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by G. Christopher Williams

11 Jan 2012

Jean-Francois Fourtou Untitled (série Marrakech), 2007.

My daughter was recently asked by her teacher to interview my grandfather for her seventh grade class.  The teacher was interested in getting some insight into the rapidly disappearing GI Generation, those that served during World War II.  One of the questions that my daughter asked my grandfather was what he liked most about living through the 1940s and 1950s.  His response: “I liked that the population was smaller.” 

I was really taken by this response, as I grew up at the very edge of the metropolitan Denver area in the 1980s and returning there now, I am always struck by how crazily busy my little suburb has grown.  It really isn’t “at the very edge” now—at all.  The US population has grown to its current size of over 310 million people, but it was only about half that size in the decades that my grandfather was in his 20s and 30s.  I imagine that, to him, the whole US looks a heck of a lot more crazily busy than my little suburb now looks to me.

by G. Christopher Williams

4 Jan 2012

This discussion of Batman: Arkham City contains spoilers.

Rocksteady’s Batman franchise features a very competent Batman by allowing the player systems of play that make playing well very easy.  That ease at which the player can slip into Batman’s skin makes some sense, though, since playing a caped crusader that fumbles about at his job would violate the iconic, nearly inhuman qualities of a character whose stock and trade is supreme competence.

That being said, Batman is not quite the same icon as Superman, nor is either one like their Marvel counterparts.  Emotional vulnerability and self doubt plague the very humanly drawn characters of the Marvel universe.  DC characters most often seem more like gods than men, as they deal not with personal issues but problems of global concern: crime, terror, fear.  A vulnerability in Batman that is not emotional or professional, however, is still present in Rocksteady’s version of this DC character (who most often feels less like a human being than an archetypal force of vengeance).  Batman is still human, and unlike Superman, he can bleed.

by G. Christopher Williams

14 Dec 2011

The standard hullabaloo has, of course, arrived following the release of the trailer for Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V.  One bit of disappointment that some fans expressed in seeing the video for the first time was the implication that the game will feature a standard male lead in this upcoming GTA.  Just before the trailer was released, rumors swirled around the internet that this iteration of GTA might feature a female protagonist, something that no GTA up to now (and really no other open world crime game, barring Saints Row—sort of—but more on that in a moment) had done. 

Actually the rumors have not abated in some circles that a playable female character may still exist in the forthcoming game, as a number of folks have suggested that the absence of the male protagonist in some scenes in the trailer might suggest that this GTA might also feature the story of multiple protagonists.  Some of these folks are still holding out hope that one of these speculative protagonists might be a woman.

Now, this is a notion that I myself have floated before—that it might be interesting for a GTA game to feature a female protagonist.  However, I am also a little skeptical that a reasonably well defined female protagonist might be written for an open world crime game.  Indeed, the one effort that I can think of to do so, in the Saints Row series, is to me a clear failure of imagination and might speak a bit to the problem of creating a female anti-hero within this particular genre construct.

by G. Christopher Williams

30 Nov 2011

Last year it was 2s.  This year it’s 3s.

Battlefield 3, Gears of War 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Saints Row: The Third, Uncharted 3 . . . And then, of course, there’s just a lot of other franchise entries, like Batman: Arkham City or, say, Need for Speed: The Run.

by G. Christopher Williams

23 Nov 2011

A feature abandoned in Grand Theft Auto IV, sex appeal was a quality that was represented by a meter in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.  The meter measured the sex appeal of the protagonist of that game, CJ Johnson, which was a quality that the player could alter through the manipulation of various stereotypical representations of his avatar.

The better dressed that CJ was, the higher his sex appeal meter.  Likewise, a sex appeal bonus boosted the stat temporarily when CJ exited cars.  Exiting a pick up truck would fail to impress the opposite sex much.  However, pick up a date in a sports car, and you could expect a favorable response to the character.

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