Saturday, January 26, 2008

Context Sensitive

One of the more interesting subjects going around the gaming world at the moment is that of a TV segment based on the game Mass Effect; or rather, a segment based on a particular scene in the game that features sexual interactivity between the main character and one of the other characters depending on how the player progresses the story and character development. The scene in and of itself isn't all that obvious. There's no revealing nudity and it's edited in a way where the scene portrays exactly what is intended - that of a loving relationship between the two characters involved - and nothing more. The TV segment was on Fox News and had a few people discussing whether the scene was appropriate or not and of course, the misconception that the scene featured full-on nudity and that the actual sex itself was controlled by the player. The controversy comes from the gaming world retaliating with the truth - that you can't control it and that there's no full-on nudity like was accused on the segment - and it's been a tennis match ever since.

I'm not here to talk about the controversy of this particular segment though, but moreso about sex in gaming overall and whether it is appropriate.

See, I can't help but laugh at the controversy surrounding this particular scene in Mass Effect and indeed the various perspectives on it. Obviously it has been misconceived, but even so I find it ironic that the game with the sex scene that doesn't really show anything gets the controversy while a game that does indeed feature full nudity goes completely under the radar. The game I'm referring to is Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy in the US). Granted, Fahrenheit flew under the radar while Mass Effect had a bit more mainstream hype before its release, but even with that knowledge I still can't help but laugh at the irony of it all. If the controversy can escalate to the levels that it has with regards to a scene that doesn't show anything, then imagine what it would be like if it was Fahrenheit that had the controversy. It would just be insane.

All this controversy got me thinking though, is sex appropriate for gaming?

Personally, I think so. I mean, movies and shows have it all the time and no one complains or really notices that, so why should it be any different for gaming? You could argue that the whole interaction thing that comes with gaming could define the experience as being different to TV or film, but then any sex scene I can think of that has been in a game has been a cut-scene anyway so to me that takes the interactivity argument out of the question. I will however mention this, I think sex is welcome in gaming as long as it is within context of the game. Having a sex scene in a game for the sake of a sex scene is wrong and doesn't belong in gaming as far as I am concerned (a thing that is unfortunate about movies - almost all of them have a sex scene of some sort).

The two examples above - Mass Effect and Fahrenheit - have their scenes within context of the game. They're there to extend the story and more importantly, the character development and they both succeed. I also feel that whether the 'scene' features full nudity or not is irrelevant. Obviously these characters on screen aren't real and therefore individual privacy issues don't come into play, but I also find that from my experiences with the games I don't even take notice of just how much is being shown. Fahrenheit would be the better example here I think because it does show everything. I remember that when I finally came across the scene (like Mass Effect's, it happens late in the game) I didn't even realise that they were completely naked. I viewed the scene exactly as intended - two people expressing their love, motivated by the upcoming final events of the game. It was only after the fact, during my second play through that I realised that they were both naked. To me, that was awesome because I took the scene exactly as intended and the scene succeeded because I was immersed in the characters and their development, rather than the act that they were performing and how it was being performed.

A reasonably similar thing happened with Mass Effect's scene. Now I will admit, I had seen it already before playing the game because of the game being banned briefly in Singapore and also because everyone was going on about the whole alien lesbian (which is just a possibility of the scene - rather than the defining feature of it) aspect of it. That said, when I came across the scene in the game I didn't take any notice of what was possibly being shown (nudity wise), but rather I took it exactly as intended again - as characters taking their chance to express their love before the final events of the game.

As I said before, both games' scenes were completely within context of their games and I feel added to the story because of it. Because of this, I welcome sex in games providing it is within context and not just there for the sake of it being there. Infact, I wish more games featured it but I guess the time will come as gaming continues to evolve. I read a quote somewhere recently that I can't remember directly, but it likened gaming now to what the film industry was like in the 40s - 60s period. I think the quote is fitting and while it has nothing to do with the subject of this post, it does fit gaming overall. We're still evolving and will continue to do so as the years go on. As we evolve, we'll start to see deeper themes such as sex, or perhaps even homosexuality (something Mass Effect alludes to indirectly actually, with the Asari species) as the stories in gaming evolve and are able to be portrayed and expressed in more detail to the player experiencing the game. Games like BioShock, Mass Effect and the like have shown that games can feel very real while we play them. That will continue as we get more games that are able to feel real and as such, they will connect with us on a deeper level, affect us more emotionally and engage us in more unique and intriguing ways.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What I'm Playing

Yes I realise I haven't been updating this blog lately and as such, I also haven't been keeping up to date with what I have been playing. I apologise for that (not that anyone reads it but anyway) but I have been reasonably busy. That and I didn't have access to my computer or the internet for a couple of days. I aim to get back into the swing of things shortly though so patience is your virtue, or something. Moving right along...

Forza 2:

Yes I'm still playing this and still doing what I was a couple of weeks ago; Setting time trial times and playing it online to build up my Online Credits. I'm very close to the latter which means I will have this game 1000d soon but even once I obtain my last achievement I will still be playing this game for a while. Online racing is awesome fun (especially with friends) and I don't see myself stopping that anytime soon. Plus doing the Time Trial times is giving me a little bit of a challenge which is always nice. I have gotten most of my times into the top 200 now and I'll be doing the rest in the coming days.

I'm also seeing how I fare in the Hot Lap Tournament/s that Turn10 are running. Last week's one on Sebring was the first one I tried and much to my surprise/amusement, I managed to place 48th in it. Not bad for my first attempt at the Hot Lap challenge. This week's one is on Road Atlanta using a R1 car. I seem to perform better with the racing cars so I'm hoping to break the top 50 again. We'll see what happens.

Rainbow Six: Vegas:

Yes, still playing this as well. I finished it (on Normal) last week so now I'm gonna do some Terrorist Hunt missions and see if I can get some more achievements. I'm not sure whether I will go through the Campaign again on Realistic though. Normal was hard enough...

New Super Mario Bros:

I'm actually playing a DS game again! Excuse the excitement there but I haven't really played my DS ever since finishing the 5 games that I bought alongside the DS a couple of years ago. So yeah, it's nice to be playing a DS game again. Anyway so far it's been fun. I have only made it to the third World so I'm not too far in, but it's been a nice change from all the 360 gaming I have been doing that's for sure. Plus it's been ages since I last played a (2-D) Mario game.


Anyway as you can probably tell from only 3 games being listed, I haven't exactly been playing much lately. There's a few reasons for that. Obviously I have been busy as I said earlier but I also haven't really been playing because I was/am going through the 'Gaming Blues'. Like, I want to play games but I look at my collection and just think to myself "meh", which isn't cool. Hopefully I can reignite my interest in the games that I own soon, or grow a money making tree so I can go and get a new game. We'll see eh?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Benefit Of Hindsight

Last week I posted an entry asking whether I could last a week or not without gaming. My answer was no and I explained why I thought I couldn't do it in the post. Ever since posting it however, I have been thinking about it and whether I was entirely honest about it or not. Let me elaborate.

I mentioned in the post that even having just one day away from playing games would be hard for me and now that I've thought about it, I'm not so sure that is entirely true. Actually no, it is true, but not in the way I outlined before.

You see, when I was typing that post I was thinking about gaming as a whole (as in not just playing them, but reading about them, discussing them and so on) and yet I was writing as if I was referring just to the act of playing them. Hindsight has allowed me to see that I could have wrote that post better than I did and as such, I felt that I should clarify (in a way).

When I say that I would struggle to last a day, 3 days or a week without gaming I don't necessarily mean playing them. What I meant was that I couldn't last that amount of time without gaming as a whole. Now obviously playing the games is the main part of our hobby and as such, I was right when I say I couldn't last that time without playing them. But really I was including other aspects of our fine hobby, such as reading a gaming magazine or catching up on the latest news or things like that. Basically what I'm trying to say is that if I were to be disconnected from gaming as a whole, not being able to play them, read about them or talk about them, then I would absolutely not be able to last a set amount of time without gaming.

However, if it was just the one aspect of playing games, then I do feel that I'd be able to last at least a little while without doing so. It would still be hard, don't get me wrong, but if I was at least reading about them, or discussing them (and as extension, thinking about them) then passing the time in which I couldn't play would be a lot easier than passing the time where I was completely disconnected.

So with this in mind, does the answer to the question (am I addicted to games?) change? Yes and no.

I am addicted to games, but I think I am more so addicted to gaming as a whole rather than the act of just playing them. I mean at the end of the day, we can't and don't play games 24/7. If we can last those hours where we're not playing them, then we (or rather I) can certainly last a day or two without playing them too. I can't however, last for that amount of time without being connected to our hobby as a whole in some way, shape or form.

Make of that what you will.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Could I put the brakes on?

Could I, someone who plays games daily, put the brakes on my hobby until it came to a stop? Could I put it in Neutral, the handbrake on and hop out of the hobby for a week or maybe longer, seeing the world from a perspective that isn't hindered by the doors, windows and windscreen that would normally surround me?

Okay, lame car analogy aside, Leigh Alexander of Sexy Videogameland fame recently experimented (along with a few of her blog's readers) to see whether she could last a week without playing any video games. That means no games of any sort, PC, console or handheld. Her latest Aberrant Gamer column reveals that she couldn't last the entirety of seven days and then goes on to discuss why she thought that was and how she should feel. Reading about her desire to trial it and then of course reading about the results afterwards made me question my own self. Would I be able to last a week without playing a single game?

Honestly? I don't even need to think about the answer to that one. I absolutely could not last a week without playing games. I'm not even sure I would be able to last 3 days like Miss Alexander managed. So with that question answered, we move onto the next one. Why wouldn't I be able to control myself and not play a game for what is essentially, a minimal amount of time?

That's something I'm not so sure I can answer. Is it because I'm addicted to my hobby, needing my daily feed of anything gaming in order to satisfy within? Or is it because I lack the self control that other individuals out there seem to have? Or perhaps, it's both? None of the above?

As I said before, I can't answer why. I just know that I wouldn't be able to do it. Previous experiences dictate that missing even just one day of gaming sees me out of my comfort zone. A different person. One that, dare I say it, is similar to a pregnant woman with particular cravings.
During the years that I have been gaming, I have had a few occasions that were out of my control (holidays for example, or hospital visits - things like that) whereby I wouldn't be able to play games for a day or maybe more. The longest time without games that I can remember was 3 days and that was while I was in hospital. Ironically enough this hospital had a few game stations (with Super Nintendos) so I eventually got my gaming fix, but those 3 days (and every other time where I haven't been able to play a game) were absolute torture. Sure, you could argue that I was distracted by whatever it was I was doing at the time (be it the hospital, a holiday or whatever) but even with these distractions all I could think about was my life within my passion, gaming and where it would take me next. I would think about what I had just recently done, be it finish a particularly hard level or setting a lap time in a game. I would think about what I intended to do in these games next, or perhaps even which game I was going to play next. I would think about what wonderful worlds, cities or just locations in general that these games would take me and how I'd feel about them as I experienced them.

I wasn't just thinking about gaming in these times though, I was feeling gaming too. Not literally of course, but I was feeling what it was like to not be participating in something that was a daily ritual for me. My fingers felt different as I wasn't using a controller; my mind was feeling the effects of not escaping into the various worlds and not being immersed within. My body (and this is something that Leigh alludes to, interestingly enough) was not well. Not well in the sense that it was anxious, fidgety and because of this, I even felt ill sometimes.

It didn't matter what length of time it was, 3 days or even just one - Not playing games was hard and it was with a great big sigh of relief that things went back to normal the next time I picked up the controller and sat down with one of my wonderful games.

As I read over what I've just written the question comes to mind again. Am I addicted to games?

Absolutely. Do I care? Not at all. Gaming, as every gamer knows, is a wonderful medium to use to escape. Be it escaping the world of reality, or just escaping from boredom - Gaming is a medium that provides entertainment on many levels and even fulfillment. Satisfaction, through accomplishment, immersion or just the actual fact that you're enjoying yourself.

If that means I play every day and crave to play daily when I can't, then so be it. If that means people see me as an addicted person with no self control, then again, so be it. As long as it's providing me with everything I intend it to in the first place, enjoyment, fulfillment and immersion, then that's all I care about.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What I'm playing this week

While the Xbox Live Gamercard on the right side of this blog will always be a good indication as to what I'm playing, I figured that I should write a post each week detailing which games are currently vying for my attention. Whether Civ decides to do something similar or not, well that's up to him. If anything though, these posts will be a good excuse for me to offer a few thoughts on a game (say for example, if I recently purchased it) or to detail my progress for future reference. So without further ado, here is what I have been playing in the past week or so.

Mass Effect

Unfortunately for me, I missed the launch of this game due to various reasons. While most of you were out saving the galaxy from a Rogue Spectre, I was silently weeping as I saw nearly everyone on my friends list playing the game and a massive amount of forum posts discussing the newly released game. I can however say that the (extra) wait was worth it, as this game has completely blown me away. I expected it would, actually (something I will elaborate on in a future post) but even with particularly high expectations for the game, I have been blown away with the game's brilliance. It's everything I wanted it to be and so much more. I may not have progressed too far into the story just yet (despite playing it for nearly 30 hours), but I honestly couldn't care either. I'm massively (no pun intended) immersed within this game and I look forward to continuing my adventures aboard the Normandy and throughout the Milky Way in the near future.

Forza 2

I am re-visiting this title after not having played it for quite a few months. There were a few reasons behind that, with the main one being that the game was freezing a lot due to my 360's disc drive (or so it seems) not reading games as well as it used to anymore. Regardless of that though, my return to the game has been an enjoyable one. I have been playing it online with a few friends which has been pretty damn fun. Not only that but it is helping me gain some Online Credits so I can get my final achievement from the game. I have also been setting lap times in the Time Trials (and I will be doing Hot Laps after that) after realising that my originally set times were wiped when Turn10 (the developers) wiped the scoreboards due to a few reasons. My original times were quite high (top 200 in the world) so they unfortunately got wiped and I'm now working on getting back up there.

Rainbow Six: Vegas

When I first got this game, I played through it once in Co-Op and then left it on the shelf to gather dust after that. I don't know why I didn't play it but it got ignored in favour of other games that I was playing at the time. I'm playing it now to finish it by myself and despite the fact that I am finding it quite hard, I'm loving it. The game looks brilliant and I don't think that is just because it is set in Sin City. As I said before, I am finding it hard but I think that's just making me enjoy it more as I love a good challenge in my gaming. Not to mention something different, which is what Vegas is compared to what I would normally play.

Okami (PS2)

I started playing through this last month due to the aforementioned 360 problems that I was having. While those problems are now fixed, I still can't help but play this game. Even if only for that absolutely gorgeous art direction alone. Seriously, words cannot describe just how beautiful that art direction is on paper, let alone when you see it in motion. Thankfully the game itself is also pretty damn fun to play, so I'm getting the best of both worlds and loving every minute of it.


Well, those are the games I have been playing in the past week or so. Check back next week for another update on what I am playing and if by chance people are actually reading this, feel free to let us know what you are playing (and perhaps even why) as well.

A muffled 'Hello' from Raptured Reality

Well this is my very first post on Raptured Reality so let me introduce myself first. I'm 'Civ' and I'll be trying to contribute to this blog but I believe Mr. Bubbles up there will be the main contributor to it. So why am I posting here? Well I'm the "art dude" for the blog so I think I'll be the one making it look all jazzy, and that's already started with the BioShock-themed header I've created for the blog. We'll be swapping the header around depending on what we're interested in that week/month/microsecond.
Like Mr. Bubbles I might pop around and rant about something that's happening around me, or maybe about specific games, music or movies that I've recently seen. Watch this space for some Assassin's Creed pimpin'.
So yeah if you like the header or have questions don't hesitate to ask us. Civ out.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Welcome to Raptured Reality

Ahoy and welcome to Raptured Reality, a blog created as a place for me to rant about various things.

If anyone actually ends up reading this (ha, yeah right) then I guess you should know that this blog will be mainly focused on gaming, music, TV shows, Motorsport, Cars and anything else I happen to be interested in.

If you happen to be a gamer, then the influence for this blog may be obvious to you. If it's not, the influence comes from what is easily my favourite game of 2007, BioShock. Rapture is the underwater city in the game and I added reality because I thought it sounded decent enough. I could be a smart arse and say that the 'reality' part comes from just how real Rapture (and as an extension - BioShock) feels while you play. But it doesn't really matter at the end of the day does it?

Ever since playing the game, I have been calling myself "Mr. Bubbles" which is also from the game. The Little Sisters refer to the Big Daddies that help them as "Mr. Bubbles" sometimes and that's why I'm using it as an alias (if you will) here as well. I'm not the only one who calls me by the name though; My girlfriend does as well. But let's not get into that. ;)

Well yeah anyway, this place will be used for rants on games, cars, music - whatever I feel like at the time. If people end up reading it (and regularly), great, but if they don't I won't mind too much as long as I get to rant somewhere.