Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Remember Me Review

There are many reasons why I choose to review certain games and not others. For example, I decided not to review Bioshock Infinite because the reviews for the game itself have already said the things that I was going to say. Not to mention, this is one of the games that I will use for my upcoming Doctoral Dissertation so any review that I do on the game would make it difficult for some to comprehend the theories and critical analysis that I will use in that work. There are some games that are simply too horrible to ignore and I reserve the right, just as much as any reviewer to skewer them horribly and shame the people that worked on the game for making something so horrible with the money they are given (EA, Microsoft...I am looking at your direction). Then there are other games that have been getting mixed reviews, but there are those in that pile that are truly hidden gems in their own right.

Remember Me falls into the third category and its sub-category.

Remember Me was created by developers Dontnod and distrubtued by Capcom. The idea and premise of the game is that you play Nillin, a Memory Hunter who works for the Erroist Movement in 2084 Neo-Paris, who has the ability to steal memories and change them to her will. The plot goes that Nillin's memory was taken away from her and the player traverses through the game to recollect her missing memories. Along the way, the player is treated to many challenging enemies as well as breathtaking designs and landscapes.

To execute a move like this is akin to executing Hadoken. That's how much the gameplay annoyed me.

One of the biggest flaws however with Remember Me is the gameplay. The gameplay can be ridiculously easy in some levels and in others ridiculously difficult. This can also be seen as an advantage due to the fact that your skills will be tested, but this inconsistency makes it difficult for other players to enjoy the game. The other issue, withstanding are the moves. The player can customize the moves as they see fit, however, it gets repetitive after a while and it would often lead to button mashing. The camera movements in the game are also some of the worst that I have experienced in a long time and it was incredibly frustrating for me to deal with during my most difficult battles. These problems really set back the replay value of this game, even if there are items and easter eggs that you collect throughout its entirety. These flaws really set back what is otherwise a great game.

There are a lot of great things that this game has going for it however. The graphics are crisp, sharp and beautiful to look at it. The city landscape and art design of Neo-Paris incorporates not only the classic Saint Michel arcitecture but also gives it a cyberpunk touch. The music is also fantastic and is delivered in many ways whether through epic or a street-style brawl. The story is also fantastic but it has a few flaws.

For one, the concept and story telling plot device of the character trying to recall everything that happened to them is a great device that was for the most part used effectively, however, it felt rushed and I felt that, with the grogeous landscape of Neo-Paris, and the interesting philosphy and ideas that the game tackles, the game needed to be a slight smidge longer. However, the flipside to this is that it is possible that the developers were trying to make it into an interactive cinematic experience, akin to L.A. Noire, however, L.A. Noire had a world that players were able to explore more than Remember Me does. The exploration feels like you are walking through a corridor and not much else, with a few detours here and there. This is disappointing considering how gorgeous the landscape within the game really is.

The story again is excellent, aside from some of its lack of backstory and some contextual issues. It is also rare to see a game with a female protagonist, let alone one of color (she's multiracial) on the box cover art and touted as the hero through and through, however for almost the entirety of the game, she's Edge's errand girl and she is doing all of the work while he gets most of the infamy and credit (two steps forward, one step backwards).

One of the good things about Nillin's character design is that while she is thin, she is also muscular, she is witty and doesn't take shit from anyone and she isn't a female fighting fucktoy (aka, heavily sexualized attractive female that kicks ass that exists in a minority of the fantasies of fanboys, movie producers, politicians, tv producers, novelists, 90% of MRAs, music producers, musicians, filmmakers and video game designers, whether by their own choice or a culture that continually perpetuates and lives to sexually objectify men and women. These same groups also get rabid and upset and when they realize that women in real life are badasses but are not the FFF so they go "whatever, you're a bitch" when they don't get the attention that they are so "entitled" to. These fanboys go into the "Nice Guy" category and are therefore mysoginst trolls, I am including women in this too because they can be mysoginist trolls. Don't ever engage or feed them, if you encounter one on the Internet or in Real Life).

She can also be gentle and vulnerable, but she is strong and contemplative of her actions and the actions of others. She is a flawed, multifaceted character and she is relatable in many ways. She is one of the rarities in the video gaming culture, much like Lara Croft, Elizabeth Comstock and Female Shepard in that she is a fully developed character with her own flaws and she is aware of them and embraces them even.

Nillin as a character and as a hero is so important, not just because of the fact that she is a woman of color in a lead game, but also because it shows that the industry is at least trying to take a step in the right direction in trying to appeal to more demographics by being more diverse with it's characters and also giving them the rich complexity that Nillin has and by creating games that embrace the diversity of its culture and audience. That to me is why this game and Nillin's character is important. It may not be much to a lot of gamers, but to me and many women and girls who play video games, it's definitely worth a lot to see a woman of color as the lead and being represented in one realistic way (seeing as how men and women are all different and have different personalities, and that is okay) and it's nice to see that at least a few intersecting identities are being represented.

Aside from the many flaws that this game has, it is a gem and it really is worth a playthrough. However, I would wait for it to go on sale, the gameplay and camera angles really bothered me.

Bottom Line:
Remember Me gets 7.5 memory remixes out of 10.

I'm the Meta Fatale and I review it so you don't have to!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Part 1 of Dragon Age Review: Alistair's Kitten and Puppy YouTube Videos

This review is long overdue and I do apologize for the lateness of it. I am in the process of writing two research papers and working on my Master's Thesis for Mass Effect. So here is part 1 of my review of the Dragon Age franchise:

The Dragon Age Franchise may have begun in 2009 but the game has been reciving some recent retread and scholarship (well mostly from me on the schloarship part). Since Dragon Age: Inquisition is coming out in 2014 (honestly, the wait is going to kill me more than the wait for the 3rd Season of Sherlock and Dr. Who combined), I figured it would be best to take a look at Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2.

Since I am reviewing Dragon Age: Origins, there are some things to note. I am pretty sure that there are some people that have already played the game, but there are others that haven't, so please be awesome and do not spoil the game for everyone else.

The first thing that I am going to get out of the way is the gameplay and visuals. My reviews function a little differently than most because I think that the plot and characterization is what really makes a game great. Great gameplay and graphics, will strengthen the game even more. With this in mind, the graphics to Dragon Age: Origins are stunning and lovely. However, there are a few bugs in the game (this is for all consoles mind you and for the PC) but that's nothing a few patches can't fix. The most striking detail of the graphics in Dragon Age: Origins are the facial features of the characters. Utilizing the latest tools at their disposal, (with the budget they had to create the game) the facial features and facial movement is impressive (however, L.A. Noire, does this much, much better than DAO, but that's for another review later on). The background graphics and action in the game are fluid and effortlessly animated. At some points, it gets a little choppy, but it's not detriment to the experience whatsoever.

Random Grey Warden: So I heard your YouTube Channel is a sensation.
Alistair: Oh yes, the internet loves cat videos!

The gameplay style of DAO is akin to a chose your own adventure, however, the descisions that you make in the game will affect the outcome and also reverberate in Dragon Age 2. You can choose to be on the side of good, neutural or evil, choose to be man or woman, elf, dwarf or human, a different skin color, have a romance, the possibilities are endless. The great thing about DAO and games like it is that you can experience the game in many different ways and create your own narrative.

One of my points of contention is the character creation process. While you can create your character any way you want, there is no option to change their body shape, bodily features and height. I wanted my character to look like me (I am a curvier and fat woman, mind you) and I am sure there are many gamers (male and female) that want to put themselves into the game as well and tend to do this in most of these types of games. What I don't understand is that if Soul Caliber 4 and 5 have this option, why doesn't Dragon Age or even Mass Effect for that matter? If it's an expense issue, then it's understandable, however, this is a subtle form of marginalization, seeing as how in the BioWare universe, fat men, fat women and fat intersexed people do not exist and that is problematic.

The music and sounds in the game are beautiful and subtle. They work very well with the ambiance of the game and nicely convey the action and the scenario without being too bombastic. Unfortunately, the score for me was forgettable with the exception of the opening theme and ending theme (Dragon Age 2 has this same exact problem).

Now we get to the meat of the game and that is the plot and the characters. The plot, yes it's a save the world from evil monster narrative (though Godzilla being the final villain would have been funny) but its the characters that make that narrative fresh, lighthearted and even funny. If you choose the human route, you have the option of being either a noble warrior or thief (you will be a Grey Warden, whether or not you choose the noble or mage origin), or mage in the Circle of Magi. If you go for the elf option you too have the choice of the circle of magi, but there is also the option of being among the Dalish in the forest (depending on which occupation you choose) and the option of being a dwarf, but you can only be a theif or warrior, since apparently dwarves do not possess magical aptitude (haven't the developers of BioWare seen Williow). Each origin choice you make will affect the narrative and romances in different ways. You will also be a Grey Warden as well with whatever race you choose.

 All of your companions are diverse and come from different backgrounds and cultures, so there is going to be a lot of witty banter, arguments, flirting and intimate conversations that go on throughout the game. The plot of course, is for you an your companions to unite all of the citizens of Ferelden to fight against the Archdemon. A noble cause indeed, but remember the old addage that it's not the destination that matters, it's the journey? This game follows that addage. The charcters really make the game an enjoyable experience and your decisions do influence their opinion of you. You can also have a romance with them as well. Of course, having a romance with your companions requires work to build up and maintain, but you can choose to engage in it or not. However, you cannot romance Ogrhen (berserker dwarf), Wynn (human mage) or Sten (qunari warrior). Why is this? Is it wrong for a player to want a romance with a qunari, an older human woman or a drunken dwarf? Again, another point of contention with me (once again, Dragon Age 2 has this issue as well).

It's not everyday that you get to play game that has Aeryn Sun and Captain Janeway.

Your companions on this journey are Alistair, a fellow Grey Warden who seems like the type of person to have a YouTube Channel devoted to kitten and puppy videos, which is adorable actually, Morrigan, a shapeshifter with a sharp tongue and Captain Janeway, her mom, who has an even sharper tongue, Wynn, a Circle Mage who may seem like the kind of grandmother who would make cookies for you, but has a wild streak in her, Sten, a qunari who is the strong, silent type (no he really is, that's not even a joke), Oghren, a drunken dwarf who parties harder than Lindsey Lohan's and Charlie Sheen's liver can handle, Leilana, a young woman who works for the Chantry that likes to sing, dance and tell stories, but is not afraid to use stabby, stabbity death when necessary (Alistair's words, not mine), your dog (who you can name whatever you want, mine was Rimmer. If you get the reference, you win the Internet for a day), Zevran, an assassin elf who thinks he's Antonio Banderas (he's a poor elf's version, really), and Shale, a stone golem who reminds me of Mallory Archer with a really deep voice and a love for crystals, but a hatred for pigeons (she is actually my favorite in the game). There are other NPC characters that are notable too, but the companions really make the experience and make the game fun, sweet, poignant and heartfelt at times, especially at the end.

My only issue, if I had any with the characters, is Sten. I feel that Sten, as a character was underdeveloped and I wanted to know more about him and his past, but he's not forthcoming about it. whether this is intentional or not, it is still disappointing because I, as a player wanted to know more about him, seeing as how he is moved by literature and art.

Overall, Dragon Age: Origins is a fun and interesting game. There is a lot of sociopolitical rhetoric and commentary in the subtext and context of the game that many scholars would love and a lot of humorous dialogue and witty banter that the player can enjoy, whatever way they want to experience this game and there really is no wrong way to play Dragon Age Origins.

Now Dragon Age 2, that's a different story entirely (I didn't hate the game, I liked it, but I really have a lot to say on it)...

I'm the Meta Fatale and I review it so you don't have to!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Who Wants To Fuck A Hot Lady's Torso? Said A Few Creepy Fanboy Gamers

So I happen to be perusing around the interwebz and I encounter the following image:
Before I descend upon the Flurry of Furious Fanboys in my inbox and comments section, let me at least point out the things that I find incredibly wrong with this image:

  • Since we live in a culture in which women are constantly objectified (in all forms of media, not just limited to video games) this reaks of sexual objectification and also, this treats male gamers as hornballs who can't keep their boners under control. Simply put: this insults the intelligence of men and women.

  • For those of that will point out that this is a zombie game and this is par for the course, you are missing the point entirely. If this were a special edition collector's item, it should be a figurine with a person, completely zombified (if you want to do a zombie woman, do her all zombified, The Walking Dead style), not this torso that is somewhat attractive and healthy and with bulbous breasts. Again this wreaks of the sexualization and fetishization of women's bodies and of course this is a bad thing because this is reinforcing the idea that women are not human beings, they are just body parts for the consumption of those who participate in the male gaze.

There are male, female and transgendered gamaers out there, who also for the most part, would find this UK Special Edition of Dark Island Riptide, to be distasteful, offensive and insulting to their intelligence. Thankfully, the company, Deep Silver apologized:

"A statement on the Zombie Bait Edition:

We deeply apologize for any offense caused by the Dead Island Riptide "Zombie Bait Edition", the collector's edition announced for Europe and Australia. Like many gaming companies, Deep Silver has many offices in different countries, which is why sometimes different versions of Collector's Editions come into being for North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia.

For the limited run of the Zombie Bait Edition for Europe and Australia, a decision was made to include a gruesome statue of a zombie torso, which was cut up like many of our fans had done to the undead enemies in the original Dead Island.

We sincerely regret this choice. We are collecting feedback continuously from the Dead Island community, as well as the international gaming community at large, for ongoing internal meetings with Deep Silver's entire international team today. For now, we want to reiterate to the community, fans and industry how deeply sorry we are, and that we are committed to making sure this will never happen again."

Look, there are people that will say, "if it was a muscular guy's torso and not a woman's no one would complain."

Well let me explain a possible reason why:

Because they don't do that to male bodies quite often as they do it to women's bodies. We live in a culture in which men are privelidged over women. If this was done to a male body and sexualized and fetishized in the same fashion as this female torso was, I would have an issue with it too, because we are sexualizing bodies and treating people as the sum of their parts (pun definitely intended) rather than as people.

Even if the same thing was done to male torso, I would still find this offenisve, insulting and sexually objectifying.

Whether the company will sell the statue or not is to be seen, but this is the sort of thing that makes me wonder if the people that market these games actually considers a majority of their male audience to be hornball consumers who will buy anything that may give them a boner.

Dragon Age 2: The Heroine's Journey

Hello Everyone,

This is a great analysis on Dragon Age 2 and the Heroine's Journey. It's also a wonderful segway into my Dragon Age Franchise Review as well that is coming up next week.

Walking the Heroine's Journey: How Dragon Age 2 Follows An Old--But Often Overlooked--Storytelling Archetype by Lara Crigger.

Let me know what you think in the comments below and if you have any other examples of this type of storytelling, feel free to mention them below.

-Meta Fatale

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Video Games: Are They Really Corrupting People?

Happy New Year and welcome back. I have decided to take this blog into a different direction again and this time, I am sure that this is the right thing to do. I am now going to focus on gaming culture and video games. I have thought about this for a long time and I felt that after a semester of deliberation, this is the path I should have walked on in the beginning. From going under the moniker of The Movie Bitch to Meta Fatale, I feel that my work as grown significantly, if not maybe a little bit more sophisticated and mature than when I first started out. I am well aware that I will be met with a lot of criticism with this decision, however, I feel that this is the right path for me to take at this stage in my career. I will still try to include humor in my posts but I will try to be a more cognizant of the experiences of other demographics as well and feedback is always welcome.

To mark the shift in direction, I am going to now focus my attention on what people have been talking in the past few weeks since the tragedy at Newton, Connecticuit. The dialogue on Gun Control and the 2nd Amendment is a dicey and controversial one to say the least. This piece is not going to focus on whether I am in favor of one or the other, but rather focus on the common rhetoric that is being spread not just by the media, but by the NRA and other interest groups as well. The persistent ideology that Video Games and the culture surroudning them cause people to be violent and to commit violent acts. I understand that music, films and art are also accused, but video games catch the most flak and quite frankly, I have heard enough of it and I am sick and tired of it. Therefore, I am going to dissect this entire issue.

With my Official Spokeswoman, Commander Shepard, from Mass Effect
In the wake of Newton and comments from all sides of the political spectrum and everyone in between, there seems to be common thread. While the discussion of Gun Control and the 2nd Amendment is a controversial one, it's important to distinguish what issues are worth addressing and which other ones are pure fodder for lobbyist groups and the media to take advantage. A common thread that I have noticed in the rhetoric from all of these sorts of tragedies is that we live in a violent culture that no one feels the need to address the factors that play into creating this type of culture video games and gaming culture is causing people to be violent and commit acts of violence.
The common ideology and rhetoric that occur after these sorts of tragedies is that video games are at fault. Here is my breakdown as to why a lot of people have reached this conclusion:
The Availability of Violent Video Games
Understandably so, this is a huge issue. However, many video game companies are not going to stop creating "violent" video games as there are people that are going to play them and that are going to demand to play these games. Therefore these games are created. There is also a ratings system in place to assist parents and those who have guardianship over minors to determine whether or not a game is age appropriate for them or not. I would always say that it is the parent's or the guardian's responsibility to exercise judgement in purchasing video games, however, minors are going to find another way to access these games and with the Internet, accessibility is much easier.

I am not criticizing violence in video games, nor am I supporting it either. There should be distinctions noted that the violence that occurs within the narrative of the game, at least in my opinion, makes sense. However, if it is outrageous or over the top and does not contribute to the narrative in any way (in the case of earlier incarnations of Mortal Kombat), I would consider it to be problematic, but would it cause someone to commit violent acts against others? It's hard to tell. Human beings are flawed and there many people that are born with mental disorders. This argument that "violent video games are readily available (in which they are) in which makes it easy for someone to be inspired by the violence to commit this act," doesn't stand and doesn't work for me. As I mentioned before, there are millions of people that suffer from a lot of mental disorders and the possibility does exist that the violence in a game like Mass Effect, would inspire someone to commit an act of violence, but in that case, that person either has no concept of the distinction between reality and fiction, or they have a mental disorder that has not been properly diagnosed. To make that distinction clear for them in the first place.
The Necissity of Violence in Video Games
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, violence will exists in narrative if it is necessary. In Mass Effect and later incarnations of Mortal Kombat, violence and the acts committed are in the context of the narrative. In this case, the violence is necessary (in Mass Effect, there is the option to go the diplomatic route in some situations in which violent situations can be dissolved quickly). There are many people that feel that there is a lot of violence in video games that is completely unnecessary and in some cases, these people are correct. Grand Theft Auto is good example of this because the gameplay style is open-ended, (the player can do anything they want outside of the main narrative of the game) in which the player can commit whatever acts of violence they desire within the structure of the game.
Gameplay does at times determine the narrative of many video games out there and at times also determine how much violence there is and how many acts of violence can the player get away with. While I agree that there are video games with unnecessary violence, it also unfair to lump the ones that do have violence weaved into their narrative as "unnecessary violence" either, which makes this argument a promising, but weak one. 
Video Games Are Pure Entertainment, Not Works of Art
This is a rare reason/argument, but it is one that I have heard before. Nevertheless it is worthy of examination. This is an argument that noted film critic Roger Ebert made back in 1991 and since then, he stands by his opinion. That is perfectly fine by me because that is his opinion. It is also an opinion that is held by many others and also by some within the video gaming community as well. This is fine as well and that is their right. It is also my right to respectfully disagree with them and say that video games are works of art. A lot of the games that we have played and grew up with have elements of a film, a piece of literature or art as the game itself tells a story and the player has the options on how they want to experience the game, in the same way they want to experience a film or a book. There are many meanings and implications that they can take away from the experience and the message as well. In this observation alone, I feel that video games are works of art in their own unique ways and specifications. It is art in the most modern sense of the word.
This is one of the reasons that I feel someone who is anti-video game, in which it can be valid. The subtext in video games and its implications on our society and how we percieve the text has always been part of my study in Video Game Theory and Criticism. I can understand how this can be a sucessful argument as to why video games are bad for people. However, let's also play the flipside to this argument as well. While there are many implications and readings that can be taken away from a video game text, these texts are also subjective and they contain many meanings for many different gamers. All of their experiences are not going to be the same, they are going to be different. In L.A. Noire for example, there can be many texts, lessons and meanings that can be taken away from the narrative of the game. One player will be able to take away a homoerotic experience of the game, while another will interpret it as a flawed, but honorable man in a crooked world that is no different than the world we live in today. That is the main flaw in this one particular argument, but it can also be a saving grace as well, depending on the subtext and interpretation.

So Then What is Meta Fatale's Stance?
It is my belief that art is often a reflection, critique, satire (or maybe even all of those things) of the society and culture that we live in. If that is the case, it would most certainly explain why American Society and Culture is so desensitized to violence and violent images and are horrified by honest depictions of sexuality ( I am not referring to beastiality or pedophilia in this case). There is so much violence in American Society and Culture. I grew up around a lot of violence because of the public school system that I went to and I even witness acts of violence on the street from time to time when I am out and about.
We live in a violent world. That is the cruel reality.
I live in a culture in which it is much easier for someone to purchase a handgun than to get a restraining order. I am aware that there are many responsible gun owners in the US that make up the majority. With this statement, I am not referring to the responsible gun owners. I am referring to the ones that are irresponsible (with the intent to harm/kill another person), that can purchase a weapon at a gun show. I live in Florida, in which there are many gun shows in my city, every couple of weekends or so.
I live in a culture in which a war on "terrorists" is publicized on networks such as CNN, MSNBC, HLN and FOX News.
I live in a culture in which using violence, instead of diplomacy first, is a great way to solve problems.
If we could for one second, stop blaming video games for causing violence and look into the real factors as to why we live in a violent culture, then we might actually get somewhere on the Gun Control and 2nd Amendment debate.
I think Commander Shepard would approve of that as well.