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SimonSiThornton Blog

Is The Last of Us Sexist? (A Response to Carolyn Petit)

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After reading "The Last of Us and Grading on the Gender Curve" by Carolyn Petit, I felt the need to justify why I disagree with most of what is she says. The topic of whether The Last of Us is sexist or not is one I have seen raised only once (here) despite knowing a couple of women who have played this game. Firstly, judging by the section I've quoted below, I think that your view of the entire plot is skewed in the wrong direction. Joel is absolutely NOT a hero. That is the point in the game. In the Winter chapter there is an entire section where, playing as Ellie, you survive. She does not get saved by Joel; she kills David and survives by her self. She doesn't need Joel to survive and that is seen throughout the game. It's used so that the ending is even more powerful, Joel isn't the hero; he is a pragmatist and dooms the world for his own survival.

Reference: "But let's not kid ourselves about the nature of this relationship. Joel is the hero on a quest; like Frodo carrying the One Ring to Mount Doom, Joel must deliver Ellie to the Fireflies. Like the Ring to Frodo, Ellie sometimes gets Joel out of a jam. She also sometimes gets him into jams, and regularly slows him down--something you're reminded of each time you have to help her cross water."

Secondly, the end of the game avoids the obvious plot arc. Ellie does not die. And it's more powerful because of this. In other words... two plot-important women die in the whole game and they're right at the start. One is your daughter, so it isn't just because she is a girl that it affects Joel; it's because she's his child. The next, Tess, is probably the strongest character in the game. Why doesn't the game follow her? Because it would be terrible! The whole attraction to The Last of Us is that it allows us to play as a character who is broken and wrong and selfish. Tess wasn't that. In many ways Tess was more similar to the conventional game character than Joel. Just because she has breasts doesn't automatically make her a more ground breaking or less sexist character to play as.

I disagree with practically every point Carolyn Petit made in her article and I think I've given enough fair reasoning as to why. Gaming is an incredibly sexist hobby, and it sucks (as a gamer) to be thrown in with that stereotype - just look at the comments on the article about XBOX's new boss. There's plenty of valid points to make about sexism in gaming, but I don't think The Last of Us is one of them.

H-Hour: World's Elite + Kickstarter

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I've never been a fan of Kickstarter. Even when Double Fine was promising a new adventure game last year, I stood my ground -- keeping my wallet sheathed.

In spite of wanting to play a new Double Fine adventure game, I decided I would pay for it upon releaseif it ever got made. Because that is the model which I have come to expect from transactions, not just in gaming but in business the world over. You hand over money and, in return, get some kind of product or service -- something tangible, something that actually exists; not a promise that if the stars align you might get what you wanted.

With that said, today I backed a Kickstarter project for the first time. H-Hour: World's Elite is a project that promises to create the game I have been waiting for ever since the unfortunate demise of the SOCOM series. David Sears (the creative director of SOCOM 1, 2 and Rainbow 6 Vegas) is trying to create the spiritual successor to the original SOCOM games. Being a massive fan of those titles, it has been disappointing to not have a good tactical shooter on the PS3. At the moment, the closest would probably be SOCOM: Confrontation, which is full of cheaters, and The Last of Us. Two suitable competitive games in seven years just doesn't provide enough options to gamers like me, who wish to play a hardcore tactical shooter with no respawns.

It only seemed fair to help out SOF Studios when they seem to be trying to provide the experience I desire.

But a line has to drawn somewhere. Whilst I have given money towards a project with no real guarantee that the game will ever be released, I did so in the knowledge that there really was noother way for the game to be made. Too often have well known developers used Kickstarter merely to fund a project in a way that cuts out the publisher; not because they wouldn't be able to get funded, but because it is pragmatic. I won't contribute to that ideology.

Video I Produced on Internship

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Give it a watch. Cheers, folks! Or link (if it isn't working below): http://uk.gamespot.com/journey/videos/36-things-well-never-forget-about-the-playstation-3-6410979/ [video=6410979]

GameSpot UK Internship

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The anticipation began to build as I traversed the London Underground on my way to Gamespot. What was the office behind my favourite gaming website going to be like? When I finally escaped the veal fattening chamber that is the London Underground at rush hour, I was but a short walk away from finding out. Stepping over the threshold of CBS Interactive where a muggy London meets the "magic" and "science" of Gamespot, I was met by an ensemble of familiar, albeit jetlagged, faces. In retrospect, the day that much of the London Gamespot staff resumed work after a week of E3 madness was perhaps not the most sensible time for me to saunter in off the street. However, it did allow for a more relaxed day than it may otherwise have been and, on a busier day, I may not have had the time to write this very blog. Allow me to rewind a bit though, for those readers who do not already know me (probably everyone). The name's Simon Thornton and for the next two weeks I will be working on an internship with Gamespot. As a journalism student from Scotland, its extremely exciting to be combining a passion for games with my sector of choice. Coupling this with the chance to stay in London and meet like minded individuals from across the country makes for a fantastic opportunity. Being in the position where your computer is surrounded by gaming paraphernalia and unreleased games (Wonderbook: Diggs Nightcrawler!) is like a dream come true. Any desk with a view of an Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device is probably a good place to be and its comforting to know that in event of a GlaDos-like hardware malfunction, there is a solution nearby -- something that is noticeably absent in my university. After the warmest of welcomes Im sure that this wont be the last time you hear from me during my time at Gamespot and if you have any questions for me then I'll be in the comments. Twitter: @SimonSiThornton

The Death of Tactical Shooters

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In a time when the video game market is haemorrhaging Call of Duty multiplayer clones, tactical shooters like SOCOM are being left to die. Despite the success of the SOCOM series and the Counter-Strike series, a gaping hole still exists in the gaming market for tactical, slow shooters where respawns are disabled and death is a fate to be feared.

Being a huge fan of the SOCOM: Confrontation, I had often resented Slant Six for letting the servers become a breeding ground for cheaters. Cheats range from the harmless multi-coloured clothing to the ridiculous God mode and invisibility. Hell, Ive even seen a smoke grenade wipe a whole team out and a guy running around with an emplaced turret gun. But I still play Confrontation. Even with the community leaving and being replaced with cheaters or flamers, I still play. Because in Europe, SOCOM: Confrontation is my only option when it comes to tactical shooters. Counter-Strike did not release on our PlayStation Store and I am not aware of any other game that could replace Confrontation (dont even mention SOCOM 4).

At first I was thankful to Sony for keeping the Confrontation servers online in spite of hackers and glitchers but I discovered something a couple of days ago which has made me resent their decisions regarding Confrontation. Let me start by reminding you that SOCOM: Confrontation is still being sold on the PlayStation Store for a whopping £24.99 along with the add-on pack, Cold Front, for £7.99. During the last week alone I have seen people on Confrontation who have only played one or two games, so it isnt a wild assumption to say that people are still buying this game. Maybe only one or two, but thats still people who are dishing out money to play a fun, tactical shooter in fact, Sony describes it as a game where it will soon become apparent that brains are every bit as important as brawn; teamwork and strategy are key if your squad is going to improve its ranking and progress in the global tournaments. Information that is, of course, extremely out of date because, in reality, all that is needed for success is cheats and no amount of tactics can help you beat an invincible, invisible hacker who is throwing grenades that blow up like nuclear bombs.

Why then do I resent Sony for selling this game? Well I found out recently that the lack of patching is actually down to them. I had always assumed that it was Slant Sixs fault. That they had simply given up on SOCOM. But that is far from the truth. I contacted them through Facebook and got the following response:

__________

SlantSixFacebook __________

The way I see it, Sony should either fix their online games so that no one can cheat or they should stop selling it on their store and take down the servers. And oh yeah, release bloody Counter-Strike already!

The Greatest Apocalyptic Wasteland Ever? Minecraft.

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Minecraft-logo.png

Its a big statement to say that Minecraft is the greatest apocalyptic wasteland video game of all time, not least of all because most people wouldnt even place it in that genre. Since Fallout 3 the video game industry has been engaged in a seemingly endless war to create the most successful apocalyptic wasteland game of all time. So its funny that a creation game is up there with the best of the wasteland genre. As a feature in modern gaming, post-apocalypse exploration is right up there with zombies, wooden crates and red barrels for the 'most overused attribute in gaming'. This is probably due to attraction of a wasteland. The sense of exploration you get from navigating a dangerous land of ruin is unparalleled and although most games add a unique spin to their wasteland, they largely contain the same elements: ruins built by a civilisation now dead; the danger of evil creatures lurking in the dark; and, above all, a will to survive against all odds. Before I start relating this to Minecraft let me first list off some of the recent post-apocalyptic games: Darksiders, Tokyo Jungle, Metro 2033 (and Last Light), Wasteland (the 1988 game that started it all), The Walking Dead (along with Every-Zombie-Game-Ever), S.T.A.L.K.E.R, Fallout, Rage, Bioshock, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, I Am Alive. The list goes on and on, but I'm very aware of the fact that lists aren't fun to read and you've probably already skipped to the end of it.

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To allow me to explain why, in my eyes, Minecraft beats all these titles (and wins the coveted Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland Champion award) I must first explain why it even falls in to the genre. It happened one evening a few months ago when, bored of my own Minecraft world, I ventured onto some random servers. If you've ever played Minecraft with strangers then you will understand why I soon got fed up of being in servers full of people (they kept killing me and I rage quit), so I found myself I nice quiet server that was, well... empty. Except for me of course. As I walked through the spawn area I could see that the surrounding town was like countless other Spawn-Towns in Minecraft, built to perfection before being locked so that it could not be ruined. Naturally, I made my way to the wilderness where I could get down to the usual Minecraft business of making my first shelter. But something stopped me in my tracks. Or rather, kept me making much longer tracks.

I couldn't stop and build my home anywhere; there were just too many creations already here. I found myself exploring each hut, village and tree house that I passed. An experience that was some of the most fun I had ever had on Minecraft. Sometimes I would find signs explaining what the creation was, or giving the name of their creation. Sometimes these signs would give the name of the person who made the structure. However, most of the buildings went un-logged and, as I soon realised, forgotten. Blocks were missing from their rightful places and many homes had the tell-tale signs of a creeper explosion, one creeper-crater had resulted in the whole home/castle being flooded by its own moat. As darkness began to fall outside, I began to feel like a classic adventurer like Marco Polo or Francis Drake, except instead of finding civilisations and new worlds I was studying the ruins of somebody's creativity. Sure, the people who built the structures are (probably) not dead, but they are also never going to be returning to their homes in that server. Just like most Minecraft players - I know I have left my fair share of huts for somebody else to find.

What I realised since playing, and what drove me to write this post, is that the reason I adore the wastelands of empty servers far more than those of 'real' post-apocalyptic games is because the things that I have found and explored were created by real people. Not people working in a developers studio thinking about how to make the sandbox the most realistic; but REAL people who have since become extinct to the world they once built on. In that way, Minecraft is the closest you can get to a real wasteland in video games, it makes it that must better to look through a ruin when you know that sometime ago (maybe a week, maybe a year?) someone stood in the same place you did and made something.

Empty Minecraft servers aren't just a playground; they are a graveyard for imagination.