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
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.
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
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?
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
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.