Games

The All Too Familiar Case of Rebecca Thane

Rebecca Thane has been here too long to put up with your shit. She hates the runners, so repelled by the economic injustice of the dominant system that they choose to live outside of it, but somehow actually fighting against it is just a tad too far. She’s watched as the rich and powerful have killed her friends without reproach, and she knows that no matter what she does, she can ever rival the blood on their hands. She is not here to object, or to protest, or to run. No, like all good revolutionaries, she is here to win.

Unsurprisingly, Rebecca Thane is a secondary villain in Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst. She is introduced angry, yelling at your boss Noah for refusing to do anything other than sit on the fence. She has a point, of course, but the anger is what matters here, a telltale sign that she could take things “too far,” whatever that means. Never does the game ask if anger and violence are perhaps reasonable responses to society-wide systemic violence, even while you’re kicking dudes off skyscrapers.

Instead, Rebecca Thane is another Daisy Fitzroy, another Marlene, another black woman doing the work of revolution because somebody has to, and ultimately condemned by the text for her efforts. Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is another in a long line of games that wants to sell the idea of revolution and condemn the politics of it. The back of box tagline reads: “Fight Oppression. Claim Your Freedom,” the game opens with a text crawl saying “Citizens have been made willing slaves,” and Faith’s first act is to break free of mandatory corporate surveillance. Fight Oppression. Sign up for Origin today.

Six hours later, the game ends with a monologue where Faith proclaims that by stopping Kruger’s plan they’ve “started something.” They haven’t brought about revolution, but they’ve lit a spark, and finally people can start to fight back. Somewhere, Rebecca Thane is sadly shaking her head. Does all the work of her and her dead friends really amount to nothing? Maybe in twenty years, Faith will have grown tired of the moral high ground when it doesn’t do a damn thing to bring progress any closer. Maybe Faith’ll meet a young runner herself, disgusted with how angry and violent she’d allowed herself to become, and maybe that runner will break away and declare that after years of accepting oppression, they’ve finally started something.

Maybe.

Abnormal Mapping 50: Jump Cut Genocide

To listen to the episode, click here. To subscribe, click here to find the site feed on iTunes, or search "head falls off" into any good podcast directory.

The Abnormal Mapping podcast survives after its final episode to reach this, its milestone episode. It has been five decades since we began our humble journey, from our first game club of Space War through the Arcade Years and the Decade of Nintendo to this, our current configuration in our fiftieth annual episode. Blades will bleed. Shields will shatter. And we’ll travel back through our memories of a long long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, when the Younglings gathered around their vidscreens and peered into the void to ask the age old question:

“Master Skywalker, what company won E3?”

You can get our podcast on iTunes, on Stitcher, or you can download it directly by clicking here.

Things Discussed: E3, #SPIDERMANPS4, Spider-Man 2, Mass Effect, Watch Dogs 2’s Promotional Videos, FIFA 17: The Journey, West Bromwich Albion Football Club (The Baggies), David Baddiel, Miitomo, Dishonored II, The Tragedie of Shigeru Miyamoto, Dirt 3, Uncharted 3, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, Too Many Notes, Kingdom Hearts, Yakuza 3’s tragic love storyThe Sasuke Problem

Music This Episode:
Blown Away by Kevin MacLeod
Joy by Shoji Meguro
Football Crazy by Robin Hall and Jimmie Macgregor
Star Wars and the Revenge of the Sith by John Williams
Ballad of the Wind Fish by Minako Hamano and Kozue Ishikawa
Under Logic by Yuzo Koshiro

Morning Mega Man: Mega Man 2

Mega Man defeated Dr. Wily's Robot Masters once, but somehow this didn't actually change anything, so he's called into action once more. Will he defeat 8 more? Will this cycle ever end? Will he ever look cooler than he does in the title screen?

Jackson returns with Morning Series, and this time he's tackling the beloved Mega Man 2. He's very excited to play and you should be very excited to watch. Let's go!

Abnormal Mapping 49: Requiescat In Podcaste

To listen to the episode, click here. To subscribe, click here to find the site feed on iTunes, or search "head falls off" into any good podcast directory.

A dark day comes in the lives of any video games person. A day where the joy is gone, and the game pad falls to the floor in utter defeat. This is not true despair, though, for that instead can be found on the internet, where said intrepid gamespeople go when their play is through, only to find a cesspool of fear and hate and suffering. That is the true gauntlet of horrors, eroding all of us into shapeless forms of old dreams, spent energies, and a dim animal sense that the world shouldn’t so easily gobble up things that are fun and convert them into things that are burdens.

For three intrepid gamespeople, in one tiny little boat of a podcast, in an endless sea of trivial bullshit? That day is today.

Come for the end. Stay for the beginning. Listen as we render all good things to dust and say goodbye to a friend in this, the last episode of a podcast that was, and a discussion of a podcast that might yet be.

You can get our podcast on iTunes, on Stitcher, or you can download it directly by clicking here.

Things Discused: Lego Marvel Superheroes, Stardew Valley, Uncharted 2, Hitman: Blood Money, Become A Great Artist in 10 Seconds, Car on a Stick

This Month’s Game Club Game: Hitman: Blood Money

Next Month’s Game Club Game: …

Music This Episode
Blown Away by Kevin MacLeod
Home Sweet Home by Keiichi Suzuki and Hirokazu Tanaka
Super Mario 2 Ending Theme by Koji Kondo
Ave Maria by Franz Schubert and Vienna Boys Choir.

On Lego Games

The LEGO games have always traded in parody, drawing upon popular iconography of a particular franchise and then heightening it for comic effect. However, their success comes not from the comedic undermining of the subject matter, but the distillation of its subject matter to the core values. LEGO Star Wars: The Prequel Trilogy‘s silent narrative captures the adventure, tone and thematic conceit of Star Wars arguably better than the movies on which it is based.

Traveler’s Tales have kept this up for over a decade now, taking an approach to adaptation which centers on identifying the essence of the source material and applying it to the established core design. Nowhere is this more obvious than LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, a far more effective way to understand the appeal of comic books the movies they draw from so regularly. The game revels in its characters, bouncing them off of each other in every puzzle and every cutscene, showcasing a incoherent cliff-notes Marvel Universe which embraces the ludicrous joy of its conceit rather than to (as is the trend in more mainstream adaptations) grapple with the logistics of its existence.

Whilst this element of the LEGO games is fairly widely understood, what struck me when playing is how this approach to adaptation remained true in terms of the game’s more formal design. In addition to adapting and distilling a fictional universe, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is an adaptation and distillation of modern video games, with how it frames its open world, highly scripted level design, and a trillion-and-three collectibles.

It isn’t that the game has these elements – almost every AAA game contains one or more of them these days – but that LEGO presents them nakedly, without the need to burden itself with context. The open world makes no attempt tobe anything other than a constructed sandbox in which you may destroy and explore; even superheroes need to carjack every once in a while. The scripted level design is merely a series of explicitly colour-coded signs onto which you must move the correct character, ad infinitum. You are not collecting coins and completing side-missions to improve the effectiveness of your weapons, or your gang, or your war effort, you are doing it because the number is low and dangit, the number should be higher.

These design techniques are no less effective than in an Assassin’s Creed, or a Destiny, or a [insert 75% of recent AAA Games here], but they do feel a great deal less exploitative. A LEGOgame is a passive experience of consumption, wherein you follow simple instructions in order to get more things, which unlock more simple instructions to follow. But that treadmill stands honest and alone, rather than to motivate the player through a narrative, or to trap the player inside a marketplace.

Just as LEGO games serve as an accessible introduction to the appeal of their chosen narrative source material, so too do they serve as an accessible introduction to the appeal of their formal source material. Alone, neither of these elements explains the series’ cultural staying power, but putting them together makes it a lot easier to understand just why the LEGO games have managed to be one of the last kids’ games standing on consoles.

Let's Play DOOM

When DOOM (2016) was released, I was sitting in my room all disappointed that I couldn’t afford it and what a shame that was because boy did I have a hankerin’ for some DOOM.

Then I stood up and realized that I could totally play DOOM and all I needed was a soundcard and 28MB of disk space. Thus began a new impromptu Let’s Play…

Abnormal Mapping 48: Trauma Babies

To listen to the episode, click here. To subscribe, click here to find the site feed on iTunes, or search "head falls off" into any good podcast directory.

Just another day in a podcast without end…
ABNORMAL MAPPING

At last, the time has come. Just under a year ago, I started playing the Metal Gear games, and now, 42 articles and 5 podcasts later, the journey is complete. I hope you have enjoyed the ride, and if you’re new, then feel free to come along on this quest anytime. For this final episode, we’re discussing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, the honest-swear-to-god-for-real final game in the Metal Gear Solid Trilogy. Come on in for a chat on trauma and colonialism, exploitation and capitalism, and most importatly, The Life and Times of Punished “Venom” Snake.

I am joined in this final episode by @woundww, a friend and writer for the Arcade Review –currently on Kickstarter! – many thanks to them for smart insights throughout.

Fair Warning: There are a couple audio issues in the podcast! Nothing too bad; a little echo, some birds in the background, but I thought I’d give a heads up nonetheless! Enjoy!

Things Discussed

Metals Gear 1 – V

Music This Episode
Heres To You by Joan Baez
Quiet’s Theme by Akihiro Honda, Ludvig Forrsell, and Stefanie Joosten
Nuclear by Mike Oldfield

Morning Mega Man: Mega Man 1

A plumber retires to his brotherly abode and the sun sets on the land. All is well, all is at peace. Until…

A boy of blue, a man of rock, emerges into a wasteland. It is years later, this boy knows not of the plumber and his deeds, buried as is his kingdom under Wily’s metal and machines. And so, he will fight, each and every morning, until the land is free once more.

Welcome back, everybody, to Morning Mega Man!

Abnormal Mapping 47: The Advent Children of Thor 2

To listen to the episode, click here. To subscribe, click here to find the site feed on iTunes, or search "head falls off" into any good podcast directory.

The Mappers take a turn away from video games this spring to talk about M’s experiences watching bad super-hero movies and how many of the wrong things they have learned from video games. With Marvel’s Civil War nearly upon us, the question becomes: how much premium currency do I have to spend to unlock single-mecha-glove Tony Stark in Marvel Heroes/Future Fight/Conquest of Champions/Disney Infinity 3.0? We then talk about how weird and hard it is to write kids entertainment, which I guess could be about Civil War but definitely isn’t because they don’t really make those movies for kids.

They make them for Loot Crate subscribers.

You can get our podcast on iTunes, on Stitcher, or you can download it directly by clicking here.

Things Discussed: Majora’s Mask 3DS, Miitomo, Stardew Valley, Trackmania Turbo, Chris Kanyon (RIP), Behind the Sausage returns, Thor 2, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Halo and N7 armor design, Injustice: Gods Among Us, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, the Jackie Chan movie of video games, Indian Jones and the Last Crusade, Lili: Child of Geos, Rebel FM

This Month’s Game Club: Lili: Child of Geos

Next Month’s Game Club: Hitman: Blood Money

Music This Episode
Blown Away by Kevin MacLeod
My Enemy by Hans Zimmer, The Magnificent Six, Pharrell Williams, Johnny Marr
Mill Hill theme by Unknown
The Wind Can be Still by ConcernedApe
Sandstorm by Darude

Abnormal Mapping 46: The Perfect John Cena Anime

To listen to the episode, click here. To subscribe, click here to find the site feed on iTunes, or search "head falls off" into any good podcast directory.

War has changed. In the penultimate podcast, Jackson reaches the ultimate, final ending of the Metal Gear franchise, just over half-way through the number of Metal Gear games. Don’t worry if you don’t understand, we’re here to guide you through on this Nanomachine Odyssey!

My guest for this episode is Austin Howe, Freelancer around the internet and found often on Critical Switch. They’re also on twitter!

You can get our podcast on iTunes, on Stitcher, or you can download it directly by clicking here.

Things Discussed: Metals Gear 1-4, Peace Walker, Rising, John Cena’s Favourite Anime, Final Fantasy VIII

Music This Episode
Love Theme by Nobuko Toda & Jackie Presti
Father and Son by Harry Gregson-Williams
Metal Gear Saga by Harry Gregson-Williams