January 28, 2006

Making the Sacrifice

I read this article [The Escapist - Making the Sacrifice] and while I found it an interesting read, her arguments were weak and unconvincing.

The idea that because most games use an "big boss" at the end, that this is an example of some biblical story of "scapegoating" is silly. Most stories have a protagonist and antagonist, and when the main antagonist is defeated, all is well, the story is over. This has nothing to do with religion, it's just a very basic storytelling technique that many stories employ. Somehow saying this is a specifically religious storytelling technique is naive.

"In any society, the scapegoat is not singly responsible for all wrong with the world, but he is made to take on all the blame."

And I hate the term "scapegoat theory", because it implies that the main boss is being wrongly accused of all the ills in the game world, when in fact they are the one and only cause of all the ills in the game world. Ganon in Zelda, Bowser in Mario, these are the big bads that deserve to be defeated because they are bad.

"The end of Sauron immediately resolves all the evil in Middle-earth. "

No it doesn't, Saruman goes to the Shire and wreaks havoc.

"In videogames, the death of the archvillain returns the game's universe to a Utopia. Religion is directly avoided in videogames, even though its influence is obvious."

No, they're trying to tell a compelling, entertaining story, and if religion has nothing to do with the story, then there's no reason to put it in there. I daresay religion has zero influence on the vast majority of stories told via videogames. The author seems hellbent on equating storytelling to religion.

"Another interesting aspect of god games is they consistently offer the player-deity rule over primitive village people. Is this to suggest that the fiction the game world tries to create would not survive in a contemporary setting? Is the modern player too arrogant and narcissistic to believe a god game could function in her city?"

Arrogant and narcissistic? No, maybe because most of us [outside the USA anyway] live in a secular society where the influence of religion is minimal, whereas primitive societies were ruled by superstition and other religious nonsense. Hence, more conducive to a "god game". I would think this would be obvious.

"The seminal SimCity, for example, asserts that a society can function fully without any place of worship."

And by implication, you're saying that it can't? Ha.

"As mayor, the player makes decisions regarding airports, sea ports, hospitals, fire departments, police stations, post offices and residential areas, but is not allowed to consider building a church."

I don't know where you live, but in my world, the mayor isn't responsible for building churches. Besides, I distinctly remember my sims building churches themselves when I played the game, so your argument is without merit.

And using GTA in this discussion because they say "goddamn"? WTF? GTA, like most games, totally ignores religion, they don't say "goddamn" to make some kind of religious statement.

"Religion and spirituality among players - be they religious, sacrilegious or passionately irreligious - remain higher on the hierarchy than any other aspect of our humanity, like economics, politics, race and nationalism."

Huh? No, religion is pretty low on the totem pole for those of us living in a secular society [where most games are sold], except for the most fanatical fundamentalists. And completely irrelevant to non-believers like myself.

"ToS is an RPG that creates a believable mythology. It recounts the journey a group takes to regenerate a dying world, and involves thick symbolism of scapegoats, rituals, prayers, angels, demons and an all-powerful goddess, Martel."

Funny you should mention Tales of Symphonia, I just began playing that game and I'm mostly enjoying it. Except for the religious elements, which I find irritating and unnecessary.

"But new methods of blending religion and spirituality are clearly being forged. The examples of recent successes cannot be ignored."

Mixing religion and gaming is like mixing religion and politics - not a good idea. When you put specific religious symbols and ideas in a game, you immediately alienate almost everybody outside that faith. And some people within that faith will be offended because you didn't "get it right" and are making a mockery of their beliefs. Besides that, a lot of religious people are against gaming in general. By incorporating religion in a game, you are greatly shrinking the number of people your game will appeal to and almost guaranteeing the failure of said game. You might get lucky and hit a "Passion of the Christ" success, but the gaming market is completely different from the movie market. I daresay there are a hell of a lot more religious movie-goers than there are religious game players, in total numbers and in percentage of audience. Just look at Doom, one of the most popular games ever, employing pentagrams and other satanic imagery. If anything, the general gaming audience is anti-religion and any game prominently featuring a specific religion will fail miserably, outside the niche of that specific religion.

Posted by Fungii at 10:50 AM

January 27, 2006

Saw II

Just finished watching this movie and I would say it's OK. It's very much like the first one, but since we've already seen this kind of thing play out in the first movie, it doesn't have quite the same impact. Plus, there's very little in the way of surprises in this one, just a lot of gore and people dying. The characters are rather one dimensional and unsympathetic, so you don't care too much when they are threatened with death, negating much of the tension. But there is that ample gore factor that we all love so much [don't we?] so it's almost worth watching for that fact alone. At least it was more entertaining than the terrible Doom movie I saw last night [well, over three nights], but that ain't saying much.

Holy shit, I was reading the comments on IMDB, and people were talking about all the "twists and turns" in this movie. Huh, did I just watch the same movie? There were hardly any twists in this movie whatsoever, it was a pretty straightforward slasher flick with virtually zero surprises, at least ones that changed the plot one iota. WTF?

*** slight spoiler ***

I'm not trying to be a smartass, because I don't see twist endings coming 90% of the time, but this one follows the same template as the first movie. So if you've seen the first movie, I can't see how you could possibly be surprised by the ending of this one. I'm not saying this was a bad movie, it was fairly good, just not surprising. At all.

Posted by Fungii at 08:52 PM

Ralph bux

Yesterday, my “prosperity cheque” [$400!] came in the mail. Today, my healthcare premium bill came in the mail. [$132] Seems kind of stupid to me that they give money one day, then take it right back the very next day. I appreciate the idea of the cheques, that the massive amount of money the Alberta government has taken in over the last few years belongs to the Alberta populace so we would should share in the windfall. But healthcare premiums for the year [$520] will more than wipe that windfall, so it would seem to me that a moratorium on healthcare premiums for the year, more or less, would have been a more efficient way of giving us a break. Then again, I guess poor people don’t pay those premiums, so maybe this isn’t so bad. Although I hear it cost $10 million in administration costs to send all these cheques out there. Then again, Mr. Klein announced his plans for his “third way” approach to healthcare today, which is a euphemism for privatization. And this kinda pisses me off cause it’s really a copout, instead of dealing with the problems with healthcare, he’s basically trying to wash his hands of the whole thing and let every man fend for himself. Which means rich people get good healthcare, the rest of us get shit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against some experimentation with the system to find out what works and what doesn’t, but Ralph’s approach just seems naive and disingenuous. Like his electricity deregulation, which results in Albertans paying higher premiums so power companies can build more capacity to serve the American market, in an effort to build greater profits to line their own pockets. Anyway, it was nice to get the extra money, even if it was crass political ploy to distract us from his attempts at dismantling our public healthcare system.

Posted by Fungii at 06:36 PM

January 02, 2006

Chessmaster 10th Edition

Chessmaster 10

Holy shit, I only made one post here in December! It was a busy month at work and I didn't have much time to mess around. And I was [am] obsessed with Chessmaster 10 lately. I always wanted to get into chess, but all I really knew was how the pieces moved so I was a pretty crappy player. Still am, I guess, but at least by going through the tutorials in CM10, I can say I know a little more about the game. Like pins, forks and skewers.

I'm almost done the first set in the academy section, the ones by Josh Waitzkin. They're pretty excellent, he explains stuff in a quiet, clear manner that makes it real easy to get into. I've been playing the CM10 "personalities" one by one, starting with the real low ones and working my way up. The low-scored ones are pretty easy, I even beat one without losing a single piece! I'm currently rated 1093 and the last opponent I beat was Miranda, rated 1207. I've just been playing against opponents until I figure out how to beat them, then moving on to the next higher rated opponent. One player that I should play against again is Thorian. I did manage to beat him, but he was pissing me off because he really beat me bad a couple times. I think it's because I was castling too early and he would immediately attack the side my king was on. It would probably be better if I waited until he committed himself to attacking up the middle and then castling. Maybe. Another thing I like with this program is the way you can go back in the training mode and load a game you lost and try to figure out where you went wrong. And hopefully figure out a way to win. I haven't played any of the tournaments either but they look like fun.

Posted by Fungii at 05:09 PM