jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

So, we read an excerpt from the intro to a history book on the First Succession War, which was a mad scramble for land and resources after a political upheaval.

It reminded us of how much we love BattleTech sometimes, and why:

It was a week before my nineteenth birthday when we learned that Amaris had been captured and the [coup] was over. Naïvely, we thought things would get back to how they were before, in our parents’ day. How quickly we were disabused of that notion. The dukes knew things would only get worse and all the patriotic noise Kenyon had made was soon supplanted by something more authoritarian. We were just the wrong age, the perfect age to serve.

My boyfriend, Joe, was one of those called up that autumn, thrown into a boot-camp and then shipped off-world to fill out a line unit. I never saw him again—he died on Anegasaki when the Capellans killed the Fourth Militia. I was luckier I suppose, drafted into the planetary militia, so at least I was near home where it was safe and quiet. At least at first.

Then Kenyon got a mind to take over all the Star League facilities, following up on the rumors that Kerensky had left vast stockpiles on-world. That may have been true, but after four years spent on that wild goose, with little more than field rations, toilet paper, and SLDF recruitment pamphlets to show for it, the FWLM shifted their attention elsewhere. That didn’t save me from a grilling by SAFE—several in fact—because of who Gramps was, and his involvement with the Engineering Sub-Command. He died when I was nine, but even so, SAFE struggled to accept that a pre-teen knew nothing about SLDF activity. Dad got it much worse, and was held at the facility in Freeport for three weeks before they decided that the English teacher from Durandel High wasn’t going to give them much help either.

In those days, the years before the start of the Succession War, I did wonder: if this is how badly we treat our own people, how are things going to go when we start shooting at people we don’t like?

Compare and contrast, with how 40k portrays warfare. And authority, and nationalism. Even if you read 40k as a dystopian satire, where the Imperium is meant to be seen as brutal, you rarely get such a personal look, at the price that ordinary people pay for you to dress up in armour and play as a "hero." To satisfy your vain ambition, for power or wealth or heroics.

40k isn't alone in erasing civilians and glamourizing warfare, of course. Don't get me started on dudebro shooters. >_>; With the extremely subversive exception of Spec Ops: The Line.

Click here if you can't see the video.

For another good take (IMO) on how BattleTech portrays conflict, check out the short story at the start of the Alpha Strike Quick-Start rules (PDF link). A private military contractor called Wolf's Dragoons catches a desperate foe completely off-guard, and an enemy MechWarrior has an obvious mental breakdown, but there's no guarantee that she won't recover once they've gone past. So Natasha just shoots her mech's legs out and moves on. Even though she has TEH RAEG because of something the other side's employer did to Dragoon dependents.

Finally, if you want to support a PC / tabletop game that tells the story of people who live in the ruins that "heroes" and generals fight over, check out This War of Mine:

Click here if you can't see the video.

Armed conflict is a terrific backdrop for drama. But it isn't a playground or theme park, and it shouldn't be treated as one.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)

A week or three ago, Bungie, the makers of Halo, opened their upcoming MMO first-person shooter, Destiny, to PS3 / PS4 players, for an open beta and stress test. I played it for a few hours, the night before the beta ended.

A day or three ago, Trion Worlds made their MMO third-person shooter, Defiance (sponsored by Dodge!), free-to-play for people on PS3 consoles. It's based on a SyFy TV series that I've never watched. I downloaded it a few days ago, and have played it every day since, partly because a PSN friend invited me to her clan.

Here's what I make of the two.

Defiance

A few minutes into Defiance, I thought "This game is awfully silly." That impression has yet to leave me.

It tries very hard to be "hardcore" with its characters and world design, from the square-jawed colonel in charge of the Not A Spaceship at the beginning to the wise-cracking, alien Bad Girl, who largely pushes the main plot forward. She loves chargin' in and killin' her some post-apocalyptic mutants, and the whole game is based on the premise that you do, too.

Which leaves my "survivalist" character up shtako creek without a paddle, because so far she's run into:

  • Men who can take a direct shot to the face from a bolt-action rifle,

  • Hills that can't be climbed even with a backpack full of survival gear,

  • Wildlife that runs after her as soon as it sees her,

  • Trucks that just sit in one place and disgorge wave after wave of enemy soldiers without resupply,

  • Quests that can't be completed until I run up close to a target with no cover,

  • "Friendly" soldiers that shout at her to "Get over here and HELP!" while she's finding a position to snipe from,

And more cheesy one-liners than you can shake a hellbug at.

In a way, it's kind of a letdown. Because they let me create, as my character, a woman of colour who's a "survivalist" and a "professional" and who actually dresses the part, right down to the beat-up propane tank attached to her pack. And instead of Don't Starve in 3D, I ended up having to bro it up in the bro-iest bro shooter ever.

So why the jekk am I playing it?

Because I haven't played pretty much any shooters since DUST 514, minus brief excursions into Uncharted and Bioshock, and it's ... actually kind of fun. In a cheesy, ridiculous way, but fun nonetheless. The premise (an alien colonization of Earth gone wrong) is interesting, despite how the game handles it, and I feel invested in my character. This is one of the few games that feels like it lets me inhabit a world as myself, so I figure I might as well make the best of it, especially as long as I have a few friends here.

I just get the impression that it was made by a bunch of TV execs, based on a stereotype of "what gamers like."

Destiny

Other than that it was made by the people behind Halo, and that it involved a big sphere floating over a city for some reason, I had no idea what to expect when I logged in to the Destiny beta. But enough people were talking about it online, with what seemed to be wonder and awe, that I started it up with my headset on and the overhead light switched off.

It pulled me in right away, with graphics that seemed almost PS4-quality and ... a reverence I rarely see, for the power of myth and the people who want to be part of it. Just the way they use words, like Titan and Ghost, that makes it seem like these are the names for something sacred. I didn't feel like I was "playing a game" so much as that I was physically there, helping act out a story, like when I went on the Star Trek: The Experience "ride" years ago.

I didn't know what was shooting at me, or why I was able to shoot back. I just knew these things were somehow responsible for the destruction that I'd woken up in, and that my revival was supposed to somehow bring back ... what?

Transhuman civilization, apparently, including both living machines and mysterious "Awoken." "These worlds were once ours," says the poster in the limited edition set, depicting the solar system. But what was that civilization like, besides grand and ancient? It felt kind of like playing Journey, and having to use your imagination to fill in the intentional gaps in the myth. This was no dystopia I was fighting for; it was whatever I thought was ideal. The best impressions I'd gotten from living on Earth.

I'm sure there's story material that fills in the gaps, somewhere. But they don't give it to you up front, and there aren't all the silly, ridiculous things in the gameplay that jarred me out of Defiance. Granted, I haven't played Destiny as long. But it left a strong impression, and I am tempted to preorder it.

Oh, and the gameplay was fun, too.

jewelfox: A portrait of a foxgryphon with a beak, black fur, magenta hair, fox ears, and a neckband with a large jewel on it. (Default)
So I just beat the Knights of the Old Republic games, and I'm looking at stuff for The Old Republic (Bioware's free-to-play MMORPG based on them), and the opening movies are unbelievably Troperrific. What really strikes me about them, though, is how sexist they are, which is ironic considering you can play a male or female character in both TOR and the KotOR series.

If you're not convinced that they're sexist, here's the second movie:

And here's a gender inversion based on it!

Spoilers for a five-minute cutscene. )

I realize this is supposed to be a positive portrayal of a female character, but the message it sends is "You have to be this good." If you're a girl, you don't get to be one of the grunts on the ground; you only get to fight if you're the Manic Pixie Warrior Princess. Which is really unfortunate if you don't happen to have Force powers, like the power of instant battlefield dry cleaning and hair washing.

The game itself will let you play as a female Trooper, and you'll go through the same storyline as the male grunts. You just wouldn't know it from the packaging.

Want to see a good contrast?

Check out this trailer for DUST 514, the free-to-play PS3 shooter set in the EVE Online verse.

Note how she isn't portrayed as anything special at first. She's just another soldier. A cool soldier, but not a strange or exceptional sight on the battlefield, and she wears the same armour and uses the same equipment as the guys out there.

I've been playing DUST 514 for a little while, and I haven't been harassed a lot in it and have even gotten some compliments on my skill, although it helps that I keep voice chat turned off. I don't know how the games' communities compare, except that EVE Online itself (a PC MMORPG) has unbelievably sexist players. I just wanted to point this video out as an example of Doing It Right. And I love that I finally get to play a real FPS not just as a female character, but as a personal one.

Looking forward to trying out TOR!

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~ Fox | Gem | Rei ~

We tell stories, paint minis, collect identity words, and share them all with our readers. If something we write helps you, let us know.

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