Video Game Cover Up – Underground Pool/Hardcore Pool

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Video Game Cover Up returns with a look at the greatest illusion every pulled by any video game cover artist ever. This time, I look at a random shovelware pool game on the Nintendo DS and it’s rather questionable variants…

Warning: May Be 2Spooky4U

Read The New Cover Up Here

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Hotline Miami 2: Rape For Rape’s Sake

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by Bob Reinhard

First off, if you’d like to know the inspiration for this article, please take a couple minutes to read Cara Ellison’s hands-on preview of Hotline Miami 2. I’d recommend avoiding the comments section all together, because it’s a rage-inducing exercise in embarrassment for male gamers. Also take into mind I didn’t avoid the comments section, and I’m currently foaming at the mouth annoyed with my fellow gamers. So take this article as what it is: mostly a rant.

So, Hotline Miami 2 has a little rape reference in it. Almost a joke, in a way. You get all set up to rape a girl, but then a director yells “Cut!” and it turns out it’s just a movie. Something about that feels cheap to me. A kind of shock and awe, up-the-ante move that reeks of desperation and lack of forethought. As if the excessive violence wasn’t going to cut it this time, they had to find a way to make it that much more brutal.

Hotline Miami is a game I’ve admittedly not played. I have it sitting on my Steam account from a recent Humble Bundle, but I haven’t gotten around to playing it. It just doesn’t seem like a game I’ll enjoy much, so I’m holding off. It’s not that I’m against violence, mind you, I’m just not into a game that’s entire point is violence. I have nothing against it, it’s just boring to me.

And it’s clearly not the first game to use violence in such a brash, over-the-top manner. Is it trying to prove a point about the evils of psychopathic-levels of crime-killing? Maybe. Was the rape reference placed into this second game to attempt to show the evils of sex crimes in the same way? That may have been the intention. But something about this just doesn’t work for me.

I think it’s how pointless the whole thing feels. Now granted, the game isn’t even out yet and I’m simply going off someone else’s account of what goes down, but from the sound of it, the entire thing is just there to shock you. They bring you right up to the point where your character is about to rape someone, then pull it back as if to say “just kidding, we wouldn’t go THAT far”. It seems to me like a pointless bait-and-switch to mess with people without being accused of going “too far”. If there was a point to be made, I don’t think they’d shy away at the last second like that. This instead just feels like a cheap way to pretend they’re making a point without pushing into a territory they can’t excuse themselves out of.

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Why Is The Only Woman In This Picture Mostly Naked And Helpless?

Let’s pull back for a second, and I’ll answer a question some people might be wondering: Bob, are you okay with rape being in a video game?

Absolutely.

Now, before you tear into me for being a misogynistic asshole with no empathy towards sexism or how women feel, let me explain. I’m in the “games can be art” camp, and I also believe art imitates life, regardless of how bad things in life can get. I don’t want to automatically exclude something from an artistic medium just because it’s awful or hurtful. As long as it is handled in a mature way, and is treated with the respect it deserves (meaning respect for it’s gravity, not respect for the act itself), I believe nothing is truly off limits. But putting it in as a “WHOA!” moment for added shock value isn’t respectful in the least. It’s taking such subject matter incredibly lightly, and that’s just not the right way to handle it.

With that in mind, let’s address some of the defenses that are being thrown up towards including this scene in the game. Things people have said both respectfully and disrespectfully in comments sections and Tweets.

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But that’s what the game is! It’s over-the-top violence. Why should this be any different?

Because this is included in a completely different way. The murder and gang violence you see is committed by you. You have full control of it. During this rape scene, as Cara puts it, the control is taken from me by the game”. When you see Hotline Miami, the physical violence is very much advertised. Every screen shot shows puddles of blood, every trailer shows you beating and shooting people without thought. The game is advertised as violent. It is not, however, advertised as containing rape. If you see a thousand screenshots of the game, you will doubtfully see even one that insinuates there is going to be sexual assault on a woman talked about in the game.

Sure, it may say “A Scene Of Rape” in some warning somewhere when the game is rated for release, but sliding something like that in feels far more sneaky than putting violence in. And it’s that sneaky nature that makes this different. It changes the nature of the game without warning, and that abruptness seems unfair to me.

I see a lot of complaints about this being a feminist thing. That women should shut up and let art be art. But you need to seriously think for a second about this from a woman’s perspective. Stop trying to defend everything as art and realize how someone else would feel accidentally stumbling upon something like this.

This Scene Was Talked About Prior To The Game's Release. Plenty Of Time To Know It's There.

This Scene Was Talked About Prior To The Game’s Release. Plenty Of Time To Know It’s There.

If you’re a woman, playing a game, and suddenly you’re tasked with victimizing another woman unexpectedly… do you think you wouldn’t be a bit shaken? A bit upset that the game slipped in rape without warning you? Without once mentioning to you that this game contains sexual victimization of women? Do you not see how that could be a problem for someone? Someone that doesn’t want to rape someone in a game? Cara and anyone else playing the game that disapproved of the scene have all the right to not be okay with it because of the blindsiding nature of it.

People are allowed to be offended. They’re allowed to not want to do certain things in video games or watch certain things in movies. Does that mean games must never include these things? No. But they should at least give some kind of fair warning of these things existing. And most importantly, if they DO include these things, they should be handled delicately with the knowledge that you’re treading into territory that could be harmful to your audience.

On one last side note while we’re tackling the issue of feminism in games: enough berating women for daring to be upset when something like this happens. Everyone has sensibilities and everyone is entitled to fair representation in a medium. Sexual violence is an extremely rough subject to handle, and when it’s handled poorly, it’s perfectly alright to point that out without it being an attack on artistic merit.

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So, yes. By all means, include rape in a game if it’s that important to your artistic vision, to the point you’re trying to make, but place a warning at the beginning of it so someone doesn’t get completely caught off guard. “This game includes scenes of sexual violence” written clearly on the screen before it begins is plenty to at least give people an out before it happens. Television shows do it. Movies do it. Even the nightly news will occasionally warn you of images that may be damaging to some people before they show them, and the news is reporting real life events. This is especially important on digital-only games that don’t include a physical package for ESRB ratings or warnings to be printed on.

Games can be art, and they can tread dangerous territory. But we need to start appreciating that this means there is a risk involved. There are people who will not want to be exposed to these things, and we need to respect that and allow enough room for them to comfortably avoid it. It’s become fairly easy to avoid violence in a game, so let’s work towards making subject matters like this easily avoidable as well. We need to start being more mature about how we treat these things, and less abrasive and defensive when we get called out for mishandling it.

It’s only fair that we make it so everyone can enjoy games. Because I don’t want to be excluded from the hobby I love, and I’m sure every gamer feels the same.

Escaping Restraints As Gamers – Removing The You And The Now

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by Bob Reinhard

I wanted to talk about a rather abstract idea that I’ve kicked around for a long time now that I believe is important to help expand our minds as gamers. Something that’ll give us a better grasp of what the future holds and why we should still be excited to be involved in this creative medium. But before I dive into that, I want to start with a little story. It’s a real story about me as I watched the Playstation 4 reveal event back in February.

Excited? CERN-tainly!

Excited? CERN-tainly!

During the event, Sony showed us a few games coming out for the PS4 within it’s first year. One of those games was Killzone: Shadow Fall. An exhilarating cinematic that transitioned into explosive, mind-blowing gameplay.  A fast-paced thrill ride full of sights and sounds and stimulation overload.

I was at the edge of my seat, wide-eyed. I could feel the energy of the game and could hardly contain my happiness about what I was watching.

Oh, by the way, I’ll never buy that game. Probably ever.

And I’ve never played a Killzone before. I know nothing about the series.

I know what you’re thinking: “Huh?” 

Why would I care so much about a game I have zero interest in? Why would I be so invested in watching gameplay for a game I’ll doubtfully ever play? Shouldn’t I be disappointed they didn’t show me something that I would want to play?

Keep this story in mind as I talk about why and how I came to love what I saw from Killzone: Shadow Fall that day.

Two Truths

There are two things I know for certain about each and every one of you, and myself. And every gamer not reading this. You are You. And you are Now. Each and every one of us will never escape being those two things. No matter where we go, when it is, or what we’re doing. We’ll always be ourselves, and we’ll always be in that exact moment.

This seems like a rather silly thing to say, and when brought against our base understanding of time and existence, it is. But for some reason, gamers (myself include!) have a hard time escaping these two things when it comes to gaming as a medium. We have a very hard time stepping away from what WE want, and when WE want it. In other words: we want games for us, now.

The problem is, is that what “you” I am, is not the same “you” that you are. And the “now” that we’re in right now, will not be the same “now” we’ll be in a year down the road.

But what does this mean in terms of video games? And why the hell was I so excited about Killzone?

Abandon The You

First off, let’s just look at the “you” part of this equation. And I’ll start it out with something that gets thrown at me quite frequently by the gamer community.

Being a harsh critic of modern-day Nintendo, I’ve often had the following statement made towards me in an accusatory tone, or whatever the equivalent of a tone is for the internet:

“You can’t just let other people enjoy what THEY like, can you?!”

…of course I can? I haven’t come to your house personally and slapped your Wii U Gamepad out of your hands, have I? You still have all your favorite games, despite my dislike for them, do you not? Reading my opinion that Skyward Sword is crap doesn’t suddenly remove all your positive feelings towards the game, does it? If so, you may want to consult a doctor because you may have some kind of weird dissociative identity disorder that causes you to become other people when you read their blogs…

Despite my constant bashing of certain games, I’m perfectly fine with people liking them. I have no problem with them existing. I’m simply stating that I, myself, do not like them and do not want them personally. And that I, myself, would like other things. Different things.

I can let go of my “you” for a moment and allow my own personal feelings to be just that and that alone: personal.

But how can we apply this to our personal views of video games? Let’s throw this back to Killzone now, shall we?

Killzone looks awesome. It’s not the kind of awesome I myself enjoy, but it looks awesome. Awesome games are great no matter who plays them or where they come from. As a supporter of the industry and the art of gaming, I’m ecstatic about variety and moving forward with the medium.

No Seriously, I Don't Want To Play Mass Effect. Glad You Like It Though.

No Seriously, I Don’t Want To Play Mass Effect. Glad You Like It Though.

All the genres I don’t play much of, RTS, military shooters, sports games, whatever… I want more of those. Better versions of those. More varied versions of those. Mind-blowing incredible versions of those that fans of those games become so attached to that it positively changes their life and reignites their love for gaming.

Why? Why do I care about games I won’t play or don’t like? Because as a whole, it’s beneficial to gaming as an artistic industry. Advancements in one genre easily lend themselves to advancements in another. Mass Effect advanced space shooters and epic story-driven RPGs. I love RPGs. Maybe Mass Effect’s lessons, size, and forward momentum for that part of gaming could eventually apply to new games that I’ll love. Maybe games like Mass Effect gave way to the cinematic story of Final Fantasy XV, a game I’m far more interested in that’s very similar in some ways.

Each step forward, regardless of what direction, is still a step forward. Killzone looked like a step forward that could easily lead to amazing things that I will enjoy later on in the future. And as such, games I love that you don’t like may eventually lead to steps forward in your favorite games as well.

The Future Is Now

But what about the now?

I keep talking in “maybe” and “eventually” style statements. But what about the now?

The now is another thing we have to learn to step outside of for a minute. We have to remember that more games will be made. Next year, the year after, years down the line. More games will be made. There are games being released both large and small almost weekly at this point. If a few don’t suit your fancy, soon some will come around that do. The sheer variety and output almost guarantee this.

When a company or console or genre doesn’t produce what you want at the time, it’s easy to get discouraged and feel alienated from the things you like, but you have to be able to remember that these are just the now. There is a new day ahead, and it may very well bring a batch of games that you love that other people don’t want. It’s all just a matter of patience and looking to what the future can bring. And how it can use what is out now as a launch pad for brighter ideas.

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Fans of epic space games may have hated, for instance, Level 5’s Rogue Galaxy. I loved it. An epic, sprawling space RPG with action and adventure and a slew of fascinating alien races? Sounds like a certain other series we just mentioned, doesn’t it? One that was very different, yet still rooted in a lot of the same advancements and ideas. A game that some people who didn’t like Rogue Galaxy could enjoy. And something that I, myself, do not. And it could easily swing back the other way again any day. And for that, I’m excited. Not about the now, but about the later.

So What Does This Mean?

Let’s return once more to recap my Killzone story and apply what I’ve talked about to it. To get a better understand of why I felt the way I did when I saw that game in action.

By looking outside myself, at a game other people will love that I probably will not, I was able to in turn return to myself. I was able to see things about it that can be used as branching points for future games to come that I will undoubtedly love and play. By realizing that Killzone is today, and something else is tomorrow, I was able to get excited about what it represented for the future, and not just as a current release. It means bigger, better, more exciting and amazing games that everyone, regardless of what they like, can enjoy.

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Does this mean we have to accept every game? Of course not. You can still hate games and find certain games stupid. Because, frankly, some of them aren’t steps forward. They’re not branches to new things. Not every game can provide an exciting future it’s means, but not every game that does lead to future games you love has to be a game you like now. Being able to step outside of yourself, remove yourself from the now, you can see how even things you don’t like can be huge building blocks for things you will like soon to come.

Hopefully you can take something from this. With E3 drifting away this year, I urge you to try something. Go find a trailer for a game that was shown this year at E3 that you aren’t interested in. Even if it’s not your thing, watch the trailer, listen to the developers, really concentrate on the details. But instead of looking at it as a game you want to play, apply some of the advancements and ideas you see, the things it’s presenting and moving forward, to games you like. Picture in your mind what these new things and bold ideas could mean for the genres you love in the future.

You may find yourself a bit more excited about a game you’ll never play than you were before. And all it took was letting go of the you and the now.