#1 Posted by ukinnam -
You can find the link to the article in Johnston's tweet, or you can read it directly at the following address:
#2 Posted by CassyChan -
#3 Posted by ukinnam -
One thing I didn't bring up in the aforementioned piece—as I wasn't sure if it was a narrative aspect introduced by Johnston or if it was something that Tsuyoshi Furuta already wrote in the game's original story treatment—is that there's a strong underlying Buddhist theme in Binary Domain. When "Amada" talks about how pain and suffering are an integral component of life and evolution, he's espousing the first of Buddhism's Four Noble Truths, what is referred to in the liturgical language as "dukkha". Also, Dan Marshall's character development symbolizes to some extent the Chán Buddhist interpretation of "The Middle Way", which is an outlook that encourages open-mindedness and the abandonment of one-sided perspectives.
The game's writing is quite nuanced and involved, despite the somewhat caricature-ish depictions of certain characters (I recall reading in an interview that Johnston resisted the use of certain stereotypes, but had to relent to a degree to the studio's wishes). Most shooters' stories don't really go beyond "bad guy needs to get his ass kicked by the good guys"—which is perfectly fine, mind you, and on the surface, Binary Domain also follows that general outline—so it just makes it all the more impressive when you get a shooter whose story works on multiple levels and draws on diverse influences and philosophies.
#4 Posted by CassyChan -
From quite early on when we find out Dan has a prejudice against robots it seemed pretty obvious how his character development would go, but overall I really enjoyed how it played out anyway. Like you said in the article themes of what we define as life using robots with artificial intelligence as the subject matter isn't anything new but BD pulled it off in a really entertaining way and the twists one would expect from the Ryu ga Gotoku studio were great. Beyond just the writing and in terms of general game design I loved the cyberpunk feel and how it felt like it took some notes from Bade Runner, Terminator, Ghost in the Shell etc.
As for stereotyping characters, I'm glad they did it to the level they did and not any further. Dan was a great protagonist representing the US as a likable if somewhat jock-like (on the surface) 'shooter-dude-bro' and he and Bo worked well together producing some good laughs throughout, stereotyping Bo's character anymore would've been a bad thing imo. I guess it's a little harsh that the British lady had to be... not particularly attractive (lol), not that I'm saying they were using that as an insulting strereotype of British women or anything, but it's cool that they didn't feel the need to make every female gorgeous like pretty much all games tend to with main playable or party characters.
#5 Posted by ukinnam -
You know it's a great story when you can still discuss it long after you've beaten it and find new things to appreciate about how it's put together...
Speaking of cover shooters with good writing, I only recently started playing Spec Ops: The Line, and it deals with some pretty heavy stuff thematically. It's based on Joseph Conrad's classic 1902 novella Heart of Darkness. I've been burnt out on military shooters since about 2010—they all blend into each other after a while and most of the campaigns are fairly forgettable—but this one has kept me invested in the story so far. It has some sort of morality system in play, but it isn't as contrived as the one in the Infamous games (where it's always about making a choice between two ethical extremes), although since it is based on a well-known story, I'm fairly certain that different player decisions ultimately won't lead to multiple ending types like in Binary Domain or Infamous.
Anyway, going back to Binary Domain... the stereotypes didn't really stand out to me when I first played the game, but that's probably because I've been playing Japanese video games so long that I've grown desensitized to their particular video game character tropes. It was only when it was pointed out in a review I read (and I think by Johnston himself) that Dan Marshall and Roy Boateng were typical insensitive and loud American caricatures and Charles Gregory was a sneering and sardonic elitist Brit that I noticed it (which doesn't make sense if Marshall and Boateng are former Special Forces and Gregory is an ex-MI6 operative... those guys train for years on how to fit in with other organizations and cultures). I think Johnston did as well as he could with the characters given the limitations he was working under however (he inherited the characters from Tsuyoshi Furuta and could only change them so much), and Dan Marshall is the rare shooter protagonist who actually develops and grows as a character over the course of the game. In most other shooters, the protagonist is generally in the same place morally at the end of the campaign as he is in the beginning. Now that I think about it, Max Payne 3 did a similar thing with its eponymous hero, but I think the characterization in that game was overshadowed by a clunky plot.
#6 Posted by CassyChan -
The extent of stereotyping in BD wasn't bad in the end, at least they didn't have Bo finishing every sentence with "dogg", "homie" and "a'ight" or Charlie using Cockney rhyming slang so I was cool with it, the characters were both likable and memorable anyway, it's just something that often tends to come up with Western characters in Japanese games. In all fairness Western games tend to do it too sometimes with the stereotyping, but I like it when it's done with made-up races in fantasy/sci-fi games and there's no real room for offense, kinda like the Mass Effect series where almost every single alien is a completely obvious stereotype of its species, what I like about it is I find the odd-bit of space-racism ends up working well as comic relief, even if it's not intended to, lol.
#7 Posted by CassyChan -
...kinda like the Mass Effect series where almost every single alien is a completely obvious stereotype of its species
And by stereotypes I meant both like how all Krogans have their own stereotype (they're all war-hungry, dumb brutes that are good at fighting) and also how a lot of the ME alien races adhere to typical sci-fi archetypes, like Krogans the proud warrior race (for the reasons just mentioned) just like the Klingons from Star Trek, or the Luxans from Farscape, or any of the many others.
#8 Posted by ukinnam -
Hopefully I'll have time to get round to it soon, I've still got the latest Yakuza to play through though and those games have a tendency to take up 150 or so hours.
Oh man, Yakuza was a real time-sink for me... I played it exclusively for something like eight or nine months straight. So addictive and I could waste so much time with all the side missions and mini-games. I actually have the sequel as well as Yakuza 3 and 4, but I'm hesitant to start playing through the rest of the series because knowing my tendencies, I'll end up being a video game hermit for a while.
#9 Posted by CassyChan -
#10 Posted by ukinnam -