…in case I disappear again, it needs to be said: The Last of Us is the best goddamned video game of the year. One could argue the point, but one would be wrong. If you haven’t yet, buy it. Play it. Do it.
I met Joe at a corporate meeting, where we were assigned to random pairs at small tables for the length of a droning 9 1/2 hour conference. Joe was fast asleep, held upright in his hoodie, and I just knew we were going to be pals. After he awoke from his great slumber, we quickly found out that we had a passion for the vidya games in common; that was about 5 years ago and I still count myself lucky to be friends with him and his amazingly talented artist wife. (Like absurdly talented; hopefully I will be able to share or link her art to you sometime soon.)
His blog (linked above to a post about the manliest male character Final Fantasy character of ever–who will it be?! I’d posit Wakka of FFX but I’ma let Joe do the talking) is PKBloggin’. Joe writes with an eye for the basics of games, consoles, and stories that in this age of Kotaku reviews has been woefully overlooked. He respects games for what they are. He and his wife both genuinely have fun playing them instead of over-analyzing at every step of a playthrough, and I really appreciate that kind of sentiment because that’s what games are all about.
So if you have a free moment, please go check out Joe’s stuff and let him know he’s on the right track. (If you go there and harass him, however, just remember: I didn’t name my blog The Anger Games for nothing.) Happy trails!
Alright folks: a new year. Another one. Will this be the year I stop mucking around and set off down a glorious career path? Say “bollocks!” to debt and get my MFA? Give up my hair coloring regiment and let my silver hair be publicly silver even though I’ve got a few more of these new years before I reach 30? Just like any innovative movie or game (see what I did there?) the plot twists remain to be seen! I do know this: the cosmos would have to be very cruel indeed to set a year in motion worst than the last, so with a bout of zealously rare optimism, here’s to throwing out all the moldy remnants of 2012!
For those of you who have been patiently waiting for me to round out that Tomb Raider series, just, uh…hang in there. It’s actually tied into another topic very dear to my heart that will show up soon, but for now I really want to hail the new year with a few topical fun-stuffs.
Titles To Anticipate
Sometimes I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than sit and watch a barrage of movie trailers. Just such a time came up a few days ago. I, by random search, came across this youtube channel devoted to Sci-Fi and Horror movie trailers (it’s all in the name!). Spent a happy hour browsing trailers–old and new–and researching the standouts. Below is a list of the titles I wrote down in my “Watch This Shit!” notebook. (Unless noted with a ” * “, the trailers can be found by following that link to the Sci-Fi & Horror Movie Trailers channel; a few of them were already on the list from other sources.) Without further ado and in no particular order!
2013 Upcoming Releases
- The Babadook and These Final Hours (*no trailers yet, but both include David Henshall from The Snowtown Murders and that hooked me. The first appears to be true horror and the second is more a character movie, but I’ll allow the genre slip for Henshall’s mesmerizing acting. And an apocalypse is involved, so, c’mon. That’s scary.)
- The Host 2 -if you haven’t checked out the first one, mark it ‘high priority
- Warm Bodies
- Dark Skies
- Star Trek: Into Darkness *Listen, I’ve never been a Trekkie, but the most recent movie was highly entertaining with re-play value to boot and seriously you guys, just watch this trailer, it looks fanta-a-astic….guh!
- Mama – oh sweet jesus, this looks terrifying. Hooray!
Out Now: Top Titles I’m Tracking Down. Reviews Imminent!
- Antiviral (2012) – this has been on my mind since I caught the trailer a long time ago, but I missed it in theatres. My latter portion of 2012 was kind of fucked up.
- Kill List (2011) – it’s amazing how pivotal movies like this fly over my head. Constantly. Time to rectify.
- Take Shelter (2011) *
- Tideland (2005) *
- Outcast (2010) *
- Sound of My Voice (2011) *
- Animal Kingdom (2011) *
The “Watch This Shit!” list is bigger than these highlights assert–it’s obese, honestly–but these are the titles actively tickling my cinema viscera. I welcome any and all suggestions, words of caution, and personal experiences with any of these or others, so please! Speak on up!
Um, and Games, Too?
Of course, games! I’d be pretty daft if I didn’t openly recognize that I represent only a portion of the gaming community solely based on the limited platforms I use. (And I don’t have an iPhone, where so many of the games are at. That’s fine by me.) Still, my PC and PS3 have a few things to look forward to and titles that I missed this year to catch up on:
- If it’s not clear that I’m eagerly awaiting the Tomb Raider reboot/prequel/whatever then here: I’m so eagerly awaiting the new Tomb Raider game.
- South Park: The Stick of Truth
- Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs – eeeee!
- Journey (PS)
- The Elder Scrolls Online -this might be a huge turning point for my gaming life; I am not an MMO gamer. But the design, story, and map looked amazing at E3 and frankly, I just haven’t had enough Elder Scrolls in my life. Yet.
- BioShock Infinite -it’s about freaking time.
- The Last of Us -may end up not being my kind of game, but it looks too stunning to dismiss before I try!
Games I’ll probably end up playing anyway? GOW: Ascension, Resident Evil 6, and of course, Minecraft in its various iterations, mods, and deliciously hypnotic repetition. I love you, Minecraft. Please be kinder to my PC.
In general, I’m trying not to have any major life “predictions” about this year. That tends to go sour, so I’m going with the flow as far as being a person in society is concerned. But for entertainment? Let me scry.
- Horror Cinema: New French Extremism will continue to innovate, disturb, and delight, but I think this year is going to see Australian cinema making a well-deserved and lasting statement. Particularly in psychological horror and stark character stories. We will have to groan past the umpteenth “reboot” of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and probably a few others as the gears of our beloved genre find a renewed pitch. Meanwhile, American and Canadian indie crews are going to keep us on edge and talking plenty afterward. Overall, this may not be the year of a booming horror renaissance, but it will do a lot to get us there.
- Video games: After 2012, a year with the lowest amount of “great games” according to the powers that be, surely we can look forward to a variety of ass-kicking entertainment to choose from. (Although I don’t foresee anything until 2014 stepping up to equal Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead series from ’12. Just not going to happen this year.) No doubt there will be some wide-spread disappointment surrounding one or two of the bigger anticipated titles, but who’s to say which ones? Honestly? I’m not kidding about spending more lavish quality time with Minecraft, so let that say what it will about my predictions.
Well folks, here’s to you, to me, to the shadows of horror, to the adventure of games; to a new calendar year! Best of luck to us all. Stay tuned!
When I look through all my notes about the controversy and follow the spawning tangents…let it stand that I have more to say than can be said in a venue that isn’t a research paper. So, the post imminently following will be the last unprompted one about Tomb Raider until I get to spend some time with the game (which I am looking forward to!)
To Link or Stream-write?
I posted earlier that I’ve been too drained to have any opinions. Seems they’ve returned in a pretty well-ordered rush, which is fabulous because getting a bookend on what I started (silly me) has been an insistent nag (really, so silly). This post will be–100%–personal editorial. Tried to diligently include citations/links in my earlier posts on the subject, and many of the points I want to make in the final installment are reactions stemming from a plethora of cite-able sources. But this isn’t a research paper.
For reasons ranging from continuity to selfishly making sure that what I truly want to say gets a voice I’m not planning to link any further material unless I get a specific request. If you read the posts so far and are interested enough to join me in the finale, I like to think that you’re doing so with your own exposure to previous, external material. Very likely experience of conversations or articles that I haven’t read.
If any point I argue or summarize for sake of context strikes you in some way that makes you want to see the source, please feel welcome to ask. I will do my best to provide. Conversely, feel positively cheered on to link to any material you feel relevant. My stats meter shows a flattering amount of regular visitors but precious few comments. I’d quite like to hear from you on any point you have, even if it’s just to tune me in to a better way of fostering a communicative environment!
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that the final post won’t have any links. Maybe a quote or two but probably not, once I get rolling. External material sparked the content but–since opinion shapes said content–isn’t the focus for structure. I plan to generalize external arguments ONLY if they’re iterated in more than three major sources (because that’s pretty fair, right?) Holla if you want specifics.
Content Warning; Subject Reassurance
There may be medium to high trigger warnings regarding domestic/sexual abuse (but for my own sake, I’m going to try to corral them to a concentrated portion and then move on quick.) I’ll only include it if it is relevant to my point; nothing gratuitous, self-pitying, or off-topic.
At the core of this vibrant topic is a void. People on all sides of debate try to cover it with blanket terms like rape, sexual violence, feminism, misogyny, and so on but the void exists unexplored yet vital to the real-world impact of such an arena discussion. That void is human experience and, since I only have just the one life, I can only light one modest candle in the breach. At the end of it all, this is just a faceless blog in a vast data stream droning on about a video game snit and I have no control over any resulting impact (if any!), but the reality of the issue is so close to home that–for those same reasons, really–I feel compelled to use this space for a hot second to do my droning.
Finally, (yes, finally! Even I am sick of hearing me over-anxiously giving every goddamn thing preface!) I want to assure you that the post will fo’ REALLY relate directly to Tomb Raider and video game’s societal responsibility. I realize that after I’ve dragged you all over the map with this foreward there is room for concern that it’ll end up being a diary piece. No good sirs, madams, and all: look past my dubious over-set up and trust that if you trundle onward, we’ll be talking about Lara, games, and life straight on once more. Okay, before I can stuff in any more words, let’s go!
Introduction: The Identity Problem
*Obviously this post won’t be about any horror film. There’s a video game involved–something I want to write more about–but it’s really my two cents about the controversy clouding that game. I wouldn’t say that “horror” doesn’t fit the bill, though: the theme of the controversy and the rabid frenzy of anger and hatred that stem from it are frightening to me. So much so that I only feel safe posting my opinions on it within the semi-shelter of this backwater blog*
The Game : Tomb Raider (Square Enix) – The “gritty reboot” origin story slated for 2013
The Main Controversy
When it was first being marketed, executive producer Ron Rosenberg got all stupid and stated that “you’ll want to protect” the rebooted Lara Croft, and that during the game she will have to deal with “rape”. This vulnerability was all allegedly to make Lara–a leading female icon in the gaming universe–“feel more human” and to give her a reason to become the bad-ass we all know and love.
(If you missed it) was enormous and spanned not only the gaming sites but feminist blogs, pop-culture critics, and so on. It came on the heels of the hellstorm of Tropes vs. Women in Video Games and the rash of gamers screaming “feminazi”, “misogyny”, “misandry,” and more colorful epithets. (*I want to avoid touching on that scene if I can help it; just going to stick to TR. The important thing to note about the gaming community as a whole is that there is a pervasive theme of hyper-sexualizing female characters without giving them any meaningful personality or clothing.*)
The two rage arguments that fell down on the side of feminism (I’m not even going to bother with the more extreme opposition, it’s barbaric,) are such: Why do game creators think women are so weak that they need “protecting”? and Rape/Sexual Assault as a story telling vehicle is just as misogynistic as giving them no back story because it perpetuates Rape Culture! (Okay, a third: I want to address the equally offensive backtracking from Crystal Dynamics PR, too.)
Little Ol’ Me
Now, I don’t want to talk about my identity as a “feminist”–if this has taught me nothing else, it’s that I am out of touch with the term–but can safely say this: I am a woman, I believe in equality for all peoples, I actively fight against domestic/sexual abuse, and I play loads of video games. Lara Croft has been one of my virtual alter-egos since I got my grubby paws on a PS1. I have also had the unfortunate…luck? fate? I don’t know…to experience domestic and sexual abuse first-hand. So by my own understandings of op-ed writing, I figure this controversy is as close to home as it gets for me.
And frankly, I am pretty disheartened by what that the loudest voices in the arena had to say.
Projection vs. Protection: Getting Into the Game
Let’s tackle the less inflammatory of the two arguments (although, it will be a main theme when discussing the second.) Looks first: the “new” Lara is less voluptuous than her past iconic be-boobed incarnations. Folks brought this up as an “a-HA!” moment in debate as if it is a concession on Square Enix’s part that Lara’s physical form has been purely sex-objectifying all along; I think it’s probably more that this reboot Lara is actually supposed to be adolescent Lara. On this point I don’t really care.
Game progression next: check out this game trailer and you’ll see a lot of Lara’s action is her vs. the environment. Attempting to give her back story and motivation, the game uses moments in time to illustrate the origins of this critter-blasting, person-shooting lady: her emotional turmoil in having to shoot a deer to survive, extensive attention to her physical limitations due to injuries, and being driven to kill a person by way of sexual assault. (File away that last one, there.)
Rosenberg states that this will make the gamer more apt to feel like a protector. “They’re more like ‘I want to protect her.’ There’s this sort of dynamic of ‘I’m going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her.” He goes on:”The ability to see her as a human is even more enticing to me than the more sexualized version of yesteryear,” he said. “She literally goes from zero to hero… we’re sort of building her up and just when she gets confident, we break her down again.” [Kotaku]
Some critics are upset at the idea that they won’t be enjoying the action-packed adventure/puzzle/kill play that they are used to. I think the gameplay looks phenomenal but I am a putz about change and also worry that the elements of Tomb Raider that I most enjoy will be lost. But the loudest zealots in the shouting match are furious about the scripted need to “white knight” Lara; that instead of a bad-ass sex object, she will become a symbol for the misogynistic idea that women are “weaker, delicate” creatures who need “to be protected.”
To those folks, I would first say calm the shit down. Let’s not yell anymore. Look, there is absolutely no denying that female characters across mediums are written so sparsely and so derogatorily that they ooze weakness and the only cure is a strong man to fend for them. But those characters are so insulting because they never have any personal growth or develop inner strength to end up standing on equal footing with men. The whole alleged point of this game is to give gamers a look at that personal growth (and let’s be real–to keep us buying Tomb Raider games, right?)
I want to say “MAKE UP YOUR MIND!” to everyone who spent so long denouncing objectification of females in games who are now shrieking that portraying a vulnerable woman is just as bad because men just think that women are weakling suck-bags. But I know the core point is well-intentioned: let’s not just go from one sexist trope to another. However…this one dude is the only one who used the word “protect”. Otherwise, we’d just have been met with a demo starring a girl down on her luck, surviving against the odds with a nod to realistic obstacles and setbacks. She doesn’t look weak to me outside of Rosenberg’s ill-worded preview. There is a point where the argument against well-defined sexist tropes/themes has become so ingrained that it overshadows our ability to dig into something and explore its quality.
Additionally–sexual assault ASIDE–developers had to choose turning-point scenarios to symbolize complex, life-altering, emotional experiences. It’s no different than any other visual media story-line. Things have to be condensed and heightened. When they are, the possibilities for negative personal interpretation skyrocket. The chance that we see a glaring archetype instead of bond with the character in a personal way is a risk that has to be taken in order to make the game exciting, cohesive, and fresh. Overall, before we get angry about what this one fool [Rosenberg] blurted out during one interview when he was mistakenly given the role as PR, let’s forget about this “to protect or not to protect!” b.s. and reconnoiter after we’ve had a play through. [CONT’D in Part 2!]
*Interesting tidbits (that mean nothing, really): wordpress “feedback” tells me that the term “lady” is considered bias and that using “females” instead of “women” is too complex. …what?