The Morality of GTA: V (Or Why I Need Therapy)

(Originally published on Player Attack)

One of the biggest tragedies of Grand Theft Auto V is in how little its moralities are spoken on. The characters are reprobates, the actions amoral in the best case and utterly reprehensible in the worst.

They are monsters of the most depraved calibre, and with a single document, I wondered if I shouldn’t be among them.

At the end of Grand Theft Auto 5, you’re presented with a psychoanalysis of your playthrough by the in-game therapist Dr. Isiah Friedlander. The doctor’s observations are harsh, brutal, and entirely honest. Mine read as follows:

– Fascinating. Rarely have I encountered someone so deluded.

– Good at compromise. Not so good at willpower.

– Terrifying egomaniac.

– Irresponsible with money and with rest of life.

– Likes to show off around women.

– Morally conservative about some things – which is weird.

– Not good on giving time to others.

– Keen to be a part of the American dream, which is odd.

– Psychopath or sociopath? Both.

– Magpie who will steal whatever takes their fancy, time and time again.

– Ignores anything spiritual.

– Lazy.

– Friendly, in a way.

– Easily distracted.

– A real mess.

 

I didn’t understand what any of this meant until I went back and thought about it. Some of the points are fairly obvious: I stole anything that wasn’t nailed down (but I do that in Skyrim, too). I have to admit I avoided any physical activities. Triathlons, swimming, biking, and anything explicitly physical was something of a bane. My money was better spent on vices, like clothing, cars, and comforts.

It is easy to get wrapped up in it all. Having the money to lead a lavish life of fast cars, cheap booze, and easy comforts make work infinitely less appealing. Anything that required dedicated effort was, by default, infinitely less attractive. The best things in life should be easy, or fulfilling, and fun.

With Benjamin’s exploding from my pockets, I never needed to do anything other than exactly what I wanted. And no one wants to work, do they? Is it really so wrong to live the American dream, to be distracted, messy, and dedicated to living the high life without the high responsibilities?

Dr. Friedlander seemed to think so.

What could x have meant, though? Other points are less obvious, and I still haven’t shed much light on the subject. More research is required, but to what ends. What would exploring Dr. Friedlander’s possibilities mean making me do?

Grand Theft Auto 5 has an unconscious morality system. While I can choose certain things to differ the ending, other things aren’t in my control. My actions are taken note of by Friedlander and judgements are made. I’m not sure whether to be offended by Friedlander’s assumptions or impressed by Rockstar’s new take on the traditional morality system; if it can even be called that.

You don’t really have a sense of right or wrong in Grand Theft Auto 5. As a player, you know that behaving the way you’re encouraged to in-game would be considered wrong, but within the context of the game world, it’s entirely okay. Other games like Mass Effect give you a variety of choices based on your characters morality, but in Grand Theft Auto 5, it’s an afterthought.

My biggest issue with the traditional morality system (in games like the original BioShock or by some extension, the Mass Effect Trilogy) is that you’ve really only got three options: Teachers Pet, Boring or Pure Evil. There isn’t enough depth into how your choices changed the game world or your character.

The analysis by Friedlander gives a more in-depth look at how you played. I’m well aware that Rockstar probably has a pool of lines to pick from that depend on what choice you make, but it’s a nice change from “Oh, you harvested all the little girls? I bet you kick kittens, too.” Oh, come on game!

I harvested like two little girls. ”In the original BioShock, if you harvest one too many girls, it tips the scale from good to evil quite quickly, implying your choices have dire consequences. While in BioShock: Infinite (the third instalment) of the game, any choices you make have no impact on the outcome, implying that your destiny is chosen for you no matter what.

The mini analysis post-game definitely made me sit up and think about how I played Grand Theft Auto 5 and it’s making me rethink the way I play through now. Did I ever question what the game was making me before I read the report? Should I have? I still murder indiscriminately, but there’s some forethought going into it. I’m constantly aware that the in-game shrink is making notes and silently judging me and I wonder if I’m really a sociopath, a psychopath or both?

Review: LittleBigPlanet 3 (PS4)

Swoop

Swoop

My first encounter with LittleBigPlanet was a few years ago when my then-boyfriend and his friends bought it on a whim. I walked into our lounge room after work to find four grown men laughing like school children. “What are you playing?” I asked. “LittleBigPlanet. It’s great fun! What’s the time?” My boyfriend asked. I told him it was just after 6 o’clock.

“Oh, we’ve been playing this for about 5 hours. We should probably eat something.”

LittleBigPlanet is one of those games you can get lost in so easily, especially when you’ve got company but sadly, I don’t think that LittleBigPlanet 3 (LBP 3) is a game I’ll spend much time in.

After you’re convinced (by the wonderful voice of Hugh Laurie) to release three evil Titans (based loosely around Greek mythology) into the Sackworld of Bunkum, your Sackboy navigates the land enlisting new characters to undo the trouble you’ve caused. The new characters, named Toggle, Swoop and Oddsock add an interesting new element to the puzzle-solving side of the game with new weight and height challenges.

Introducing our new Sackfriends:

OddSock: A sackdog who can wall jump and run faster than your average Sackboy.

Toggle: Toggle can transform himself into Big Toggle (who can weigh down platforms or switches) or Little Toggle (who can run across water or fit into tight spaces.)

Swoop: A sackbird who can fly and pick up light objects and other characters (except for Big Toggle.)

Toggle

Toggle

Gameplay hasn’t changed too much with the inclusion of the new characters or items. Although things like the hook hat present a fun challenge when you’re racing along a zipline then fling yourself into some fire, which I did numerous times and generally while playing the game in front of my mum. Then she proceeded to mock me.

Get from point A to point B and collect all the things! (All of them.) Along with stickers, random point bubbles and outfits (the best part of LittleBigPlanet, let’s face it.), you’ll also collect bells to pay for things. The only things I’ve bought with these bells are more outfits, so I’m not sure what else they’re actually used for. It’s much of a muchness.

A lot of the game feels like a grind. Oddsock, Toggle and Swoop aren’t automatically unlocked, and you need to find three marbles to unlock each character. The levels are varied enough to keep you interested for a while, but it doesn’t feel like there’s enough of a pay-off to continue to unlock the other characters. Whether it’s because the game focuses on a multiplayer experience (areas in levels are only unlocked by playing with two or more people), or just a lack of pacing in the levels, the repetitive nature of unlocking your new Sackfriends makes them feel a little more like Sackenemies.

Oddsock

Oddsock

This isn’t my biggest issue with the game, though. LittleBigPlanet 3 has repeatedly failed to load or crashed my console. During initial installation, the first level after the tutorial failed to load three times and required me to reboot my PlayStation 4. The other games that I’ve played on my PS4 (Dragon Age, Grand Theft Auto, Sleeping Dogs) don’t cause this kind of malfunction with my console, nor do they freeze during gameplay. Too many times have I given up and either stopped playing LittleBigPlanet or just stopped gaming for a few hours because of the crashes.

The Stephen Fry-narrated game, with its gorgeous art-style has changed a little too much for my liking. While Oddsock, Toggle and Swoop offer an interesting new take on the puzzles, the game stops me in my tracks when it comes to enjoying it. It’ll be one of those games that I keep around when I have friends over and we wanna screw each other over. If the game doesn’t wanna screw us first.

daI-cover

Rade Reviews: Dragon Age: Inquisition (PS4) Spoilers maybe?

My opinions of Dragon Age have been coloured a very murky shade of awful by the mess that is Dragon Age: Origins. In fact, just thinking about that game makes me want to go screaming into the night. Dragon Age: Origins felt like it was punishing me for not being a die-hard Dragon Age fan and nothing I did or said could make that better.

It’s surprising, with all that being said, that I’m enjoying Dragon Age: Inquisition so much. There’s the recurring theme in my gaming that I don’t really enjoy the first RPG I play in a series, but get into the second instalment I pick up (please refer to my Skyrim addiction for further evidence.), although I don’t quite get what’s going on.

When a peace conference between the Templars and mages ends with a large explosion opening rifts between the human world and the Fade, the Chantry’s senior cleric, the Divine, and several mages and Templars are killed. The only survivor is your character.

When your character is discovered coming from one of the rifts with no memory of what happened, but a mark on their hand with the ability of closing said rifts, you’re enlisted by former associates of the Divine to establish an Inquisition to find out who created the Breach, close it, and establish order between the Templars and the mages. Not that any of that means much to me. I’m too busy picking flowers and being killed by Dragons to pay attention to any of the lore. That’s where I think Dragon Age really has me pegged though.

I’m not someone who has all the lore stored away in head for easy access, or always knows what’s going on, but it’s not affecting my experience in the game at all. I’m happily playing through the missions with a somewhat minor understanding of what’s going on and that works perfectly fine for me. There’s plenty of well-crafted scenery for me to explore.

Gameplay is very RPG-esque. Although the formula isn’t something you can really change. You can go through your party and select what perks and skills you’d like them to have or you can auto-level them up with the single press of a button, something which I now rely on after accidentally giving my archer a skill which requires her to use daggers. Probably should have paid more attention to what I was doing, but oh well.

Combat gameplay can go two ways. You can just go in arrows blazing, which is generally the way I play. However, you can use their tactical planning mode where gameplay pauses. In this mode you can command each character in battle and decide how they attack, defend and move. In larger battles with more enemies, this mode can be vital. Playing around in this mode in some of the smaller fights to figure out how to use it could come in handy.

Customisation is where you’ll spend an obscene amount of time. Although, I found that the character making screens took a little getting used to. You start with four races to pick from: Dwarves, Elves, Humans and Qunari, then from there on to your class: Mage, Rogue, or Warrior. For reference, Rade is an Elvish Rogue, because she’s a boss.

After you’ve picked out who you’ll be, you can choose what you’ll look like and the only real limit is your imagination. You’ve got sliders and colour wheels for days. The only thing I regret doing with my character is giving her bright purple eyes. She’s kind of pretty, but has these really bizarre purple eyes which ruin everything.

Rade’s weird purple eyes can’t ruin her scripting though. BioWare’s David Gaider once again writes some very excellent dialog for all his characters. When you’re going to spend hundreds of hours (don’t give me that look, this game is going to dig its claws into you and you’re doing to play this through several times) playing this game, crafting out well written characters is important. Each character shouldn’t feel two-dimensional and it’s something that BioWare excel at.

However, it’s a BioWare game, so it doesn’t come without a bug or two. I haven’t come any myself just yet, but a few of my friends have posted on their social media floating books, some hilarious clipping issues and rendering issues. These aren’t as bad as a few other games *cough* Assassin’s Creed *cough*, but these can get frustrating and for a game that looks as polished as Dragon Age: Inquisition, it’s disappointing.

Like I said in the beginning, I’m surprised I’m enjoying Dragon Age: Inquisition as much as I am. Dragon Age: Origins causes me physical pain and it steered me clear of Dragon Age II. The only reason I picked up Dragon Age: Inquisition was sheer curiosity, and it paid off. It’s pretty to look at, I’m invested in the characters and I don’t have to be overly invested in the over-arching lore to understand the story. It’s the perfect game for die-hard Dragon Age fans or people just looking for something to invest their time in.

 

2014 Gift Guide!

beth_christmas_2007_topper

It’s that time of year again! With Christmas on the horizon, the difficult task of buying gifts becomes obvious. Being the well-skilled shopper that I am, I find buying gifts for my game-orientated friends the worst. It’s like buying shoes for someone without knowing their size.

So in the spirit of the up-coming season, I give you my guide to buying the perfect gamer gift.

Gift cards are the easiest solution for the picky gamer or someone you don’t know very well. Your friend can pick what they want without the risk of buying something said gamer already has or doesn’t want.

Games are a great gift if you know what your friend plays. Steam has a ‘wish list’ system that is a fantastic indicator. Games are ranked in the order that your friend wants them and they show up-to-date prices. If you’re buying a game for the console user, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network Store and the Wii store offer a range of games that be purchased using a credit card or a point-system.

As far as the consoles go, Xbox One and PS4 bundles are a great choice. EB Games have Xbox One without Kinect + 6 game bundles going for $529, Xbox One with Kinect + 7 games for $599 and their PS4 bundles are just as good. Several different game bundles with the black or white PS4 console available for $598. Other retailers like Big W or JB Hi-Fi will have similar bundles available, so shop around and see what you can get.

Nintendo released brand new 3DS consoles this year and they’re going for $250, gifted along with the new Pokemon Alpha Sapphire or Omega Ruby, Super Smash Bros or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, you’re going to make any gamer happy.

Big name AAA titles like Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Far Cry 4 have been reviewing well. If your gamer hasn’t picked up one of the later year release titles, they should definitely be something to check out.

If your gamer doesn’t play video games, try to find your local tabletop games shop. The staff are generally very helpful and friendly. Check out the Youtube series Tabletop, hosted by Wil Wheaton, for some fun board game ideas. Tabletop has given my friends and I some great games to play, including Gloom, Zombie Dice and the friendship-ruining card game Munchkin. If your tabletop gamer like RPG-style games, buying the miniatures they want or a set of really cool dice will get you some quality brownie points.

If your nerd has a game in mind, but it hasn’t been released, offer to buy the pre-order for them. Some pre-orders are quite cheap and you still get some decent loot with it. If they already have a pre-order organised but haven’t paid it off yet, offer to pay the rest off. Some collector’s editions can be upwards of $150 price wise, so buying it or paying it off is always a good idea and who doesn’t want a shiny new figurine for Christmas?

I Picked The Wrong Next-Gen Console.

I picked up a PS4 a few months ago when Destiny finally launched as a full game. I was excited about Destiny after playing the beta with friends on my Xbox 360.

A white PS4 with Destiny and The Last of Us: Remastered from Dick Smith (where I work) for cheap? It was too good to be true. I’m starting to regret my decision, now.

My first console was a PlayStation. Many hours were wasted on 40 Winks, Crash Bandicoot, Croc: Legend of the Gobbos and Spyro. I moved on to the PlayStation 2 and the brilliant library that came with that console.

My love affair with the Xbox started with a second-hand Xbox when I was 13 or so. I can’t remember why my Mum bought it for me, but I got Halo 2 and a few other games with it in a deal EB Games had going at the time.

It was instant, life-long love and I’ve never really looked back. My first Xbox 360 was so well “loved”, that the disc drive failed. A common fault, but for a relatively old Xbox 360, surviving the 7 years that it did was a great feat. My second Xbox is slowly gathering dust until I can be bothered to connect it to my bedroom TV. Its place in the lounge room was replaced by the PS4.

The Destiny hype suckered me into buying the PS4. My friends suckered me into buying the PS4. The price I got from work suckered me into buying the PS4.

It sits quietly on the shelf above the TV, making friends with the Blu-Ray player I bought my parents a few years ago. My PS4 is unloved. I think my PS4 was a brilliant investment, don’t get me wrong. It’s something that I think will get plenty of use in the future, but looking back on my choice, I would have waited and picked the Xbox One.

I own the Titanfall Xbox One controller, I’m considering picking up the Halo: Master Chief edition without owning the console because my dedication to the Halo series runs so deep that I’m pretty sure my blood is khaki. I want an Xbox One, but spent my money on a PS4.

Giving up the PS4 isn’t an option with plenty of quality games coming out on it in the future, but in the present, all I want is an Xbox One, Halo, Sunset Overdrive and a weekend off so I can play video games until my hands form Xbox One-shaped claw hands.