Ethical Gamer: La-Mulana

Writing a review for La-Mulana might be every bit as hard as actually playing it.

Games made by fans of the particular genre of video games known as “Castleroids” tend to be exacting, grueling affairs if done poorly; exacting, grueling and COMPELLING affairs if done exceedingly well. La-Mulana, in both its original (freeware) form and its 2012 remake manages to achieve just about the perfect balance of difficulty and depth, even where it leaves me needing frequent breaks. The Japanese indie outfit Nigoro originally created the game to be a PC retro game that apes an MSX game — the MSX being the Japanese Microsoft home PC during the Famicom era. In fact, Konami and Hudson Soft developed heavily for the system before moving on to the true consoles, including such titles as Metal Gear (an MSX exclusive, at the time).

I’m currently playing the 2012 remake of La-Mulana, having only briefly attempted a playthrough of the original game. Its graphics bring to mind a 32-bit game like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, only much cuter and more cartoony. Your character, the one-block-high Professor Lemeza Kosugi, is a Japanese-American ninja-slash-archaeologist. The “ninja” part is evident in his choice of sub-weapons like caltrops and shuriken, and the “archaeologist” part is evident chiefly in his Indiana Jones attire and bullwhip main weapon.

And, I suppose, the setting — you’ve travelled to La-Mulana, the “cradle of civilization” and evidently a single ruin that contains references to numerous world cultures including Aztec, Egyptian, Greek, Babylonian and Japanese in a sort of Stargate sort of way. With your bullwhip, laptop and a million shuriken (which you have to buy at a gold apiece), you’ll have to unravel the mysteries of the ruins in order to beat your father and professional rival to the punch.

Content note: I complain about another game by this dev that involves “creepshots” type sexual assault. Highlight where the note is to read it.
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Ethical Gamer: Mercenary Kings

Welcome to my new side-project: The Ethical Gamer. As a hardened Social Justice Warrior (Tank spec) who just hit Level 47, who also happens to be a person who spends an inordinate amount of time on video games and has purchased a large number of Humble Bundles leading to an expansive Steam library, I figured I might as well jam these two facets of my life together somehow. That somehow, as it turns out, is reviews of video games from a social justice perspective.

What could possibly go wrong?

First up, Mercenary Kings. A game that, by all rights, I should absolutely adore, but I’m finding a major struggle just to bring myself to play any more.

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Tortoise helping herself

Seems this tortoise got bored of waiting for her owner to make her a salad, and decided to open the fridge herself.

D’aw. Who’s a good tortoise? Yes, go ahead and eat all the celery and tomatoes and grapes. We didn’t need those. They were there for you anyway. <3

More over at BoingBoing’s perfectly-designed Jason-bait post

What alignment are you?

I think this is very proximate to our discussions about gender, given that gender and sex are both social constructs and the problems we’re seeing with having in-depth discussions about these constructs being spectra rather than binary is that it seems those people who can’t answer “trans women are women” think this means we’re creating and reinforcing a binary rather than demanding a spectrum of genders.

Good and evil, order and chaos, are two axes describing spectra of behaviour related to social standing and pro-social behaviour. Dungeons and Dragons has a mechanic wherein you can assign your character Good, Neutral, or Evil, and Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic, making a 3×3 grid of alignments. It’s certainly more interesting than a binary Good/Evil choice (or, say, Paragon / Renegade, or Light Side / Dark Side), and it means very little outside of the scope of interactions with other human beings. It’s still by necessity an abstraction. Something like the Kinsey Scale for hetero/homosexuality being a 1-9, or Dawkins’ atheist/theist 0-7 scale — neither of those describes the panoply of positions one can stake coherently.

But, still interesting. Take this alignment test to see how you stack up. A number of my friends (including my wife) got Chaotic Good. I got Neutral Good:

A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment because when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Yeah, that does sound a lot like me. Including the sentence fragment in the last sentence! (I assume the “when” is superfluous.)

“Please don’t make the super suit green. OR ANIMATED!”

My gods. I might actually have faith that they’re about to get Deadpool right.

But here’s the thing. This is not for kids, it is super violent, and it is probably going to be problematic as all hell. I know I’m still going to love it though. (It’s okay to enjoy problematic things as long as you recognize them as such.)

So, below the fold the video goes. Along with the trailer’s trailer.
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Actually, let’s talk about ethics in Watch_Dogs

Let’s all say it: Ayden Pearce is morally repugnant. Errant Signal does an excellent and thorough job itemizing exactly why.

I had been interested in this game, and in the concept of hacking-as-superpower, but when it turned into yet another white-guy-does-whatever-he-wants story, where every moral decision boils down to “shoot the guy or blow up the guy”, where you’re given tidbits of information about the lives and dreams and desires of each person you’re systematically murdering, where you’re essentially obligated to spy on and not intervene in situations where you could actually legitimately make a difference because they’re just cut-scenes inserted for flavour, I couldn’t bring myself to play.

It’s like all the power they give you is misdirected, where you can’t fix the system but you can take advantage of it for your own gain. Where you become judge, jury and executioner for crimes that haven’t yet been committed, and you let other grievous crimes go entirely unpunished because you, omniscient privileged douchebag, cannot be moved to actually do anything. And when you DO do something about an injustice, it’s the wrong thing entirely, against the wishes of everyone around you. Where you’re both the cause and the violent solution to the problems in your life. Where your actions are supposed to be good but your opponents’ actions are bad, despite the fact that you’re doing a thousand times objectively eviller things as a matter of course.

If we’re going to talk about ethics in video games, this is ultimately a Douchebag Hacker Empowerment Fantasy simulator, and it doesn’t remotely touch on any of the things that need to be discussed with regard to the disturbing surveillance culture we’re in. I can get empowerment fantasies in far less problematic worlds than this, without feeling like I’m railroaded into the Evil playthrough of a game like Infamous where the moral choices are approximately “save the box of kittens, or stuff them with grenades and throw them off a building indiscriminately”.

Geek Girl Con: Carol Corps (the Carol Danvers fandom)!

I did a special guest run-in to talk about the skeptical/atheist communities and inclusion at the amazing Sigrid Ellis’ behest at Geek Girl Con last weekend. She posted the audio of the panel to Youtube — here it is.

I seriously had no idea there was a fandom for Carol Danvers, but I’m totally sold. I’ve been nattering on Twitter about why there isn’t already a Captain Marvel movie yet, what with Phase 2 dealing with space-stuff heavily. Dammit, it’s time for SWORD to exist, and for the Ms. Marvel cycle to get out of the way so we get our powerhouse colonel taking her rightful place in the Marvel cinematic pantheon. She outranks Captain America, so she should get more movies than him, right? RIGHT?

The Curious Case of the Mega-Shark, Locked in Mortal Combat with the Giant Octopus

My forfeit for Geek Girl Con having raised $2500. Yes, this means I’m participating in the DIY Science Zone track at GGC, specifically, doing a set of demonstrations about statistics, randomness and 20-sided dice.

A silent film about two giant underwater monsters. Done for Geek Girl Con 2014 fundraising, with great regrets. When the fundraiser hits $5000 raised, I vow to play Battletoads beginning to end, with unlimited lives, on! Donate now to inflict pain upon me in retribution for my making you watch this nonsense!

Nickelodeon NF –
Little Lord Fontleroy –

Music: Royalty Free silent film score by Kevin MacLeod
Hyperfun, Fig Leaf Times Two, Amazing Plan, Villainous Treachery
(and some sub-thirty-second snippets that would be spoilers)

Visit the Donations Page to donate to Geek Girl Con. Do it now!

Visit… well, right here… to point and laugh at the performing monkey.

Thankful sea turtle rescued from rope tangle

Desperately trying to reconnect with the intertubes and get all my backlog of things done, including processing and posting the audio from five of my six CONvergence panels (one, sadly, didn’t record at all; and the audio for the rest works in VLC, but is nothing but static in Audacity so I’m having difficulty transcoding them).

In the meantime, have this amazing GoPro ad involving a diver rescuing a sea turtle.

That’s one grateful turtle. Still, it’d be nice if we humans were a little more careful of potential impacts like this in our encroachment into their territory, no?