kaiser Wilhelm is turning into a bat each night and stealing the breath of Serbian children as they sleep. Old alliances are crumbling under the weight of new imperialist policies, and the world stands on the brink of war! Into this tumultuous powder keg of political intrigue and mutton chops rides The Last Express!

    The Last Express is a point-&-click adventure game developed by the great Jordan Mechner in 1997. It’s a Hitchcockian murder mystery set on the last run of the Orient Express from Paris to Istanbul prior to the outbreak of WWI. You play as Robert Cath, an American doctor with a shady past, summoned to Paris by a mysterious telegram from your friend. You hop the train and find him gruesomely murdered in his cabin, so you huck his body out the window, put on his clothes, assume his identity and set about the business of finding his killer. The cast of suspects are nearly all archetypes of the early 20th century: There’s a German arms dealer, a Russian count traveling with his granddaughter, An Austrian concert violinist, and a young Russian aristocrat turned anarchist. There are conductors, dogs, Black Hands, eunuchs, princes, and little French twerps who all play their parts in the mystery.

    The gameplay in The Last Express takes place entirely on the train, and in real time. You wander about the train gathering clues by eavesdropping, chatting with the characters, breaking into cabins, reading diaries, collecting items, etc. Since the game is played in real time, the characters act on their own timetables, chatting with each other, eating, sleeping and moving around the train. If you miss a key moment, The Last Express includes a time manipulation system that lets you roll back the clock and play a scenario again. If you die or otherwise reach a point in the story where you can’t continue, The Last Express will show a brief epilogue, in the form of a passenger’s diary entry, and then roll the clock back to a point when it’s still possible to win the game. As unique as this system is, it can be very frustrating. You’re not given much direction, so you’ll often wander aimlessly through the train hoping to pick up a tidbit about the plot at just the right moment. You might make it all the way to end of the game missing a critical item, get sent back in time a day or more and end up playing most of the game over. Without a hint guide or walkthrough, you will probably backtrack a lot during your first play-through.

    The presentation in The Last Express is amazing. The characters are actors filmed in black & white and then rotoscoped and hand-animated in an Art Nouveau style. The train is rendered in great detail from period photos and a visit to an actual surviving sleeper car. Each character speaks in his or her native language, which gets translated in subtitles when you approach them. Nearly every character speaks volumes too, so if you want, you can spend hours in the smoking car immersing yourself in these people’s lives. The Last Express so expertly mixes the intrigue of a thrilling mystery with the mundanities of train travel that I’ve never felt more immersed in a game’s world. It’s a truly unique gaming experience.

    The Last Express was not a commercial success, but it eventually gained a strong cult following. Original copies on CD are hard to track down, but it’s available for download on Windows now, and should be released for iOS devices later this year. Check it out at

    Thanks for reading my review! Next week, It’s a super-zapper blast to the past with Tempest 2000!

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      Ahhh, Tempest 2000 sounds so cool! Wasn’t that on the Jaguar or something? I loved playing the original tempest, though I never got the chance to play it in an arcade. I understand it used the spinny dial controller thing like Pong right?

      • Effigy_Power says:

         My oldest brother has an original (I think) Tempest Arcade machine at home in his basement. It was apparently part of a raid on a drug laboratory (he’s a cop) and he bought it out of police storage.
        So it’s very cool and has a kickass story attached to it. It also survived a police raid.
        Long story short: His 9 year old daughter broke it. It’s still there, but it won’t make a beep.

        • Girard says:

           I tell you, this is what happens when we let girls play video games!

          Since Disqus doesn’t provide you the option, I’ve developed an ‘unlike’ button you can click for this comment, Effigy_Power:


        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

          I actually love to look at police auctions. I’d flip if I saw an arcade cabinet of any kind. I recently saw a snack machine for like $30 and a set of three PS2s for cheap. booring.

        • Mr. Glitch says:

          I would sell my firstborn glitch to get my hands on a working Tempest cabinet. 

        • Effigy_Power says:

          Well, I am pretty sure it’s not working due to lightning strike, not because of little Liza. It’s under a plastic sheet in his basement, he really ought to let an expert take a look at it.
          We also had one of those flat gaming duel-cabinet table thingies before I was old enough to play, apparently… I can’t recall what game it was or if it even was a “versus” type game, might have just been Pacman… I’ll ask my dad (also a cop, also bought at police auction btw)
          I generally recommend NYPD police auctions. The money goes to a good cause and there are some cool things, because dumbass coke-dealers love to fill their crack-houses with awesome stuff, as we should all know via the “Casa del Pinkman”.

      • Mr. Glitch says:

        Yes, it’s a Jaguar game. One of the best games for it too, though that’s not saying much.

    • HobbesMkii says:

       I despise you and everything you stand for.

      • Merve says:

        Now that’s a little harsh. @AnnGMorrone:disqus is just a poor, little spambot trying to find her way in a big, cruel world.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           That’s exactly the liberal, flagburning, pre-marital-sex-having attitude that is grinding this once great nation into the ground, @Merve2:disqus.

  6. DadlikedThomasEdison says:

    Gah once again this feature alerts me to a comment thread I would’ve loved to participate in. I haven’t played Max Payne 3 but I am Brazilian and work in game localization and so some of my colleagues of course shared some links of MP3 scenes. I only remember one in particular but I feel like I should go and play it for the language stuff alone.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      This thread is the perfect place to bring it up and have people see it and respond! If you have anything interesting to add, go ahead! I will certainly read it, at least if you reply to me here.

      • Effigy_Power says:

         [hugs @Douchetoevsky:disqus ]
        You’re too good for this world.

      • DadlikedThomasEdison says:

         Thanks, I did post on the thread itself as well. Mostly I am now intrigued as to whether the brief stuff I was was intentionally or unintentionally funny (it wasn’t particularly bad) but if I don’t end up playing MP3 I probably won’t have much more than curiostiy to contribute to that. D3 on the other hand I have played and find quite good in Portuguese despite some flaws.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           Is Portuguese generally a language that gets a bum treatment when it comes to dubbing? I imagine that game studios might be reluctant to spend a ton of money there, since the market is so much smaller than the Hispanic-speaking one.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          @Effigy_Power:disqus From Wikipedia’s page:

          “With a total of 236 million speakers, Portuguese is the 6th most spoken
          language in the world, the 3rd most spoken language in the western hemisphere, and the most spoken language in the southern hemisphere.”

        • Effigy_Power says:

          Ah, that may be, @HobbesMkii:disqus, but for game-devs I’d say it’s probably less important how many people speak a language rather than how many consumers of videogames there are.

          Germany has a pretty big gaming market and German translations are often bungled and cheap, apparently, so I was wondering if the Portugal/Brazil market would suffer from the same.

          EDIT: Hmm, just found this:
          Guess it’s a fairly big market after all.

        • DadlikedThomasEdison says:

          On dubbing: Brazil is considered to have one of the strongest dubbing industries in the world. Whether any particular game uses those resources or relies on poorer standards will no doubt depend on their budget.

          You can get some really really bad dubbing if you want. Or you can have something so good that someone moving to the US later in life might happen upon McGyver on TV one day and think “there’s no way that’s his real voice, he sounds better in Portuguese” (true story, that was a funny moment for me).

          Market size: I play World of Warcraft, it’s been available in Latin American Spanish for awhile with 3 dedicated servers in addition to the US ones. Although I don’t play on a Brazilian server (I might, at some point but haven’t moved since they opened), I noticed that originally they opened up 3 dedicated Brazilian servers but due to demand they ended up opening 2 more very quickly. So even though it’s been around for less than a year it quickly outpaced the demand for Spanish speaking servers in Latin America.