Monthly Archives: August 2012

How Video Games Taught Me Loyalty

I’ve been playing video games for most of my life, so it makes sense that I’ve learned a lot from them over the years. They are more than just a way to have fun, though I suppose that is the initial draw to them. They’ve expanded my vocabulary, taught me about ethics and morals, and exposed me to the depths of human nature. One thing that stands out to me in regards to all this is the aspect of loyalty. Through several different games, I have noticed a common theme: victory is impossible alone. It takes loyal companions fighting alongside you to ultimately reach the final goal: beating the game.

One of the first games I remember playing is Final Fantasy VII. Sure, in any Final Fantasy game, it’s impossible to not play in a party simply because you’d be decimated in seconds. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make. Who do you choose? I find myself even today picking the exact same people with every play-through. Somehow I feel loyal to them. Somehow I was taught to be loyal to these pixilated characters. End game, I remember always having Cid and Vincent with Cloud. I picked them because I liked them, not for any battle or strategy related reason. When I play it now, I have to have them in my party. If I try to throw Barrett or Red XIII in there and build them up, I lose interest and can’t play anymore. After playing with those characters over and over again, I can’t imagine playing with anyone else.

One of the reasons why I just can’t get rid of Cid…

Another game I’ve played extensively is Baldur’s Gate II, probably my favorite game of all time. This is a game that has way more character choice. Some of the characters that are available to you are completely optional; you never even have to meet them if you don’t want to, (this is especially true with the first one). So here’s a game that gives you complete control over who is in your party, and yet I still always pick the same people. I can’t play a game without Minsc in my party for the duration, and I can’t play a game without dumping Jaheria the first chance I get. But even with the same people over and over again, it’s never boring.

If I didn’t need your help getting out of this stupid dungeon, I would have such happy dreams about you rotting in that cage!!! …I really don’t like her…

I think part of it has to do with the Tree of Life segment, right before the final boss. Before you descend into the depths to what could be your death, you take the time to ask each party member if they’re really up to it, if they’re really loyal to you. And they all reaffirm that they are. There’s nothing quite like the feeling when someone infallibly tells you that they trust you and would never let you do this without them. Gaining that kind of loyalty is priceless, and it’s something that stays with you. Perhaps that’s why I always keep the same party. I want to experience that feeling again and again.

Brings a tear to my eye.

Developers have started to recognize this phenomenon as well. An early version of this, if rough around the edges, is seen in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. In this game, the influence system was implemented, (it was also in the first one, but this game gave it a name). The more influence you gained with a companion, the more their alignment shifted toward your own, and the more they revealed about themselves. Simply, the more influence you had with them, the more loyal they were to you. Influence was mostly gained by dialogue choices, (some of your actions did as well). Certain responses had the ability to either gain you influence, or it could drastically lower it. You really had to get to know each companion to figure out what response they would lean towards. What was so powerful about this system was the fact that your companions would literally change themselves because of you. They became so loyal that they would change their alignment and class to match yours. For example, (if you’re light-side), Atton would become a Jedi Sentinel if you gained enough influence with him. On the other hand, if you had no or negative influence, he would go the opposite route and become a Dark Jedi Sentinel. The fact that your character would have any effect at all on your companions is amazing, and truly expresses the power loyalty has.

Kreia was definitely the hardest to gain influence with…she sucks.

More recently, Mass Effect 2 implemented the now-famous loyalty system. In this game, loyalty was gained by undergoing a mission for each companion. Once that was completed, they were loyal for the rest of the game. The rewards were the unlocking of a fourth ability, as well as an alternative outfit for further customization. This is all well and good, but there are real consequences for not gaining loyalty. On the end suicide mission, any companion that is not loyal will die, and die for good. They’ll be gone if you choose to play after the end, and they’ll be gone if you load your save for ME3. ME2 really stressed how important loyalty is. No other game has had such dire consequences for not gaining the loyalty of those with you.

Don’t want coffins at the end? Then do the loyalty missions damnit!

After being reminded over and over how important loyalty is from all these different games, it isn’t hard to see why it’s something that I’ve carried with me in my own life. For this reason, I am so proud that I had video games during my childhood, and that I still do now. Ironically, playing a game by myself has made me a better friend to those around me than some others I know who are exclusively around people all the time. I have become an extremely loyal person to the people I care about, and I have video games to thank for that.

Things I Learned In College: Photography and Being A Smart Ass

My last semester of college, I took and upper level Shakespeare lit/film class. One of the projects was to take the prologue of Romeo and Juliet, and take photographs of another feud (and then write a paper about it, what else is new). Being the sugar addict that I am (with thanks to my boyfriend for reminding me of this daily), I choose Pepsi and Coke for my subjects. And I wanted to see if I could get away with doing a Shakespeare project about soda (totally got an A).

So the following is my photography project, followed by long-winded and pretentious photography explanations for each shot that were in my actual paper (which somehow passed for college-acceptable).

Adorable I know.

I just noticed the Pepsi is a little closer than the Coke. There goes that idea.

Since they are “both alike in dignity,” the two subjects are given the same amount of emphasis.  Neither is before the other, nor does either of them take up the majority of the frame.  Also, a low angle shot is used to signify they both are in a place of power, at least in their minds.  They are meant to look imposing to stress the power they hold over this long-time feud.

This picture has absolutely nothing to do with anything. It was actually taken for a photo project in a different class, but my partner wouldn’t let us use it. And I honestly had nothing better. But damn is it pretty.

Line two describes the location, “fair Verona,” and this photo is meant to convey just that, a feeling of beauty.  The close-up of the flowers, an iconic image of beauty, emphasizes that idea, and is in complete contrast to the outcome the Prologue describes.

I felt like a bad ass film editor when I used the sepia filter, damn.

The important moment of line three of the Prologue is the word “ancient;” This feud has been going on for a number of years.  A sepia tone is used to date the photograph, giving it an ancient feel.  The subjects of the image describe the rest of the line, “break to new mutiny,” or outbursts of violence, which is exactly what has happened.

Never have Coke bottles seemed so scary.

Not only is this feud ancient, but it is still taking place today.  Also, a group of Coke bottles are used, rather than one as in the previous shot.  This is because the line speaks of multiple “hands” being unclean, or multiple people being guilty of this violence.  The low angle of the shot is used here so the Coke bottles tower over the mangled Pepsi, which is seen straight on.  It is the point-of-view of the victim, and his aggressors hold all the power.

This is the worst picture ever. Thank God there’s some silly made-up concept like “lead room” to save the day. And yeah, I referred to a cardboard Coke box as a mother. I’ve hit rock bottom with this one.

Photograph five conveys lines five and six of the Prologue, which describe the birth of the “pair of star-crossed lovers,” the two who will defy the feud.  Though capturing an image of a Coke bottle being born proved to be challenging, it was made possible with the help of lead room.  The smaller coke bottle, tucked inside its “mother,” is pointing to the right, with a considerable amount of space, or lead room, to the right of it.  This is to convey the idea that this “child” has somewhere to go; she has all the potential in the world at this point, and only time will tell how she will use it.

Clever, isn’t it? He was poisoned (like in the story), and she was stabbed (like in the story). Though I don’t suppose the knife was meant to be so large…

This shot explicitly shows the death of our star-crossed lovers, clearly expressing line eight’s “doth with their death.”  A close-up is used here to show the closeness of the two, and how the life has literally all but drained out of them.

Do you now how hard it is to create “diffused three-point lightning” with only desk lamps and Christmas lights? Be glad you don’t.

In this shot, it is the lighting that conveys the idea of their love.  Diffused three-point lighting was used to suggest the soft and gentle nature of the situation.  A close-up is used here as well, and like the previous image, it communicates the closeness of this private moment.

Seriously. All I did was fill them with water and food coloring, and then I tilted my wrist, and BAM! It’s art.

Photograph eight was driven by the last word in line 10, “rage.”  The two bottles have been filled with red to show that they are literally filled with rage.  Unlike photograph one, they are not equal in the frame, and are even a bit askew.  This is to express the effects of anger and how it can alter perception and reality.

Not only were the drained of their rage, but also of their deliciousness.

Photograph nine is the long shot of photograph six.  Lines eleven and twelve convey the idea that the death of their children is the only way for the parents’ rage to end.  Here, looking on at their dead offspring, they have been completely drained, not only of their rage, but of everything.

So. Much. SODA! I was awake for days.

Photograph ten in a sense breaks the fourth wall and shows the audience of this tragedy.  Line thirteen of the Prologue does this with the use of the word “you.”  This audience is made of up of both Coke and Pepsi to really drive home the idea of the futile nature of this feud.  A slight low angle is used to show who truly has the power.

So there it is. This work is part of what got me a degree, part of what my tuition money was spent on. But I’m not complaining.  It was fun, I learned a little something, and I was on a sugar high for literally days. All in all, not a bad class.