Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.
With Great Power…
Much of Derrick Sanskrit’s InFamous: Second Son review drew on similarities between the new PlayStation 4 exclusive and the X-Men series, particularly their use of their mutants to explore the negativity that faces outsiders in the real world. Down in the comments, NakedSnake expressed some sympathy for the non-superpowered side of things.
I hate to admit it, but I’ve always sympathized with the human point of view in the X-Men comics. I mean, you’re dealing with a group of people where any given person has the power of an army battalion. What’s more, many of the powers are subtle enough that they can be exercised in all kinds of ways so that we wouldn’t even realize they were being used (e.g. telepathy). Even among the X-Men, there’s a wink-wink-nudge-nudge attitude toward abusing your powers for personal gain. At the end of the day, either the mutants would become outlaws and undermine our society or they would become lawful, in which case they would control our society. Either way, wielding that much power, it would almost be impossible for them to obey conventional morality. I think an instructive analogue is hackers. In many ways, they wield extraordinary power versus the conventional citizen. And whether they use that power for good or evil, they are all united in rejecting petty claims of the “morality” of their actions. Moral arrogance and power go hand in hand.
Mr. Pryce concurred:
Add to that that the fact that 80 percent of superheroes seem to be self-righteous teenagers who can barely navigate high school, let alone understand the concept of abuse of power.
That’s actually why I really locked into Marvel’s “Civil War” storyline, and primarily sided with the folks calling for the registration of superheroes. If you apply any real logic to the characters, the only way to maintain the rule of law and the integrity of society is to basically turn into a fascist regime when dealing with superpowered individuals.
It’s also one of the reasons I much prefer DC’s new incarnation of the Martian Manhunter. He’s an alien with powers comparable to Superman, plus he can phase through walls and shapeshift. Oh AND HE’S A TELEPATH. He isn’t a cuddly green teddybear. He’s the biggest threat to free will in history.
Derrick also touched on Second Son’s continued use of the InFamous series’ infamously binary “moral choices.” Newton Gimmick offered an explanation for why so many games do this wrong:
So many video game karmic systems tend to boil down to “being nice versus being a dick” rather than “right versus wrong.”
There’s a structural reason for this approach. The developers want your experience to be fundamentally the same regardless of what moral decisions you make. You explore the same areas, solve the same puzzles, and mostly fight the same battles regardless of your choices. Your decisions are manifested mostly in dialogue and cutscenes. (There are exceptions, of course. Lots of games have mutually exclusive quest lines.)
But the main reason for this approach seems to be a misguided attempt at moral ambiguity. The game doesn’t want to judge whether a particular faction or action is “right” or “wrong,” ostensibly to make the player reflect on their own values. Or perhaps more accurately, the game presents both options as equally valid. In games like Star Control 2 or Dragon Age, the player can win through diplomacy or callous slaughter. Either way, the player is rewarded with a triumphant ending. Even though one path is achieved with substantially less collateral damage, they are both considered victory. Something about that approach doesn’t sit well with me.
And Concrete Donkey expanded on this:
What’s worse to me is that they’re totally unrealistic in application. If you’re “good,” then everyone loves you (except the obviously evil) and gives you stuff for free. There is absolutely no downside to being good, while being “evil” punishes you with inconvenient aggression from police and other do-gooders. The material rewards are about equal.
In reality, being good usually involves sacrifice with little or no material payoff, and you’ll rarely be popular for it. Being “evil” is a fast track to the top of the social ladder (money/power/politics) unless you’re a misanthrope with poor impulse control and no sense of self-preservation.
Ryan Smith’s review of Titanfall focused on the game’s ventures beyond the standard Call Of Duty multiplayer formula. Other than bolstering it with jetpacks and giant robots, though, the question remained: Does Titanfall do enough differently to hook players who otherwise weren’t fans of the base formula? For ItsTheShadsy, the answer was yes:
As someone who gave into the marketing and bought this game on day one, I am very much enjoying it. The whole thing does get a little exhausting after a while, but I feel that way about all multiplayer shooters really.
The best thing is that unlike any other shooter I’ve played, Titanfall doesn’t put a lot of emphasis on your performance. Given how pared down it is, it lacks some of the visible ultra-competitive posturing of similar games, and I think that’s for the best. Sure, there are things like kill/death ratios and rankings, but it’s all moved to the background and has no meaningful influence on the game. The closest comparison I can think of is something like Desktop Dungeons that’s structured in randomized minutes-long sessions. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t, but it doesn’t matter too much because you can just play another round. It’s almost like a spigot: You turn it on, and cool robot fighting pours out until you turn it off again.
To those who are really into competitive play, this is probably frustrating as hell. But for someone who just likes to pop into a game and have fun for an hour, it’s a revelation. I’m decent but not great, and it’s refreshing to have a game I can just jump into and have a good match no matter my skill level. I’ve often had a terrific time and ended up in dead last. If Titanfall doing well means more games for people who are sort of okay and still have to make dinner, I am all for that.
And Sonic Yogurt agreed:
The idea of online multiplayer holds zero appeal to me, and I haven’t played a shooter online outside of “work” obligations since, probably, Unreal Championship for the original Xbox more than a decade ago. I love first-person shooters, but it’s been all about the single-player campaign for me for several consecutive console generations.
I picked up Titanfall just because it was universally considered an “important” game, and I wanted to be in on the conversation, even if I wound up mothballing the game a week later. And then I played it! It was surreally fun. It’s incredibly well-balanced so that even lackluster players can get their licks in. That frustration of feeling like you’re getting gunned down every six seconds is absent. The various one-off challenges and leveling-up are infectious, not some kind of “ugh, I guess I could do this” obligation. Avid players are rewarded well but aren’t overpowered to the point of stomping all over the fun of less experienced opponents.
Admittedly, this is after a week, and for all I know, I could get sick to friggin’ death of it by the end of the month. If you ever have the opportunity to sit down with the game for an hour or two (making sure to finish the genuinely helpful tutorial), maybe you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as I was.
That does it for another week on Gameological. Thanks for reading and commenting. We’ll be back next week with The Digest!