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Defining The -tagonist

The following post contains spoilers for Final Fantasy X and Mass Effect.

"Protagonist".

A word used by many a prolific amateur and even professional games reviewer usually in reference to the hierarchy of lead characters within a game's storyline. As usual with words that naturally make one sound more intelligent, quite often the word is used to describe the 'playable character' rather than its actual definition of 'lead character' i.e. the character that the entire story revolves around. This, in gaming terms, is sometimes entirely accurate. But often, the playable character of a game is not the 'protagonist' at all.

In theatrical terms, a lot of the time the definition of a protagonist is hotly debated, especially when so many characters are integrated into the storyline. This is no different in games.

For example, the protagonist of Final Fantasy X is, ironically, not Tidus. Despite the consistency of constantly having to stare at his back throughout the entire game, his 'story' is not the story the game fully revolves around. When you fully define the 'lead' character, the most accurate conclusion is Yuna. Without Yuna, there would be no pilgrimage, nobody for Tidus to meet and fall in love with, no reason for him to want to get rid of Sin and ultimately resolve his issues with his father. Tidus' 'story' is actually the main opposition to Yuna's journey considering that Tidus becomes the one thing she has to live for. Therefore, Tidus, again somewhat ironically, is actually the antagonist.

Annoying as she may be, FFX would not exist without her

'Antagonist' is also a word where the dictionary defintion falls short of its actual meaning. 'To antagonise' is a very loose definition that could apply to anything. Very often the antagonist is the villain, of course, but theatrically, it is a word used to describe any character that creates conflict, and can therefore apply to any secondary character.

When you think about games, and RPGs especially, most of the time the protagonist is very difficult to pin down. Sometimes it appears obvious, such as Mass Effect - how can any other character besides Commander Shepard be the lead when he/she is the one driving the storyline? But when you look closely, the plot consists of Sovereign's manipulation of Saren in order to revive the Reapers. Commander Shepard, as the universe's saviour, is therefore the conflict to that storyline, and can therefore be defined as the antagonist, with Saren, or indeed Sovereign, leading the plot.

And while there can be a plethora of antagonists, there can never be more than one protagonist in any story, which is why the title is so contested. It is also a conversation that can take on many forms, like what the plot of a game is in the first place, and can resolve into hundreds of ideas and theories surrounding it. With story and character becoming ever more prominent in today's gaming market it is very easy to judge a great storyline, but not fully understand it. Through this sort of debate it is possible to reach deeper levels than possibly the developers even intended, establishing not only an enjoyable game, but a new genre of 'playable theatre'.

So, encouraging debate time! In what other games do you define the protagonist and antagonists? What's your opinion on my views of the two games I mentioned? Do you value story above gameplay and if so, why?

obvious end picture is obvious

n.b: I've had to write a dissertation recently. Can you tell? :P

Nil Point...

Seeing as most of you lot are American, you have therefore never had to go through the experience unique to Europe known as the Eurovision Song Contest (unless you happen to be unlucky enough to have it streamed over there. Hey, it's your dollar!)

In most of Europe the Eurovision Song Contest is a rather important competition compared to other continent-wide song competitions. Every year amateur or otherwise bands, solo artists, lunatics,orcsand an astounding number of strippers enter in order to showcase a plethora of musical genres euro pop.

Considering you're not allowed to vote for your own country, being from the UK we seem to hold a certain disadvantage to the competition considering we have no neighbouring countries in which will vote for us. Recently we have cottoned onto the fact that Ireland's pretty close, but only recently. With the amount of pols living here you would have thought they'd have given us a bit of help along the way.

Our entry this year was actually written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and performed by the winner of a nationwide search who then went on to do a promotional tour over Europe.I think it's actually quite a decent little song. Belongs solely in a ALW musical, but hey, maybe this will bring in more tourists when he puts it into Phantom of the Opera 2 and single handedly pulls us out of the recession.

Yes. You heard me correctly. Phantom of the Opera 2.

If you would like to hear the UK's entry for Eurovision 2009, YouTube has it plus all the othersvia a single CLICK. If you're from America, see if you can call the number to vote for the UK anyway - you never know, you may just prove our worth in the EU yet :P

In What Little Time I Have...

...oh I hate doing this. It's very bad for friend discipline.

I have been le taggéd by the lovely Randy whom I'm sure did it out of love and not spite. So now I apparentely have to tell the world ten random facts about myself you probably won't read and will scroll through completely to find out whether I have tagged you or not, but on we go anyway.

Number 1: I am originally of Polish origin considering both my parents have Polish blood in them. I can neither speak the language nor have I ever been to Poland and so consider myself British.

Number 2: When I was two years old my mother decided it would be a great idea to take me to the theatre with chicken pox thereby infecting everybody around me with the disease if they hadn't had it before. I went to the theatre a lot when I was younger, hence my fondness for it now.

Number 3: When I was in high/secondary/grammar/crap school I weighed about 12 stone. I now weigh 8. I would provide you all with a diet plan but it unfortunately includes an eating disorder so...not really recommended.

Number 4: I came out when I was 17 years old after a disastrous date with a boy whose kiss was akin to that of snogging a wet dog. My initial thoughts were "I never want to have to experience THAT again..."

Number 5: My gaming fad originally began by watching my dad play games over his shoulder and being thoroughly amazed by what I was seeing, so much so that I went to see Toy Story at the cinema three times because it was "made with computers". It is also the reason why I love adventure games and think that consoles are the worst thing that has ever happened to the gaming industry, despite the fun I've had with a few of them.

Number 6: I am a self-proclaimed music elitist. I know a hell of a lot about the biology of singing and can tell you why Beyonce is amazing and why Mariah Carey has cheated in the later part of her career. I can accurately hear a tune a couple of times and then play it on the piano. I can look at a piece of sheet music and sing it. I WILL argue with you about your tastes in music and I WILL win. I can also tell you why songs get stuck in your head thanks to my dissertation.

Number 7: I love cats. I ADORE cats. Cats are the only other thing besides two boys kissing that makes me go "squee!". One day I will own a cat. Mark my words.

Number 8: I am a rather big fan of science-fiction, in particular Star Trek: Voyager and the books of Douglas Adams. Never mess with Improbability Physics. It could result in Spontaneous Massive Existence Failure.

Number 9: If I could have one skill in life it would be to speak another language fluently. I'm about a quarter of a way there with Spanish and the equivalent of a chimpanzee with basic tool-using skills in Japanese, but I will probably keep learning for the rest of my life if I have to.

Number 10: I have had the same mobile phone for four years. It is the only phone I have ever owned. If it's not broke, don't fix it. No you can't have the number.

And this is a semi-recent picture of me looking semi-attractive. It doesn't happen often.

Right, seeing as I don't have many Gamespot friends (203 on Facebook though. Check me owt) and seeing as my dissertation is taking over my life, I tag Lightfellower as he's the only one I'm not sure has been tagged yet out of peeps I know. If he has then let this whole tag chain be SMEFd.

Now if you'll excuse me I have a rather long essay to procrastinate on.

This Is Not Yaoi

Come on, how many of you were expecting yaoi? Ah, the wonders of reverse psychology.

Unfortunately my friend Simran has whisked herself away off to Scotland for an unspecified amount of time so pictures from my show are on hiatus until she um...gets back. In the meantimes, I thought I'd update you on my current happenings.

I am now well into my third year of university and that means it's dissertation overload time. We've been given six weeks off timetable (minus tutorials etc) in order to write it as well as plenty of other pieces of writing including an academic journal of the show, a seminar on a practioner to give as well as accompanying notes and a practitioner essay of about 3000 words. Good times.

What I would much rather be doing is spending time learning Japanese which I finally have some time to do now! Hooray! I'm not a natural with languages so I'm attempting 20 minutes a day of actual learning and spending the rest of the day letting it sink in. The next day I'm reviewing the lessons I learnt the day before and if it's still difficult I will shout random curse words at it, storm off, remind myself it's all done at my own pace, have a cup of coffee and try again.

The results so far? Ummmmmmmmmmmmm I'm getting there. I'm currently on that section where you have to describe where places are and tell a taxi driver where to go and I vaguely recollect having similar difficulties with bits like this during my GCSE Spanish. I spent the last few days wandering around with "midi" and "hidari" ("right" and "left") tattooed on the back of my hands in blue biro in order to try and remember which is which. Yes, I did put them on the correct hands!

The reason I'm putting myself through all this is that it's become apparent that I really really want to go to Japan at some point. Half my life I've been inspired, obsessed and generally enthralled by the place so it would be a rather exciting experience to actually visit, and I don't like to visit another country in which I can't communicate. I know everybody says you should never meet your heroes, but does that really apply to countries? Hmmmm...

Life permitting, this also grabbed my interest greatly. It would be an absolutely incredible experience but family and friends alike have warned me that if I enjoy it too much I may end up wanting to stay :P

That's all that has really been happening in my life recently. I have more songs to learn for auditions etc but that isn't really "new". Congrats if you've managed to read down this far. I think you deserve a small reward...some gaming yaoi!!!

NSFW? :P

Do You Know What I Wished For?

Just finished up another show! One more to put on a CV!

Our production of "First Lady Suite" by Michael John LaChuisa (lovingly nicknamed "Chu Chu" by ourselves) was performed in the round (audiences on all sides) and had a lot of multimedia including a close-up shot of JFK's assassination and the loudest atomic bomb sound effect I have ever heard!

Things went really well and the cast were like a family by the end of it. Our director was an absolute legend too. A shame it's for university and we have to write up about it. Things like feminism. Ugh.

On the downside all that hard work means I am now ill. Or it may have been the snow. Yeah, I'm blaming the snow.

More pictures soon-ish depending on whether or not my mate Simran decides to get them off her digital camera...

And Now I Am Calm. No Really.

Let me make something perfectly clear: I am one of those people that doesn't tend to get all guado insane over a game release. I am very anti-hype and will usually wait a while for the price to drop even if it's a game I'm very much interested in because, for want of a better reason, I have a lot more useful things to spend my money on. Like food. And musical instruments.

There have been only a few occasions in my life where the opposite has been the case and I will readily admit that a lot of that list contains the word "Sims" in the title, but there have been a couple of others.

Those that know me know I'm a big fan of Bullfrog so when Theme Park: World came out I was incredibly eager for that. I was also a bit dead-set on Fable 2 and luckily that one was bought for me. I HAD to have Shadow Hearts: From The New World on its release date and I'm currently very excited about Mass Effect 2.

But there is ONE word in the gaming dictionary that whenever the word "new" pops into the sentence in which it exists my eyes widen, my breath shortens and I tend to go a little bit over the top...

I'll give you a moment to get all the moans and groans out of your systems. Ready? Okay, let's continue.

I will be the first to admit that the Myst series, in recent years, has taken a bit of a hit in terms of quality. Myst V was a bitter disappointment to a lot of fans of the series and the recent port to the DS and PSP, quite frankly, doesn't work. But Myst has a legacy and a dedicated fanbase who love to indulge in the rich environments, the complicated puzzles and the incredible depth of the storyline which is told, logically enough, through books and events rather than a direct plot progression.

Indeed, the backstory of Myst is probably its most compelling element. It is a plot as deep and twisted as that written by Tolkein and it is interesting when a lot of gamers who value story above everything else fail to comprehend it. Perhaps it is the slower pacing of the game in which a lot of the puzzles can actually be solved by reading about the extraordinary culture of the D'ni, but alas, this generation is a little absent of such patience. It was slowly becoming clear that the epic storyline featured in the Myst games was going to be long forgotten except by a few fans who would just not let it die.

Clearly, it seems, somebody is not about to let that happen:

Take a look at this.

When I first saw this, I immediately thought it was a hoax. Some fan-inspired amateur project made in Flash that would probably do more damage to the games than advertise them.

But then I noticed the constant updates in journal format on the website. Then I noticed the animated trailer the group had put together. Then I watched their pitch video. Then I saw that all the rights of the games' story had been given to them by Cyan co-founder Rand Miller.

"Holy **** on a **** sandwich..." I thought. "This is REAL. This can't be real...what if it IS real?!"

And it was about this point I was flailing around wildly saying words no cultured person should ever be screaming at the top of their voice, but I had a fairly good reason to: Myst: The Motion Picture.

Exciting? There are no words to describe my excitement. It is also apparent that the team behind this (lovingly called "The Mysteriacs") are perfectly aware that no game-to-movie transition has ever been more than sub-standard hollywood rubbish, but they're determined to try and make the film as good as it could possibly get. I am also extatic that these guys are fairly independant film-makers as, after all, Myst came out of nowhere to achieve the success that it did and if anybody were to make a film it should be gone about as the games were made. With slightly more up-to-date technology, obviously.

From what I have read, the plot of the Myst Movie will be based on the book "The Book of Ti'ana" and will tell the story of how the D'ni civilisation originally fell. The script is nearing completion and some rather interesting names have popped up to work on it, but I will bore you no further at this stage. Evidently the process is still young. I am retaining a small amount of scepticism for my own sanity but I am just thrilled that once again Myst is still bringing giddy excitement into the otherwise soulless gaming industry.

Perhaps the ending can never, truly, be written...

Not Impressed

Yeah. Not happy.

"But mummy! I don't want to eat this thing on my plate! I want to play The Sims 3!"

"Sorry darling. You're going to have to wait until June now."

"What?! Why?!"

"Because EA have lost money dear."

"But surely if they released The Sims 3 all that money would come back!"

"You would think so wouldn't you?"

"Well...can I play Dragon Age instead?"

"No dear, that's been delayed too. Why don't you go and finish The Witcher instead?"

"Ugh...FINE."

In The News Today...

The US are moving their London embassy to Battersea. It's likely to have a 30m exclusion zone around it and "look like a fortress" to stop people blowing it up. Here's how one b3tard thinks it should be defended:

In other news today, Gamespot reported that US retail PC games sales were down $210 million last year compared to...well I'm not sure what, but that is not a small number. Having grown up in what I would describe as the golden age of PC gaming this not only saddens me greatly but hurts me to the core. The PC should be the ultimate gaming machine - it is the most versatile, the most powerful and the most constantly developed piece of hardware there is. Games are actually programmed on the things for goodness sake.

Quite frankly though, I don't agree with the bollocks that PC games are too expensive or don't work properly or you need to constantly buy a new one to play any of the newer games. I reckon that even in this day and age nobody has a blinding clue how to work one properly. Consoles are so stupidly easy to use you'd have to be a giant flying fruitbat in order to screw one up by pressing the wrong button. PCs however have always been a bit more delicate but someone like my Dad, who got me into gaming in the first place, can make any game run on any machine (within reason I mean, let's not be stupid about this). My brother is also a whizz at this and got Starship Titanic running on Vista and even Final Fantasy VIII running through Ubuntu (or however you spell that)

Another reason I think PC gaming is going down the pan is because nobody really buys PCs any more unless they have a large family. Most people want laptops because they look cooler :P. Yes, specially made laptops are specially designed for gaming, but a horrible feature a lot of them have are inbuilt graphics cards. With most PCs nowadays upgrading a graphics card is a cheaper and vastly superior way of getting games to run and even dumb old me can figure out how to do it. With a lot of laptops (not all, oh beings of superior knowledge to me) it's a case of risking your life as you carefully unscrew the motherboard.

Now, I know I'm bias, but with The Sims 3 coming out very very soon it's becoming more and more apparent to me that a console could never run it. And considering the line between console and home computer is becoming increasingly thinner this is a worrying and saddening thought. Change comes, hey ho and all that but I hope that somewhere in this world there are gamers left like me who watch as their beloved PC games are being casually thrown to one side in the race for the faster, more aggressive, less patient generation of console gaming and feel a bit defeated by it all.

Apologies for the ranty nature and any spelling or grammar errors. This is one of those twenty-to-eleven-at-night-half-asleep kind of posts, but well done if you got this far. I certainly wouldn't have :D

PBP: The Last Remnant Part 9

So I'm nearly a month in and still going strong - plenty more things to do, plenty more guild tasks to do, DO NOT GET ME STARTED on "The Fallen"...I'm beginning to think this game is going to go on forever, which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing :P It's a shame I don't have an ingame clock as it would probably be yelling "You've been playing for 24 Hours. That's a whole DAY. Have you thought about getting a life?!?!?!"

Anyway, I thought I would dedicate this blog post to the unsung hero of The Last Remnant - the lovingly named SpiderCatBat.

No, I'm joking of course. This is Torgal who is a Sovani (spidercatbat). I've been a bit unfair to the Sovani really, but it's difficult not to be. Whereas it IS difficult to be unfair to them when they have four separate weapons rammed in your face I suppose. Probably why nobody messes with Torgal. Just the movement of his four arms slashing away making enemies meet their doom is enough to make you glad he's on your side.

If he wasn't aiding Rush's quest to save his sister (again...it's happened twice now. Rush needs to keep that girl on a leash) I reckon Torgal would be a bit of a ladies man, maybe even a mans man, but absolutely not a Qsiti man. I'm joking of course.

Actually come to think of it Torgal wouldn't think twice about killing Rush dead on the spot if given the opportunity. Sovani tend to think of Mitra (humans lol) as a bit of a waste of space but he's a good friend of David's so I guess he's just a bit mad considering at this point in the story he's the one ol' Dave would open up to about certain feelings he has. This game has a LOT of pauses in dialogue. I'm just filling in the blanks.

In all seriousness, I love Torgal. I'm a little bit straight for Torgal actually. Not entirely sure what our kids would look like.

In other news I think I really should be writing a "Tourists Guide to Blackdale" the amount of time I'm spending in the place looking for a Guild Monster to spawn. Honestly, it's like drawing blood from a stone sometimes...I suppose I could always have a go at The Fallen again. I'm getting rather fond of the "Game Over" screen :P

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