Category Archives: R18+

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?

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PAX 2014 Round Up

The sad reality of things is that it’s the day after PAX and PPD (Post-PAX Depression) has already set in. I woke up this morning with a bit of a broken heart because I couldn’t take the 20 minute walk from my hotel to the Convention Centre and hang out with the coolest people I know.

So, in a vain attempt to combat the PPD blues, I thought I’d do my write up of the weekend and the mind-blowing things that happened.

The major change between 2013 and 2014 was the venue. For those who couldn’t attend PAX Aus 2013, it was held at the Showgrounds in Melbourne. Because of the more “outdoorsy” venue, moving between theatres and halls could be troublesome. Forgiveable, considering it was the FIRST PAX being held in Australia the organisers listened to the complaints and moved the event to the MCEC.

Such room.

Much success.

Wow.

But seriously, the new venue is a major improvement. While the queueing is still an “issue” (tens of thousands of people trying to get into one place? THERE’S GOING TO BE A LINE.), the larger theatres and rooms made sure that if you waited in line, you were going to get a seat. It was a great improvement over last year.

Friday.

keynote edit

Pete Hines – Meat Shield

Friday was Rade-Sim day. By that, I mean that I was in civvies with a plumbob headband. My take on “casual cosplay”. Friday was spent exploring the convention, meeting people and attending panels. The first two I checked out were the Keynote (hosted by Pete Hines) and the Q&A by the ever hustlin’ Mike and Jerry, creators of Penny Arcade. Pete Hines had an insightful look into what PR in video games industry is like. His keynote was full of stories from his career and all the ways that Bethesda has grown. Oh, and horse armour.

The format for the Q&A was different to last year and I’m thankful for that. Robert Khoo picked out questions from The Internet for Mike and Jerry to answer, and were categorised by the type of question that was asked. Red envelopes were for more “serious” questions and white envelopes for “light-hearted” questions. A running joke of the panel was that white envelopes were a lucky dip of serious and light-hearted questions. But it meant that some guy couldn’t go on for 10 minutes about his telescope (check out the Q&A from last year) and bore everyone to death.

I got to spend time hanging out with my friend Tehkella (who writes good shit. Check it). She lives far away, which makes me sad but PAX brings us together. Which is what PAX is really all about.

With that major block of panels out of the way, I checked out the rest of the expo. The first place I headed was to was the Walk-Thru Walls booth to see the guys there. I met them last year and they’re cool kids. They also let me review for them, so that’s awesome. Then begun the wandering.

Wandering around the Xbox booth, through to the Cards Against Humanity area and just… around. I got lost in the expo hall. Listening to outrageously loud dance music, wondering how the fuck you get an enormous tank into the middle of a expo hall (no, seriously. Magic?) and just admiring all the fantastic cosplay. I’d managed to kill a few hours, but I hadn’t destroyed enough minutes to make it to the next panel. Cue the return home to my hotel and a quick costume change for my next panel. Little did I know, the next panel would be the highlight of my… month? Year? Probably writing career.

The panel was “The Realities of Writing About Games.” 5 people were about to destroy the dreams of a theatre full of people. It was a learning experience about what the people I want to work for want in your work. I found out I need to improve a bunch of my skills. But the best was yet to come.

The highlight for my PAX weekend was meeting Mark Serrels. He’s the editor for Kotaku AU and porridge enthusiast. I got to tell him about how he messaged me after an article (and subsequent comments) about some horrible shit at E3 and told me that I shouldn’t listen to the horrible people and keep going. This is something that has stuck with me through everything. This industry isn’t kind, but knowing someone believes in you is something to cling to, especially in the desperate times.

I told him this at the end of the panel, and he was just gobsmacked. Or, I think he was. But apparently I’d struck a chord with him because he wrote about me in a Kotaku article. [ insert fangirling here. ]

Everything after that was just… a bonus.

Saturday.

Cosplay day 1. I spent the morning wandering again, but this time dressed as a buzzaxe-wielding psycho. Had a few photos taken, screamed about poop at the top of my lungs (worth it!) and just doing normal con junk.

I decided to head off to a panel about Fake Nerds, featuring my friend Jimmy and hosted by my friend Jessica. Unfortunately, Jess’s schedule was all screwy and she couldn’t attend. But the panel was fantastic and by the packed room, it was clearly a hot topic.

Walking home after the panel, I hit the post-spring carnival race crowd full of drunks and then found one who couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Pro-tip to everyone reading this: Don’t call the cosplayer wielding a buzzaxe fat. The temptation to smack your face with it is NEARLY overwhelming.

Saturday night made up for drunk, asshole guy because I got to hang out with some friends at a really creepy restaurant and a really cool bar. Lots of drinking and impromptu karaoke.

Sunday

Whee~ Sunday! Sunday was the day I was looking forward to. After a late night and a VERY early morning, I headed to my friend’s hotel room so we could get into our Borderlands gear and go to the Gearbox panel.

After a superb Gearbox panel (free games, woo!) and a huge Borderlands cosplay group photo, we headed off to the Gearbox signing and got to meet the Gearbox crew and a photo with Randy Pitchford.

groupAfter that, we stopped at the Smithe booth so Maya could drop her bag off for work later and photos at the Xbox booth and 2K booth in front of their “Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel” wall panel… thing and trying to find the massive cosplay group shot. There were like… 60 of us at least in this photo and that was just the people who’d found out about it in various Facebook groups or word of mouth.

I met people I’ve been stalking heavily investigating on Facebook and take photos with them and scream about meat bicycles and junk. It’s the most amazing feeling to growl “I LIKE MY LOOT LIKE I LIKE MY BABY STEAKS… RAAAAAARE” with another dude and immediately become friends because of it.

PAX Australia is one of those things that you wonder about what it’ll be like and have all these expectations and then when you get there, you see a sign that says “Welcome home” and that’s what it feels like. It’s home. There are 30,000 cousins in this family who enjoy the same stuff you do and you all bond over that, it’s the best feeling ever.

 

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Meet Stacy: My GTA: Online Character

Stacy, taking bathroom selfies with her friends.

This is Stacy. She’s my GTA: Online avatar and I have a strange affection for her.

When GTA: Online first launched in October last year, it was a disaster that most users experienced. It wasn’t until Rockstar had figured out how releasing an MMO-style online experience for their wildly successful game probably needed a LOT more server support that it originally had, that everyone started to really enjoy the experience. My friends and I created a crew for our clan and rode around on the Vespa knockoffs, which we had customised in various shaded of neon colours; just to make it that much more special and it felt like our characters could actually be real; if Los Santos was a real place full of gun-toting psychopaths who rode around on hot pink scooters.

She likes selfies

Selfies with the Vinewood sign.

I wanted to give my avatar a little more life and for whatever strange reason, I fleshed her out a little bit. I named her Stacy. She looked like a Stacy to me. The story I’d picked was fairly generic; when Stacy turned 18, she got all her stuff and moved to LS to become something, not sure what that something was, but it was more than the menial job she was in at whatever small town she was leaving.

After arriving in LS and performing the first few jobs she could to raise some money, she met her friends (seen in the bathroom selfie) and despite them being the bad kids your parents warn you about, these were her people.

As someone who doesn’t really get THIS in to RPG’s, it’s funny that I’d grow so attached to Stacy. It’s like having a Barbie, but in an ultra-violent setting; I change her hair, make up and clothes regularly and make sure that she’s not too bruised up. Although, if you’ve seen the way I ride a motorbike in game, Stacy bares the brunt of it.

She’s my favourite part of GTA: Online. When it’s released on PC and my friends finally start playing again, I hope that I can transfer her across. I’d be a little upset if I couldn’t continue to play with my virtual Barbie.

 

State of Decay: Sink Your Teeth In

sodState of Decay is one of those games I’d heard great things about but already felt burnt out on. The zombie genre is a favourite with developers and the market is flooded with hoards (puns!) of them. But when my lovely friend gifted me the base game and the DLC, I decided to have a go at it.

At the time of writing, I’d played almost 10 hours straight without realising it. Thank GOD for days off, right?

State of Decay is a third-person zombie shooter with elements of stealth, resource management and base building thrown in. These gameplay elements help add extra depth to the immersion for the player. You need to make sure that all your characters are at full health, that there’s ammo available and you have an escape plan to get out of any sticky situations. My problem with a lot of zombie/survival games is that it’s run and gun; there’s no strategy. But State of Decay almost encourages you to have a strategy.

As you gather up more survivors to play as, they have mood swings and rely on other members of your group to help them through. The characters have enough personality to give you someone to pick as a favourite, but are plain enough so that you can put yourself in their shoes. Although, the way I’m playing, it’s a bit like an episode of Game of Thrones; I get attached to one particular character and then BAM! Eaten by a zombie. It’s a little tragic.

Gameplay and mission can lull from time to time, making things feel a little boring and repetitive. There’s a lot of potential for a variety of missions, but it’s mostly: go here, clear out this, come back.  I’ve currently found myself going around trying to find resources, waiting for missions to spawn because I’ve completed all the available missions. The missions I have completed have a good learning curve. You can do them on your own comfortably, or take along a fellow survivor to watch your back. Although, the AI can be a little… backwards when it comes to watching out for zombies; either super helpful or a major hindrance. The more you use a particular character, the better their stats get and the more helpful they can be.

My major problem with the game are a few rather annoying bugs I’ve come across when it comes to starting or closing the game. I found the game would crash when the music was muted, and I’m not sure what’s causing my game to bug out and crash when I’m trying to close the game from the main menu. The developer forums are helpful for finding work-around solutions for these bugs, but patching them hasn’t worked as of yet. From some Googling, my problems seem to be fairly common, so I’m hoping the developers are working to patch these out.

The music and graphics aren’t astounding, but it’s not a major drawback. In a world where everyone focuses on lifelike graphics and Oscar-worthy music, it’s kind of refreshing to have something that’s “not up to scratch”. The animation is a little buggy when zombies look like they’re outside, but are actually just clipping through a wall. I’ve wasted many a bullet hitting a wall where I thought I was aiming perfectly at a zombie’s face.

For a fairly generic zombie survival game, I’m sinking a disgusting amount of time into it. It’s got its claws right in and doesn’t really want to let go. The Lifeline and Breakdown DLC have great reviews online and the friend who gifted these to me raved about them when he bought them originally on Xbox Live. If you’re looking for a time sink, some good old fashion violence and nothing too complicated, State of Decay is perfect.

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South Park: The Stick of Truth (Australian Censored version)

 

Before I start, this post contains spoilers. If you haven’t finished the game, click here and be redirected.

Spoilers

South Park: The Stick of Truth (TSoT) had a development story akin to that of Duke Nukem Forever; developer issues, bankrupt companies and constant setbacks. However, with the help of Ubisoft, TSoT was finally released this March and to my surprise, it’s hilariously good. And this comes from someone who isn’t a South Park fan (there are dozens of us! DOZENS!)

Set in a Dungeons and Dragons style adventure game, the turn based RPG sees you, The New Kid (Sir Douchebag) go roaming around the neighbourhoods of South Park in search of The Stick of Truth after it was stolen by the Elves from the humans at Kupa Keep.

It is said whoever possesses the Stick controls the universe.

The create-a-character screen is fairly easy to use. You get a basic character and have a limited range of hair and clothes to deck your little adventurer out with. This isn’t a massive issue because along the way, you’ll look new customisation items or buy them from places around town. You also find dyes to make your costumes individual.

The game looks like an episode of South Park, which is what you’d expect. Your characters hop around when they’re walking and everyone looks like they’re made out of pieces of coloured paper. The writing is what you’d expect from a South Park game, too. The magic you’re taught from Cartman is one giant fart joke; Kenny is a princess who “charms” her (?) opponents by flashing some tits (which isn’t even the most disturbing thing in the game) and even the Aliens make an appearance. There are pop culture references a plenty and most of them refer to A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) which was spoofed in Season 17 (an episode that even I laughed in.)

Sadly, because I’m playing the Australian version, my game is censored but even that has a South Park flair. Because of the Australian Rating System, R18+ games still have strict guidelines to abide too. We’re not the only country to receive a censored version of the game, but our friends across the creek in New Zealand aren’t censored. Whether this raises discussion about adult content is yet to be seen, but Trey Parker and Matt Stone have made the censorship hilarious and a little easier to deal with.

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Like most RPG’s, TSoT gives you the option to choose a class: Fighter, Mage, Thief or Jew. (Or paladin class for those of us who aren’t Cartman.) The “Jew” class is a tricky one to master but can have massive payouts for a skilled player as you become more powerful the closer you are to death. Combat works well and requires the player to generally press a button at the right time to have the full effect of an attack. You can summon characters you’ve helped through quests to come into combat and fight on your behalf with some hilarious results. The turn-based combat works nicely and gives you time to think up a strategy to defeat harder enemies.

Controls and UI are where I start to feel like the game was ignored. From footage I’ve seen of the PC version, you’re unable to rebind keys; possibly because the game was directly ported from console, but a simple feature like that can turn people off. I know that I like to have a specific key-bind for a lot of games to make it work easier for me. Even on the console, the use of the bumper buttons doesn’t feel natural and some of the magic combinations can be difficult to master because of joystick fiddliness. The controller really doesn’t feel like it was properly utilised for anything other than combat.

The options menu, “Facebook” and inventory tabs looks completely out of place with the rest of the game, too. I’m not sure if it’s some inside joke with hardcore South Park fans, but the almost generic tabs visual is off-putting and can be annoying to use. The game uses at least seven tabs to scroll through for various uses in the game, but trying to figure out where something might be is frustrating.

It’s racist, sexist, silly and painfully self-aware. It pokes fun at Australia, the games industry and fans of the series itself but it doesn’t feel forced or ironic for irony’s sake. A lot of the time you’ll find yourself laughing until you’re crying or in a state of mortified shock that realistically only something related to South Park could get away with. The game is enough of an RPG for fans of that style of game to enjoy and so South Park that it hurts. I almost hate myself a little bit for enjoying it as much as I do. With the few complaints about controls and UI, it’s obviously not a perfect game but it’s better than a lot of games based on a TV or movie franchise. Really, it’s just like playing a very long, unedited episode of South Park and that’s the best thing about it.

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Madness, Mayhem but no Fun.

The guys at Rockstar promised some new Valentine’s Day themed gear so you can rampage with your significant other online, but is it enough to keep people interested?

With the terrible failure that was the GTA: O launch still fresh in the minds on users, Rockstar have tried to make it up to players with improved servers, the $500,000 stimulus package and free stuff packs for faithful players, it doesn’t seem enough to keep people interested. There is still no word on when the most anticipated aspect; heists, will be introduced into the online experience.

Heists were talked up by Rockstar as one of the most exciting parts on Grand Theft Auto: Online with apartments having heist planning rooms and being able to plan robberies with your friends. Just like the story mode, but instead of AI characters and hoping they don’t fall off their bike; you can chew out your friends when they screw up! (Seems like a good idea to me!)

The last few times I’ve played GTA:O, the servers have been half-full or below and I can’t get my friends to play. “Why? There’s nothing to do!” They lament. Which is true. The first week or so, we had so much fun taking selfies in the bathroom or trying to find the most outrageous spots to take photos. (Playboy mansion part, anyone?) but the novelty have worn off and it’s just not as fun anymore and I’m not sure that even when heists eventually make their debut, that it’ll be worth investing the 50+ hours that my clan and I played when the game first went live. (And we could all get online.)

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Region-locking Rumours.

After yet another date pushback on the Australian release of Saints Row 4, the rumour mill is in overdrive. Media outlets are reporting that Volition, Deep Silver or Steam (Valve) have enabled region-locking on digitally downloaded copies of Saints Row.

This could mean that if you try to avoid the Australian ‘low-violence’ version of the game, Steam will convert your full-game key to an Australian key.

Not only does this mean you’ll get the MA15+ version of the game, you could lose the ability to play with your non-Australian friends.

I’ve contacted Volition’s social media team with a support ticket to write in the morning. I’ll update you as soon as I know anything.

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Australian Saints Row Incompatible With Other Copies

The Saints Row 4 saga continues with the publishing team behind the game Volution Inc. releasing an announcement on the official SR4 Facebook page today.

For the game to be classified in Australia, an optional mission had to be removed to conform to the rules of the classification board. Because this mission is no longer in the game, the Australian version of the game isn’t compatible with other copies. In other words, Australians can’t play co-op mode with their international friends.

While we are very proud of all our different missions, we do feel that Saints Row IV on the whole remains largely the same without this single optional mission, and we also feel that you deserve to know what you are getting in Australia. Due to the changes we were forced to make, this version is different than the version rated by rating boards like the ESRB, USK, and PEGI, which is why it will be incompatible with those versions in co-op.

Australian gamers have taken to the Internet to voice their outrage with many saying they’ll cancel pre-orders through Steam or at their local game shop and look to buy the game overseas to make sure they have fair access to the co-op campaign mode of Saints Row 4.

Late last week the game was given an MA15+ rating in Australia, allowing people 15 years and over access to the adult video game. Gamers are asking why they campaigned so hard for an R18+ rating when games that have been rated R18+ by other boards are censored and given inappropriate ratings here in Australia. People at the development company were upset to hear that the game had been given an MA15+ rating as they feel their game isn’t appropriate for anyone under the age of 18 years.

Personally, the whole thing is turning into a joke. I’m incredibly disappointed that Australian fans who buy the Australian version of the game won’t be able to play with their friends, that the Australian Classification Board gave this game an MA15+ rating when it’s clearly intended for adults and that the whole issue has become so drawn out. Australia, we really need to grow up.

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Saints Row IV is refused classification.

New classification laws came into effect January 1st this year with the induction of an adult rating for video games. This inclusion bought Australia in line with international bannedphonesstandards.

Unfortunately, today Acting Director of the Australian Classification Board (ABC) Mr. Donald McDonald (no, that’s his name…) announced that Saints Row IV had been refused classification under the new laws. According to the media release, the primary reason for the refusal was sexual violence

“In the Board’s opinion, Saints Row IV, includes interactive, visual depictions of implied sexual violence which are not justified by context,” a press release explained. “In addition, the game includes elements of illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards. Such depictions are prohibited by the computer games guidelines.”

It’s interesting to note that Saints Row the Third had the same incentives and themes in the game but was given an MA15+. While that rating was given under a system that didn’t have an R18+ classification, I can’t imagine that Volition have come up with anything more crazy than letting me run around hitting people with a purple dildo the size of a baseball bat.

Volition are yet to comment but I’ll be sure to update this post once they do.

EDIT: (Via OXM)

“Volition, the developer, are reworking some of the code to create a version of the game for this territory by removing the content which could cause offence without reducing the outlandish gameplay that Saints Row fans know and love. Saints Row IV has been awarded PEGI 18 and ESRB M ratings where fans can enjoy their time in Steelport as originally intended.”

We’re back to square one. Volition now have to re-write their code and appeal to the ACB for Saints Row IV to be sold in Australia. While the rest of the western world is playing an uncensored copy of the game, Australia could very well be stuck playing a watered down copy to appease the ratings board. Am I the only one who feels like the R18+ thing hasn’t worked?

ACB Media Release

The Walking Dead is in Dead Water

Here’s an interesting titbit: Telltale Games has announced that it won’t submit a console port of its game “The Walking Dead” to Australian classification boards. A staff member confirmed the decision was due to a lack of R-rating for games in Australia. However, the game is available on Steam; the PC Game distribution company.

Clearly available for purchase in Australia

As it’s been said time and time again, the people who oppose the R-rating say that the medium differs from others due to interactivity, taking control of the main character and making their decisions. I can understand that logic, but since it’s being released on PC and not on consoles, I suspect there’s something else going on here too. I could just be over thinking things too. Australia is in the final stages of getting our long deserved rating and The Walking Dead could be submitted after it’s been achieved.

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