Friday, March 19, 2010

Heavy Rain - A few thoughts, and loads of spoilers

I bought Heavy Rain, played and completed it over 3 days, and promptly returned it. But that is not an indication of the quality of the game. Rather, it was because I considered my experience with it complete. And holding onto it would be akin to trying to grasp onto the last wisps of a dream. And letting it go was probably the best thing for us all.

But I'm hoping to be able to quantify my experience with it, and where I think the game truly resonated with me. And I hope that sharing my perspective will enable other games to hopefully enjoy it as much as I did.

*Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers*

Scott Shelby is the Origami Killer.

This is an important development in the game, and not just in the narrative. It seems that for some players, this particular revelation reveals several inherent flaws in the game, and thus tainted the overall experience.

And the criticisms leveled against Heavy Rain's red herrings, and logical gaps in the narrative are fair and deserved. And the criticism against the mixed performance by the voice actors are also fair. These are lessons that should be accounted for if a sequel or successor emerges.

But the problems listed above should not be a deterrent to enjoying the game. And I believe that the game challenges our understanding of our role in the game, and this challenge may have left some gamers cold.

It seem that most players engage the game with the thought that we are the primary actor. We control Ethan, Madison, Norman and Scott. We are in control of the characters' actions, thoughts and impact in the game world. This is a commonly understood language of games, where the player is the sole determinant.

However, in Heavy Rain, we have to understand that we are not the primary actor. We are not even the director. Our role is not to determine their progression for them. They have already done that for themselves through their own independent actions. Our role in this world is far less involved, serving only as observers, as flies on the wall. And the game serves only as a window into which we glance briefly into the lives of these characters. And these characters, who exist completely independent from us, do not conform to our understanding of the world. If we were to extend the film-making analogy, we would be more akin to that of a post-production editor. We can affect the pacing of the narrative, and pick out one scene over a selection of alternatives. But ultimately, our impact is minimal.

And because we are placed in this unfamiliar position, various story elements may seem out of step with our understanding of the game. And we ask whether the reveal, or any other plot point made any sense to us. That, I believe, is the wrong question to ask. The question should instead be, "Did it make sense to them?".

Was the character of Scott Shelby internally consistent, within the confines of the world he lives in? Yes, it was.
Did Ethan truly believe that he was the killer? Yes, he did.
Did the peripheral characters also believe that Ethan was the killer? Yes, they did.

Ultimately, there are fair criticisms that can be laid against the game. But we should not diminish the game's challenge to our commonly understood role as a gamer. It may seem disempowering that we have no impact within the game. It's like picking up a snow-globe that won't work whenever we shake it. But I believe that this challenge could change our perspectives of our roles as gamers, and our expected interactions with a piece of interactive creative work.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

PixelCast 14: Said One Pixel to Another

We are an unstoppable podcasting juggernaut. Tim, Dylan and I are back again to talk about magazine sales, true cross-platform gaming, and how media can affect/improve/dampen your game-playing experience.

We also talk about Just Cause 2, Red Faction: Guerrilla, Starcraft 2 beta and Street Fighter IV on the iPhone.

You can download the episode directly from here.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dear Ramly Burger,

Sometimes the smallest, most insignificant object can play a pivotal role in a person's life. A trinket or a memento from long ago; a battered old souvenir or a loved toy.

The Ramly Burger would be that one thing for me. I don't remember when I ever had my first one. But its taste and aroma evokes memories that would otherwise been forgotten.

The Ramly Burger, in essence, is the lowest quality burger that one could ever find. A meat patty made from suspect ingredients, wrapped in a thin layer of egg, smothered in sauce and spice, and drenched in oil. The flavours are so strong and overbearing that one can never tell what one is exactly tasting. And truth be told, that is the one true way.

I remember late nights at a pasar malam. And that one trip to KL which I made with friends from the Army. I remember always seeking out the same Ramly Burger man because his skill on the grill cannot be imitated.

The overpowering flavours mirrors the vibrancy and life of home. It brings to fore fond remembrances of friends and family. And it is this that makes the lowly Ramly Burger transcend itself, and become an iconic food not just for myself, but for many people back home.

Monday, March 08, 2010

PixelCast 13 - Tear from a Pixel

On this episode of PixelCast, Tim, Cody, Dylan and myself talk about Heavy Rain, Plants vs Zombies, Brutal Legend and Aliens vs Predator.

We also consider the utility of Ubisoft's DRM in upcoming PC games and anti-R18+ ratings sentiment. We also discuss the futility of Nintendo having a press event when there's really nothing to say.

You can download directly from here.