One Day a Week Gamer

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated every 2-3 Days (mostly)

  • Project Ship of Shadows (Graphic Novel) Page Count: 12
  • Whale Song Revision (Fantasy Short Story) (2nd Draft)

Goal = 3 Pages a week.  Working on Rough Drafting a Graphic Novel Page on one day and then writing the page on an alternate day.
Actual = Finished page 12 on Ship of Shadows and then finished a “Rough Draft” page where I wrote out a rough draft for page 13.  I actually think that I did page 12 already and sent it to the artist who agreed to work on this project with me, but I think that somehow it got lost/deleted from the Simplenote app somehow.  Anyway, I did it over again and I’m working on new material.  Think I might outline/rough draft a screenplay version as I go along, but haven’t yet decided if that is a good idea or not.

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Weekly (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
    Traveller RPG: I started this a while ago as a book that I was reading just before bedtime, but I didn’t really make much headway.  I restarted it and I’ve just finished the introductory character generation section and I’m now moving on to the skills section and will be soon moving into the “lore” section.  This is a revamp (rules 2.0) of an old school British RPG from the 1980s.  Updated for modern times, this fairly short book still gives a great set of rules, game system, and lore that I hope will serve as inspiration for new sci-fi works in my own writing life.
  • For School:
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)
    Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Six Days of Gaming Down into One

I used to game on a regular basis.  All the time that I worked at the Library and as a teacher, I have taken an hour or two after work (usually after dinner or just before bed) and played a video game or two.  I didn’t often game for that long, but I didn’t need to as I was only using the gaming to wind down from the day.  For instance, as much as people denigrate Knack for the Playstation 4, I played it over and over during the first year of the PS4‘s lifetime because it was one of the few games out at the time, but I only played it for an hour or two after school.  However, even with just that short amount of time, I was able to play it through six (!) times total and to get the Platinum Trophy for it.  My point is that even with a short amount of gaming time in one day, over time (six days) it actually is an impressive amount of time in order to make progress in games. Now that I’m in school, however, I don’t actually get to game except on the weekend and it really is affecting how quickly I can get through my backlog.

Longer and Longer Games

I think part of my issue is that not only is my gaming time seriously curtailed, but also that games are getting longer.  Video game publishers do not like the “used game” market, so longer, more complex open world games, while giving value to players who want these longer games, also have the consequence of taking players longer to finish and keeps the games out of the “market,” so they have a vested interest in creating longer and longer games (i.e., game extension).  Now don’t get me wrong, I love single player games, I like cooperative games, and I tolerate (for the most part) multiplayer games, but long games just to claim that your game is long, doesn’t necessarily make it a good game.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands

I’ve been playing this game since late February/early March and while it is a good game, it has outstayed its welcome.  My goal with games is to see the credits roll, but even after all this time, I still have several territories left to “liberate” that have a 5 star difficulty (the hardest difficulty in the game).  I’ve not looked at how many hours I’ve put into the game, but if Sony does a year-end summary as they did last year, I fully expect that it will be the longest game with a 100+ hours invested (so far).

You might ask, then, why are you still playing?  Well, last year I put over 120 hours into Mass Effect Andromeda, but I didn’t do anything with it.  This year, I want to write scholarship on every game that I play as I’ve pretty much decided that I’m specializing in Video Game Rhetoric and New Media as one of my two specialty areas.  It would be an absolute tragedy to have spent all of this time playing the game, but without being able to use it for school too–remember, work smarter, not harder.   Ah, well, I guess I’ll just have to power through until the end.

So, maybe I’ll be able to give you a Mini-Review of the game in a month or two (or three or four or five or . . .)

Well, that’s all I have time for today.  Have a great day!

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

 

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Game Mode On: Artificial Game Extension

ghostrecon_tier1_gamespot

Tom Clancy Ghost Recon Wildlands Tier 1 Mode. Image Source: Gamespot

Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • Project Independence Word Count: @4000 words (+203 words)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

Goal = 121 words (5000 words by July 1).  Currently at approximately, 4800 words
Actual = 500 words Monday & Wednesday morning/.  So, Monday night I managed to hit my Scrivener goal of 127 words, but didn’t make my 250 word goal.  I was too tired to work on this Tuesday night, but did work on it 4th of July (morning) and got about 

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3)
    Finished this last night.  I’ll write up my impressions of this title and post it for a blog entry next week.  Look out for it.
    Transhuman edited by Mark L. Van Name and T. F. K. Weisskopf
    Just started this anthology – it was given to me at a LibertyCon some years ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to reading it. I may not finish it/read all the stories, but so far, I’ve read the first story and liked it.
  • For School:
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
    Lingua FractalA Rhetoric book that details the convergence of Rhetoric and Technology and how they interact in today’s world.  Finished a Book Review for it on Friday for class.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

Reading two or three chapters in Oathbringer every day.  I really shouldn’t be, but it is so good, that I generally read it while eating dinner (and then I go back out to the library to do reading for school).   Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Games Played on June 30th

Hello, and welcome to my inaugural weekly post on the games that I’m playing on the weekend (really Saturdays as I don’t really have time in graduate school to devote the entire weekend to gaming).  I’m going to try to position this as a “bonus” post that goes up on a Saturdays in order to fill out my goal of posting six (6) days a week.  This post will 1) highlight some of the games I’m (currently) working my way through (i.e., playing), 2) offer criticisms and trends that I see based on the actual gameplay and 3) highlight avenues of scholarship that I’m currently pursuing as a rhetoric scholar in video games.  Yes, I know the last one if fairly “nerdy,” but it may spark other rhetoricians to cover games that I’m not going to cover (for instance, while I might get a Switch and cover Nintendo games at some point, I don’t intend to ever own a Microsoft console and will not be covering/featuring Microsoft games (not until they completely overhaul their corporate culture, at any rate, something that I don’t see happening in the near or far future, but I digress).  Most of the games I will be focusing on will be Sony exclusive games or 3rd party games that are on the PlayStation format.

So let’s get started, shall we?

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands

So, this one is vexing to me.  I like this game, but I feel that it has gone on waaaaayyyy too long.  It is an open world game and it has this conceit that you have to take down Sicarios in the open world to get to the main villain.  However, what it does to extend gameplay is that it has a rating of up to 5 levels for each region and each region is rated 1 to 5.  I’ve worked by way through the game and I’m currently in the last of the ⅘ difficulty regions, and will be moving on to the 5/5 regions soon.  The problem is that not only does the difficulty spike, but the game adds in an external Tier system that forces the game’s difficulty even higher if you want to move up to the highest “level” so not only do the regions become harder, but so too does the game itself.  This slows down progress immensely and makes it difficult to progress through the game.  I’ve been playing this one since February and it has delayed me from getting back to Horizon Zero Dawn, The Witcher 3, and into another Ubisoft game, Watch Dogs 2.  I don’t mind a “meaty” game, but this trend towards extending gameplay just to keep players from playing other games is annoying a best.

Until Dawn

So, let’s establish something right from the outset: I don’t really like horror.  I like tension, I like action, I like drama, but I don’t really like horror.  Yes, I will sometimes dabble in that genre, but usually it has to be fairly mild, the original TV version of Stephen King’s It, and of James Herbert’s novels, some of Dan Simmons novels (specifically the “horror” ones) among others are somethings that I enjoy.  Right now, I’m playing Until Dawn by Supermassive Games for the Playstation 4 (PS4 Exclusive), and it is seriously creeping me out.  It uses ALL of the horror movie “tropes” to try to elicit “jump scares” from the player (and with me it is succeeding big time!).  Stingers, dark environments, limited viewpoints, etc., they’re all there.  If horror is your thing, then you have to try this game.

Basically, the story revolves around these teens who reunite after a tragedy occurred one year ago.  Like an 80’s horror movie, you’re tasked with controlling one or two of the teens and trying to make story decisions that will keep them alive.  Well, I’m not doing so great.  The character that I have just got surprised by a wolf/large dog after having to have his fingers amputated to get out a trap.  I’ve lost at least two teens so far (and if the wolf is any indication, its about to be three!).  The graphics are very well done–while there are times when “uncanny valley” does affect the character models, but only slightly and not enough to take me out of the game (just enough to notice it).

I’d really like to put this game in conversation with Scream.  While older, the Scream series has many of the same tropes, but Scream is self-aware in a way that Until Dawn isn’t, even though UD is a newer game.  I’d really like to examine both how those tropes play out in the two works and why the game’s developer, Supermassive chose to minimize/ignore some of the newer, self-awareness of the conventions of the horror genre.  Right now, horror as a genre, is making a resurgence, and I might even (if I have the courage) to add in more and newer examples in the horror genre (ItGet Out, and even A Quiet Place–as much as I’ve railed against it) to examine the rhetorical nature of UD.

Costume Quest 2

This a smaller title and it is a one that is based on monsters taking over halloween.  It features simplified combat and a fun art style.  The story is also pretty good as well.  It doesn’t look like it will be a very long game, but it does look like it will be a quality game. I’m trying to get through some of the “free” games that I’ve acquired through Playstation Plus.  I’ve got about 30 smaller games that I’ve downloaded over the past three years and I’ve not really played them, so this is my attempt to try to eliminate my backlog of games.  I’m about halfway through (as best I can tell) and I’m having fun with it even though it is starting to get challenging.  Looking forward to seeing how it ends.

Well, that’s all for this week–have a good weekend!

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

Heroes are NOT Bland–A passionate defense of the Hero

E3 is happening this week.  I’m a huge video game player and I will be highlighting things that I”m interested in and talking about them periodically over the coming weeks.

Below you will find the trailer for a game I’m interested in called, Tom Clancy’s The Division.  The trailer is at once both depressing and stirring.  Have a look for yourself:

GameTrailers, has a show called “Let’s All Go To The Trailers,” that showcases effective and evocative game trailers.  You can find their website here:  http://www.gametrailers.com/shows/lets-all-go-to-the-trailers

In the latest episode, “United Division,” one of the trailers that they discuss is Tom Clancy’s The Division.  What concerns me is that they decide that EVERYONE (from the villains–both sets–all the way down to the victim that is being protected) are MORE interesting than the bland heroes.  The heroes, it is argued, are the LEAST interesting part of the trailer.

I cannot DISAGREE more.  It’s probably not fair for me to pick on them because I have seen this sentiment expressed over and over again for the past six to seven years, but the way they expressed this idea just made me shake my head and fixed firmly in my mind WHY I WRITE.

Too often in the past few years, I’ve heard the term “Shades of Gray,” to reference characters who are flawed and who are complex and who have both good and evil inside them.  It is commonly argued that these are the current “models” that we should base our heroes on, but I couldn’t disagree more.  In many instances, these characters are not heroes.  Heck, they’re not even anti-heroes.  They are straight up thugs and villains, given one or two “heroic” traits and then paraded as people who we should feel sympathy for and who we should root for in stories (Walter White from Breaking Bad, I’m looking directly at you).

These are people whose actions most of us would abhor should we encounter them in real life, but critics adore them and cite them as “complex characters.”  They kill, they lie, they cheat, they skirt rules, or simply break them, and yet, they are the pillars around which we hang our stories.  I first noticed this villain as hero in the genre world after watching Pitch Black several years ago.  I won’t spoil the movie, but it definitely falls into this category.

Yet, the hero is SUPPOSED to be the one who struggles.  To do what is right even though you are under intense pressure is FAR MORE interesting TO ME than to do what is wrong because it is quicker and easier and watch the results of those actions.

At any time, a character can give up, take the easy way out, but once that character does, then the character gives up any sense of agency. They become a pawn of their addictions, afflictions, abuses, and the critics adore them for it.  However, a character that is a pawn is a character without agency.  A character without agency is one that is manipulated by the plot.  We call those stories Deus Ex Machina–God from a Machine.  The writer intervenes to save his characters.  When we have villains that masquerade as heroes, the heroes lose their agency–their ability to struggle.  They suffer–and that is where the sense of drama comes from as we watch them go from excess to excess–but do they actually struggle?   How can they when they’ve all ready given in to their baser natures?

As much as I like Jason Bourne and Matt Damon’s portrayal of him, I dislike the lack of portrayal of him earning his abilities.  In the first movie, he was a superman with INNATE abilities.  We never saw him earn them, we never saw him STRUGGLE to get them.  We learned later who he was and that caused him to suffer.  However, I felt (and will always feel) MORE for Luke Skywalker than Jason Bourne.  I SAW Luke sweat as Yoda trained him.  I SAW him fail as Yoda tried to inculcate a sense of “faith” into him and watched as he failed even as Yoda succeeded in raising the X-Wing fighter.

And yet, it was Luke who had to make the HARD choice to face Darth Vader again, knowing what he knew about Vader.  It was Luke who, having lost his own hand, realized just how close he was to following Vader down the same path, it was Luke, who understood that faith that Yoda had taught him could be applied not just to Luke’s abilities, but also to a person, Vader.  The whole story hinged on Luke surviving and making HARD CHOICES.  Yes, those chose are HARD, but necessary.  I don’t remember once Vin Diesel’s character in Pitch Black having to make a HARD CHOICE.  Everything was given to his character, everything was easy.  Life isn’t easy–everything is a struggle–and I thought that critics wanted COMPLEXITY.  It seems to me, that a truly complex character is one that must struggle and fail and struggle and fail until they finally “get it” and struggle and succeed.  How complex a character can one truly be if they never struggle and all we see is the suffering of a character that is in a spiral?

I see the allure of the villain as character.  Everything is easy.  Just follow your heart’s desire and everything will either be given to you and you’ll be awesome (Bourne) or everything will spiral out of control and we’ll enjoy watching the fall (Walter White).  Yet, to me, this type of character and (by extension) this type of fiction doesn’t appeal to me because nothing in my life has EVER been easy.  This then is the most unrealistic type of fiction (even more so than genre work) because it is a lie that I can see through, and how can a fiction that one can see through tell me anything about the world I live in?  Isn’t that why we, as writers, work so hard to hide the fictions that we write–so that we can then reveal the TRUTHS about the world we live in?