Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fun Stuff

I've been keeping busy lately. I'm working three days a week at my new job and keeping myself well entertained in my free time. I've gotten really into the game Red Dead Redemption, by Rockstar games. As many people have observed, the game plays largely like a western-themed Grand Theft Auto, featuring a large map where players are free to roam about and do as they please. One can steal horses or shoot whomever they fancy, becoming wanted in the process and fighting off lawmen and bounty hunters. You can cheat at cards, and if you lose, slaughter your opponents and loot their corpses for your lost cash. However, this is what I find least intriguing about the game. I was showing off the game to my parents and our friends (It really is beautiful - dusty trails wind off towards distant mesas, wildflowers sway in the wind beneath stunning photo-realistic sunsets), demonstrating the breadth of freedoms granted to the player, when I was asked if the game would let me kiss a passing woman.

"No," I told them, "but I can lasso and hog-tie her." There was laughter all around as I proceeded, but it occurred to me then that most of the freedom in Red Dead Redemption is violent in nature. You can shoot anyone and everyone, but kiss no one. In fact, you can't even talk to most of the game's vast population. I suppose that gamers like the high level of action; I don't really mind it, but I find myself wishing there were just a bit more in the way of pacifist activities. This is what I really like about the game; exploring scenic canyons, hunting down the wildlife and trading animal hides and meat in town, taking the time to play a round of horseshoes, and collecting the various medicinal plants scattered around the game world. I enjoy taking a slower pace, riding off the beaten path, and just exploring the rich digital desert.

Last night I was talking to Dustin, and I spent a sizable chunk of the conversation gushing on about Red Dead. Dustin had tried to buy it, but I guess the Walmart out in South Carolina was sold out. We're hoping to get in some online gaming together before he has to deploy again, this time to Afghanistan. He seemed to enjoy my scathing critique of the movie "Avatar", which I did enjoy, but which features many glaring holes I was only too happy to point out. Chiefly, after the "blue hippies" (as they were christened on 30 Rock) defeat the humans and force them off of the planet...everything is rosy? Um...wouldn't people back in the world be angry about all of the workers who were killed, and the sudden loss of their uber-profitable mine? I can't help but envision more redneck former Marines coming back to nuke the site from orbit. Also, where is the government throughout the whole movie? There are apparently jittery corporate shareholders back home, but no regulatory bodies or compliance inspectors? I tend to think that a crazy planet with lifeforms that can all connect to each other via a network of sentient trees would be extremely conspicuous, even in the future, drawing the attention of all sorts of red-tape slinging bureaucrats and a swath of non-bathing, hemp-wearing, sign-waving activists. Finally, why is the foolishly named "Unobtainium" (I had convince Dustin that I wasn't making it up) so important? They disclose that it is highly valued, but not one application is named. This kind of omission doesn't add to the mystique for me; it interferes with my suspension of disbelief. In the "Dune" novels, the pivotal Spice Melange is given myriad uses critical to the function of that fictional society; hence it's high value.

Which brings me to my last bit of rambling today - Dustin told me about a new Dune movie that is in the works. We'll have to wait and see what happens, but things aren't looking so good at the moment. Apparently, a first draft of the script has already been scrapped, along with the first director. Worse, Twlight's Robert Pattinson has supposedly been having talks with the director about playing Paul Atredies. Hey, no thank you. Also, the director's interest in doing the movie in 3D doesn't sit well with me (I smell lackluster CGI sandworms). Sigh. Let's all get a dose of 80's Dune by checking out these videos of conversations between David Lynch and Frank Herbert. Cool.

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