Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Metroid Prime

Spoilers for Meroid Prime 1, 2 and 3, and for Metroid: Other M.

Four Years behind the times, right? Well, I finally got a copy of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and I've been playing it obsessively for the last couple of weeks. Good things about the game: you start with space jump and you don't lose it, ditto morph ball. Bad things about the game: nearly everything else. The graphics are underinspiring, for what was a shiny new console at the time; the voice acting is poor; the fact that there is voice acting at all really annoys me; there's a lot less depth to the game as a whole. I do appreciate being told where all the suit upgrades are, but that takes a lot of the fun out of it in some ways.

After some time thinking about it I finally worked out the issue that I have with it properly (and with Other M, although my issues with that game are more pressing). In Primes 1 and 2, Samus was a woman alone. Every so often her suit's AI would tell her it had found things. That was it. In 2 she interacted with the sole Luminoth survivor, and with the holograms of the some of the other Luminoth, and she did see the video footage of the GF forces on Aether as well. But it was all silent. This added to the feeling that you-as-Samus were completely on your own, working out all of the puzzles and world as you encountered it.

In Prime 3, you're led by the hand by not only the human general of the GF but by two powerful AI-types. You interact with three other bounty hunters, and are in fact rescued by one of them. You are not alone. You are not relying on your own cunning and intellect. You are merely a hired grunt. At least you don't get to hear Samus, because apparently she just whines like a little girl - and wets herself when she sees Ridley, a monster that she personally has killed - completely alone - on more occasions than I am aware (never played it on the older consoles). She's allowed to be fucked in the head. I mean, who wouldn't be, if they'd been raised by an ancient alien race and gifted with an ├╝ber-powerful mech suit from them? But she shouldn't be so goddamn annoying.

Prime 3 and Other M changed her from being an inscrutable warrior woman, whose face you never saw except in the occasional reflection, to being a vulnerable girl who needs rescued by the big strong heroes who are round about her. She is no longer a feminist icon, she is a doll, a toy to be played with then put away.

In my head, she never speaks. She never has to. She does the job, she does it well, she does it alone, and she leaves. Her life is hard and lonely. And she is tough enough to do it better than anyone else in the galaxy. She could out fight the Master Chief, and she and Ridley would have beautiful fighty lesbian sex while fighting off all the alien hordes who dared to interrupt them.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Hanging on the telephone

I hate people who hang up. I don't want to call you and upset you; I don't want to confuse you or worry you with my scripted questions about your banking habits; I don't want you to be afraid. But if you hang up without saying "no thanks I don't do surveys", you're being unforgivabley fucking rude. You are slapping me in the face, fo doing the only job that will take me. You are ruining my day. You are being a total wanker arsehole, and I can't even swear at you, because I'm being recorded, and I'll get fired. Not only that, but if you don't tell me not to phone back, we'll keep on trying!

And you know what? The Data Protection Act actually does mean that I can't tell you which bank I'm phoning from if you're not the named fucking recipient. It actually protects the privacy of the person involved. You saying "well due to the Data Protection Act I can't tell you where they are" is not, in fact, anything to do with the Data Protection Act, it's just you being a dick. The Act only applies to companies, not individuals. You're allowed to say "sorry I don't feel comfortable telling you that if you're not going to tell me who you're phoning on behalf of", that's fine, I understand that. There is very litle I can do to reassure you, after all. But if you're being abusive - which is essentiually what you're doing, abusing me - down the phone to a total stranger who is not, in all likelihood, doing the job because they want to, but because they have to, then you're acting immorally. I cannot respond to you without risking my job. You are hurting me. That is abuse.

If anyone ever reads this, please, please act like a human being when you next get an unwanted phone call. You can be firm, you can interrupt, but don't be rude, don't just hang up, and don't ever forget that there is another human being on the end of the line who doesn't deserve (necessarily) to take the brunt of your pissy  mood.

Monday, 3 January 2011

On tragic heroes

SPOILERS: I'm sure everyone knows the story of Star Wars, but some people have still not read Harry Potter and intend to. Do not read this if you want no spoilers. Although really, the books have been published for years now, if you haven't got round to it yet the onus is on you to avoid finding anything out.

After playing a lot of Lego Harry Potter, I reread all seven books in a week, which in retrospect might have been too short a time. They hold up much better as a series than I remembered, and although not in any way without flaw, JK at least manages a consistent and coherent character development for her leads - I was particularly impressed with the teenage rage showed by Harry and later referenced and overcome (5 and 6 respectively I think).

In conversation some weeks after said marathon (still playing the damn game) I realised that Harry, much like Luke Skywalker, is not the true hero of his saga, at least by certain definitions of the word. In Star Wars one can reasonably view the saga (glossing over the actual events portrayed by the Unholy Trilogy, Eps 1-3, but sticking with the themes presented) as the tragic fall from grace and ultimate redemption of the hero Anakin Skywalker. Everything with his son is merely a means by which he is redeemed. As a narrative device this was used by the Greeks in their myths and stories, which SW heavily draws on.

With HP, there is a similar hero, who turns to the Dark Side - er, I mean, becomes a Death Eater, yeah - before repenting and ultimately dying to save the world. Now I'm no Snape fangirl, Lupin and Bill held my affections much more, but for me his is the most compelling story. Before Harry's arrival at school, his plot hooks are:
  • Turns to the Dark Side when the woman he has loved since he was a child falls in love with his worst tomenter and bully. A classic trope of love denied and vengeance sought.
  •  Repents when he discovers the information he gave his master will be used to kill her and her infant son. This repentance is one of very few follow-ups to the above; the only other options would be to honourably kill oneself, which isn't that common in (modern) Western mythology; to slay the Dark Lord in question, or to attempt to (dying in the attempt probably counts as honourable suicide, really); or to go along with it and become as terrible a figure as one's master.
  • Spends ten years living in secrecy, manipulated by his new master, despised by everyone who knows that he was a Death Eater, wallowing in self-hatred and terrified that his worst fears will come to pass: that the Dark Lord will return. This is non-standard for the tragic hero.
From here on in, Snape becomes an archetypal figure of doubtful loyalty before proving it the usual way, honourable death. I am of the opinion that this archetype is not the whole of the personality. The love lost, and his intense and gnarly relationship with the boy who is the son he might have had, incline me to thinking tragic hero - possibly tragic anti-hero would be a better descriptor, it's hard to like the man - is his true narrative persona. Specifically, his transference of his dying memories to Harry; a redemption that thorough would not have been necessary for the double agent he is otherwise presented as. The tragic hero deserves better though. His sacrifice is honoured (Harry names his second son after him) and his death is genuinely tragic, staring into the eyes of the women he loved set in the face of the man he hated. (Overblown and gothy, yes, but still tragic.)

Anakin, bless his emo heart, can't hold a proper candle to this much more quiet tale of love and loss, hatred and betrayal and redemption. Worryingly enough, JK Rowling appears to be the more subtle of the two creators; she convolutes and complicates her archetypes, adding genuine adolescent emotion to the mix; whereas Lucas deals in stereotypes mainly, with a few characters dragging themselevs up to archetypes only through the quality of their acting. Poor Mark Hamill the ever-tainted never had a chance with Luke; Ford does a little better with Solo, and Obi-Wan played by Guinness and McGregor is probably the best and most complicated of them all, if indelibly tarnished by the sheer magnitude of awfulness that were the prequels and the dubious "plot" which played out in them.

RIP Severus. You won it for me, at least.