I’m Just Not Impressed

Am I supposed to be?

Archive for June 2009

Obscure, indeed.

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So, a while ago, when at GameSpot looking for some new games for the Wii, in among the cartoony Marios and rampaging rabbits and sports games, I spotted one that looked like it might appeal to the part of me that was amused for a little while by Silent Hill a few years ago. It had the dark creepy cover and the description of a mystery that sort of needed to be solved and as a bonus, could be played as a two player game, so my husband could get in on the action.

And so it was that last night we decided to check out Obscure: The Aftermath. The best thing I can say about this game is that I am sure we can trade it in at our local GameStop for some credit toward MarioCart or something for the kid’s upcoming birthday. That or it might net something good on Swaptree

Now, I’m usually more of a non-violent adventure gamer – I love the creepy, like The Lost Crown, and absolutely adore The Longest Journey, but I have no problem with video game violence, so long as it makes sense. There is no way in which this applies to Obscure. The interface is awkward, the gameplay is so dark that it was difficult to see details even in a dark room on a large projection screen and the characters are completely unlikable and are the type of people I tried hard to avoid in college the first time around. The first “challenge” is to make your way through a long bloody hallway and then fight some beasts, after which the male character wakes up in a bathroom stall vomiting. Sexy. The second challenge involves a different couple trying to sneak into a frat party. I have no idea what happens after that, because we couldn’t take it any more.

Because, here’s the biggest issue I take with the game – I’m perfectly happy to wile away a few hours playing something vapid, just as I occasionally enjoy some truly horrible movies or train wrecks of television programs – but I quickly tire of being asked to be an active participant in “entertainment” that regularly actively insults me. It is hardly news that the video game industry is not exactly female friendly, and the fact that the female “characters” were large breasted, scantily clad and largely accessories was not entirely unexpected, but as gameplay went on, it became increasingly clear that the makers of this game have apparently given no consideration to the fact that non-male individuals might ever consider playing this game.

We hadn’t even started gameplay when I turned to my husband and noted, “Evidently women aren’t supposed to play this game,” pointing to the onscreen instructions advising that if the second player wanted to leave or join the game “he” needed to press 2 on “his” remote. Non gender neutral language FTW. As the game starts, we look around the male protagonist’s (player 1) dorm room and learn that he has lots of sex with lots of different women in his bed – one of his favorite places. His girlfriend (player 2) teases him about it, but sounds bitter at his conquests and he makes her feel better by saying she’s “the only one who stuck around”. Well, that’s flattering. It is quickly obvious that the second player is almost entirely superfluous. She – and the parts we played were always heterosexual couples with the male as the leader – follows her boyfriend around. And that’s about it. Player 2 cannot do anything without being right next to player1 and gets dragged from frame to frame at player 1’s whim. (This is a design issue – lots of “two player” games don’t have much for the second player to do, but it’s particularly salient here.)

The men’s dorm is filled with notes referencing the sexual prowess of its residents. J kept noting “It’s persistent” every time the game would reinforce it’s message that manliness is next to fucking anything that comes within a few hundred feet. The notes were even worse in the women’s dorm, which the protagonist boyfriend enters through an open window later in the game – one recounts male-on-male sexual assault as part of an apology to the perpetrator’s girlfriend. Another is a notice that reads like a flier about a lost puppy, except that the creature that was “lost” is the note writer’s girlfriend, who’s name he does not know. Charming.

The second couple we meet is a beefy athletic dude and his buxum blonde girlfriend. They want to go to a frat party. Wheee! So they try to sneak in. So they wander around until they find a big box to climb on. At which point, the girlfriend declares “You move this. You’re big and strong and I’m just a weak girl.” Slightly paraphrased, but you get the idea. That, my friends, was when I was done and we switched to Lego Batman.

I can put up with a lot in the name of entertainment. But fail to be entertaining, while being actively, seemingly intentionally offensive? Well, the name of this blog has rarely been so appropriate.

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Written by emandink

June 20, 2009 at 11:37 am

Anger is an energy.

with 8 comments

(Originally titled “I think you owe me a great big apology” – a quote from the NIN song “Terrible Lie”. He has sort of apologized for the “plump” remark, to be fair.)

So, Trent Reznor has decided to hang up his twitter hat. That’s nice. Not something I’d even really notice, since I’ve not been a big Nine Inch Nails fan for 15 years or so, if not for the acquaintance who pointed out this charming paragraph:

Looks like the Metal Sludge contingency has discover Twitter! Finally! For those of you that don’t know what this is, please let me explain. Metal Sludge is the home of the absolutely worst people I’ve ever come across. It’s populated mainly by unattractive plump females who publicly fantasize about having sex with guys in bands. Kind of like a role-playing game where people NOBODY will fuck make up stories about their incredible sexual encounters with people they WISH they could fuck. It would be kind of funny in a sad and pathetic way except the fun doesn’t stop there – hate and good old-fashioned outright blatant racism are also encouraged to spice things up and remind you how truly ugly these scourges are. TRULY ugly on the inside (the outside is obvious).

Ugly on the inside, indeed. Now, I know next to nothing about Metal Sludge and the Wiki is less than helpful. Nor do I really care. And maybe the majority of the people posting behind that fabulous page requiring an affirmation of the First Amendment are truly abhorrent, unpleasant people who no one really would want to wile away an hour or three with. I have not a clue (if they are truly obsessed with any band or celebrity to the point of sending death threats and hate mail and blatant racism, then, really, I wouldn’t want to invite them to a party).

But, if that’s the case, then why, pray tell, is is necessary to comment on their physical appearance? Why the fat-hating nastiness about the inherent unattractiveness of “plump” women. If they are truly such abhorrent specimens of humanity, it shouldn’t matter whether they are supermodels or, well, not supermodels. Making nasty claims about people’s appearance and supposed lack of sex life is pretty damn ugly too. I don’t care who you are.

EDITED TO ADD:
Apparently Reznor did clarify his remarks here:

Just glanced at this stuff. May I clarify:
I have no issue with PLUMP people and I apologize if some of you incorrectly inferred I was equating being overweight to being unworthy. I used that term for two reasons: one – these cunts on MS portray themselves as in a very inaccurate way, because they can. It’s their one place they can wield a little power and escape their pathetic lives. Two – I knew it would hurt them and it most definitely has.
Place my comments in context. If you haven’t seen the type of comments we’ve been getting and the sheer level of ignorance, you have no reference in which to comment on this.

I know MOST of you are not a part of this and I didn’t mean to offend you – this situation has angered and saddened me.

And THAT is it from me on this topic. 

So, these folks actively misrepresent themselves (something which is clearly extremely rare on these here internets). I do not begrudge Reznor his anger. I do not begrudge him the loathing he has for people who send racist tirades about his fiancee or who send death threats or who are by all evidence rude, unpleasant, horrible people.

 I do, however, hold him to the same standard I would hold anyone – that mocking of appearance and sexual attractiveness, while easy and appealing – is still problematic, no matter how abhorrent the subject of the mockery.

Written by emandink

June 17, 2009 at 2:40 pm

The third sign of the simacrulum.

with one comment

Or: meta, within meta, within meta. Or:in which I blog about blogging.

I think every blogger, deep down, must wish to actually develop a following – a community of people who care about what they write and who not only view the blogger as helping them learn something but who, through their participation help the writer learn as well.

Note the shift in terms there, since I’m not at all sure it’s limited to blogging. Here, in 2009, anyone who has access to the internet can grab a soapbox. It may be tiny, it may be huge, it may be one voice pitching into the void, or it may be a community.

Maintaining community is hard. I know this as a moderator in forums where I have no direct responsibility for providing content, but “merely” keep my eyes open for trolls or unsafe comments or inappropriate posts.

Maintaining a blog – at least one that is more than a personal journal – with thoughtful, researched content and original ideas and supporting links – is also hard work. Really, I had no idea what it would take to regularly post here – and clearly I do not. I constantly have ideas in my head for posts I want to make; I have a whole series about my trip to India, for example, that I’ve wanted to write about for almost three months. Just this past week, I’ve thought about at least half a dozen things that would make interesting posts, but I just don’t have the time or the energy or the focus.

This is not my life. It is not what I do. I spend hours every day working at a job that I enjoy and that pays me well and I am immensely thankful for that.

This also means that I am immensely thankful for those people who do have the time to build and maintain the communities that give me hope and inspiration and the feeling that this all might be worth something. I’m thinking mostly right now of Shakesville, and the gigantic effort that Melissa and her contributors must put into making that place what it is. And it is a place. It may be virtual, but it is still real.

And the same goes for at least a dozen other sites where I pop in from time to time and my tweeps and readers and, hell, I have to get to the “real” job, so if you think this is about you, then it probably is. But I want you to know, this is no less “real” to me and I don’t think it ever could be again.

Thank you.

Written by emandink

June 10, 2009 at 8:05 am