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Brad Rowson

The Brad’s Blog Cinematic Universe

With the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, sequels are probably now more of a hot commodity than ever. However, I do not mean necessarily sequels in the sense that we have been accustomed to for years. It’s more half sequels and subtle references and plots purposely left open to be explained in future installments. We saw it this year (or maybe we didn’t based on the box office results) with The Mummy starring Tom Cruise earlier this year. Universal announced they were doing a “Dark” Cinematic Universe with their classic creatures including The Mummy, Dracula, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for sure, possibly more. Here, is where I find the biggest problem with the recent attempts at “cinematic universes” and attempts at sequelization prematurely.

All films should first and foremost set out to make a good movie. I think that these movies where they are already planning more films in a series forget this all too quickly. They focus so much on setting things up for future movies that they don’t have a good enough story, or enough resolution in the one movie they are guaranteed to make enough money to warrant a sequel. Though it hasn’t been officially cancelled, it is largely believed and rumored that the Dark Cinematic Universe will not be moving forward because The Mummy performed very poorly. Audiences have shown that if a movie is good, they’ll show up in droves, go multiple times and tell their friends all about it and convince them to go to the movie as well. However, if the movie is not good, or is just so-so, then there’s no reason for them to get super excited about that movie, let alone a sequel, or another film set within the same universe.

It isn’t just in new franchises either, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a new character had Luke Skywalker’s original blue lightsaber that he lost all the way back in Empire Strikes Back. When the character was asked how she got the lightsaber, she simply said, “that’s a story for another time.” This line did not sit well with me, because it felt like a very blatant hint that there would be either a real explanation in a sequel to this movie, or in a spinoff of some sort. Overall I really enjoyed that film, but there were many areas where it felt like they were more worried about setting up story options for the future rather than focusing on the story of the movie we are sitting in the theater watching.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the way movies are headed for at least the near future, but we as the audience can do something about that. We can give the movies that are good our money and not go to the ones that are not up to snuff. Of course, there won’t be a way to truly know that until some of us have gone to see those movies, but if we spread the word on the bad movies and doubly spread the word on the good ones so we know which are truly worth our time and which are not. Also, every once in a while take a chance on a lower budget movie or a new movie with an original idea, too often people complain about a lack of originality in Hollywood, but those same people only go out to see the big blockbuster movies like the Marvel films, or Star Wars, or Jurassic World. And I’m not saying it’s bad to see these movies, but if we only see these movies, then those are the only movies Hollywood will continue to make.

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Goodbye, Weekend

Justice League  Punisher

This weekend, something comes that as a huge fan of DC Comics I have been waiting for for years. Batman has been my favorite superhero for a long time and in the comics and on the television in cartoons he has been in a member of the superhero group the Justice League. The Avengers has been around for a long time, and I have really enjoyed those movies, but since I have been following DC Comics and love the characters of Justice League, I am more excited for this movie than I was for the first Avengers film. So, needless to say, I am definitely going to see that movie this weekend, in all honesty the only reason I’m not sitting in a theater watching it right now is because my favorite football team is playing tonight. So, don’t be surprised if there is a review of that film on here within the next week.

Now if that was the only thing happening this weekend, that would be perfectly fine, however, in the perfect act of defiance, Marvel is releasing it’s Punisher series tomorrow morning. The Punisher is a character who has had a few attempts at a movie, but much like the Ben Affleck Daredevil movie, those movies failed to capture the true essence of the character. However, with the exception of Iron Fist, Netflix has had a good track record with their Marvel television shows. Daredevil had two great seasons and showed the character that fans had been hoping would have been in the movie that came out years ago. Jessica Jones was a surprising treat and is personally my favorite of the Marvel Netflix shows. Luke Cage was another pleasant surprise that while it had to stretch some of the story for the last few episodes was largely engrossing and enjoyable. Iron Fist as I said was a disappointment, but I watched it faster than I did any of these other shows. Lastly, The Defenders was a nice little team up of the characters from all those shows and it was just enough episodes to not outlast its welcome. So, Punisher has a good track record for fans to finally be excited about an adaptation of the character.

Both of these products coming out this weekend is going to be a killer weekend. On the one hand, going to see Justice League is a two hour affair and then you have the rest of the weekend to do whatever you want. If you want to watch Punisher, it is 13 episodes that could range anywhere from 40 to 60 minutes, so that could be a 13 hour commitment. Now, if you’re a fan of both franchises like I am, most of your weekend is officially spoken for. I’m not complaining however, merely stating this is an embarrassment of riches. So, if you need me this weekend, you can either find me at the theater watching Justice League or watching Punisher on Netflix.

Whether you choose to watch one, or both of these, there’s no arguing that it is a great time to be a geek. Happy watching!

Football on Thursday Sucks

Football

In the past year I had to cancel my cable, so I have not had the benefit of coming home and watching much live television in the last year. One of the few things I have been able to watch thanks to special discounts for students is football. However, Thursday and Monday night football are still difficult to watch, but not impossible.I say all this to preface my main thesis in this post, Thursday football sucks.

I have not watched football on Thursday at all this year, but tonight my favorite team is playing, so I had to watch. When you watch football on Sunday morning, there’s plenty of games to choose from, so you can flip back and forth between channels, the afternoon games usually have two or three playing, so you still may find boring moments, but mostly you can still switch back and forth and have no problems. This is the main reason why Thursday football sucks, it is the only game that is playing, so while you could switch back and forth between football and your favorite prime time shows, it’s much more difficult because it’s hard to get into a good drama or comedy and then immediately go back football. It’s especially hard because if you get really into the game then you could miss when your show gets back on from its commercial break and miss something important.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, how come I singled out Thursday when Sunday night and Monday football are also the only games on at one time? That answer is simple, highlights. Sunday night and Monday football have the privilege of showing or discussing what happened in all the other games that were played that particular week. Thursday, however, is the beginning of a new week of football and by the time it airs anything that happened in games before that night has already been talked about and covered to death. Therefore, there is no real new “story line” to follow on Thursdays. They try and make stuff up, but ultimately there’s not really anything fun to talk about.

Next, the commentators are terrible. I’ll admit, most commentators in the football realm are pretty horrible at their jobs, they claim to have insight or knowledge of the game but they are wrong more than 50% of the time and prove they don’t really know what they’re talking about at all. These commentators also are usually rather dull and say the same cliched things over and over again which gets annoying really fast when you have to sit there and watch a game for three hours.

Lastly, more often than not Thursday games are boring. Maybe it’s the teams playing, maybe it’s the fact that the players are tired from not having their normal amount of time to rest before the next game, but most games are usually really close with not a lot of scoring or they have one team that scores a lot and the other team struggles the whole game. The only time that a blowout game is fun is when your team is the one that is winning by the big margin, every other time, whether your team is the losing one or you are just a football fan and don’t have an affinity for either team, it is incredibly boring to watch one team win a game 35-6.

And those are the many reasons why Thursday football sucks.

Movies, Movies, Movies

Okay, so we’re almost in October this year, and since it’s officially been achieved now, I can say it. This year, I made the decision to make a New Year’s resolution to rediscover my love for movies and especially for the movie-going experience as a whole. For those of you who know me, you know that I have absolutely loved movies and have wanted to make movies since I was a small child, but I’ll admit lately over the last few years between school, work, and basically starting my life over again, I had kind of not gotten around to seeing as many movies as I wanted to, or even going out and enjoying the theater experience and watching movies with other people as much as I wanted to. I believe last year I pretty much only went to the theater if it was a superhero movie, or Rogue One, and I only saw other movies I was interested in if I went to a friends house and they forced me to watch the movie. So, this year, I made the New Year’s resolution to not only see more movies that were coming out this year than I have in the past few years, but also to see more movies in the theater. I can say, that I have definitely done that this year. So now, I’m going to give you brief reviews for every movie I saw in the theater, for movies that came out this year that I didn’t see until they were available to rent at home, I will post a separate mass review at a later date.

The Lego Batman Movie 4/5

I’ll admit, my resolution didn’t start off so great as I didn’t actually make it to a theater until February, but this was the perfect movie to start off with, and I really, really enjoyed it. Though I did not like this movie as much as I ended up liking its predecessor, The Lego Movie, I enjoyed it a lot and think that Will Arnett is a perfect choice to play Batman in this form, and as much as it pains me to say this, they made a better Batman movie than the movie that came out last year with Batman in the title. Definitely would recommend it if you have not seen it yet.

Logan 4.5/5

This movie was near perfect. A great way to send both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart off as both had confirmed this would be their last movie in the X-Men franchise. Not anything like you would expect from a comic book movie, and way more engrossing that either of the other two standalone Wolverine movies that have been released with less of the action, this movie proved that there were other ways to tell superhero stories. It is also made a ton of money and was a dark, gritty, bloody R-rated superhero movie which I think a lot of studios have been afraid to do for the last few years, so hopefully showing that these versions of superhero movies make money too will mean more superhero movies take chances to tell deeper, more human stories. I would recommend it even if you’re not into superhero movies.

Get Out 5/5

This is by far one of my favorite movies I’ve seen this year, and it will definitely end up somewhere on my top ten for the year. It was such a good thriller and did not go at all where I thought it was going. This is the movie that for most of the year if people had told me they hadn’t seen it I would do everything I could to convince them to check it out. There is so much goodness in this movie and I though I usually am not a fan of overhyping something, I cannot say enough good things about this movie. I definitely recommend everyone watch this.

Power Rangers 3/5

This one was 100% a nostalgia trip for me, I only went to see it because I used to love the show when I was a kid. It’s a fine movie, not great, but not terrible, but it is way longer than it needs to be and the kids spend the whole movie learning to do certain moves together and then they are magically able to do things at the end that they barely even knew was an option for most of the movie. It also felt way too much like the movie Chronicle at the beginning, and knowing that they originally wanted the writer of that film to write this movie as well, it made me feel a little like they ripped the guy off. Watch it if you too were a fan of the original series, but don’t go out of your way to see it, and don’t spend too much money on it either.

Beauty and the Beast 4/5

This was a really good film, and the voice actors were all great. My only real problems with the movie were that I hated how the beast looked, I don’t know what it was about him, but something about the way his face looked, it was just off-putting to me and took me out of the movie a few times. Also, whatever effect they put on his voice to make him sound the way he did was problematic and silly at times, especially in the more serious parts of the movie. Lastly, as good as the movie was, all it really made me want to do was go home and watch the original cartoon. I would recommend it, but I would also recommend watching the other one before or after because I think its still the superior version.

Going in Style 3.5/5

I went into this movie only knowing 3 things: Zach Braff directed it (and if you know how much I love Scrubs you know that was reason enough for me to go to the theater and see this movie), Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman were in it, and that it was a comedy. It was a decent movie, nothing amazing or groundbreaking, and apparently it’s actually a remake of an older film of the same name, but I did enjoy this movie overall and it was a nice little comedy that didn’t make you think too hard and that is sometimes a very needed aspect. I would definitely recommend this one, but go in with little to no knowledge about the plot and I think it’ll make it more fun.

The Fate of the Furious 4/5

If you have watched any of the last three Fast & Furious movies, you know exactly what you’re in for, ridiculous stunts and actions that make these people seem more like superheroes than Superman. That being said, it was still so much fun to watch, and Vin Diesel actually did some acting in this one, which was a nice change of pace. I definitely recommend if you’re into this franchise, but if you’re not, I don’t think this one will be the one to win you over.

Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2 4.5/5

The first Guardians of the Galaxy ended up becoming one of my favorite Marvel movies because the music was awesome and it made me care about characters I didn’t really know and told a good story that introduced them all. The second one is just as good, with a better villain and a lot more crazy and beautiful space scenes. The only real problem I had with the movie was that I didn’t love the music as much in this movie as much as I did in the first one, but the characters were all great still, the story was great and it made me care so much about a couple characters that I hated in the first movie, so it was a really good movie. I wholeheartedly recommend this movie, and if you have by some chance not seen the first, definitely check out that one too.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales 4/5

I’m a sucker for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. This one is no different, definitely better than the last one, and it brought back some characters that were missing from that last movie so that was very nice too. I’d have to watch it again before I could say with certainty, but this might be my favorite since the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie. If you’re a fan of the franchise, this one will not disappoint and I say you should give it a try.

Wonder Woman 4/5

Finally, a DC Comics movie done right. After the horrendous Man of Steel, the overly long and mostly dull Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and the started off good, but fell off the rails in the last 45 minutes Suicide Squad, it’s nice to see one of the DC movies get done right. Gal Gadot is perfect as Wonder Woman and the movie holds up well to the character’s rich comic book background. As a person who personally prefers DC to Marvel but has no problem admitting Marvel has been doing way better with their movies and characters, it was nice to see this movie done right and hopefully it’s a step in the right direction for the future of DC movies. I highly recommend it to everyone, even if you had already given up after Batman v. Superman or Suicide Squad.

Baby Driver 5/5

This is the movie I was most looking forward to this year, and it did not disappoint. It was directed by the man who directed Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End. It’s technically his first “American” film, and I was very happy with it. There are so many good actors in here, and the story is very good. Not only would I recommend this movie to everyone, I’d probably watch it with you if you said you were going to check it out.

Spider-Man: Homecoming 4/5

This movie is the Spider-Man that people have been waiting for. Though I was a fan of the first two Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies, the third one was awful and Tobey fit the nerd persona of Peter Parker well, but he never felt like a good fit for the Spider-Man persona. Then with the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies, they fell apart even faster with the first one being great, but the second one was trash, and Andrew was a great Spider-Man, but kind of a sucky Peter Parker. Here, Tom Holland is pitch perfect at both. His Peter is awkward and nerdy, and his Spider-Man is hilarious and cocky. They had just the right amount of Robert Downey, Jr. Not too much to make him steal the movie, but enough to let you know that Marvel was running the show this time around. Lastly, Michael Keaton was  great villain. A few years ago I was wondering why he wasn’t getting enough work because I’ve always though Michael Keaton was a great actor (both before and after he played Batman) and it’s nice to see that he’s getting a lot more work these days and he’s getting to do plenty of different roles. There is a scene in this movie that is one of the most tense, and nerve-racking scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie and it comes at a part where none of the characters are in costume. I recommend this movie with all my heart as Spider-Man was always my second favorite hero behind Batman and this Spider-Man is great.

The Big Sick 5/5

This movie is the most indie movie on my list, and it was another one that I was very, very excited for. I have been a big fan of the main actor, Kumail Nanjiani, who also cowrote this movie with his wife and it was nice to see him get a leading role after seeing him pop up in secondary roles for years. This movie was hilarious, touching and just very lovely. It’s based on the true story of how Kumail and his wife Emily got together and though I’m sure there were some embellishments, there are some very real moments that you can only get when it’s something that happened to the two people who wrote the movie. I really love this movie and recommend it for everyone because it is hilarious, but also it will touch your heart.

The Dark Tower 4/5

So, first off, I have to admit, that I did not read the book until after I saw the movie, so it didn’t bother me how drastically different the two were. However, having now read the book, I could understand why people would be upset if they were expecting the movie to be more like the book, because though it takes the backstory and the characters from the book, that is pretty much where the similarities end. I really enjoyed the movie though and I’m a huge fan of Idris Elba so I was more than happy to see him be an old gunslinger taking down Matthew McConaughey, and the kid wasn’t bad either. So, if you haven’t read the book, or can accept that it’s going to be nothing at all like what you’ve read, then I say check it out and you might be surprised.

The Emoji Movie 3/5

I had zero interest going into this movie and thought it was going to be bad, but a friend invited me so I went along. I was surprised that while not great, it was funnier than I expected and even had one joke that I laughed out loud for an uncomfortable amount of time as I realized I was the only one laughing. It’s a fine movie, see it if you thought it looked good, if you didn’t have any interest in it though you’re probably safe not seeing it.

It 3.5/5

I am not a die hard fan of the original It movie and I have never read the book. Nevertheless, this movie looked like it could be scary and I knew lots of people were going to see it so I decided to check it out. It was a good movie, had some scary and creepy scenes, and the actors were all good, especially the kid who played Richie, he was hilarious. That being said though, I personally feel the movie is about 30 minutes too long and they don’t really explain anything. I feel like if you went into this movie and hadn’t either read the book or seen the original movie, you wouldn’t really know what was going on. They also don’t ever explain Its origin or Its purpose or how to kill it, or… well, let’s just say they don’t explain a lot. Luckily, there will be a part two which will hopefully give us more answers and expand upon the good parts of the movie. I recommend It for sure, but if you know little to nothing about the book or original movie, maybe read up on It a little before you watch the movie.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle 4/5

This movie I actually just saw two days ago. It was very good, and the action was great and all the actors fit their characters very well and it was nice to see something from the end of the last movie that seemed like a throw away joke turned into something of substance in this film. There were also some very funny parts and a very interesting cameo (though it was larger than a cameo really, so maybe a supporting role, I don’t want to surprise who it was because I had no idea he would be in the movie). The movie was long, but it never really seemed to drag like some movies do when they get past the two hour mark. That being said, now all I can think about is going back to the first one to figure out which one I like more while this second one is still fresh on my mind (which honestly I think is a good thing because if you want to go back and watch even more than what you already got then the writers, actors, director must be doing something right). Either way, it was very entertaining and over the top which when you’re expecting over the top like here, or in the Fast & Furious movies is great. I would recommend if you enjoyed the first one, and maybe even do a double feature because they are both really fun movies.

That’s everything I’ve seen in the theater so far this year. I will get around to reviewing movies that came out this year that I’ve seen at home, which is a much shorter list, I promise, but also there’s still plenty movies coming out this year that I want to check out including: Blade Runner 2049, The Foreigner, Jigsaw, Thor: Ragnarok, Justice League, and many more, so some time in December I’ll come back and review whatever else I end up going to see. Thanks for taking the time to read, and I hope you enjoyed it, also I tried my best not to spoil anything, so I hope if you haven’t seen any of these movies I may have persuaded you into watching them.

Narrative & Gaming: Morality Tale

GTA IV

Morality is very strange in games to me. Not because I don’t think there’s a place for it, but because I find that often even with the best of intentions, the morality can be very disproportionate. For example, in Grand Theft Auto IV (and probably other ones, but the specific instances I’m remembering all occur in IV), throughout certain points of the game you chase down someone who has done you wrong or maybe has wronged one of your allies, and the game gives you a choice of whether to kill that person or let him go and tell him to never come back to the city or you’ll finish what you started. As I remember it, one of these encounters happens very early in the game, like before you kill anyone early. In my first playthrough I thought this idea was really cool and thought maybe this was a thing you could do throughout the game which could possibly result in you having to kill no people or it being used as a last resort. However, the more you play the game you realize that is not the case and you can become desensitized to all the killing that Nico actually does. This happened to me where when I was prompted later in the game whether or not to let someone go I was like, “Well, I’ve already killed hundreds of people, why does it matter if I kill one more?” And I never let anyone else go when given the opportunity in the game from that point on. The one caveat I will add to this is that if the person is unarmed it may change my decision, but I don’t remember well enough if everyone who you got to choose whether or not they lived was armed.

Mass Effect

However, I feel that it was done really well in the Mass Effect series, probably BioWare as a whole, but I’ve only played Mass Effect and watched walkthroughs of Jade Empire, so I’ll just stick to the Mass Effect series. In these games, you can decide the fate of not only an entire species of like giant space roaches or whatever they were, but how you treat and react to various different alien species affects how you play the game. This is also one of the few games where it seems like the morality of what you’re doing really comes into play. Also, I feel that the moral way you treat the whole situation between the not totally organic life forms (the Geth) and the organic life forms (everyone else, especially the races that hate the Geth) is very important and it turns out to kind of be the whole crux of the series by the end of Mass Effect 3. I think that there’s a way where you could easily fall on one side or the other of the argument, but if you can find a way to make peace between both sides it shows you that choices in games can be completely moral or immoral based on what you do.

Morality

It’s possible that there’s better examples of this, I’ve heard that the morality of Spec Ops: The Line is very well defined, but unfortunately, I have not played that game. I hate to sound so on the fence, but I guess the best way for a company to handle morality is think about the game they’re making. On the one hand if they can make a game where you can either be completely moral and not kill anybody or you can be totally immoral and just kill everyone who gets in your way I think that would be cool. Maybe I just haven’t played enough games where morality felt like it truly mattered, or maybe I just can’t really tell because I always play as a good guy and then usually don’t go back and play as a bad guy, but I do believe that morality is a good feature and it should be in games, just maybe not games where you have to kill countless people regardless but you can choose to save one life every now and again.

Narrative & Gaming: What Choices Really Matter in The Walking Dead?

TWD 1

It took me a while to figure out how to tackle this topic. I mean at first, you could say that the decisions of who lives are the most important decisions in The Walking Dead Season 1. However, as you play it, that decision seems to not really matter a whole lot as the person you save in one episode inevitably seems to die in the next. There’s probably a multitude of reasons for this, it’s cheaper and less time to animate if both of those characters are dead, it gives the opportunity for new characters to be brought in without having too many characters to keep track of, and of course, this is The Walking Dead, people die frequently and even if it doesn’t make sense or if it feels like a wasted opportunity that a character was saved in one episode only to die in the next, that’s just how the world works in this series (Comic books, television show, and video game alike). So, for a while I thought, well maybe none of the decisions matter because no matter what you choose, something is going to happen that you have no control over.

TWD 2

Ultimately, I came up with this thought: the decisions that truly matter are the ones that you allow to define your character. So, if you want your character to be the upstanding citizen, who never tells a lie and is always trying to hold onto his humanity and do what’s best for the group, then the decisions that matter most are the ones where you decide to always do what’s right, especially by not taking the supplies out of the station wagon, you tell everyone in the group the truth about your past when that opportunity is presented, and you do your best to keep everyone alive even when it means that you might be slowed down or that you may put your characters life in danger. This also means that if you choose to be the worst possible person you can be, as long as you always make the most selfish, evil decision, then those are the choices that matter. You’re not always going to succeed, in fact sometimes in Telltale games it feels like they don’t want you to succeed, but if you stay true to whatever version of yourself you want to put into the character and whatever version you want the character to be, then those choices truly matter.

TWD 3

Knowing that in season 2 the player becomes Clementine, I also feel that how a player handles Clementine is very important. I think and played through as though she needed to know how to take care of herself, but I wasn’t too hard on her either. I was always direct and blunt with her, and taught her how to shoot and always took her along with me as long as the game allowed it. I wasn’t treating her as this poor little helpless thing, I was treating her as a child who needed to be a child at times, but also needed to be ready for when she would be the only one there to protect her. I honestly think that though you play as Lee, and he is probably my favorite character of season 1, Clementine is the most important character in season 1. Though I can’t remember if any of it matters in season 2, I like to think that Clementine is more capable when you play her in season 2 if you prepare her well in season 1.

Narrative & Gaming: Party Time

Saints Row

When the first couple Saints Row games came out I saw them as just Grand Theft Auto rip-offs. That changed though with Saints Row the Third. Suddenly, the game seemed to hit its own stride and become much more than just a GTA wannabe. Largely the games still feel very similar, but during the mission Party Time, I felt something different with Saints Row that I hadn’t felt with the previous two and I began to appreciate these games as their own separate entities.

What makes this mission in particular so great is it happens relatively early in the game, but it has such a large scope. You begin the mission in a helicopter on the verge of jumping out to land at a big party in a building with a rooftop pool that appears to be owned by one gang. Your intent is to take control of the building and make it one of your own. The beauty as you glide down to the party from the helicopter is awesome, and then trying to open your parachute at the perfect time and land in the pool is very fun. Then of course there’s shoot outs and you have to kill a lot of people from the rival gang as you make your way inside the building.

Saints Row 2

Once inside, you keep shooting and ultimately make your way to an elevator where the rest of your gang is trying to make their way up to help you. After you’ve killed everyone inside, a helicopter comes in with “the cavalry” and you and your gang have to kill them as well. If you’re good at shooting, you take care of all the enemies pretty quickly and then one of them leaves via the helicopter that brought the rest of the second wave of enemies down. You have to get into a helicopter and follow this guy because he’s the only one who might know how to turn off the bomb that’s inside the building, I suppose the bomb is there as a precaution in case someone tried to take over the building.

Saints Row 3

What’s great about this is you get to fly around all of the city and truly enjoy all the hard work that went into making the city look as stylish and beautiful as it does. You eventually follow him to some sort of abandoned building where he has more cronies for you to shoot down as you chase him trying to figure out how to disarm the bomb.

The visuals and all the crazy stuff you can do in this mission are great, in this Saints Row you can pretty much become a superhero which is really fun. I have to admit though, that while the visuals are great, this scene is so much better because they have “Power” by Kanye West playing from the beginning of the mission until the song concludes, so roughly the first 6 minutes of the mission. Though I admit that I’m not the biggest fan of Kanye, it’s hard to argue that the song doesn’t add to the awesomeness and the epicness of the mission and it makes it even more enjoyable than it would normally be getting to parachute into a rooftop pool, shooting a bunch of people, and then having a high speed helicopter chase.

Saints Row 4

Narrative & Gaming: The Art of Eternal Darkness

Eternal Darkness

In 2002 I was at a friend’s party where later in the evening after watching a scary movie we decided to take turns playing a game my friend had just gotten for his GameCube. That game was Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. I give you this information as a precursor to say that prior to writing this blog I had not played that game or watched any videos on it since that night. However, certain aspects of the art in the game as well as the visuals of the game I still see sometimes 15 years later though I barely remember the plot of the game or really anything else about it. However, to be sure that this was the game I thought, I did look it up and basically the plot is you play as a young woman whose grandfather was recently murdered and you search around his old mansions for clues as to who may have killed him. You find out that your grandfather was into some H.P. Lovecraft type of stuff and now it is your responsibility to keep the world safe from a creature trying to enter from another realm.

What I do remember and what made the art so interesting to me was that the game had a “sanity meter” in which the character you play as can slowly lose her mind and if your sanity gets too low you would begin to have hallucinations. Walls would bleed, the paintings on the wall would change from normal rich guy paintings to gruesome death related paintings. Players heads would also fall off and you could pick them up and add them into your inventory.

Eternal Darkness 3

The part of the game I remember the most though was not only would your character hallucinate, but the game itself would start to mess with the player. The screen would go blank as if it was broken and the video would stop working even though you would still be able to hear what was happening, and it would sound as if the character you play as was being attacked. Also, if you tried to go to the menu screen it would pull up as if you were trying to delete all the save files you had for the game. The game would even go to a blue screen and make you believe that the GameCube had crashed and was possibly damaged beyond repair. Whether it was the crazy stuff on the walls, or the game suddenly acting like it had crashed, you never truly felt safe playing.

I realize that this is probably not like most of the other entries where people go to great lengths to describe the art and what made it so meaningful to them, but that’s not why I picked this game. I picked it because even though I never finished the game and I certainly do not have the same care for it as I do a game that I would consider one of my favorites, certain visuals still stick with me to this day. I remember being scared to walk down the halls of that creepy mansion in the game because even though the mansion itself seemed kind of normal or I guess as normal as a mansion can be, if your character’s sanity was low enough, it was anything but normal.

Narrative & Gaming: What Do You Theme?

While pondering on this week’s blog subject I found myself just thinking for far too long. What kind of themes in games do I like? Which kind do I not like? Ultimately, I found it very hard to really pick and choose. Not because I haven’t had good and bad experiences with themes, but because most of the time the gameplay mechanics and how a story comes together is what I end up enjoying or hating more than the overall theme of a game. We have discussed in class a few times that the theme of a game I have spent much time discussing, The Last of Us, is love. And I think in the case of that game, it works and it works very well. In the hands of less capable game makers, maybe it would not work so well.

Everyone enjoys a game, movie, television show, or book for a different reason than somebody else does. So, maybe for me a certain theme did not work, but that does not mean it didn’t work for someone else. That’s why it’s hard to decipher what is a good theme or a bad theme in a video game. I think it all depends on who is making the game. I’ll take an example from what we discussed all last week, BioShock: Infinite: though I don’t understand all the themes or even all the story in the game, I totally enjoyed the game. Personally, I think the themes that the game had may have worked better in some other form of fiction, probably a book, but I feel that everyone involved in that game deserved to try and tell a story with a deeper meaning in the video game format.

For better or worse, games are going to have to explore many options and try new things with themes and narratives in order to be taken more seriously as an art form. However, that means that sometimes a game is going to fail in its intentions to create something more meaningful or the theme may fall flat. It does not mean a developer or game designer should give up, it means that they should learn from their mistakes and try again. A game can work for many reasons, but it can also fail for many reasons. There are people who will always only want to just play a game as quickly as possible and try and kill as many people as they can, but there are also those people who will continue to play games multiple times trying to find the deeper meaning or looking for Easter eggs and other things they may have missed. Games are so very hard to fit in with other forms of storytelling because we as players live those characters, and though I know people who claim they can do that with books, I think it goes even deeper in games because you literally become that character and try and think like that character and when the game gives you a  choice that will impact the future of the game, you really think, “well, what would this character do?”

Some themes work better than others, just like some genres work better than others, some games are universally adored and other games maybe everyone but you hates. So, I believe that all themes in games are good if done properly and can affect some people, and they’re bad if they don’t relay the message the developers intended or if it doesn’t connect with at least one person.

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