Doing it Right: WH40K Space Marine and Strong Female Characters (yes, really)

February 5th, 2012

**Spoiler Alert** The following posts contains spoilers for the first two chapters of Warhammer 40K: Space Marine.

Patch says:

The Games industry so often makes a fail when it comes to depicting women, it’s a pleasure to stumble across someone Doing it Right, even in a small way. And this instance occurs in the most unlikely of places: a game set in the Warhammer 40K universe, centered on the story of three hyper-masculine Ultramarines.

The game is mainly about blood and gristle and the slaughter of hordes of Ork people. But there’s a point in the second chapter where we pause for a moment, to meet an Imperial Guard Lieutenant who appears to be responsible for the fact that a small contingent of Imperial Guard has survived, and is still holding ground and fighting.

And surprise: the Lieutenant is a woman. And she’s wearing practical, masculine armor. The texture artists gave her makeup, but it’s understated makeup — it’s more the sort of makeup an actor would wear to highlight their features on stage, than the sort of makeup someone would wear to go out on a date. One of the space marines is suprised that she’s a woman — “you’re in charge?”, he says. The main character ignores this statement, and proceeds to address her straightforwardly, keeping the conversation focused on the situation at hand. It was a nice acknowledgement that, yes, there is sexism in this game’s culture, but the story and the main character were going to deal with this person more in terms of her military competence than her gender.

And while she is a minor character, she has agency. The Space Marines are surprised to find survivors; it’s a plot twist that she is directly responsible for. The collectibles in the game are little audio story vignettes, and the collectibles for Chapter Two take some time to flesh out her story, as she deals with the death of her superior officer, and the sudden weight of command.

It’s a nice touch. It’s not perfect. She’s depicted as being conventionally attractive, which wasn’t necessary. And it’s not as cool as a fully fleshed out, interesting female main character would have been. But someone made the effort to make that character interesting, and I’d like to tip my hat to that person. Games industry: more of this, please.

ADHD (Movie Version)

July 4th, 2011

Patch says:

I think that I’ve lost the ability to be moved by hype on current Hollywood timescales. Specific example:

  1. Trailer for Cowboys and Aliens came out x months ago. I said “ooh, that’s stupidly clever; should be fun.”
  2. Saw the trailer a couple more times on Hulu. Was still entertaining.
  3. Occasionally came across references online in subsequent months. Thought that I’d probably see it when it came out.
  4. Now we’re in the billboards on bus stops stage … and the whole thing kind of feels old hat. Cowboys and Aliens. Eh. I don’t really feel any urgency to see it in theaters. Might see it when it hits one of the streaming services …

I don’t think that the economic engines of Hollywood can run on something quieter and more organic like word of mouth, as far as blockbusters are concerned. But the hype engine is just too slow for my attention span nowadays. Wonder if I’m not the only one, and what will replace it …

The Non-Mystery of π

March 14th, 2011

Patch says:

Today is π day. Which is nice, because pies are tasty.

Minor rant, however, related the number itself, because a lot of people seem to spend a lot of time thinking about the infinite, non-repeating sequence of digits following the 3. They memorize as many of the digits as they can. Spin foofy psuedo-scientific theories around them. Make long movies about people who go crazy trying to unlock the secrets of π.

The silly thing is that π would be much more mysterious if it was a rational number. Even more so if it was an integer.

If the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle was, say, 3, something really odd would be going on. An integer speaks of exactness and perfection, of cold rigor not often found in nature. An integer would suggest some sort of divine plan or design. But π isn’t an integer. Or a rational number. It’s just a regular old irrational number. One random number out of an infinite number of possibilities.

Doesn’t mean that it’s not useful. Or cool to play with. (Even it is wrong.) But the exact numerical value of π has very little to do with anything.

End rant. Now to decide what sort of pie to have today.

Adding crazy

January 3rd, 2011

Red says:

Life has a way of being crazy.  Even so, sometimes we look around and say, “you know what, I think there isn’t enough crazy here, let’s do something about that,” and then decide to have a baby.

Our first baby is due in about three months, and never would I have guessed how extremely geeky or romantic such an undertaking could prove to be.

First of all, we’ve got all these chemicals going through our brains, making us care more about each other, be more tender toward each other, etc.  I suddenly understand why so many people who get married after knowing each other for a year or two, and then have a baby right away, end up getting divorced after the kids grow up.  First, they have the new relationship energy carrying them, and then they have this biological dependency going, and they don’t have a chance to figure out that they don’t even like each other until all that wears off.  I am so glad Patch and I waited, and let ourselves go through several stages of relationship before adding a kid to the mix, but I am also enjoying this new form of romance.

Second, ZOMG, do you know how much cool geek stuff there is for parents and kids?  My favorite quote from Patch, so far is, “I guess my kid’s too young to make blinky bugs with, since it’s not even born yet.”

Ever since our talks of kids went more from theoretical to reality based, Patch has been working on figuring out which laptop will get a Babybuntu partition.  Sadly, it appears no one has written an official Ubuntu for babies, and with Patch’s schedule, I don’t see him writing one before the kid’s a teenager; but we have been paying attention to other advice on how to involve kids in computer use from day one, though we understand that at at first, “a baby is really just a warm burrito.”

Not to mention how incredibly geeky-cool it is to get ultra-sound images of the developing fetus.  I mean, really!  They do it with sound waves!  Which is about as close as I may ever get to being scanned by a sonic screwdriver.  (Speaking of which: this year’s Dr. Who, Christmas Special, was a spun sugar delight of Moffat-y nonsense that  went down like frosted gingerbread, without the heartburn.  <3 )

What kinds of crazy, romantic geekiness do you have planned for this year?

The cool thing about formal legal language …

August 4th, 2010

… is that, in skilled hands, when the circumstances are appropriate, it can seriously soar (the last two sentences, especially):

For the reasons stated in the sections that follow, the evidence presented at trial fatally undermines the premises underlying proponents’ proffered rationales for Proposition 8. An initiative measure adopted by the voters deserves great respect. The considered views and opinions of even the most highly qualified scholars and experts seldom outweigh the determinations of the voters. When challenged, however, the voters’ determinations must find at least some support in evidence. This is especially so when those determinations enact into law classifications of persons. Conjecture, speculation and fears are not enough. Still less will the moral disapprobation of a group or class of citizens suffice, no matter how large the majority that shares that view. The evidence demonstrated beyond serious reckoning that Proposition 8 finds support only in such disapproval. As such, Proposition 8 is beyond the constitutional reach of the voters or their representatives.

Full text of the ruling.

This isn’t the end of the matter, but this is a Good Day for tolerance, respect, and for marriage.

Electricians and Mothers

July 19th, 2010

I spent my day dealing with both, and boy am I glad that the one will stay constant in my life while the other will not.

Thank you, to both my mothers for being such kind, caring people, who will go as many extra miles as you can see.  And thank you electricians for leaving me a second day without power, and acting as if I am putting you out.  Though in defense of the profession, the young man who came out from the electric company was kind and friendly and provided a little bright spot in the whole “the box that holds my power fuses melted” ordeal.

Wing and a prayer

June 30th, 2010

Red says:

It’s been a long time since Patch and I spent more than a few days apart and even longer since we’ve been separated for more than a week.  Now, I’ve been three thousand miles away for almost two weeks, and I miss him terribly.  Today, I take to the skies and by evening, we’ll be together again.  I don’t believe the old adage that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it sure makes you more aware of all the little things that are regularly shared and suddenly can’t be.

Poke her face

June 29th, 2010

Red says:
The spread of Gaga into popular culture continues, and I am bombarded with Poker Face videos from every direction: Read the rest of this entry »

It’s the little things …

May 19th, 2010

Patch says,

I continue to be busy with real life stuff, with little time for gaming.

But this is me, so “little time” doesn’t mean “no time”.  Highlights from this week include Toy Soldiers, which is a Tower Defense game that provides an answer to that itch to hop inside one of your towers and shoot at stuff (you can also fly planes and drive tanks), and Protect Me Knight, which is a sort of survival/tower defense hybrid/retro nintendo love letter.  (with local co-op!)

Both games pay a lot of attention to atmosphere.  The conceit of Toy Soldiers is that you’re playing with a vintage miniatures set come to life, and the devs execute with a great deal of charm, and plenty of grace notes, from the old war song that plays over the opening screens, to the “vintage” box covers that grace every loading screen.

Protect Me Knight is all about retro, and I think that I’m about to get tired of retro, but not so tired that the opening cutscene (hint: it involves blowing on a cartridge) didn’t pretty much instantly win me over.

The gameplay is good in both.  I’m such a picky gamer.  Don’t like games that have atmosphere and no substance.  Don’t like games that have substance, and no atmosphere.  Happily, there are game designers out there willing to put in the work and hours to please me; we live in a fine era for games indeed.

Chirp: Honesty on the Internet

May 18th, 2010

Red says:

I just read an interesting article by Eve Simon talking about how to use Twitter for branding.  While she was talking specifically about ways of thinking that apply to businesses using Twitter to leverage a customer/client/user base, if you apply what she says to your personal tweets, you hit upon some of the things I have been thinking about lately.

Historically, the way to approach the Internet was with extreme caution and lots of thought about how to protect your personal information, often even including your real name.  This kind of caution and paranoia comes easily to me, and makes a lot of sense.

About two years ago, one of my major aliases got compromised, and I felt violated.  It was not done maliciously, just thoughtlessly, and I realized that not everyone thought the way I did about security and safety.  With the recent, and not so recent, mess over Facebook’s lack of privacy (which Danah Boyd has expounded upon at length with a great deal of thought and intelligence), privacy on the Internet, what it means and what rights individuals have to it is the question du jour.

Bear with me, but my next step is theology.  I was raised Quaker, with the associated beliefs in integrity, equality, peace and simplicity — which doesn’t gel with paranoia or falsely representing myself.  Two years ago, I wouldn’t have said I was falsely representing myself by having an alias; after all, I am the same person under all the names I use, and I maintain integrity under all of them.  But with all the thought about privacy issues, I’ve had to consider my different personas.

Even when I write or meet people under my own name, I have different things which I feel are appropriate to disclose depending upon my audience.  I am different people at family gatherings than I am with friends, and different again with co-workers or students.  Those differences translate to virtual space, though with a different set of splits, and I am an egoist on Myspace, a series of obscure non-sequitors on Facebook, and an artist on Twitter.  I know who my cross-over readers are, and I draw parallels in the different virtual mediums tailored to them.  I am honest in all, but selective.

And that selective goes back to the first article about building a branded identity on Twitter.  Is there a way to brand as nothing more, less, or different from one’s self?  As it becomes increasingly difficult to hold identities separate from each other, is our world forcing a more complete honesty, a deeper level of integrity upon us?  Will we find other ways to separate the different parts of ourselves despite the gravitational spiral towards transparency that the ever amassing data base that is the Internet is building?  Do we have a right to do so, or a responsibility to work on becoming a unified whole?

Perhaps transhumanism will be as much about unity of the individual as it will be about any genetic and technical modifications we make.  Radical transparency may have as much influence on the evolution of humanity as fire once did.

I find that strangely comforting.