Browsing the blog archives for March, 2012

Circling the Bioware Wagons

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Games

I thought this letter from “Dr. Ray Muzyka” was pretty interesting. Quoting it here in its entirety because I have a feeling it may disappear forever.

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Mass Effect 3 Ending

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Games, Literature

It’s pretty obvious that Mass Effect 3’s ending couldn’t have lived up to the expectations of some of the series’ fans. However, what Mass Effect fans got was an ending that did far less than fail to live up to their expectations: It failed to be logical, provide emotional closure, or even be consistent with itself.
One really has to wonder what happened at Bioware that led to this mess being released. I don’t think I have seen a single person who expressed more than a hesitant acceptance of the ending. When the best even the most rabid fanboys has to say is, “Well, I can kind of see how it might work,” you have probably erred horrendously.

Responding to Borderlands Ravings

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Games

Linking off of a rather insightful article about how the Borderlands team interpreted feedback from playtesters, I just read a long 10,000 word essay praising Borderlands.

I was hoping this essay would be insightful. It maintained my interest for the most part, but I’m not sure it really qualified as insightful.

The gist of it is that Borderlands is an amazing game because it has addictive qualities. Yes, people enjoy finding good loot. Is that surprising? No not really, Diablo and Diablo 2 proved that pretty well. Does Gearbox have any magic formula, or even any deep understanding? I find that a dubious assertion at best.

The author tries to assert there are certain key components to why Borderlands’ looting is so addictive. Notably, glitches in the General Knoxx Vault and the Crawmerax boss. That might be the case, with the caveat that these might be key components only for him. I don’t see any particular merit in the Knoxx glitch or the Crawmerax glitch. I used the Knoxx glitch once, when shown in Coop play, then lost interest in it. Sure, finding a rare item might be nice, but if the entire game is so uninteresting that the only thing I want to do is run around and pick up guns? Sorry, I’ll pass.

In any case, the author seems to really lavish the praise on Borderlands but personally I found myself falling asleep playing it. The game itself was a snoozefest, with slow movement, relatively uninteresting enemies, poor vehicle handling, same-y guns, and a bad story. The only saving grace of Borderlands, in my experience, was the cooperative play. But even with that, I found myself and the friends I was playing with dozing off during the game.

The author asserts that only a certain elite cadre were playing the real game and privy to its addictive glory. Well, we bought all the DLC and played the game up to the level cap. I suppose it’s true, once we finished the main storyline and all of the DLC content, we stopped. There’s really no point in spending hundreds of hours opening up chests or glitching bosses in a videogame that is otherwise uninteresting. Lets hope Borderlands 2 moves away from the raw grinding treadmill.

Cognitive Tools: Apex Fallacy

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Culture, Politics

Recently I came across a bit of an interesting observation — And it really struck home for me in terms of pithily summing up one of many fatal critiques of Feminist pseudo-scholarship.

[Feminist] critique started when some women systematically looked up at the top of society and saw men everywhere: most world rulers, presidents, prime ministers, most members of Congress and parliaments, most CEOs of major corporations, and so forth — these are mostly men. Seeing all this, the feminists thought, wow, men dominate everything, so society is set up to favor men. It must be great to be a man. The mistake in that way of thinking is to look only at the top. If one were to look downward to the bottom of society instead, one finds mostly men there too.

This is a quote by Dr. Helen Smith. What she’s describing is a phenomenon known as the Apex Fallacy. It’s a wonderful shorthand for understanding that even at the fundamental level, Feminist critiques are blind to a wealth of contradictory evidence. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen anyone articulate the idea of the Apex Fallacy until now. Maybe in another ten years the idea will have caught on well enough that people making Apex Fallacy mistakes will be pointed out on it.