Friday, March 30, 2012

Initial Thoughts: "Deus Ex: Human Revolution"

            I went to Target the other day and found a 3 for 2 sale on video games.  Being that "Skyrim" was still 60 bucks and that was just not cost effective I instead decided to go the cheap bastard route and grabbed three Science Fiction games off the shelf.  One horror, "Dead Space 2" which I have not cracked open yet.  Another was puzzle, "Portal 2", which I really like though have an odd complaint that there might in fact be too many jokes in it.  And lastly an Role Playing Game, "Deus Ex: Human Revolution" (Christ that trailer is pretentious).  This little blog is about that last one.

"The Matrix" is still popular right?  Right?

            I have some complaints about this thing, and I haven't even finished the first level... Actually, that is my main complaint, the first level.  Here is the problem, since it is a role playing game, I have to determine what role I want to play, stealth killing opponents from the shadows or fire fights out in the open.  What is more I can chose to be more up close and personal, with stun guns, or far away with rifles.  This sounds great right?  Well, it might be, maybe they should let me play both a little and then let me decide.

            The game's first mission has you rescuing hostages from a luddite militia, you can chose to go lethal or non-lethal, up close or ranged... they then give you one weapon.  One.  Mother fuckers, if I were a rent a cop I would have truncheon, mace, and a side arm.  And they think a stun gun is enough for heading into a hostage situation?  Give me more guns.  Give me all the guns!  My character is a billion dollar cyborg prototype, and you cut costs when its game time?  Keep in mind all I have played is the tutorial, which had no stealth sections, so I have no idea if I even like stealth action, so how am I supposed to make a decision on that front?  What are the benefits of lethal vs non-lethal?  I don't know, they don't tell you.

             Another thing, I got the Tranquilizer rifle, and it is shit.  Too late to get a sub-machine gun?  Oh, well I guess I will just do melee stealth kills for now, "Assassin's Creed" and "Man Hunt" taught me how to do that much.  Guess what, there are power bars for melee knock-outs/kills.  You know that thing Master Chief does with such grace and ease it is akin to cracking his knuckles?  Yeah, you can do that twice before your body starts malfunctioning.  I, as a flesh and blood real life entity can choke out more than two people without needing a protein bar, hell give me a heavy pointy rock and I'll knock people out all god damn day, and the billion dollar cyborg super agent can't?  Huh?

A bowling pin will also work.
             Then there is the text problem, I knock a guy out and have to pick pocket him, can't read anything on the screen, pictures are vague, so I pick up everything and hope my inventory description will be legible, and I have a big HD-TV, I can accept and forgive this sort of thing from "Dead Rising" which was a launch title on the 360, but the system has been out for more than half a decade, text should not be a complaint.

            Here is a petty one: the main character sounds like he is out of breath all the time.  I know they are going for a gruff angst ridden anti-hero because there isn't 10,000 of those out in the world already, but does he have to sound awful?  Nathan Drake and Master Chief are angst ridden, but they hide it behind an upbeat snide attitude and straight talking can do spirit respectively.

            Controls.  When you are walking around, it is first person, but if you take cover it switches to third person, this happens in such a way as to completely disorient you.  I played "Red Dead Redemption" entirely in third person and it didn't hurt my immersion in the story.  I played "Fallout 3" entirely in first person and had no issue with cover and stealth.  Why does this need to juggle the two?  Pick one and do it well.  There are even first person games with cover systems that work really well they could have ripped off, like the first "Call of Juarez".  This is a dumb way to run things.

            Lastly is the plot.  Regular humans dislike cyborgs because they are unnatural, they are using augmentations to their bodies with technology.  That is horseshit.  I hate to break it to you, but anti-biotic treatments are not natural, neither are cell phones, artificial heart valves, or clothing for that matter (clothing is an artificial skin we wear to protect our real skin from the elements).  Furthermore the story shows that while people might want to get augmentations, they don't have to, they can be stupid like Jenny McCarthy and falsely believe that augmentations cause various forms of retardation.  There is a false dichotomy that drives the plot's main conflict, and that is poor writing.

            So pacing, presentation, controls, and core themes and story telling... Each fail right out of the gate for me.  That is a shame.  Who made this?  Square Enix.  Yeah, should have figured.  Compared to something like "Mass Effect 2" which has a clear motivation, clean combat, and solid writing and presentation I wonder why "Deus Ex: Human Revolution" has been so highly recommended.

Oh, and it isn't the setting or concept that is the problem, as this is my favorite anime ever, and it is very much the same thing.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Reaction "Kony 2012"

            Hey, who in the last few days has thought about Kony2012?  Who in the last few days has heard about the documentary's producer losing his mind in the middle of San Diego?  Who has heard the conspiracy theories surrounding the growing awareness of Uganda as a country that needs liberating?  How many people out there have stopped giving a shit?  Well, call me a hipster, but I stopped caring before it was cool.

Seriously now, how many people even know where Uganda is?

            Hate to break it to you all but the world is filled with injustices, among them is pretty much the entire continent of Africa.  Ethnic cleansing, child soldiers, slavery, rape on a scale not seen since Genghis Khan, an inability to construct effective infrastructure, lack of access to water (though not alone on that one), lack of access to food, lack of access to school, racism on a scale not seen in the West since the West was colonizing Africa, a Patriarchy that is disgusting, and a cycle of violence and poverty that makes it impossible for the population to gather together harness the resources of the continent and truly become the world power they should be.

            The Kony2012 video was a viral internet sensation that drew a lot of attention to an issue that I am shocked to find out, there were still people who didn't know about it.  For god's sake then was a major Academy Award nominated film revolving around child soldiers and diamonds made just a few years ago.  And another about the massive ethnic cleansing that took place in Rwanda.  Do people just forget this stuff?  Better question: does not knowing or not caring make you a bad person?  The answer is, "no".

            The act of caring is a physical one, it burns glucose in your brain.  If you actually cared about everything that was wrong in the world, each and every social injustice that was out there all the time, from child soldiers to the continued use of the penny, then you would just burn away.  All that would be left is a brain that hovered in the air surrounded by some telekinetic field of outrage.  Trust me, I had that happen because my chief field of study is Political Science and the art of screwing people with their pants on.

            Honestly when people started talking about Kony2012 my reaction boiled down to this, "Well this should raise enough money to buy several shiny new bicycles, but not enough to even remotely affect the problem."  This video is not a sun rising on a world of endless night, it is a single flare going up, it is showing all the other people who live in this cold dark world that there is a group of people that need help, and some set off to find them, some went out to help, but it is a dark world, and it was just one flare, how long before people lose themselves in the darkness and can't even recall where the problem was?  Not very long.  It won't even take very long for people to make excuses as to why they shouldn't bother to help.  It won't take long before they just lose the stamina to care.  Because we are mortal, we can't care because there is just too much going on.

            That all being said, things are getting better in the world, even in Africa.  Life expectancy is going up, infant mortality rates are going down, and dictators are being over thrown (they'll be replaced, but the wheel in the sky keeps turning, before long those new tyrants will fall too).  We as a species are getting better at fighting against this sort of crap, and eventually like water on concrete the tools to fight injustice will seep into every crack.  But this "phenomenon" is just a bright flash, it is not final word.  So continue living your life, and every once in a while, remember to donate to end, volunteer to fight, or just think about something bad out in the world.  Because maybe just a little bit of your telekinetic outrage might seep its way out, and push things just a little closer to being better.  And one day a sun will rise.

How many people will write in his name on a presidential ballot?  I'm betting more than none.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sex Education

            You know what is really pathetic?  The political issue that is going to define things for the next few years is going to be reproductive rights, sex education, and people's access to birth control.  It is the lead weight that will hang around the Republican party for years to come, because it is by far the most inconsistent part of the core ideology the party was founded on, the ideology of fair play.

            Agnostic freedoms, freeing the slaves, crushing the KKK, women's suffrage, all of these things were done by the Republican party.  Decrying the military industrial complex, fighting the war on drugs with treatment rather than jail sentences, those were both on the Republican party.  The FDA, that was the Republicans.  The idea that government can be used to create a level playing field for all participants is what the Republican party used to be about, now I don't know what it is about.

            They just beat the same two drums for mass appeal: lower taxes, gigantic army.  Those are not bad drums to beat, but now a third drum has begun to beat, and I have no clue why: Moral Fortitude.  The idea that through legal wrangling we can make people more moral, with all stick and no carrot people will fall into line with ideals that didn't even work when they were created centuries past.

            I don't want to live in a theocracy, and I don't like the idea of religion getting special treatment financially or socially.  I hate to break it to you but the phrase, "These are my beliefs, you have to respect them," doesn't hold water.  The only thing a person can be ethically judged on is their beliefs and actions.  If someone believes that violence against homosexuals or women is okay, then they are evil.  If someone believes that their world view must be followed by others under penalty, then they are a theocratic tyrant.

            I am pro sex education for a multitude of reasons, and I will explain why.  People typically will take the stance that, "the government should not take the role of a parent, and it is a parent's job to explain sex to children when they deem it appropriate."  That makes sense for the vast majority of families, most parents are capable of explaining the how's and why's of sex, but not all of them are.  What if I were to point out how many children are sexually abused by parents and care givers in this country?  How many of those abuse victims know enough about sex to know they are being abused?  How many of them know to seek help?  How to seek help?  How to explain the violence that is being put on them?  Sex education is not always about teaching children about how to have sex, but about healthy, safe sex, and what is abuse.  Can we all agree that educational role is important and needs to be handled by a teacher?

Who looks out for them?
             Beyond that, knowing how to use condoms, the pill, and spermicidal lubes are important for helping them have safe sex when they are adults.  It also creates a society that doesn't treat sex as a taboo, allowing us to talk about the subject more plainly and without shame, confusion, or regret.  Wouldn't everyone like to have a little less stress in their lives on this topic?  To know what they want out of a relationship and to be able to explain that?  Why is that considered bad?

            Here is the retort, "People shouldn't be having sex before marriage."  That does not hold up to scrutiny.  I don't believe in your religion, and I want to have sex, why should I have to wait until marriage when there are healthy means of having sex outside of marriage?  What is more, why shouldn't you still know about birth control just because you are married?  There are many healthy and happy couples that want to have these options available and knowing what they are and how to use them without personal taboos and confusion helps.

            Lastly the life versus choice argument.  "It is a life".  Say the billboards as I drive through the creepy redneck part of Florida.  You are right, it is.  And as I have gone over in the last few paragraphs, it is a life that does not need to happen through safe sex.  Barring that this is the kind of Kryptonian sperm that can get through a condom, survive the spermicidal fluid, get to the egg, and is then not shed anyway.  I still think that ultimately the choice resides with the woman who has to carry the potential child to term.  It is her body that is to be used as an incubator.  However, imagine this happening in the world I am trying to envision, a world where the topic of being pregnant is not seen as something shameful, but an occasional by product of living a full and active life.  A world in which the presence of a child is not financially debilitating.  A world in which everyone can be assured that their children will grow up safe and happy.  I imagine this world would not have as much of a need for clinics because the process, while still performed would be seen as a rare but sometimes necessary choice that is not taken lightly.

            I suppose if I have a political stance it is that of pro-sex.  I think people should be able to talk about it frankly.  I think people should be able to say Fuck on television.  I think that instead of sex being turned into this mysterious commercial and social force that lobotomizes us all because we worry about the finer bullshit details of other people trying to rule our bodies (yes, "our" bodies, last time I checked condoms are not covered by that health care bill and I think most guys would like them to be cheaper), we should instead all want more.  We should all come to expect higher standards of living as the world gets greater and greater technology.  We shouldn't have to settle.  Just like we expect roads to be paved, and 9-1-1 to respond to our calls we should be able to expect access to medicine that makes us all more productive and happier.  And this is why I think the Republican party has turned into stupid in recent times, as we have to listen to Rush Limbaugh, Rick Santorum, and somehow still Sarah Palin talk about how they have such moral authority to make the world behave itself.

            Where have Teddy, Abe, and Ike's ideas of fair play gone?