This isn’t the article I wanted to write about Tomb Raider. In fact, I had an article that was a lot more poetic; there were lines about agency, the environment becoming a character, and how Tomb Raider truly was a next gen title that was my game of the year.

Instead this is an article about Lara Croft being choked to death.

There’s a scene fairly early on in the game where our young, intrepid heroine is being stalked through the forest. Her innocence is shattered; her friends are being brutally shot around her, their screams echoing in the distance as they’re murdered. She crouches against some old ruins at one point, finding a brief reprieve from the horrors she’s witnessing unfold. Suddenly a man surprises her, grabbing her and lifting her up by her throat. His hand clamps over her throat and he begins to choke the life out of her. She starts struggling. She has seconds to live.

If you don’t hit the right series of buttons, she’s choked to death in front of you. Her body goes limp in his hands, her face goes blank, and he laughs the cruelest of laughs.

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Morals of the Mojave

Written by Rollin | December 1st, 2010 |

In Fallout: New Vegas, there are certain factions that, regardless of the circumstances, you gain karma by killing. The Legion and Powder Gangers both suffer this fate. Patrolling, sleeping or guarding an outpost–it doesn’t matter. They have been designed this way and therefore any method of punishment you can dispense is legitimate because, clearly, they are evil.

The game manages to get around this by making all of these enemies legitimately loathsome. The Legion rapes and brutalizes women and the Powder Gangers are prisoners that have escaped and decided to wreak havoc upon the countryside. That’s just scratching the surface of their atrocities. Neither cause is sympathetic by design so it should come as no surprise that eliminating them would give a karma boost.

But as the Supreme Court hears arguments on how different groups believe they should treat the sale of violent video games in California, there has truly never been a more apt time to opine on the state of morality systems in gaming. When you think of a time when someone else was telling you what is good and right, video games should never be far from mind.

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The Final Fantasy MMORPGs: Roads Less Traveled

Written by Ashelia | October 3rd, 2010 |

My overall conflicted experience with Final Fantasy XIV still didn’t stop my jaw from dropping the first time I saw a dust storm settle over the sky of Ul’dah at night.

But for better or worse, Ul’dah and its dust storms are something that many gamers will never see. Unfortunately, not many saw its distant cousin Bastok either. The roads to the cities of Bastok and Ul’dah, to the games of Final Fantasy XI and XIV, are one and the same. They’re all roads less traveled in a world covered by interstate. Still, I like to believe that the scenic route is worth taking time to time–if you aren’t afraid of getting lost.

And I mean really lost–nearly everything in both games works differently from what you would think, creating what can be at times a frustrating of experience. However, if you know Final Fantasy’s history as an MMORPG, this may not be a new revelation.

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The Collector’s Conundrum

Written by Ashelia | September 17th, 2010 |

Civilization V is coming out soon and I feel like I’m ten years old again on Christmas Eve; unabashedly, I brimming with excitement. For me, the series represents the very foundation of gaming. It was also one of the staple titles of my early youth, something that grew up as I did–from my years in middle school to my years at college, some version of Civilization was on my PC and being played. Watching Civilization evolve with each entry has been a great experience and I’m excited to see what Jon Schafer has done with time around.

Despite my enthusiasm, though, I’m a little disappointed right now. I just finished preordering Civilization V and I found myself paying extra for an exclusive civilization and its leader. I had a brief internal monologue in which I told myself lunch at Starbucks was out for this weekend to make up the cost and then added the deluxe edition to my cart against my better judgment. I’m not completely sure who to be mad at, myself or Firaxis or Nebuchadnezzar II and his ridiculous surname, but I’m still mad. And a little embarrassed.

In fact, this leader’s inclusion for an extra sum, repackaged with a digital soundtrack as a special edition, seemed to speak to a bigger problem in the videogame industry: the cash cow syndrome.

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Gaming is about the experience. Mashing buttons and keys is how I spent the nineties–I stomped on Goombas, explored dungeons in Hyrule, and bunnyhopped in Quake. When playing Doom in my early years, I was terrified of the demons that the gates of Hell unleashed. And I’ll never forget the first time I saw the rain streaked sky in Donkey Kong Country’s second level, swinging vine to vine.

I had a blast with gaming then and I have a blast with gaming now. My experiences have been memorable and positive–most of the time, at least.

As titles both released in 2010, it stands within reason that Final Fantasy XIII and Heavy Rain should have a lot more on the classics of yesteryear. They should have evolved significantly in the overall quality of experience–from gameplay to graphics, each title has had more than enough time to improve itself. But for some reason, I feel more immersed playing Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest than I do when I play as Ethan Mars.

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