Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ludicrous Video Game Tropes, vol. II

I'm still slowly working my way through Mass Effect 2. I like to space these things out and try to avoid playing more than a couple hours at a time. Not because of any misguided desire for "moderation" or "balance" but because I hate when things are over too soon. And I know it will be over too soon, because this is Bioware. I fully expect to complete a series of "laying the groundwork"-style quests, then arrive at the Landsmeet only to realize the game is already 90% over and all that remains athwart my path to glory is a limp-dicked re-skin of a monster I've already killed twice. Ooh, but now the fire is purple!

Anyway, I like to savor games. My roommate Rob attacks them with the desperate ravening of a child on Christmas morning. As a result, he's already beaten the game. As a result of that result, he feels the need to walk into my room and start talking about it. No spoilers or anything, but God damn. Oh really, your character (optimized through looking up hints online) in a single-player RPG can be overpowered? LAWL! Tell me more! The good news for Rob is that I have a new foe: one of my co-workers. I won't use his name, but I WILL use enough personal details that withholding the name is futile. Deal?

He's not enough of a train wreck to make it into an "Adventures in QA" post. (But give him time!) He does, however, routinely look as though he is waiting to get into a workshop for authors of "My Little Pony"-themed erotic fan fiction. Mustache on otherwise baby-smooth face? Check. Parted comb-over despite having a full head of hair? Check. Popped collar from a short-sleeved button-down shirt? Hmm, there's no check mark here. Just a note reading, "button-down shirt is obscured; worn under BlizzCon 2008 T-Shirt. Popped white collar protrudes from black T-Shirt like a waterlogged neck brace. Unfortunately, no neck injury apparent."

How does this happen, you ask? Surely this fellow must interact with other human beings, whose opinions he respects and who might put an end to this running riot of retch. What if this guy is just supremely committed to looking like a dumbass? Normally I wouldn't understand how somebody could even make it out the front door like this, but perhaps he just pulls it off. He's at a full gallop, breaking his roommates' arm tackles as they try to bring him down and at least fold his collar back.

Finally, this man is a ferocious dumbass. I learned this pretty quickly and do my best to ignore him whenever he's talking. But he does not make this easy. Any work-related conversation is subject to constant interruption, because the scribe who penned "Locket and Whizzer Buy a Strap-On Horn" has something to contribute! I do my best to power through and not acknowledge him, but my co-workers don't share my iron resolve. They respond to what he says, fools that they are. Just today, when asked why he held a particular dumbass opinion to be true, he responded with "Logic." Not actual logic; the word "logic", which he spoke with his mouth and followed by shrugging with his shoulders. This is what I have to deal with every day.

Again, here's what you do when you are dealing with a dumbass: don't acknowledge him. Extract yourself immediately from any conversation. If he says something you just cannot believe, laugh like he just made a joke and turn back to your desk. I'm not even kidding; this is how I cope. These aren't problems, they're solutions to problems. Kinda like...

Sniper Rifles
So lethally effective that they become the weapon of choice in every shooter you've ever played. This stands in contrast to the operation of actual sniper rifles, which requires extensive training and is so difficult that it actually becomes absurd. Seriously, the fact that people can actually be effective with those things is a miracle of human ingenuity. "But Tony, they have a scope! Point and shoot!" You might think that, but consider that NYPD officers with years of training in weapons handling had to expend 41 pistol rounds just to take down an unarmed black guy! From 20 yards away! Actually being accurate with guns is very difficult, which is why video-game sniper rifles are so silly.

They are literally just point-and-shoot. Maybe an enterprising developer added a "drift" feature when looking down the scope, but let's be real: that doesn't mean dick. It means you have to actually use a mouse, rather than aiming with Page Up/Page Down and shooting with Control. If I didn't just take you way back to Duke Nukem 3D, you are not the intended demographic for this post. But welcome! Finally, sniper rifles are beloved in games because it lets you be a huge fucking wuss. Every online shooter is overcrowded with the same terrified dorks who pissed me off in gym class...just standing in the back trying not to break a sweat. Just hang back, because you don't want to fake-die in a video game! It's not enough that you're watching a screen; you would prefer to watch a screen of a guy who is basically watching a screen (his scope). For as long as I live, I will pick Scout and smear you with my Scattergun as you frantically backpedal.

Useless Wingmen
I first experienced this in an SNES game called Wing Commander. You may have heard of it. StarFox was another early culprit, though the tradition endures to this day. You can say what you want about the deficiencies of A.I. programming in a three-dimensional environment like a flight sim, but I counter that it's all intentional. The wingmen are there sucking ass so you can feel more awesome. Let's be real: you sucked at StarFox. So did I. You were plowing into giant untextured polygons all over that bitch, missing with your "neutron bombs" that just colored the screen pink for a second. But you felt good about yourself, because every time you fucked up Peppy would remind you just how hard you could be sucking. He'd be begging for help one second and spurning it the next. You saved him anyway, because he'd die otherwise and then who'd absorb those enemy bullets? It didn't help that all your retarded wingmen sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher on various recreational drugs.

In Wing Commander, they impressed on you very early that you were a noob. You were the new meat! You'd never top the accomplishments of the mighty Iceman (I know, I know, but that was the guy's name)! He's got 22 kills! Maybe one day you'll get your 5th kill and be an ace and you can go on the leaderboard too!

Bullshit. You got like 7 kills the first mission and passed Iceman within the week. Everyone sucked; the only thing they were good for was swooping in on a severely-damaged Dralthi and stealing your kill. No wonder you were losing the goddamn war: the human pilots were incompetent! Or were they? Despite the fail hammering the canopy of my Arwing, the StarFox squadron still blazed a pretty mean path to Venom. Similarly, the guys in Wing Commander did eventually win the war against Kilrah (three games later). Both squads did prevail over like 10,000 enemies...even if you personally shot down 9,000.

Trivial Side Missions
These have been on my mind more than usual because of the Dragon Age-Mass Effect 2 duo. For the record, I fucking love these games and would kill a man if that's what Bioware demanded as a condition for employment. But in typical fashion, they're loaded with trivial errands. Where does this peasant get off asking me to help him make nice with his estranged sister? In case you're accustomed to seeing heavily-armed parties of epic heroes running around your place of residence, let me just put you on notice that I am a Gray Warden and a busy fellow. There's a bit of a Blight on if you hadn't read the papers, and...well, not to be blunt, but would you mind terribly FUCKING OFF?

Medieval peasants couldn't read or write. They didn't bathe. They weren't allowed to look their betters in the eye, let alone ask them to run off and find an axle for a broken manure wagon. Yes, Mr. Krogan Mechanic in Mass Effect, I would like to go out of my way in a combat zone to find a component for your truck! Asshole. The guy even admits he could build a new part himself, but that would take a long time. Oh, well, I guess I'd better get cracking and save you, the mechanic, the time of building a mechanical part for this mechanical machine. If this were something in your wheelhouse, something that maybe IS YOUR JOB THAT YOU GET PAID TO DO, then I'd insist you take this burden on yourself. But things being as they are, I'll go out and fetch that for you.

But of course, I'm full of shit. I do all these side quests. I do them religiously the second they become available. Why? Because they give me Experience Points. Maybe you don't understand how important Experience Points are, but trust me when I say I need them. If there was a quest to suck a dick for XP, I'd kill 20 men to be the first to suck that dick. Of course, killing 20 men would also yield XP. Like I said, I love these games.

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