Bad Parenting in Mass Effect 2: Father of a Species

…as always, the below contains spoilers…

Previously, we’ve looked at actually fathers and how they dealt with their children in Mass Effect 2.  This time, I want to examine a man who would play father to an entire species.

Doctor Mordin Solus is one of the most interesting characters present in video games.  He carries undertones of Hannibal Lector or Dexter Morgan, and he is exactly the type of character not present often enough in video games.  He is complex, multi-dimensional, intriguing and thought-provoking.

He is a completely terrible individual who is easy to like on a personal level.

Mordin’s life is very compartmentalized.  He has served the salarian Special Task Group, his species most elite group of spies and operatives.  He is well-trained in combat and fire arms, and before Shepard meets him, two very conflicting ideas are presented.  Some claim the professor is a great healer, running a clinic for the desperate on Omega.  Others talk about him as a cold-blooded killer, murdering without concern or a second thought.  As the story progresses, it turns out both are true.

There are two major aspects in Mordin’s life: the STG agent and the doctor of medicine, and he keeps them compartmentalized in his mind.  When he is an agent, he is an agent, and when he is a doctor, he is a doctor.  At one point, he tells the commander:

“Have killed many, Shepard. Many methods. Gunfire, knives, drugs, tech attacks, once with farming equipment. But not with medicine.”

This is a very important distinction for him.  Interestingly, he does not consider drugs to be a part of medicine.  That aside, it is a strong look into his psychology.  Killing does not diminish his contributions to the field of medicine, or the results of his work as a doctor.

To further his complexity, he is one of the most independent characters on the squad.  When you speak to most members, they do not step far outside their assigned roles.  Joker will tell you about his disease, which limits him as a pilot, but only to the extent that it influenced him as a pilot.  Tali will talk about machines, but as she is specifically a mechanic, it doesn’t flesh her out further as a character, just keeps her within her role.  The only two characters, apart from Mordin, who display depth and thoughts on things outside their definitions for the roles they serve on your team, are Thane and Samara.  Samara speaks of the Justicar code, and Thane brings up his religion.  Samara’s code still defines her professionally, but it is more complex than some interests other characters display.  Thane’s religion depens his character, and does not define him as an assassin.  He could be one without this aspect, but Samara could not be a Justicar.  Interestingly, they are both fathers.  The other members of your crew don’t seem to have developed ideas and interests beyond whatever directly effects them in their roles as biotics, soldiers, mercanaries or technicians.

Mordin discusses art with you, and Shepard is surprised to learn that he has a strong interest in the field.  Previous to this, all discussions have been on the morality of the scientist’s work.  This revelation is not foreshadowed, and Mordin is able to provide specific examples of the art he likes.  In one of the most entertaining moments of the game, he even sings a modified version of Gilbert & Sullivan, describing the very model of a “scientist salarian.”

He is also one of the very few characters that Shepard has no option to romance.  The only other members of your team who cannot be pursued romantically are a synthetic life form which does not reproduce biologically or derive pleasure from sex.  With Mordin, he displays no interest in a romantic or sexual relationship with Shepard.  If none has developed, at a certain point in the game he will ask an unattached Shepard of either gender if the commander is attracted to him.  Whatever the answer, Mordin will inform Shepard that he is not interested, but if he was to try a human, it would be the commander.

This gives Mordin a depth beyond the others once more.  Shepard is not central to the salarian’s life.  The implication is that Mordin has sexual interests, but Shepard is not what he is looking for.  Shepard and the mission are not central to his life, just something he is doing, and he cares about art and looks for sexual fulfillment elsewhere.

Mordin’s Evil

Mordin is responsible for one of the darkest acts in the Mass Effect universe.  It begins before Mordin enters the scene, 2000 years earlier, when his species found the krogan home world.  The krogans were a tribal race, far from reaching interstellar travel on their own.  The salarains provided them with the technological boost they needed, to have the krogans work as soldiers in a war they were fighting.

After the Rachni War, the krograns spread through the galaxy.  The natural lifespan of a krogan is around a thousand years, but on their home world, harsh conditions and tribal warfare kept their numbers severally limited.  Now, in wider space, they experienced a population boom, as they lived longer and had more children.  The krogans began to attack the other space faring races.

In order to restore balance, the salarians developed the Genophage, a biological weapon which ensured only about one in a thousand krogan infants survived childbirth.  This brought the species back under control.

Within Mordin’s life, the krogan had begun to overcome the Genophage, and it looked like they were about to begin increasing in numbers.  Mordin worked with a team that rewrote the Genophage, effectively re-inflicting the krogan populace.

This is, effectively, a form of eugenics, the science in which practices designed to promote desirable traits are promoted.  This science, in the real world, is only applied to human beings, but if we expand to a fictional realm populated by multiple intelligent species, the same basic practices would apply.  While the positive language of the above definition indicates a benevolent idea, where the most intelligent or athletic, or those with other desirable traits are encouraged to have children, there is a much darker side in real world eugenics.

It is less likely to the more benign eugenics of men like Cyril Burt, who attempt to encourage those with traits they consider superior to have children.  Eugenics are most often linked to the National Socialist Workers Party, and NAZI eugenics more often involved sterilizing those who were of a undesireable genetic background.

This is exactly what Mordin has done.  He has bought into the idea that the krogans are an undesirable influence in the galaxy in vast numbers, and he has taken away their ability to effectively reproduce.

Remember the above quote, about how he has never killed with medicine?  This comes up as a defense when Shepard accuses him of killing krogans.  He sees increasing their infant mortality rate as something very separate from murder.  While this point is arguable, Mordin’s affirmation of that view says a lot about the necessity he feels this practice has.

For most of the decisions made by party members, Shepard can influence their views.  Mordin remains steadfast that the rewritten Genophage was the correct thing to do at the time.  He feels that the salarians are responsible for the krogans leaving their homeworld, and the pressures there that limited their populations.  He feels that it is only natural to have 1 in a 1000 krograns survive childbirth, and it is the job of salarians to ensure the return of this balance.

He is also willing to take personal responsiblity for what he has done.  He feels he made the right choice.  He presents the only alternative being wiping out the krogans.  The genophage limits their power and makes genocide unnecessary.  Krogan psychology does not allow them to abandon their warlike ways, and if they achieved the necessary numbers to conquer the galaxy, they couldn’t resist.  He believes he has saved them through the genophage.

He is very paternal when describing the relationship between his species and the krogan.  He also sees himself as central.  When one of his students, Maelon, wishes to reverse their work, Mordin is furious.  He is mad at his student’s methodology, and desired results.  Mordin understands Maelon’s guilt, but is furious about how he acted on it, attempting to kill his student.

Mordin does tell Shepard he struggled with the choice.  He talks about turning to religion to make peace with the choice.  However, everytime it is brough up, Mordin vehemently defends the choice.  He is certain that only the genophage or genocide could solve the krogan problem.  He feels justified in making the decision.

He treats the modern krogan as children of the salarian as a species, and as a representative of the salarians, he feels justified in making the tough decisions he made regarding them.

Next time, we’ll finish up by looking at what happens to those without the shadow of a bad father in the Mass Effect 2 narative.

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Bad Parenting in Mass Effect 2: The Sins of the Father

as always, the below contains spoilers…

Previously, we’ve looked at the reactions the children in Mass Effect 2 have had to the poor choices of their fathers.  This time, we’ll be looking at it from the other perspective.

Thane Krios

Thane is considered by many the best father in the game.  While he’s an assassin, the text of the game points out that this is just a very percise mercanary.  He is a deeply spiritual individual, and the drell, his race, possess an ediec memory, so he often falls into moments of the past.  He is a serene character, and the first time you hear about his son, it because Thane wants your help to save him.

Koylat, his child, has accepted a contract to kill someone on the Citidal, and Thane feels the boy is in over his head.  He wants to stop his son from following in his footsteps.

I have been given him as an example by many individuals as the exception to the bad parents of the Mass Effect 2 galaxy.  However, on closer inspection, the best parent in this universe isn’t very good.

Thane takes no responsibility for the actions of his past.  He describes his body as seperate from his soul, with the spiritual, moral, intelligent aspect of himself as just along for the ride.  His higher functions are seperate from his physical presence, and his life view is completely deterministic.  The hanar, another alien species, taught him the skills and sent him on his missions, and he seems to press all responsiblity onto them.

Thane has a habit of dropping into very vivid memories, mostly about his wife, Irikah.  He describes in poetic detail their first meeting and his love for her.  She was central to his life, and he kept her as seperate as possible from his work.  Eventually, some of his enemies found and killed her.  He hunted down everyone involved in her murder and returned the same.

Koylat is not mentioned much in these tales, even though he was ten years old by the time his mother was murdered.  Irikah was Thane’s whole universe, and Koylat doesn’t seem to be much more than a side product of this.  While he slips into memory trances of longing for his wife, he never once experiences this sort of connection for his son.  When Irikah was murdered, he didn’t stay with the grieving boy, but went on a quest for his own vengance.  He hasn’t seen the boy in years.

His relationship with the younger drell is a history of neglect.  Nothing was every about his son, until the moment where Koylat takes the hit, obviously emulating his distant and enigmatic father.

While Thane’s efforts to save his son are admirable, it is the first time in the boy’s life that his father has shown any interest, or made any effort solely for Koylat’s sake.  Thane’s choices, in a career he felt he couldn’t step away from, in his refusal to learn new skills to support his family, in his reponse to Irikah’s death, are the examples that Koylat uses to shape his life.  If Thane had been a different father, in any of those respects, Koylat may not have needed saving.

Samara

It is very tempting to present Samara as a father, considering Mass Effect 2 seems to deal heavily with father issues. Asari, her species, tend to indentify themselves as female.  Their physical build looks like a human woman.  They call the stages of their life Maiden, Matron, and Matriach, female titles.  They refer to themselves using female pronouns and call their offspring daughters.  They do not actually posses a gender in the human sense, however.  They do not reproduced based on male-female pairings.  Asari chose a mate, who provides half of the genetic material for a child, in a process called melding.   This can be a member of any species and gender, but are usually reffered to as the father.

Samara has three pure-blood asari daughters, meaning both parents were asari.  This means that the children had, in effect, two mothers and no father.  In the lives of her daughters, Samara acts as a disciplinarian, in a very traditionally masculine sense.  She threatens her children with physical force if they step out of line, a hyperboyle of father coming home and spanking the misbehaving child.  This classical parenting role, the authorative figure as oppossed to the care-giver, combined with the lack of a genetically defined father, make it hard within this context not to call Samara Morinth’s father.

All three of Samara’s children are Ardat-Yakshi.  They have a rare genetic disorder where melding kills their partners.  They cannot have the asari version of sex without killing their partners.  Samara’s children represent all the known Ardat-Yakshi alive during the story.  Two of her daughters have chosen to live alone, secluded as hermits to avoid hurting anyone else.  Morinth, Samara’s most intelligent and capable daughter, does not feel she should be the one to suffer for her genetic make-up, and travels the universe as a sexual predator, seducing and murdering her victims for her own enjoyment.

Samara became a justicar, a type of asari warrior monk dedicated to a very specific code of justice, to hunt down Morinth.  The justicar plans to kill her daughter when she finds her.  There is no talk of arresting, detaining, or treating the Ardat-Yakshi.  It is implied that Morinth is too evil to be allowed to live.

It’s important to note here how responsible all other parents are in Mass Effect 2 for the behavior of their children.  Miranda, for all her dislike of her father, talks about how the gifts he gave her made her as sucessful as she is.  His drive for her shaped her own work ethic and outlook.  Grunt was built by Okeer, and is very concerned about Okeer’s intent for him.  Jacob is mad that the man he finds on Aiea is not the man who raised him as a child, who made him who he is.  Talia is brought to trail for her father’s crimes, and can be found guilty for his treason.  Thane’s son needs saving due to all the ways the drell assassin failed him.

Samara even expresses concern that because she insisted on melding with an asari, she is directly responsible for the genetic defect.

It follows that based on how the other characters are made into who they are by their relationships with their father’s, Morinth’s evil is Samara’s responisblity.  She appears to have become a justicar because she feels Morinth is her wrong to right.  If this is the case, this may make Morinth the worst parent seen in the game.

Next time, we’ll  look at the man who would be the father to an entire species, in the most terrible way possible…

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Bad Parenting from Mass Effect 2: Not the Man They Thought I Was Back Home

as always, the below contains spoilers…

Last time, we looked at how Miranda and Grunts fathers expected too much from them in Mass Effect 2.  This week, we’ll look at fathers who disappointed their children.

Jacob Taylor

Jacob is one of the more moral members of your crew.  He is a member of Cerberus, but apart from being a member of the conspiracy, there’s no major stains on his ethical history.  He often speaks up as the voice of a paragon choice, and generally urges Shepard to do the right thing.  In a crew of contract killers, escaped convicts, war criminals, and vicious mercenaries, he seems almost out of place.

Jacob’s loyalty mission starts when he receives a distress call from the Hugo Gernsback, the deep space freighter his father was aboard.  The ship vanished 10 years ago, so he’s surprised to find the beacon now, but he asks Sheppard to investigate.

When you arrive at Aiea, the planet sending out the call, you find the wreckage of the ship.  The logs indicate that Ronald, Jacob’s father, was promoted to acting Captain after the crash.  The distress beacon was damaged, and it would take time to repair.  There was food on the planet, but it was toxic, and eating it impairs higher brain functions, robbing those who eat it of the majority of their decision-making capabilities and therefore free will.  A decision was made that the crew would eat the local food, and officers would eat the ships supply to extend it long enough to activate the beacon.

Then things started to fall apart.  Ronald divided the women on the crew amongst the officers, as pets and play things.  The male crewman who rebelled were chased out into the jungle.  When the beacon was complete, the officers argued over whether they should turn it on.  Some wanted to stay, the kings of their tiny tribal paradise.  Fighting broke out, and in the end, Ronald was left standing.

And he didn’t turn on the beacon.  He stayed, living in his juvenile fantasy.  He eventually turned on the beacon because the ships stores, even when only one man ate them, would only last so long, and the men who had gone into the woods were returning.  He could only hold them off so long.

This is not the father Jacob remembers.  He was brought up by a good man, who taught him how to make the right choices, to do the proper thing.  When they confront his father, Jacob is not pleased.

He is furious when Ronald says that it is all true, that he looked after his own needs before those of his crew.  All of Jacob’s illusions of a good moral man are destroyed. 

It is interesting that Mass Effect 2 felt the need to take this from Jacob.  His father is one of the very few listed as a positive influence on his children, and there’s no reason this needs to be taken from him.  The story line could still exist, with Ronald being a military officer, or a senior Ceberus operative.  The fact that it was his father, and not a father figure that was chosen, says something about the themes explored here.  In Sheppard’s galaxy, a good father is a lie.  When a father’s morals are tested, when he is given a chance to do something terrible, a father will.

Tali’Zorah

Tali’Zorah is a quarian, a race of nomadic aliens who have been at war with the Geth for years.  The Geth were originally domestic AIs that rebelled against their creators and sent them from their home world.  Tali’s father, Rael’Zorah, is one of the Admirals of the Quarian Migrant Fleet, a top ranking official in their government.  Tali’s loyalty mission occurs when she is accussed of treason, and summoned for trial.

Tali is confused, and has Sheppard return with her.  They find that she is accused of bringing live Geth into the Migrant Fleet.  Tali is furious, as she only brought inactive pieces of Geth technology back to the fleet at her father’s request.  He was within his rights to have these materials brought aboard.  However, the Geth occupation of her father’s ship is too much evidence for the Admiralty board to take her at her word.

She is allowed to go to the Alarei, her father’s vessel, to search for evidence and destroy the Geth.  If she dies in the process, her sacrifice will clear her name.  If she succeeds, she should have what she needs to clear her name and her father.

However, as you explore the Alarei, it becomes obvious that Rael had constructed live Geth, and was testing them for ways to hurt and kill them.  Not only has he breaking Quarian law by his actions, but there are the greater moral implications of the fact that he is doing tests on sentient beings to determine how to hurt them the most.  To put this in to context, if these were not different species, but two different nations of human beings, this would be a terrible war crime.  The recordings you find also indicate that Rael purposefully kept what he was doing from Tali.  He did not want her to know what he was doing. When his body is found, Tali weeps over it. 

Of the fathers examined so far, Rael is the first to receive any sort of forgiveness.  Tali begs Sheppard to cover up her father’s crimes when they return to the trail.  She admits she knows what he did was wrong, but she does not want his reputation tarnitioned, does not want him brought to task for what he did.

This does not absolve him from his status as a poor father.  He still broke the law of his people, even if you cover for him.  He still decieved his daughter, and used her as an acccessory in his crimes.  He was still a war criminal, who tested new ways to injure captive sentient life in a lab setting.

Contrast

 

There are some very interesting parallels in these two-story lines.  Both fathers were major, positive  forces on the young lives of their children, shaping them into two of the more morally upstanding members of the Mass Effect 2 squad.  Both found a major betrayal by their fathers in their adult life, and both acted in an emotional extreme.

Jacob was furious, lost in anger.  He disowned his father, stating that this was not the man who raised him as a child.  He wants his father to pay for his crimes, and depending on your alignment, with his life.   He judges his father based on what Ronald has done recently, and sees the acting captain of the Hugo Grensback as a different main than the figure from his childhood.  They are not the same, and he looks at Ronald as a stranger.

Tali is lost in sorrow, and forgives her father.  She wants to ensure that what he did does not come to light, and wants the world to remember the myth of Rael, not the man he turned out to be.  She wants him remembered at his best.  Her relationship with Rael is different than the one Jacob shares with his absentee father.  She still sees the best in him, and feels that people who had all the facts would come to the wrong conclussion about the admiral.  The difference could also be that Rael had already paid for his crimes with his life when Tali found him, and as such there was no further punishment was necessary.  She was closer to her father, emotionally and professionally, and would suffer more personally if his crimes came to light.

It is also interesting to compare the two emotional responses to Miranda and Grunt’s intellectual relationships with their fathers.

Jacob and Tali appear on-screen with their fathers.  Tali may only have recordings and the corpse of Rael, but they react directly to the spoken dialogue and images of their fathers.  They are closer, based on the way they are presented. They see their fathers as people, and react to them personally, although on opposite emotional spectrums

Okeer is seen with Grunt, but Grunt never gains consciousness before Okeer is dead.  While Okeer is proud of his accomplishment, Grunt never recieves the benefit of being able to interact with the older krogan.  His relationship is almost religious, where he treats Okeer as a deity, wondering what Okeer wanted, and intended.  His tone when contemplating his father’s desires is always philosophical, a purely intellectual exercise.

Miranda never interacts directly with her father.  They are engaged in a great strategic battle, like a game of intergalactic chess.  She talks about how she feels about him, but it is always distant, and usually refers to how she felt years ago.  She seems to view him as a rival, someone to be between, but she doesn’t interact with him.

next time: The Sins of the Father: Thane and Samara

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Bad Parenting in Mass Effect 2: My Father Made Me For His Dreams

As always, the below will contain spoilers

As I was playing through the loyalty missions on Mass Effect 2, I started to notice a theme: damn near every one of them is about bad fathers.  There’s a lot to go through here, so we may go through a couple characters at a time to keep it unreasonable.

Our first set is Miranda Lawson and Grunt.

Miranda Lawson:

Miranda tells you rather early own that she’s genetically modified, and you come to learn she’s an extreme version.  It isn’t just gene-therapy to avoid diseases.  She doesn’t really have a mother.  She is her father’s genetic material planted into a donor ovum.  The genes were then selected to make her who she is, and every thing about her was a conscious decision.  She tells you “Physically, I’m superior in many ways. I heal quickly and I’ll likely live half again as long as the average human. My biotic abilities are also advanced.”

She lets you know she’s smarter, more athletic, and better looking than other people by design.  She tells you her father told her she was “better than other people”.  She was raised to be his heir, to take over everything he built.

She had nothing but his expectations to define herself.   She was never treated as a person, just potential, and never given any choice in the matter.  Her father’s ideal of perfection was more than even she could live up to, and she never received praise for her accomplishments as a child, just admonitions to try harder.  She was expected to do as she was told, to be a scion for her fathers will as well as his dreams and ambition.  When she excelled, she met his bare minimum requirements, and nothing she did was every exemplary.  In the end  she ran from her father, and she joined Cerberus to escape this life of expectation without accomplishment..

She’s so broken by the expectations of her father that he defies him outright at any possibility.  She was never given a choice in her life.  In order to replace his lost hier, her father makes a twin of her, an exact genetic copy using the same template made before.  This child is to do all the things her sister didn’t.   Miranda decides to ensure the child has the choices she never had.  She kidnaps Oriana, her twin, and places her with a foster family to protect the infant from their father.

Her loyalty mission is about how the child’s whereabouts have been compromised.  She goes to help move the child.  Niket, an old ally, turns out to be helping Miranda’s father recover the child.  He explains that he helped Miranda leave because it was her choice, but Oriana was never given the option to stay with their father.  Niket is killed, either by Miranda or one of the mercs sent to bring Oriana in, and you rush to extract Oriana.

Oriana and her family are evacuated, and no one gives Niket’s point a second thought.  No one offers Oriana the same choice, to go back to her father.  It’s assumed that because Miranda was treated poorly, Oriana would be too.  No one considers the father could have changed and learned, although if you follow the paragon paths through the mission, Miranda changes and learns to let go of her anger.  She’s able to stop committing the same mistakes.

However, Mr. Lawson, as a father, is considered unable to do right by the second daughter as he messed up with the first.  He is condemned for being a poor father, and is never seen on-screen to defend himself.  You only ever have what Miranda or Niket say about the man, and Niket doesn’t think he was a bad person.  The crew of the Normandy, however, doesn’t need convincing.  Fathers are bad.

If your Shepard is following the moral high ground of the game, the paragon path, he has the option of forgiving a criminal who has engaged in piracy, slavery, drugs, and all manner of illicit experiences.  You can forgive the founders of one of the most brutal mercenary companies in the galaxy.  You can forgive an assassin who knows no life but killing for money.  You can forgive the clandestine organization which has appropriated human resources to their own ends and puts our species above all other sentient life.  You can forgive a scientist who is a proponent of what amounts to eugenics, who has sterilized an entire species of those he considers undesirable.

You have no option to forgive Miranda’s father, who pushed her too hard, who expected perfection from his daughter.  All those listed above, you give them the chance to change, to be better than they were.  This option is never extended to Mister Lawson.  He doesn’t get to try again with his second daughter.  Bad parenting is the one crime Shepard can’t forgive. 

Grunt

Grunt is similiar to Miranda in that he was genetically engineered to be the perfect example of his species.  Okeer, a krogan warlord, made him to overcome the genophage, a condition placed on the krogan race so that only one in a thousand pregnancies come to term.  Okeer fears this has made the warlike aliens weak, as they coddle the few newborns they have.

Chosen from a huge pool of genetic material, and having been preceded by thousands of experiments, Grunt is considered by his “father” Okeer to be the prime example of the krogan species.  His entire education comes from imprinted knowledge his father left him in the tank.

Okeer died before Grunt was awakened.  Grunt was provided with fighting techniques, battle strategies, krogan history.  His head is a massive text-book full of information Okeer left the tank-bred.

Being a krogan, Okeer didn’t realize he failed to offer any sort of perspective.  Grunt is lost in the information overload, unsure why he feels happy looking at certain violent memories from the tank.  Okeer made the error in assuming given the same information, his creation would draw the same conclusions.

Without the traditional tribal upbringing of his people, Grunt had no concept of honour, or discipline.  The knowledge confuses him, as his father failed to provide explicit moral judgements, interpretations, or perspective on the information.  It was all data, with no analysis, and it nearly cripples Grunt.  His loyalty mission is figuring out why he feels the way he does, because his father had no connection to him beyond the intellectual.

If you don’t do his loyalty mission, and help him learn, he will die.  Basically, his father, for all his effort in designing a perfect warrior from a perfect warrior race, has failed by being too scientific.

Grunt differs from Miranda in that he doesn’t know what’s expected of him every step of the way.  While they are both expected to be ideal members of their species, Miranda’s father guided her every step.  Grunt’s father did the opposite.  Okeer provided a basis, but no process, and expected Grunt to do great things.

When we meet Miranda, she’s a sucess.  She runs major projects for The Illusive Man, is made Shepard’s second in command, and is a powerful force in her own right.  She can’t forgive her father for outlining every single step in her journey, but it’s the lack of this guidance that can lead to Grunt’s death.  Miranda’s father is condemned for being too harsh, and distant from her, but he made her into the powerful force she is.  His methods are too extreme.

And in this games, there’s a eugenists on your team.

continued next week, with Tali’Zorah and Jacob Taylor

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Mission Statement

I’ve decided to start a second blog, as not all of the readers of Black Book Project are gamers, I wanted to separate this.

There’s a lot of game critics out there, but I find the majority of them are focused on reviewing.  They tell you if a game is good or bad, if you should buy and play it or not.  These guys are vital, and I’m glad they’re out there, doing what they do.

But I’ve come to realize, I have the skills to help further the view on the medium of video games.  We’re struggling, trying to show the world that video games are art, and not just toys for kids.  As a medium it’s probably most closely related to movies; major productions that put out a single product after years of work.

No one assumes all movies are for kids.  Movies that aren’t for kids are kept out of the hands of kids, but if, as an adult, I want an R rated movie, it takes a real extremist to say that shouldn’t be sold.  We’re the generation that grew up with video games, and we still want to play them, and while more adult themed games are coming out.  The problem is games have trouble exploring adult themes, whether ironically, exploitative or with honest appraisal, are seen as marketed for children.

Movies went through the same thing.  They weren’t seen as art until a generation of critics, such as Roger Ebert, started talking about them as art.  If we treat our games as art, if we hold up those that have artistic merit, explore and discuss them, we’ll start to change that view.

I know I’m not the first to do this.  I just think I can contribute.  I have a degree in English Literature, and it’s not like I’m doing anything more important with it right now than writing about video games.  So I’ll mostly be looking at things like plot, characterization, themes, and literary concepts like that.  I won’t generally go into graphics, or control, or sound, except when they add or detract from the more literary themes.  I may mention them, but I won’t analyze them in the same depth.

There will be spoilers: If you’re concerned about spoilers, you won’t want to read the blogs on any of the games you haven’t played.  I won’t be hiding information that I think is important.  I’ll be revealing important plot points because if I’m treating games as literature, I need to go into the important parts.

I can only talk about what I’ve seen: Lots of games have multiple paths.  If I don’t discuss them, I haven’t seen them.  I encourage you, if you believe I’ve missed something important in my limited perspective, to comment and add it to the conversation.  It matters.

Anything I say is open to debate: If we’re treating the medium as art, your view matters.  Maybe not as much as mine, but it matters…

I’ll be talking about older games at times: I don’t generally play the newest, shiniest games.  I’ll talk about the ones I think have something to say, and a lot of those may be two or twenty years old.  I’ll still be talking about them.

Not all games are art in a literary sense: Not every movie is either.  I like Army of Two.  It’s fun, and I’ve played through it several times.  The story, the dialogue, and the characters make me cringe every time.  There’s value to the game, but not in a literary sense, and so if I bring it up here, I’ll probably be derisive.

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