Lots going on!

Re: Mysterious cities of Gold: I personally had never heard of it before Lynette started raving about it all the time, but honestly once we watched it (over a period of time with another one of my friends) I loved it. It is to children’s TV what Assassin’s Creed is to most games: quasi-historical aspirations on a fantasy story. Kind of cerebral compared to its contemporaries, but with enough wacky animus stuff in there to remind you you’re squarely in the realm of Fantasy. I particularly liked the ending parts that were more obviously ‘written by Kojima’. Flying head-shaped Olmec death fortress complete with death ray? Oh yes, we’re doing this. I understand that in the West this entire thing was shown all scrambled up and out of order. HOW? It’s so absolutely a serial that you’d be lost if they even swapped one episode for another.

Re: Dwarf Fortress: I have always wanted to do a squad mission on this, but whenever I attempt it, I become confused immediately and kind of paralyzed as to where to start. Bowley, if you ever figure it out you have to let the rest of us know. I noted that last week that O’Reiley (O’REILEY!) released a book on exactly this.

Re: Endless Space: Yes, I will be buying this. Have to get downstairs when I get home and get my foot in the door before the price goes up. I’ve had some 4X jonesing lately and UMD’s constant harrangueing has done all the necessary buttering up to make me positively disposed.

Re: Kairosoft: DUNGEON VILLAGE. I don’t know whether this is new, or just slipped under my radar… but Kairosoft just released their latest sim game in which you manage (alternately) a small village on the edge of RPG land. Recruit adventurers to your town, loot whore, build infrastructure, item shops, inns, etc. Equip your little mans and send them out on missions to delve dungeons and kill bosses and slimes. All the addictiveness of Game Dev Story combined with My Life As A King, plus Kairosoft’s weirdly endearing pixel art / humor. Kind of Majesty on your phone, only with silly bleeps and bloops and whatnot. SUPER GOOD.

Re: SPEC-OPS. Finished this game: Man, oh man do I ever have so much to say.

Wherever Mike Minotti is, I hope he plays this game, because it is the very definition of a game that “is about something”. Spec Ops has something to say, and the language that it uses to transmit its message is “modern brown military shooter”. Its subject: “modern brown military shooter”.

I had a discussion with Lynette about whether it was a good or bad thing that Spec Ops basically uses the most bog standard combat mechanics and play experiences it possibly can to paint the most bog standard dudebrown experience (gameplay speaking) as possible. Superficially, I mean. I choose to assume that this was a conscious decision on Yager’s part — some kind of deliberate critique on the medium by playing it “as straight as possible.” It’s brown and standard because it HAS TO BE. Simply by doing *exactly what you’ve seen a hundred times before* the devs are going to try and make you think long and hard about war.

At first it’s weird to hear Nolan North in there. You’re like “Who got Nate Drake in my dudebrown?” Then, man, when things start going south you start to hear Nolan get more and more un-Drakelike. It hurts. It’s dissonant and uncomfortable. It makes you not want to hear what you’re hearing because on some level you know Nolan North and you know Nate Drake… and this… this is so very much NOT. “Developers! Why are you hurting Drake! Why are you doing this?! Stop it!” Eventually the character crosses over into being something else entriely. Again, parody or deliberate? By the end, totally unrecognizable as anything resembling the Nolan North you know. Whether it’s deliberate or not, I know who I’m giving the Iron Man Voice Acting Endurance Award to this year.

If you go on the boards on any website, this is what you will see in relation to Spec-Ops:

“Dude, I heard this game is really short. Why would I buy it? Also I heard you kill Americans in this game. What the fuck? I’m not comfortable with that We only kill terrorists on the Xbox!”

Reasonable person: “Whoa whoa, wait up. Just because a game is short it doesn’t mean it’s bad. a) Look at portal. b) 8-12 hour campaign time is totally par for the shooter course. I’d way rather pay for something fantastic than something that waters down the whiskey with filler. ”

“Whatever man, maybe YOUR dad gives you a big allowance but I only buy 3 games a year and Call of Duty is better value. The multiplayer is better.”


I feel like the total silence and indifference online in relation to Spec-Ops is kind of all the proof you need if you want to level an damning indictment against the whole dudebrown genre. What if they made a smart, serious, modern military game that actually had something to say about the videogameization of war and society’s strange double standard when it comes to military violence? What if nobody cared? Gaming’s critics should be standing up and making noise, but it’s just tumbleweeds out there.

I wonder if Six Days in Fallujah would have flopped this hard? I mean, it’s difficult. Think about this question: Who is the audience here? Just us guys at the Squadron of Shame?… ‘Cause it’s certainly not the dudebros in this case… and everybody else who is not a dudebro or seriously plugged into the gaming voicebox is just going to look at it and go “oh yeah, THIS again. PASS.” The multiplayer IS a joke here and the soldiering will not make you feel like a bad ass saving the world from nefarious foreign nationals with mustache twirling agendas. Where are the critics?

Spec-ops is a war game that is patently anti-jingoist in its sensibilities. I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say it is “anti-war” exactly but I know that late in the game when the loading screens started serving up Eternal Darkness hallucinatory delights and damning indictments the game started *asking me deliberately in on-screen text prompts* “DO YOU FEEL LIKE A HERO YET?” No. No sir, I did not. Not at all. Just think about that for a second.

If I have one criticism at all it’s that maybe someone at Yager should have tweaked the difficulty down just a hair during those last action sequences. It undercuts your storytelling a little when everybody just wants to see the ending of Uncharted 2 but they’re made to sit tight and wait until they can defeat this random super-difficult boss. I bogged down there for hours – and I get why they did it… still.. this is my one real only complaint.

But all of this is redeemed by the endings. *whistling noise* Wow. I mean, yeah, sure there’s some things that are going to be expected in anything ripping off Heart of Darkness, but as far as these (5?) endings go, man they absolutely nailed it. The quality and care taken in telling this story is enough to invalidate whatever argument you’re about to make about some of the janky level design or character models or whatever. When was the last time you played a dark game? I mean REALLY dark? Silent Hill 2? It’s not frequent, that’s for sure.