Tag Archives: Video Games

God of War III and Exploring the Space Within

The attempt to add shades of gray to Sony's anti-hero in his final installment may have come too late, but is admirable regardless.

Ok, just finished God of War III, and I have to say, one of the best endings to a game I’ve ever played. Although an argument can be made that the complexities introduced to Kratos’ character in the last quarter of the game (that deep down, locked within him, there is some good and that his real weapon is hope) can seem tacked on when viewing the game, and series, as a whole, I had no problem with it. My theory as to why these sort of character inconsistencies never bother me in games has to do with player involvement, being that if a character has you hooked at even the simplest level, it’s easier to project into them your own personality and motivations, and personal contradictions and complexities, regardless of (or at least giving some leeway to) how the character may be written. So when Kratos’ fight becomes something within his soul, as opposed to an arena of demons, on the one hand it feels tacked on, but on the other, I appreciate the effort and I enjoy it immensely, because I really relate to Kratos already, being that I am a very angry guy, but I’m still a human being.

What’s more interesting to me though was that in a sense, moments like God of War III’s trip into the soul, where the player’s interaction with the character becomes in some sense more internal and psychological, has practically become a prerequisite for many ‘Triple A’ games. My four most recent game obsessions, Batman Arkham Asylum, Assassin’s Creed II, Fallout 3, and now God of War III, have all had moments where the player is thrown into the mind of the character, be it due to hallucinogenic drugs, virtual reality, or a plunge into unconsciousness/death. When these are done well, they’re awesome, even if in almost every case that I can think of, the degree of ‘gameiness’ tends to be toned down for a more basic interaction with the ‘space of within.’ In every case, though, the moment is more than just a cinematic or cutscene, and this very basic interaction, which propels the psycho-spiritual events forward, is somehow intensely rewarding.

In Fallout 3, which is perhaps the least internal of these, but which conforms to the requisite of jarringly defamiliarizing the player and game environment, you walk through a Pleasantville ideal that inspires much of the branding within the game’s fictional universe. In Assassin’s Creed II, you pay a hallucinatory visit to Altair, if only to reveal information about his past. In Batman, you take a journey into the world of the mind a few times, but the most memorable is when Batman himself becomes Bruce Wayne in the alley of his parent’s death. In God of War III, Kratos finally forgives himself for murdering his family, and discovers that it is hope, not anger, which has always been his greatest weapon.

While Batman Arkham Asylum’s moment is easily the one with the most impact, if only because there is a rich mythology and the moment has never been captured in a game, most gamers can agree that these moments are prevalent in some of the biggest titles around.

A scene portrayed countless times in comics and films finds a freshness, and power, when brought into the world of this awesome game.

Now I am pretty lapsed, and I missed the PS2 era, in which, I am guessing, these sort of trips into the mind and psychology of the character, where the physical world is left behind for the internal, which is always intensely less familiar to us (but always aiming to feel more familiar, in some deeper or nostalgic way), may have come about to begin with. Regardless, this is an aspect of games that I find tremendously interesting.

The more I think of the possibilities, the more I realize these are just baby steps of a new development in a medium that, as it reaches, ever so steadily, its technical apex, this need and hunger to ask deeper questions and express deeper human needs becomes ever greater. What an exciting time to be a gamer!

Dynamic Nerdosphere Interconnectivity – or how I learned to love twitter

Believe me when I say this – but I’m sick of hearing about it too. You know, that blue bird, 140 characters, inane posts from people you don’t really care about…Ashton Kutchener (and no I’m not going to bother to check if that’s how you really spell his name).

Twitter.

It seems like I can’t watch a TV show without the host trying to pimp his twitter, and even the newspapers, already losing relevancy in a world of highspeed communication, have brought themselves so low as to promote their twitter account. Of all the social networking sites that I’ve signed up for over the years, your friendsters, your myspaces, your bloggers and facebook, twitter was the one where I joined in, simply because it seemed like, society demanded it of me.

Even now, months later I’m not entirely sure I’m using it correctly, but a week ago I happened upon an interesting phenomenon that makes me believe that twitter still has a purpose yet. For lack of a better term, let’s call it Nerdosphere Interconnectivity, to which you might argue, has existed since the early days of the internet, it’s called links, and so we’ll further add *science* to my newly invented term and call it, Dynamic Nerdosphere Interconnectivity.

My Twitter account is populated by a smattering of various representatives from different fiefdoms in the Nerdosphere – from “Internet Jesus” Warren Ellis (the comics Planetary, Nextwave), videogame creators like David Jaffe (God of War, Calling All Cars), to artists/illustrators like Paul Pope, critics like Roger Ebert, and even more off the beaten track – architecture site BLDGBLOG‘s companion account, or mixed martial artist Joe Lauzon, and ring girl Arianny Celeste.

The interesting little bit here is how these seemingly disparate elements sometimes converge. Like the time Gears of War designer Cliff Bleszinski (and yes I bothered to check the spelling on that one) posted about reading a certain comic:

Cliffy B: Reading “Old Man Logan” – Mark Millar always delivers. 32 minutes ago from txt

A comic that I had just gifted to my brother for Christmas. And Marvel.com editor Agent M (who I also follow) picked up on this:

Agent_M: @therealcliffyb If you’re a @Marvel Comics fan, we should chat. Maybe do an interview with me for Marvel.com?

I haven’t bothered to check up on this if anything has actually come into fruition, because I’m not very thorough, nor am I a journalist – but it does point to the (dynamic) interconnectedness of our Nerdosphere. Afterall, why wouldn’t Bleszinski be a fan of Wolverine or Mark Millar? In the same way that many FPS games model themselves after Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down, or if you’re in the sci-fi mode,  James Cameron’s Aliens. Unlike the call-and-response dialog that would happen before, where George Lucas creates a work decades after being inspired by Flash Gordon and Lord of the Rings, the “lag” between the creator/creation/inspiration cycle is in many ways shortened. George Lucas may have never actually spoken with say, JRR Tolkein, and I never had the chance to meet Jim Henson, but today in our twitter age, you can comment on Iron Man director Jon Faverau’s twitter (and he used to be fairly into myspace, back in the day – weren’t we all…), or David Jaffe’s account, and potentially even expect a response – so long as you aren’t a total internet asshole about it. In the case of Twitter, creators can exchange thoughts amongst each other with something approximating an actual conversation.

You might think my geekier pursuits have little in common with the macho world of Mixed Martial Arts, and yet Joe Lauzon proudly proclaims in his profile “Guy from Boston that fights in the UFC and plays a ton of video games.” Former UFC Heavyweight Champ Josh Barnett‘s account has a painting of the Warhammer 40k universe as his backdrop, you know, Space Marines in impossibly clunky armor, Space Orks, the tabletop board game you play with painted miniatures?

We live in a world where inspiration comes from the most unlikeliest places, and it’s application even more unusual.

Famously, current Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva  watched Ong Bak and became obsessed with Tony Jaa’s reverse-elbow uppercut. Even though it was a move performed in a movie, Silva spent extra time – on his own  outside of his regular gym – perfecting the move. Come fight night, this happened.

Twitter might not inspire someone to achieve a fantastic KO (or a elegant piece of music, or a thought provoking film), but as a vehicle for connecting artists, martial or otherwise, it can help generate dialog, and when all the disparate kingdoms of the Nerdosphere are talking, we just might see something fantastic.

For now though, I’ll just post about Chanukah.