Prophecy fulfilled: Major trans character not good enough for Polygon writer

Almost exactly one month ago I wrote an article asking, “Is there a way to bring trans characters into gaming without offending anyone? ” My hypothesis was a firm “no” and not because I thought a Kim Davis-type conservative would be opposed to a transgender video game character. Quite the opposite; I believed that no character could ever be good enough for the ‘Progressive Left’ and any included would inevitably fall short of their expectations. Polygon has now provided ample support that even if a character, a titular character, may be transgender, or something alien-equivalent, there is still ample room to shit upon the game for not properly handling the issue.

This all stems from Bungie’s latest expansion to Destiny called The Taken King. Lore from out-of-game sources reveal that the King, Oryx, was born a female and during a power-infusing ritual he transitioned to male. I have read various theories about whether this alien species can really be considered transgender or if it is their biology, but for the purpose of this discussion it does not particularly matter, because, as Polygon writer Laura Dale put it, “For now, even if it’s subtle, we can claim Oryx [as trans].”

Although Dale is quick to claim him, she’s also very ready to take issue with him.  The last half of her article is under the, “WE CAN’T PRAISE THIS AS A VICTORY FOR TRANSGENDER REPRESENTATION” header. Wait, what? One of the most important characters of a blockbuster game changes genders and you “claim” him for your cause, but this is not bringing the trans rights movement forward? It isn’t a success for sexual minorities and gender representation?

You can read Dale’s criticism below, pulled from her Polygon article:

It’s tragic that nobody knows Oryx is transgender. I hate that the first example of a transgender character in a titular role is hidden away so much that very few hardcore Destiny players know about it. It’s diversity relegated to the depths of a convoluted and complex set of out of game data logs. 

Author's image
Laura Dale

If we lived in a world without the Internet tools we enjoy today, maybe I would accept this as a valid criticism since information would be harder to disperse. As I already said myself last month, “depicting a transgender character presents a challenge. In such a visual medium gender identity cannot be explained so easily. In fact, just as in real life, you may not know someone identifies as a gender that differs from their biological or birth sex.” Bungie has not provided much in-game lore, which many fans have been disappointed with, but has actually provided resources for those who care. If anything, Oryx’s gender identity could be more of an easter egg.

destiny-oryxAnd where does the gaming press’s responsibility fall into this? Dale found out about the Taken King’s backstory and has a huge platform on which to share it: Polygon (or Destructoid). Gaming sites aren’t just for printing press releases breathlessly sent out by PR firms to sell games. They’re for exactly these sort of situations. To inform video game fans about information they may not know. A whole different narrative approach could have been taken with this article, one of discovery and appreciation. Instead there’s a bit of the latter mixed in with a surprising bitterness. A heaviness pervades the article, just because a character was not portrayed in a way which the author wanted.

Furthermore, would it not be awkward to have Oryx clearly stated as transgender (again, this may not be the best term to describe the situation, but we’re going with it) and then ask players to kill him?! Which is really more offensive? I think Bungie took the better route of relegating lore to its separate app, as it does with most of Destiny, instead of potentially causing a firestorm of outrage among these same writers who are complaining the villain’s gender identity is not given exposure in-game before you take up arms against him.

I just don’t see “Progressives” understanding how progress actually works. Life is a series of small victories and if you’re not willing to acknowledge any but the biggest of them, you may find that there aren’t too many victories to celebrate. So too in video game diversity.

As always I’m interested to hear others’ thoughts and comments about this issue.

Throwback Thursday: The Last of Us

Platform: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
Developer: Naughty Dog | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: June 2013 / July 2014

The 26th of September, 2013 marked the day the Cordyceps Infection reached a critical mass in The Last of Us. Over two years after players were plunged into Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic universe, how does the game hold up?

This article will discuss the original and the Remastered release of the game as though they are one.

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WHY IT WAS GREAT

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Single Player

The vast majority of gamers agree that The Last of Us almost perfectly nails what a single player experience should be in a video game. The world Naughty Dog has crafted is simply beautiful. The attention to detail given to everything the player can see in the game allows what would otherwise be an otherwise be an overused video game ‘trope’ to become a work of art. Players begin feel an emotional attachment to Joel and Ellie (two name just two of the characters) as the story progresses, something that in part is achieved by the (excellent) animation department at Naughty Dog. Every minute change of expression or emotion can be felt from the character, not only because of the changes visible on their face, but those across their entire body.

Not only is the game visually stunning, the audio in the game is almost breathtaking. One particular moment that comes to mind is one early on in the game: the player is able to send Joel inside of an abandoned truck, where the sound of rainfall changes, becoming more metallic as it bounces off the roof of the truck. This sort of sound design certainly isn’t new to gaming, but the of care Naughty Dog gives to even the most uninteresting of things makes The Last of Us just that little bit more believable

The story told by The Last of Us is near perfection. Though set in a post apocalyptic world, the game manages to avoid become yet another zombie survival title. The story — for the most part — only dabbles in the worldwide issues, instead choosing to focus on issues faced by characters in the own individual worlds as though nothing else matters. The tale told by Naughty Dog allows the player to connect and relate with almost every character in the game, feeling their emotion, morales, drives and sometimes their downright misery.

Multiplayer

To some the multiplayer aspect of the game was merely a tacked on mode with little thought put into it. To others the mode was a fresh new take on what multiplayer could be in a game. Factions pitted the two… factions… from the single player portion of the game against one another in a 4V4 tactical shoot out scenario, with three modes to choose from. What made the multiplayer so great was and still is how it differs from almost every other multiplayer title out there. Rather than the fast, run ’em and gun ’em style shooter, the Factions mode in The Last of Us is a slow, tactical shooter where really the only hope of survival is to stick together and pick off the enemy team.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

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On a personal level, The Last of Us really does live up to the hype. It deserves the praise and acclaim it still receives to this day and sits in the top few spots, if not the top spot of my all-time favourite games. Never before has a game made me feel genuine, heartfelt emotions towards a character, or shed tears when that happened. The game is so expertly and carefully crafted that it almost does nothing wrong.

 

The Last of Us is amazing and saying that doesn’t do it justice. We can only hope Naughty Dog will remain the Naughty Gods with the sequel to the game: There’s More of Us.

Dragon Quest Builders looks like Minecraft on RPG-enhancing steroids

Minecraft, the wildly popular world building game by Mojang, is not for everyone. It gives players a wide variety of tools and materials for infinite building possibilities. What it doesn’t have though, is any overarching story driving gameplay or any real goal. Similar to dumping out a bucket of Legos, Minecraft makes players use their imagination to fill in the backstory and give purpose to their creations. For some it is a challenge, but for others it can feel like a real chore.

Square Enix may be able to offer the perfect link between RPG and sandbox with their upcoming game Dragon Quest Builders. Announced earlier this summer, the title returns players to Alefgard, the setting of the original Dragon Quest, and tasks players with rebuilding it after being destroyed by a Dragonlord. Tokyo Game Show has brought a fresh look at the game in the form of a new trailer. The game will be released in January of next year exclusively for Sony’s PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita consoles.

Throwback Thursday: PlayStation

Platform: Sony| Release Date: 1994

I remember unboxing this strange grey box one Christmas morning, 1997. I was nine years old, and I had worn in my Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. All of the sudden, these strange discs were now being used instead of cartridges. Characters were blocky and shapes were 3-dimensional, and those damned CGI cutscenes were something to die for. This grey box we all know and love was, of course, the very first Sony PlayStation. It’s hard to believe that this was almost 20 years ago, and Sony is still in the release of these juggernaut systems every couple of years, and each release brings new and exciting technology for us all to share.

Why it was great

playstation_one_original[1]Honestly, why wasn’t it great? The PlayStation introduced full fledged disc based games, which brought in a whole slew of opportunities in game storage graphical prowess. I remember first getting “Croc: Legend of the Gobbos” and “Spawn: The Eternal” with our family Christmas present and being completely blown away by the superb details of the games. My brother bought Final Fantasy VII with his Christmas cash, and then that was it. My gaming years were set, and my preferred genre was chosen. I had since then became an RPG fanatic and, while I couldn’t get past that damned scorpion boss at the very beginning, I still enjoyed every second of that game.

Sony’s first PlayStation brought about endless possibilities with games, but it also had a lot of interesting Final_Fantasy_VII_Box_Art[1]things going for it as far as the hardware. The new Dualshock controller was a marvel bringing about slick controls and the bizarre, yet satisfying vibrating function (which I would often use to scare my cat). Having a memory card was also very new to me, and having a physical collection of saved data, so to speak, was something that I took personal pride in. “Look at all of these games I’ve played!”, I would think to myself. In actuality, most of said memory cards were full of Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX save files.

Final thoughts

Keep em comin, Sony. You release and I’ll be there throwing money at you. The PlayStation systems have always seemed to deliver on their quality of games and functionality of the systems. Even with the rocky starts of the PlayStation 3 and 4, they always seem to get ahead of the game (pun totally intended). It’s even become a household name that seems to sum up all of gaming in sentences like “Turn off that doggon PlayStation!”. With the gaming culture merging into today’s social media scene, it will be interesting on how the direction of future PlayStation systems will turn out.

Why the new Apple TV will not kill your Xbox or PlayStation

A report has recently appeared online that suggests Apple is going to reveal an all-new Apple TV at their event on September 8th, next week. It’s commonplace to find journalists predicting that “Product X will kill Product Y” close to their announcements and this new Apple TV is no different.

The suggestion that Apple’s new device can compete with (and possibly kill!) dedicated games consoles, is simply ludicrous. Even more ludicrous? That very same claim backed up with a mere run down of specs, features and possible scenarios of uses for the device.

The point is: an updated Apple TV simply cannot compete with the PlayStation 3 or the Xbox 360 (or even their successors.) Raw power, gimmick-loaded controllers that feature motion detecting sensors and Siri-laced experiences are simply not enough to pit the Apple TV—if it even happens—against the PlayStation and Xbox of yesteryear.

There’s no denying that the mobile gaming scene has grown tenfold year after year since the original iPhone launched. The mobile market is saturated with devices that allow individuals to play games almost anywhere imaginable and that is precisely how developers of mobile games design their games: to be playable on-the-go and to allow players to drop the game and pick it up again whenever the mood strikes them. Mobile gaming, for the most part, does not hold the same core of gamers as console gaming does. Console games are often developed with a “sit down and play” ethos, that is: 90% of the time gamers will indulge in gaming sessions that run for an hour or more. That isn’t to say that there aren’t any games on Android or iOS that are developed with longer play sessions in mind, that statement would be almost as absurd as claiming one single device can eradicate two long standing “competitors”.

The growth of mobile gaming shouldn’t be seen seen as the oncoming death of the console. Instead we should welcome it as the growth of the gaming industry as a whole. What works on a mobile game doesn’t necessarily work on a console game and this is where the Apple TV could make a difference. By acting not only as an alternative to both the console and mobile scenes the device

It has been seven years since Apple first unleashed Apple TV to the world. The streaming box of wonder (oh, if only) was launched in a time when the world of internet-powered television was a very, very different place. That fact alone is more than enough reason question Apple’s decision to deprive the device of any substantial updates over the last three years. The same can’t be said for almost every other Apple product that exists on the Apple Store today.

Sadly, the truth is the Apple TV has become somewhat of a joke. The device has become inferior when compared to other offerings in the market place, ones that can offer the same functionality for less. Consoles such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 existed primarily as gaming consoles, their entertainment features could be seen as side dishes that taste delicious. Apple needs to serve its dishes in the right order. First and foremost Apple TV should provide a way for users to get content from the internet or other devices to their television. Gaming should be served as a side dish, where Apple TV can shine as a cocktail blended from the experiences of both the mobile and console gaming.

Apple TV will never “kill” the offerings of Sony and Microsoft, that is an absurd statement. Instead the new device, if it actually exists, will serve as an alternative to the other options available to all of us. Another way to game. Offering the best of mobile gaming thanks to Apple’s account system and the best of console gaming thanks to the hardware it is said to offer.

Technology products offer a huge amount of variation, even within the smallest, most niche categories. It is foolish to believe that one product, designed for a market of specific individuals can provide for the needs and wants of all. It is impossible. The new Apple TV will be an option, one that many will choose and one that many will ignore.