Monthly Archives: February 2011

Persona 3: Wowie

So I have been in a bit of a gaming rut. I am stuck in AC2, and I really had the need for something low key gameplay-wise. Something new. Or old. Or whatever. Just something that didn’t test the boundaries of my twitch reflexes on a few hours of sleep. That was when I thought of handheld games… cause handheld games NEVER have anything more than turn based strategy (she said ironically holding her PSP and God of War: Chains of Olympus). I happened to be in an EB, and saw Persona 3.

Persona 3 is by Atlus and I loves me some Atlus. This game is an odd combo of your typical turn based JRPG. Your character is a typical high school student: you know, the kind that has a busy social calendar by day and fights demons at night? That kind. What makes the gameplay interesting is it’s a JRPG combined with a social simulator. One of the many ways to power up your summons is to strengthen social links: friendships you create and maintain during your daytime life as a regular high school student. 

If at the outset someone would have said that it’s a social simulator on the one hand and a JRPG on the other, I would have thought that the social sim would have been the worst part of the game. I am happy to say otherwise. This aspect of Persona 3 can be a lesson in game theory. You only have a certain number of actions that you can take in this part of the game, undertaking any action advances the clock and calendar and you only have one in game year to complete the game. There seems to be too many social links, I don’t think it’s really possible to max out them all. This pressure fits in nicely with the narrative. Will you go to volleyball or attend student’s council? Walk home with a friend or go to your part time job? Will you study for your mid-terms or get a much needed decent night’s sleep. It’s actually fairly intense, and makes you feel like the student who is just taking on too many priorities.

The relationships that you form also provide layering to the narrative; the summons (personas) that live inside of you are strengthened by relationships with others. It seems as though your persona colours your own personality. For example, your volleyball team mate is too intense for the rest of the team. they want to go on dates, she wants to hit spikes. The social links that you create with her strengthen The Chariot summons: the most powerful of the personas. Her intensity is due to her inner persona. The story that is told while ranking up in the social links are well done. We see high school students who are all at odds with themselves and they all feel out of place with their classmates and with the school. It does bring back memories of high school, all that drama and awkwardness.

The other thing that I note with this game is it has a really, really odd ERSB “feel”. It’s rated M, yet it;s very high school. Supposedly you can have sex as part of the storyline, but that’s only after maxing out a certain social link and it’s blacked out. Also the way in which you summon a persona is by basically pointing a gun to your head and pulling the trigger. Shards of blue ice fly out like blood. Oh, I mean they call the gun an “evoker” and say that it’s not a gun… but it’s a gun. This is the first time I have seen something rated M for what so far seems like an art direction decision. I am not complaining, not at all. It does look fantastic and it does highlight the intensity of what you are doing. You aren’t fighting baddies by waving a magic wand. No, no, no. You have to shoot yourself in the HEAD.

It’s also odd in that parts of the game seem “rated T”. For instance one of the battle cries a guy says “Come here you son of a…” instead “Come here you son of a bitch.” It’s just weird.  I am not convinced that the translation was really done properly. One guy talks about his drunk father and he says that his father used to spank him, when I *think* he should say his father beat him. It’s an important difference, one is a form of discipline (no matter what you think of spanking) the other really is child abuse.

Anyway: so far, it’s one kick ass little (actually, really big) game. Highly recommended.

How about you guys? Have you been surprised by an aspect of a game that you weren’t sure you would enjoy, but it turned out to be the best part of the game?

Dickwolves and False Equivalency

So… Been a tough week for women in gaming .

The most recent controversy to hit gaming concerns Penny Arcade, and a comic concerning the Dickwolf.  Check out this link for a very detailed timeline, including links, of this debacle.

I think by the tone of this blog, you may get where I stand on this issue. However, I have been trying to figure out the other side’s argument. I gotta practise what I preach.

Let’s see: A piece of art is accused of promoting rape culture. Accusations of censorship arise.

Wait. I think I have heard this one before.

A piece of art is accused of promoting violence. Accusations of censorship arise.

Is this JT (Jack Thompson, noted anti-gaming activist)all over again? Is this why members of the gaming community have circled the wagons on this one? If this is the reason why some gamers are supporting PennyArcade, here is why the dickwolves-promote-rape-culture controversy is a false equivalent to violence-in-games-make-people murderers controversy.

1. Bringing down the dickwolves t-shirts or even calling for a retraction of rape jokes is not censorship. Calling upon the judicial system to make it harder to purchase games is censorship.

Remember, you or I can’t censor anything. We can make our displeasure known. We can implore others to boycott. But we can’t censor anything: only the government and the lawmakers can censor. The dickwolves controversy is some gamers stating (loudly) that certain actions aren’t okay, in their eyes. There was a business decision in response to stop selling the offending merchandise.

JT bringing an argument before the Florida judicial system is trying to censor games. Not the same thing.

2. One argument stated that the art would cause an individual to act in a reprehensible manner. The other argument stated that the art in question adds to a culture in which reprehensible acts are minimized, such that victims no longer come forward to report crimes, and thus further victimized. The minimization of the act makes it easier for reprehensible people to justify their reprehensible acts.

No one said that the dickwolves joke, or the t-shirt would make a person rape someone. Rape culture is a culture in which rape and sexual violence against women is common, where sexual violence is excused and encouraged. A quote from shakesville on a description of rape culture:

… Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what they wear and how they wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you are in a group, if you are in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you carry something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you are wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what kind of jewellery you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door for the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sounding-machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert, to always pay attention, always watch your back, always be aware of your surroundings, and never let your guard down lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and you didn’t follow these rules it’s your fault.

The argument in a nutshell is that the dickwolves controversy is one of a multitude of things that promote this rape culture, a culture that we all live in, and why promote it if we don’t have to? Art A (plus C, plus D, plus E, etc) leads to a place in which act B is minimized to the point where B is normalized and then brushed aside.

The violence in games argument was such that playing a violent game would make individuals who played that game more predisposed to violent acts. Art A leads to individual performing act B.

Again: these two arguments are not the same.

3. The arguments against the controversy in one case held up the theory as true and on one case did not.

The arguments that were made, that the PA guys were in the right and that there is no such thing as rape culture contributed to rape culture. What did we hear? That rape victims should get over it, thus minimizing the effects of rape. That rape victims weren’t really raped and should provide evidence supporting the fact that they were raped. Strawman arguments from PennyArcade saying that rape culture means that guys will go out and rape a woman if he reads a comic. See- rape culture is idiotic! There were people who sent disgusting emails to rape victims saying that they wished that they would be raped to death. Victimize the victim for speaking out. That feminists should get a sense of humour – deflecting the actual argument by attacking the person making the argument.

On the other hand, when JT was making his arguments, no gamer went out and assaulted him and thus confirmed his theory.

All this to say, sometimes gamers, we are just too sensitive to anyone telling us that our passion is somehow wrong. I get it. We have a supreme court date to decide the fate of mature gaming and all that. However, the way in which we can respond to criticism is telling. Why can we not sit back and think for a minute? Why are we incapable of saying that the criticism is correct and maybe yes- we need to clean up our act. When it comes to sexism and gaming, why do gamers deny that it exists?

There is nobility in self-reflection, contemplation and change, it’s not a weakness.