E3 is Still Terrible

Every year E3 comes around and every year it’s a complete fucking disgrace. An event bloated with the most horrible and deceitful business practices you can imagine. This year there were three stand-out performances. Let’s get started:

Fuck EA

EA did not fuck up as hard as they could this year. The games they announced were entirely mediocre, with two yearly sport titles, a DLC, a Need for Speed game, and a decent-looking co-op prison-escape sim. I’d rail against these yearly sports titles, but I unironically look forward to every yearly Pokémon game.

Where EA faltered is in its baffling use of completely inept and unqualified YouTube personalities. You can practically taste the awkwardness in the air when people that are used to creating scripted and heavily-edited content are forced to perform live. Perfectly illustrating this is the Need for Speed: Payback demonstration, when Hipster Supreme has to be rescued from a nigh-lethal case of stage fright by some guy that worked on the game and obviously spent the time rehearsing his lines.

Though our salmon-shirted friend can probably take solace that he was not the worst act that EA had hired that day. That prestigious honour went to two football pundits that sped through their jokes almost fast enough to distract you from the fact that nobody was laughing.

 

Fuck Microsoft

Now to start with, Microsoft did bring the games. They actually brought the games pretty damn hard, with a good mixture of high-profile games and smaller independent titles. A huge variety of titles from racing games to JRPG’s to old-school platformers. Nobody can say that Microsoft didn’t bring the games to E3 2017.

They also brought a car.

porsche_911_gt2rs_90.jpg

Yeah, the Porche 911 was announced at E3. In fact, it was live on stage for about three and a half minutes. I desperately want to know which company was desperate enough to pay for that car to appear on stage for less time than it takes for Americans to recover from hearing the numbers nine-eleven.

Now onto the fun stuff: the Xbox One X or, as savvy people have noted, the XboneX. With the name of this console, Microsoft have successfully circled around and become an edgy 13yo Xbox fanboy.

Name aside however, and it’s the most powerful console ever created, able to run games better than ever before… kinda, sorta, probably not really. Four games have already been confirmed to only run at 30fps, a framerate that hasn’t been acceptable since the PS2, but hey, at least it’ll look really pretty… in screenshots.

Secondly, Microsoft used a shitty marketing practice that’s only popped up in the past couple of years, and has been used by games like Rainbow Six in 2014. It’s the act of using professional voice actors to speak over your multiplayer footage, as if they’re playing the game and communicating through the in-game voice chat. Coined as “The Mic Trick” by some fat guy with a red tie, it’s an insidious and deceitful tactic to make the game look a lot more interesting and co-operative than it is.

Microsoft used this trick in the Anthem Gameplay Trailer, a damn good-looking game in my opinion, but one that I’ve been permanently soured on because of the manipulation they tried to pull.

If you listen closely to the voices, they’ve even been slightly distorted to make it sound like they’re communicating over short-range radios. I honestly thought I was listening to the characters until one of them started talking about their loot pickup. If you want a more realistic representation of what the game will be like, re-watch that video on mute, and put any call-of-duty match in the background. Yes, there will be exactly that many racial slurs in this game too.

Now onto the big one. Microsofts way of sticking the middle fingers up at us while kicking our dog and insulting our collective mums. This bullshit:

Yes. Microsoft, in its magnanimity, deems we pathetic mortals worthy to give it money for games that haven’t even come out yet. There was applause for that. People applauded the idea that you can give your money to a company in exchange for games that we can’t be sure won’t be cancelled in a month. Hell, they specifically highlighted digital preorders. What is the point of preordering something digitally? Do you think the digital store is going to run out of downloads? Stop giving your money away to these greedy, unapologetic fucks!

Fuck Bethesda

Well paid mods are back. Except they’re not mods. They’re awesome new content made by Bethesda! And anyone Bethesda gives the ok. And you pay for them. And the modify the game.

They’re paid fucking mods. You tried this bullshit before and I hope it burns you twice as hard and three times as long. It’s not as if you need the money, you’re releasing Skyrim for another damn platform and it’s already the tenth best-selling game of all time.

Bethesda long ago shed all of its talent, ethics and integrity. This is just more proof that they aren’t worth dealing with any more.

Let this be the final straw. Let Bethesda die. Let them sell Fallout and Elder Scrolls to a better developer.

What are Obsidian doing these days?

Dishonored 2 and the Lack of Female Protagonists

 

Dishonored 2 begins with the grand entrance of a mostly dull villain. She attacks the palace with magic and clockwork soldiers. Halfway through this coup you can choose the character you’ll play as for the entire rest of the game, and if you choose Corvo then you are very wrong.

I’m all for self-expression and choice in video games, and I understand that the Dishonored series is all about playing the game “your way”, but the inclusion of Corvo as an optional protagonist isn’t choice, it’s fear. Fear that a game with a female lead will fall victim to the eternal swirling pit of misogyny that is the games industry.

There can be no arguing that Dishonored 2 is anything but Emily’s story. The tutorial has Emily learning from her father, the story involves her losing her throne and being exiled, the main villain is her aunt. The game is very obviously a story about Emily coming into her own as both a person and a ruler, stepping out from under the protection of her father.Dishonored-2-5.jpg

Emily has been forced to share the spotlight with Corvo, not for artistic or narrative reasons, but to mollify the kind of froth-mouthed wretch that can’t properly operate a controller unless the protagonist has the same genital configuration as him.

Let’s take things from the other direction: If you choose to play as Corvo then Emily is frozen in her throne room, becoming a non-entity for the rest of the game. If you choose Corvo, you reduce Emily to a plot-point, a driving force, and a fragile flower in need of saving. This is the same purpose she played in the first game, when she was a child. Corvo on the other hand becomes the daring saviour, essentially repeating his actions from the first game to protect a young girl that is, as always, in over her head.

It’s hard to believe that this game was ever actually intended to have Corvo as the protagonist again. Corvo’s had his time; he’s proven that he’s a magical, stealthy baddass in the first game. All things end, all parents have to step aside and let the next generation take over. What’s the progression here? Will a 65-yo Corvo be called back into action to save his granddaughter?

I feel that this is the same issue that relegated Elizabeth to Bioshock Infinite’s back cover, and tried to do the same with Ellie in The Last of Us. The same issue that made Dontnod have to fight to put a female protagonist in Remember Me. Female protagonists are seen as a risk. To spend millions on a game with a female protagonist is adding extra risk on those millions that many publishers don’t want to take.

bioshock_infinite_box_art_1.jpg
Behold, the more interesting character segregated to the back of the box in favour of guns and machismo.

The worst part is that this position is understandable, but it has to change.

There is this horrible, pervading, and very vocal subgroup of gamers that automatically see female protagonists as some kind of political statement, which is a troubling line of thought. Life is Strange and Virginia both received a horrifying amount of bile for their more diverse casts (though the amount that came due to race or sexuality is a completely different but equally saddening discussion.)

When your culture, and more importantly your consumer base, is dominated by that kind of person, it makes sense to make certain decisions that cater to them. When the people willing to give you their money have a fear of apples, it might be best not to set the game in an orchard.

But the data is wrong. The most vocal people are rarely the most numerous. In an industry of intense and constant focus-testing, the focus testing involves no women, because women don’t buy these games, so why put them in the focus groups? This cycle is complicit in allowing female gamers to remain as invisible as they’ve been trained to be.

Women are attacked in online games, ignored by developers, and basically made to feel completely unwanted in a culture that is comprised of 48% women. Most female gamers hide, either avoiding the community entirely or hiding behind agender pseudonyms to avoid the endless torrents of bile.

There is a huge and underserved market which wants more than the old-guard women like Lara Croft and Samus, and the hyper-sexualised newcomers like Bayonetta and 2B. So when a game like Dishonored 2 comes out, with the female main protagonist sitting as an option next to a completely superfluous male character put in just to make the gaming crybabies happy, it feels somehow worse than just putting another male character in the lead role. We shouldn’t be coddling the type of people that make half of our community feel unsafe and unwanted. We need to make the correct moral and financial decision to commit to good stories, told well, and lead by characters that we’re willing to stand by.