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.

MMOnday: What are your MMO pet peeves?

Many game genres have certain tropes or reoccurring mechanics which can cause frustration among the playerbase. MMO’s are no different, so today I’d like to ask, “What pisses you off in massively-multiplayer online games?

FFXIV-quarrymillSpeaking for myself, I find complicated maps and backtracking to be one of the most awful elements I consistently see and which irk me to no end. The original release of Final Fantasy XIV was perhaps one of the most frustrating examples I can pull from recent memory. The map to the right, pulled from Aleczan’s site, shows exactly how convoluted and annoying they were to navigate. Luckily this was fixed in the massive A Realm Reborn update.

Another pet peeve of mine is poor auction house or trading interfaces. World of Warcraft doesn’t have the most amazing one, but it’s an example of a game that can be expanded upon by players themselves through addons. Other titles which I enjoy playing, such as Aion, don’t allow such customization and thus deliver subpar experiences.

Enough about my opinions though, what do you hate to see? How about killing 10 rats? Or a very limited set of skills for players to use at a given moment, such as in the Guild Wars series?

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.

[g1_row color=”none” background_repeat=”repeat” background_position=”right center” background_attachment=”static”]

[g1_1of1 valign=”top” color=”none” background_image=”http://retrylevel.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/TBT-TLOU-1.png” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”center top” background_attachment=”static” background_scroll=”none”]

[g1_space value=”25″]

[/g1_space]

WHY IT WAS GREAT

[/g1_1of1]

[/g1_row]

[g1_space value=”30″]

[/g1_space]

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.

[g1_row color=”none” background_image=”http://retrylevel.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/TBT-TLOU-2.png” background_repeat=”repeat” background_position=”center center” background_attachment=”static”]

[g1_1of1]

[g1_space value=”25″]

[/g1_space]

FINAL THOUGHTS

[/g1_1of1]

[/g1_row]

[g1_space value=”30″]

[/g1_space]

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.

How does spending $100 on an IAP feel? Disappointing & hollow says this author

There mornings when you wake up, groggily recall what you did the night before and realize you fucked up. Sometimes this comes in the form of a poorly chosen hook-up, other times you rush to the toilet because you imbibed far too much alcohol. Or you’re me and wake up with a $99.99 iTunes charge for an in-app purchase in Game of War.

Many games that offer such large IAPs are advertised as “free-to-play”. My own interpretation of F2P has always been free-to-pay, because gaming today has morphed into an industry in which consumers are always able to spend if they want to. And believe me, they’ll want to. There’s a reason Game of War developer Machine Zone Inc. is valued at $6 billion. They’ve figured out exactly how to prod gamers into purchasing items and top players never get where they are for free. Their “trade secrets” on the best way to milk gamers even sparked litigation when a developer from a competing company claimed to have seen an investment pitch.

wow-celestial-steedThe success of “F2P” games has also led paid games to even offer ways to buy currency, speed-ups, cosmetic items, or other trinkets. The first cash shop pets and mount in mega-popular MMORPG World of Warcraft (which was seeing better days five years ago) sparked a huge debate about the ethics of charging for a game, the expansions and a monthly subscription, but still gating some items behind more purchases even after spending all that money.

PC and console games… OK. I can understand the allure. Items in titles that you’re heavily invested in which feature rich, detailed worlds and engaging game mechanics aren’t too hard to forgive. Maybe not $20k like this Redditor claims to have spent in ArcheAge, but a reasonable amount, sure.

gow-worst-purchase-everBut when offered with $100 purchases in a mobile game (I’m not saying that disparagingly, but the hardware doesn’t allow for as much depth) you have to wonder who would ever spend that much?! I’ve already shamefully owned up to my purchase and it does not make me proud to admit the amount I spent. It should be noted that I was in a more susceptible state, because I was in bed on prescription sleeping medicine, but the psychological hooks that led to my downfall were already in place long ago. Tons of chests containing random parts for crafting, double the premium currency, 3 years of speed-ups(!) was just too enticing to resist. Yes, that last part is correct and yes, some research takes half a year or MORE without boosts.

I’m writing this as a public walk of shame, cautionary tale and hopefully a stark look at what the industry has become and where it is deriving profit. There is charging for great content, then there is charging to be able to skip artificial barriers so large that make forking over a  Benjamin seems somehow logical. Oh, and this was a thank you sale. Thanks customers: a special new $100 collection of goodies from your friends at Machine Zone.

There are people who are spending a lot more than me. There are people who will continue to spend in free-to-pay games. Luckily others are dissatisfied and some may just need a sharp reminder that there are better things to do with money. Hopefully this sharp rap on the knuckles for me might save you a few bucks down the line. It just isn’t worth it.

MMOnday: How do you MMO on the go?

As smartphones and tablets have improved, in terms of both processing and graphical power, so too has mobile gaming. Gameloft has recently released a sequel to their game Order & Chaos, which was largely seen as a clone of World of Warcraft, except for your pocket devices. Clones don’t usually look so impressive, but back in 2011 it was no minor feat to a huge 3D world at your fingertips without ever having to boot up a computer. At launch it did sport a WiFi requirement, as well as a small monthly subscription, but it was nonetheless a remarkable technical achievement.

Nowadays we take such games for granted and there are plenty of MMO titles on iOS and Android to choose from. Not all feature 3D characters or vast worlds, but many have addictive gameplay that is suitable for short instances such as commuting to work or school, taking a lunch break or even distracting yourself in the restroom.

Do you prefer 3D MMORPGs such as Order & Chaos? 2D sidescrollers like MapleStory? Or even strategy titles? What are you playing while away from your favorite PC games?