Dragon Age II is about prejudice, against refugees, foreigners, and those among us who are simply different. The citizens of Kirkwall hate the refugees from the Blight, they hate and fear the stranded Qunari, and like everyone else in the world of Dragon Age, they fear mages. Oh, and mages fear the Templars. The conflicts are well presented; neither side is very sympathetic as the victims often lash out with violence at their oppressors, justifying further oppression. Dragon Age II seeks to explore this vicious cycle of hate, and for the most part, it succeeds. Prejudice against mages isn’t just a major theme, it’s an important plot point with ramifications that will change the world of Ferelden. However, this delicate balance falls apart whenever the player is put in the role of victim because the player is never truly victimized or oppressed.
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I like to think of myself as the strong, silent type in online multiplayer situations. When I’m not playing with people that I know, I generally keep to myself. I often don’t even bother wearing a headset. However, there are times when silence isn’t a choice: non-verbal communication is often enforced by practical, technical, or design choices. There’s no denying the convenience of being able to speak directly to one’s fellow players. Even so, some of my most memorable experiences in multiplayer communication have involved very few words.
Voice chat is a well established feature in video games, but it is by no means ubiquitous within the online population. Unlike Microsoft, neither Sony nor Nintendo has been proactive about giving their online communities voices. Similarly, while it is reasonable to assume that PC players would have microphones, compatibility issues and a myriad of VoIP clients don’t guarantee the kind of standardization that comes with the Xbox Live’s system and bundled microphone. Multiplayer game developers must face the fact that a portion of their audience will not be able to speak to one another.
Chapter 1 of Rage Quit is available here.
Chapter 2 of Rage Quit is available here.
Chapter 3 of Rage Quit is available here.
Chapter 4 of Rage Quit is available here.
Chapter 5 of Rage Quit is available here.
Chapter 6 of Rage Quit is available here.
Chapter 7 of Rage Quit is available here.
Chapter 8 of Rage Quit is available here.
Chapter 9 of Rage Quit is available in .pdf format here.
The reboot happened seven minutes ahead of schedule. Randal hoped Lea had gotten his warning. He had no idea if she was even monitoring that e-mail address anymore or, for that matter, how she was monitoring it in the first place. But with PB looking over his virtual shoulder, he couldn’t use his IM client to chat with her. He hadn’t thought twice about warning her, although now, as he thought back on it, he wasn’t exactly sure why. PB’s plan seemed perfectly reasonable. Lea was some weird result of mashed together code, and therefore theoretically repeatable. But if there was any chance he’d never see her again, that was a chance Randal decided wasn’t worth taking. Besides, all he’d done was warn her. If she was able to figure out her own means of escaping PB’s trap, then Randal thought she deserved to keep living. Survival of the fittest or whatever.
Asked to test a feature in the alpha stages of a game, the player takes on the role of a blue square that can move and jump in Jonas Kyratzes’s Alphaland, and I’m going to stop right there. To discuss the game any further is to spoil essentially the whole plot. However, it isn’t the plot that I am really all that concerned with spoiling but with the experience of that plot. So, I’m just going to stop right here and suggest that if you have not played Alphaland that you do so before reading any further. You can find the game at New Grounds, and it will probably only take 10-15 minutes to play.
Note: this article contains spoilers.
If you were to step onto an average gaming forum’s discussion thread of Portal 2, you would in very short order encounter some debate about Chell’s parentage. We can hardly evade this theme with the prominence it takes on in the second game (although GLaDOS takes a potshot or two in the original Portal as well), not simply in the main dialogue but through the themes of lineage—in its many forms—taken on in the overarching story.