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Posts tagged ‘Mass Effect’

Stand up and be heard

I don’t think it will be any surprise to those who have read MGC for long to learn that I’m a gamer. While I’m not big into MMOs or the like, I love me a good RPG or first person shooter. When I look for new games, I look for story and interesting characters first and foremost — well, that and great graphics. I want to be entertained as I play. Yes, I want a story along with my explosions and gunfire. What I don’t do is take a head count to see how many women, gays, non-binary genders and people of whatever color there are in the game.

What’s gotten me on this kick, you ask? Well, you could blame Sarah. We were talking last night and I asked if she had any suggestions for this morning’s post. She sent me the link to this article. I’d seen the article earlier but hadn’t paid it much attention. But with Sarah, the non-gamer, knowing about it, I thought it might necessitate a second look.

I first heard about the indie game developer the article is about several weeks/months ago when the usual suspects on FB started talking about how badly she was being treated by the gaming industry and, most especially, by those evil, pimply faced gamers who still lived in their parents’ basements (read white guys). At no point did the developer’s supporters note any of her past history or reputation. Oh no, she was the victim because those evil male gamers were talking smack about her.

You get the picture. It was the typical SJW/GHH attack and response, much like what we saw with regard to how SFWA and that particular contingent went after Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg. I’ve gotten to the point where I tend to shake my head, grit my teeth and say a silent prayer that one day common sense will rain down on the SJW/GHH crowd before they completely ruin not only SF/F and publishing but our society as well.  Unfortunately, I don’t have much hope of it, not unless we have more people — male and female — willing to stand up and rebut the shrill accusations and lies the other side is slinging at us. That is exactly what the article I’ve linked to does.

I could go on about what the article states but I suggest you read it. It doesn’t need interpretation and it speaks volumes about the bias in the media when it comes to the gaming industry and it confirms what we’ve discussed with regard to publishing. SJWs and GHHers scream so loud and long that they have either scared or convinced reviewers, the media, etc., that they are right and everyone must be brought, kicking and screaming, over to their side. It doesn’t matter if they are right or wrong. All that matters is that they are giving lip service to the politically correct cause du jour.

But, as a gamer, what absolutely sends me over the edge is how these same SJWs/GHHers claim that they can’t find games that spotlight THEM. You read their posts and reviews and you’d think there was never a game made that featured a playable character that was a person of color (hmm, does that include purple?) or gay or female or non-binary gender. If you were to believe them, every game — or almost every game — features only white males.

Give me a break.

I took a few minutes this morning to look at my Steam console as well as my Origin console. Yes, I am a gamer. Gaming is my way of relieving tension. I’m also female and most definitely not some 20-something male living in his mother’s basement.

Of the games I own, I can play as male and female, gay or straight, person of color or not. I can play as human or alien. Hmm, are they playing different games than I am?

Let’s see. Mass Effect. Three games by Bioware, one of the developers that often comes under fire from the SJWs. The main character is Commander Shepard. All three games allow you to basically create your own Shepard.  You choose the sex of your Shepard. You chose skin tone, eye color, etc. While the stats I once saw from Bioware showed more folks played as a male Shepard, it didn’t surprise me. Males are still the majority of gamers so it makes sense that they would, more often than not, play as a male character.

But there’s more. Depending on how you answer questions and interact with the other characters in the games, you can make your Shepard gay or straight. You can have relationships with other characters or not. It is your choice.

Still, the gaming industry hasn’t done enough, we’re told.

What else do I have in my games library. Hmm.

Skyrim. A huge RPG game. It had been awhile since I’d played it so I went in last night and started a new game just so I could remember the character tree. Yep, I was right. You can play as male or female. You can choose skin tone, etc. You aren’t even limited to human characters. There are elves of various types and even one race that looks a lot like a walking cat. But again, not enough diversity.

Borderlands 1 & 2.

Not so much character development here as a part of the story. But in Borderlands 1, you have one female playable character, the siren, Lilith. She is anything but helpless and she most definitely is not just an oversexed character. (That would be Moxxi who is fun and who I’d love to be able to play in a game one day). In Borderlands 2, you have a new siren — also female — Maya as a playable character. You also have, via DLC, a new female playable character, Gaige. Gearbox and 2k Games will have two playable characters in the next Borderlands game, Borderlands The Pre-Sequel.

But, Amanda, why aren’t there playable female characters in games like Assassin’s Creed, you ask.

Because it doesn’t make sense. Not in the AC games, at least not to me. Assassin Creed and all its sequels are quasi-historical games.  The playable characters are set into historical events, usually fictionalized, that set a certain social and political constraint on the story. Since the Assassin Creed games are as much story as they are action, the characters have to “fit” into the historical context. Not that it matters to the detractors who want a female or gay or non-binary sexed character no matter what (yes, they are stomping their feet and threatening to hold their breath until they get their way).

What it comes down to in the gaming industry and in writing is that the characters have to make sense in the setting we put them in. Does it make sense to have a heavily pregnant woman so close to term that the baby could come at any moment on the bridge of a starship heading into battle? Only if the ship in question was a pleasure cruiser and she was on the bridge as part of a cruise when they were attacked by pirates without warning. It doesn’t make sense to have her there in a command capacity in the middle of an on-going war. Not unless it was a world’s last ditch effort to save itself.

Nor does it make sense to have a checklist of characters and certain character traits that have to be in a story or game just to satisfy the PC crowd. A good author, be it of a book or of a game’s backstory and plot, will write so that readers will see themselves in the characters one way or another. Write the characters that are needed for the story, both main characters and supporting. That will win you more readers than writing the cookie cutter PC novel or game script.

Most of all, stand up to the bullies. Yes, bullies. That’s how so many of the SJWs and GHHers act. They run to the media and their blogs and social media to whine and cry and throw epitaths at those of us who don’t fit their ideal of politically correct goodness. Even when they are foolish enough to try to debate the issues with us, they run back to social media to crow their victory after they’ve been soundly thrashed. The problem is, too often we sit back and let them get away with it. We play into their hands when we remain silent or when we go against our better judgment and change out characters to meet whatever artificial standards they set for us.

The time is now to stand up for good stories, stories that entertain and actually make people want to buy our books and games. Who’s with me?

Inspiration as a cure for burnout

The last few months have been difficult on both the writing and the editing fronts. Part of it has been because, like so many others, real life has been interfering. Part of it has been because I’ve worked pretty much non-stop for several years with no time off. Even when I’ve had what passes for vacations, I’ve taken work with me. So there really has been no down time and, as a result, I hit the wall. Full-blown burnout happened and for a long while I didn’t realize it. All I knew was that it felt like I was walking through molasses and not getting anything done.

It finally dawned on me about two weeks ago what was happening. It didn’t hit me like a ton of bricks. Nor did the sun suddenly shine and bring with it the realization of what was wrong. No, it was a slow process that, once completed, had me wanting to hit my head against the wall for being so dumb. Looking back, I could see the symptoms. They were plain to see, if I’d only been looking. But I hadn’t been looking and paid the price.

However, it is a price that — surprisingly — has a bit of a silver lining. As my brain started coming back to life, I started looking at what I was doing and why. What I was doing was gaming, a lot of gaming. In the evenings and into the night, whenever I was home, I was gaming. In particular, I was playing three games: Mass Effect 1 – 3. More than that, I played through them not once, but twice and did so back-to-back. That’s not something I normally do. Sure, there are some games I play more than once. But I have never finished a game and then turned right around and played it again.

So what was it about these three games that had me doing just that? And was it something that could be put to work with my writing?

For those of you not familiar with the Mass Effect games, you can get all the info you want here. The short version is that the games are science fiction adventure games: part shooter, part real time strategy, part role playing. You can create Shepard, the character you play as, to be male or female, choose physical appearance and class, much as you can in many games. So that isn’t why I kept coming back to the games. That still begs the question of why I did.

That’s really simple. Bioware, the creator of the games, created an over-all story arc that had me invested in it. My choices in dialog and action had an impact not only on the game I was playing but also on the subsequent games. I became a part of the story. So I had to think about what I was doing and not just pressing a button. Hmmm. So if I answered this questions one way and this happened, what would happen if I answered it this other way?

But it was more than that. Bioware had done this same thing in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and other games. It’s a fun way to keep your gamer interested, but it wasn’t what kept me going. Especially not when I was as burned out as I happened to be. Making me think at such times is usually the quickest way to send me off to something else. So what was it?

It took me a bit, but I finally figured it out. It was the storyline and over-all story arc (although, like many who have played all three games, I’m not completely satisfied with the ending). But most of all, it was the characters. Throughout the three games, there is a core group of characters Shepard works with. These are more than just placeholders, there to give your character something to react to. They have their own histories and you can develop them and their powers. With downloadable content, you can find out more about them. If you are so inclined, and “talk” with them in the right way, you can even have sexual encounters with some of them — and let me tell you, it’s damned embarrassing when that happens and your 80 year old mother happens to walk behind you and gets and eyeful (not that it is anything but PG-13 if that).

For me, at least, it was wanting to know what happened to each of the characters that kept me playing. There is a point in the first game where you have to choose which of your two main companions you are going to leave in a situation you know will mean that character’s death. There will be no respawning. What you choose will impact the plot for the next two games. Do you sacrifice a potential romantic interest? Do you sacrifice the specialist? In the second game, can you move fast enough through the enemy to keep another teammate alive? In the third game, what do you mean there’s nothing I can do to keep this member of my team from sacrificing themselves?

So I became invested in what happened to my team as much as I did in my own character. More than that, as I came to the end of Mass Effect 3, I could see how almost every member of the team had a story to tell, a story I wanted to know. Even though the series is supposedly done, I want more. I want to know more about these characters, both before Mass Effect began and after the events of Mass Effect 3.

In other words, the games captured my imagination and, in doing so, jump-started me out of the burnout I’d been in for so long. It started me thinking about how I can keep readers invested in the Nocturnal Lives series, how to keep it from becoming stale. It jump-started the space opera that has been demanding to be written for two years but that has had me stymied at the same time. It has, basically, turned on the writer in me again and that, in turn, has let the editor come back out to play.

Maybe it was simply taking time — well, being forced to take time because I couldn’t do anything else — and not trying to force myself to do something that just wasn’t happening that got me over the burnout.  But I honestly think it was being able to play through these three games, to enjoy the writing of them and the possibilities presented, that had a hand in it. The simple truth of the matter is, by doing so, my subconscious started thinking about issues that had been bothering me. I worked out a lot of the issues before I even realized I was doing so.

That still leaves me with the questions of how to continue the Nocturnal Lives series without it growing stale. But I have ideas now, ideas I like a whole lot better than the ones I’d been working with. Then there’s the space opera that I mentioned. I’d put it on the back burner long ago because it was too much like stuff already out there. Now I have an idea of how to make it mine. The same with another project, the secret project, that is so far behind schedule that I’ll be lucky if my editor will still take it.

Burnout can happen to any of us. How we manage to get past it varies from person to person. For me, for now, I’m glad to say I’ve manage to pull through this bout and in better condition than I’ve been in a long time. Better yet, I’ve done so with inspiration for not only my own personal projects but for my professional role as well. Here’s hoping it is a long time before faced with this again. Fingers crossed.

Of course, my fingers are also crossed that Bioware isn’t completely through with the Mass Effect universe. I really do want to know more about the characters and about what happened as a result of the ending(s) of ME3.