elana: (squishy)
I was linked on Twitter to this very interesting video by Brendan Keogh, an Australian PhD student in Media & Communications, running analytical commentary on Call of Duty 4:

I'm most of the way through the first instalment, and I have "hm!"ed more times than I can count. I love his approach, and I love that he's made such astute and careful observations on this game. I really enjoyed this game when I played it, but it was when I was in undergrad and hadn't gained experience thinking about the types of questions that he answers here, i.e., how is this piece of media constructed to engage with you? All I knew was that the game was very effective at making me have strong feelings.

One of my favourite questions about video games (and objects in general, really) is how they relate to human agency. What he has pointed out about Call of Duty is very interesting, and sort of obvious, but in that profound way where once you see it, you can't un-see it. Call of Duty is a military first-person shooter whose mechanics and storytelling are predicated on the player following instructions at all times. That is so many layers delivering a message of obedience, of being a cog in a larger military machine, but not in a heavy-handed way: just premise, narrative and game mechanics reinforcing each other. It's just excellently done, when you appreciate it in that way.

I can almost see the video game industry as divided into two camps: Call of Duty providing its cultural trope-driven linear narratives where you jump behind the eyeballs of numerous faceless, voiceless protagonists and "play" as an "actor" (as Keogh puts it) in this scripted action film; and Bioware, whose games are completely about agency, about playing as an individual that you have personally constructed in every detail, and making difficult choices that shape the narrative as it goes.

It's amazing how much you can just not notice about design decisions while playing a game like Call of Duty. I remember almost every scene in the game—it is full of very memorable bits—and while I understood that I was switching between playable characters, I didn't really appreciate the way (and how often) the designers were literally flinging you across the world into different eyeballs, into different people. Some significant proportion of the time, these characters cannot control their environments in any way. On two occasions, they die. I didn't spare the time, while playing it, to think about what that really meant.

In discussion of other media that pass a snob-test to be categorized as 'art', we might talk about the artist's 'intent', or the richness of a work that leaves it open to many-layered interpretation. As an archaeologist, I always want to see every human-made thing receive its due analysis, from the most highly-valued intentional artwork to the humblest functional object. Video games deserve far more thought-time than they've received, because there is just so much intention that goes into the creation and consumption of them.

I love that this is a field of research. It makes me so happy. I hope that someday, my doctorate in art will give me license to ignore departmental lines and collaborate with people studying video games.
elana: (squishy)
I don't really know much about Nicki Minaj. I might recognize one of her songs but I couldn't name one off the top of her head. I know she has a MAC Viva Glam lipstick.

But I'm impressed by her. Look at this photoset she posted on Instagram:

These are the insidious double standards that deserve to be pointed out. She is using her platform (and her butt) for good.
elana: (squishy)
I swear to god

They're so beautiful, they invite you into their lives (in a carefully managed way), they build a business on selling the appearance of intimacy, but the whole project is made redundant by KITTIES

I mean I would watch anything with kitties in it.

If their countdowns were like "I'll take off my top while also making sure my cat is in frame at all times", they would make a KILLING off of heterosexual cat ladies who can also appreciate a good breast
elana: (squishy)
Boop. I posted it.

This chapter is my take on the Overlord DLC from Mass Effect 2.


The shuttle’s front viewscreen glimmered with the jeweled horizon of the garden world of Aite. Legion had decrypted a distress call while on Heretic Station, which was evidently intercepted and blocked by the heretics from reaching the consensus. A geth cruiser had crash-landed on Aite, and their final transmission was, in Legion’s words, “flagged exceptionally urgent.” Shepard found the unshackled EDI quite willing to divulge that a Cerberus cell tasked with investigating AI was stationed in the same system.

Shepard’s hands relaxed on the shuttle’s haptic controls, flying the squad in easy curves to the coordinates of the crashed ship. It was rarely this quiet on the descent. Legion might as well have been cargo, and riding copilot was Thane, master of the companionable silence.

The shuttle jostled in the slipstreams, affected by the planet’s larger gravity well despite being propelled in its own mass effect field. Thane swayed with the turns like a meditating cat. He wore his breather at Shepard’s urging, because the geth ship was crashed near one of Aite’s bodies of water, and EDI had calculated the humidity to be higher than advised thresholds for Kepral’s sufferers. At that, he had closed his eyes and prayed a moment, then acquiesced with a bittersweet half-smile.

Shepard was beginning to resent the shot of not-quite-adrenaline that raced through her circulatory system every time she looked at him. It felt so woefully teenaged. She was suspicious of the pleasure it gave her, an entirely un-cynical rush. It was particularly irksome while on a mission, when he was at his predatory best, and there could be no hastening off to her cabin to make something useful of the feeling.

And she had no emotional context for being in love.

She guided the shuttle around a cliffside bend. The geth cruiser was partly submerged in soft sandy earth due to impact and time, and Cerberus techs had left their mark in the forms of hastily constructed struts and prefab labs around the downed vessel. Beyond, the landscape was beautiful: yellow sunlight glinted off the water sea, lending a rich emerald glow to the primitive grasses that populated the banks of young and jagged cliffs.

There was no activity there now. Sensors failed to pick up any humans in the vicinity, although there seemed to be a sub-structure beneath the ship that was impervious to scans. Readings of synthetic life were present, but hummed at a low level that Shepard had never encountered before.

She landed the shuttle and swung out of the cockpit into the passenger compartment. Legion lifted its lamp-head to watch her, and rose to its feet.

“We are experiencing difficulty establishing a connection to local networks,” it said. “Ports are closed despite the presence of functioning units. This deviates from geth standard operation. We suspect tampering by Cerberus agents. Immediate intervention is requested.”

It sounded legitimately worried, but maybe that was just an anthropocentric projection. Hell, if she couldn’t figure out her own feelings, she sure couldn’t trust her read on a geth.

“Let’s hustle, then,” Shepard said, and hopped down from the shuttle onto springy, grassy turf. She wondered if she should be feeling any nostalgia for Mindoir, another human-friendly garden world. She realized with abrupt certainty that she shouldn’t. Mindoir was all arid air, dusty roads, and vast fields of grain. Not like this place at all. She glanced at Thane, pleased with herself for the recollection, and wanting to share it with him.

“Alert: open network zone begins at perimeter of geth cruiser,” Legion announced. “Cerberus has piggybacked wireless infrastructure on geth network protocols. Ready infiltration countermeasures in case of viral attack.”

Shepard nodded, and glanced to Thane. He inclined his head in acknowledgment. Anyone in Shepard’s crew knew to keep all active omnitools locked and off-grid while on a mission. Only she and Tali had permission to open ports, and only under carefully controlled conditions. This policy existed for the same reason that Shepard kept her notes on paper in her cabin: having a cyberwarfare suite is well and good for a frigate with an onboard AI to manage it, but Shepard knew too much about cracking omnitools. The hacker cold war and its spiralling ecosystem of backdoors and trojans could pop out with an unexpected new exploit at any time. Better just to lock everyone’s tech in a wooden box, so to speak.

But after infiltrating and exploding the heretic stronghold from within, this lone and crippled geth ship seemed quite unintimidating in comparison. After all, Cerberus was here, and their techs’ primary innovative talent was finding new gruesome deaths for themselves.

So it was with hubris that the impenetrable Commander Shepard stepped through the threshold of the geth ship.

It was dark, all systems down. The bright sunlight from outside dimmed more quickly than she expected. She took no more than ten steps into the ship before she needed to activate her pistol’s torch. Thane left his off. No doubt he was quite comfortable in darkness, but his breather mask would also supply him with wide-band visuals.

Shepard surveyed the scene, which was illuminated by the beam that swung at the angle of her firearm. The geth designers of the low ceiling had no reason to concern themselves with claustrophobia. Every inch of bulkhead was probably jammed with server infrastructure. As she had observed on Heretic Station, passageways in a geth ship were no more than an unfortunate necessity for the occasional manoeuvring of mobile platforms.

Some of those mobile platforms were there, in the trapezoidal chamber just past the airlock. They were definitely not dead, but not a threat either. Sprawled against bulkhead panels, their lamplights flickered, lenses contracting and dilating. Electric pulses crawled across limbs, repair protocols that seemed to have gotten lost. One pair of legs continued its forward march despite its carrier body being horizontal on the floor.

It was eerie enough for her, but it occurred to Shepard that Legion might find it truly disturbing—rather like a first encounter with human husks. She turned to look at it.
Legion had stopped precisely on the threshold, frozen.

“N–n–n– not virus,” it said, its vocalizations skipping as if from an overclocked processor. “Network overwhelmed—nature of data—un-pr-ssssss—”

The pitch of Legion’s voice dropped like it had been abruptly unplugged. It dropped to its knees and plummeted forward onto the bulkhead.

“Fuck,” Shepard said. “We need to get out of here so we can safely open comms and—”

She turned on her heel to stalk towards the door, but she was suddenly hit by a wave of generalized agony. Pain rolled through her, tearing through her insides until it billowed out of her eyes like a raging spirit.

Read on at Archive of Our Own | Fanfiction.net

Read from the beginning at Archive Of Our Own | Fanfiction.net

I should have remembered last week that Tuesdays at 6:30 weren't going to work as a weekly posting time because my new sewing class was starting at that time. I wonder what effect posting at 4am will have on my pageviews.

I used to update Friday evenings. I don't know. I guess it's arbitrary. You never know when people are browsing fanfiction, especially in the summertime.
elana: (squishy)
In this week's Go! we see that Red Dead Redemption (2010) still looks better than Grand Theft Auto V (2013), with all the great story and none of the distaste for its playerbase!

Seriously, what a beautiful fucking game. The only reason I haven't played it twenty times is because the story is so heartbreaking that I can't even bear to think about it.

Meanwhile Grand Theft Auto V is just the industry's most well-paid writers shitting on its target demographic (entitled piece of shit straight American dudes). And woe betide anyone outside its target demographic.

It's so distressing that these two games come from the same studio.

Anyway, rant over. I got a rude hate comment two days ago on a post I wrote about Heidegger four years ago, so in 2018 I expect some real gems here.
elana: (squishy)
Good news, everyone! Dragon Age: Inquisition's release date has been pushed back to November 18th! That's nearly a month more of populated lobbies for Mass Effect multiplayer! Yaaaaaay!


Jul. 13th, 2014 05:15 am
elana: (squishy)
Maybe it's the archaeologist in me? But I love the way the Internet can give you a window into another life.

Camgirls are one of the most fascinating iterations of this phenomenon. It folds in all of the present day neuroses and contradictions about female sexuality, empowerment, voyeurism, loneliness, entrepreneurship, and the freemium/crowdsourced economy.

The best channels are the ones where the girl is fully clothed, because that means she is keeping her viewers on the basis of excellent conversation.

I'm watching Miss Alice_94 right now, who is presently wearing a lovely, modest, very cute black and gray schoolgirl-esque ensemble, with a proper belt and a proper skirt and a peter pan collar right up to her throat. When someone asked, she calmly explained that she gets paid "well into five digits" every month. When asked about her recent trip to Hong Kong, she said, "I shot a lot of videos there. I wanted to take advantage of all the beautiful hotel rooms. By masturbating in them."

"When I saw the mirrored table surrounded by mirrors, I looked at it and I thought, 'I'm going to masturbate on that.'"

I love that frankness. I love that guys tune in expecting to wank, and are instead taken down a garden path of strong feminine personality.

Also, some camgirls have really excellent taste in music.
elana: (squishy)
My voice still feels tired and thick after last weekend's performances, which included a wedding where I got drunk and screamed my face off. I am so afraid of developing vocal nodes but I can't stop myself from singing in the shower so my responsible compromise is practising singing very very breathily.

Side effect: lots of fun


Jul. 7th, 2014 05:18 pm
elana: (squishy)
Yesterday, our client said to our agent that we were "the best a cappella group in the world, behind Take 6", who are his favourite.

Today, I'm wondering if he just hasn't watched The Sing Off.

Or maybe we really are doing something different. The Sing Off groups are mostly doing pop. They're about making exciting arrangements of familiar songs that make you jump up and dance and marvel that it's being done just with the voice. That is not what we do. I mean, dance if you like, but our music is really about the brain, I think. Great pop music makes hard stuff seem easy. I think the jazz mentality is about embracing difficulty.

So maybe we really can't be compared. I don't mean that in the sense of 'incomparable'. It's just that, watching Pentatonix reach unrivalled heights made me feel left behind. But maybe that just doesn't make sense. We're on a different course.
elana: (squishy)
Me: "I should leave a comment letting that girl know that her audio is peaking and she should turn down the gain or back off her microphone."

YouTube: "Sign in again to post a comment!"

Me: "…Nah."
elana: (squishy)
It hurts when people try to diminish video games as a waste of time or an unworthy pursuit. Playing games with my father was certainly the best, if not the only, way we bonded, and was the setting of most of my fondest memories with him from childhood. We played — and beat — the original Prince of Persia together, as well as amazing science fiction games like Out Of This World and Half-Life. I also have a dim memory of a puzzle/shooter involving saving a starship crew from a rogue AI called "Lunacus" or something like that? They all left an indelible mark on me, in terms of immersive experiences and science fiction storytelling.

It was when we stopped playing video games together that we stopped being close.

Games are important. The ways you spend time with people who are important to you, will always be important. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
elana: (squishy)
We bemoan the pressures on men to have aversions to femininity (pink, florals etc.), but am I a collaborator with patriarchy if I have an aversion to masculine colognes on myself?
elana: (squishy)
We live in a world where horror Twitter accounts can just resort to making plain statements of fact.


Jun. 29th, 2014 01:36 pm
elana: (squishy)
Today swaps55 posted the final chapter of her 250,000 Mass Effect 1 epic fanfic, Exordium. I've been following chapter by chapter since close to the beginning. I admire her discipline and applaud the completion of this project.

I love my story more than I love hers, but the fact is that she finished hers and I haven't. I feel embarrassed about it.

It'll get there. I just hope there will still be an audience when it does.
elana: (squishy)
Is it true that people with art degrees make more money than social workers?

Diealectics by William Powhida
 Graphite, colored pencil, and watercolor on paper. 15” x 19”, 2014.
elana: (squishy)
I'm thinking about getting better at life.

There are so many things I want to do: all kinds of creative projects, and lots of basic life stuff. But for so long, I've been so caught up in trying not to feel terrible all the time, that I forgot what it felt like to want things. I didn't even want to see tomorrow, let alone fill it with dreams.

It's a very good sign, I think, that I want things again. But I'm out of practice at making such things real.

I'm pretty sure writing is an integral part of it. And sleeping, she says at six in the morning.

I'm going to make a promise to write in my diary. My paper one, with my fountain pen. It's hard to do, especially when J-M's sleeping self makes it not an option to write in bed, and I've come to realize that I absolutely hate the yellow walls in my office.

I need a tranquil, blue space where I can be completely alone.


Jun. 18th, 2014 06:54 pm
elana: (squishy)
Fanfiction permits us to exchange insights gained from spending so much time dwelling on characters we love. The Mass Effect universe has a lot of richness in it, and fanfiction is where talented people draw together connections that the rest of us can enjoy.

Today's moment was in the latest chapter of "Sunset and Evening Star", when Joker contemplates Steve Cortez, who's "okay, for an ex fighter jock", and why he usually hates those guys. A beautiful little nugget of headcanon that dovetails beautifully with some lines from Steve's shuttle date in Citadel DLC.

Nnf. I love it when people create lovely things.
elana: (squishy)
I like going to the Toronto Japanese Film Festival every year. I love Japanese movies for a lot of reasons. I love listening to the language, and I also really enjoy the textural subtlety that Japanese cinema often has. They're not afraid to have long pauses and big empty spaces. It gives room for the movie to breathe and be contemplative without being overbearing or heavy-handed.

I have tickets to Mourning Recipe and A Boy Called H now, but I'd like to go to more.

If anyone's free June 15–16, 23 or 27, and wants to go to the movies with me, let me know.
elana: (squishy)
We've been trying to make a change in our lives, start digging up, if you will. Graduate from sitting in our own filth procrastinating by playing video games.

I think the most radical improvement we've made is keeping breakfast food in the house.

It makes a huge difference. I mean, I'm still staying up all night playing video games, but it means that when I totter downstairs in the mid-afternoon, I'm not so drained by hunger that I am rendered useless for the remainder of the day.
elana: (squishy)
We made a misstep in our Ashley romance playthrough of the Mass Effect trilogy which will necessitate a bit of backtracking, which is always disheartening. So J-M decided to play a bit of Grand Theft Auto Online to blow off steam.

This game is stupid.

It's just stupid.

It's for stupid people and it's populated by children and it's stupid and repetitive and pointless.

I suppose the appeal is that it's slick as hell and the world is impeccably designed.

The tragedy is that it is just fucking stupid.
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