Weird Science

To the Editor: I wish I could find the game Beyond Good and Evil that everyone’s talking about.

I found a game with the same name and cover, but I can’t shake the feeling that we’re somehow playing two completely different games.

People I know to be both reasonable and intelligent, describe a game set in a stark, Orwellian future, where a corrupt government runs a secret underground slave ring, and only a single brave, if somewhat morally ambiguous reporter can bring the truth to the oppressed masses.

Wonderful! I’m sold! I grab it, pop the game in, and get Jax and Daxter.

You begin to get a sense of the taught political drama at the start…then funny animal people show up…then aliens…then platform jumping…then you collect big pearls to spend on upgrades…and what the hell?

I’m not saying that Beyond Good and Evil is a bad game, but why do people keep selling it as it’s the long awaited sequel 1985? It’s a simple, typical adventure game. At best it’s competent, and although it does try to be political, Deus Ex did it better.

I think there are three reasons some reviewers give it the ‘Psychonauts’ treatment, even though it’s not really deserved:

1. Reviewers of all types are enamored with the renegade reporter character, and all secretly wish they were ducking the ‘man’, revealing corruption, and receiving the praise and worship that tattletales never seem to receive in real life.

2. The time was right to have a game that fit the ‘reporter defeats corrupt government’ mold. It didn’t seem to matter much that although the plot followed this theme, the actual environment, characters and play were more similar to a Spyro game than a drama. They wanted a drama, marketed it as a drama, reviewed it as a drama and then sold it as a drama. What people got was a slightly serious, yet mostly silly adventure game. Her sidekick is a giant talking pig-man, for crying out loud. Ever notice the reviews never mention that?

3. As Yahtzee once mentioned in a review, many games try to do too much, and wind up doing nothing well. It almost seems like the kiddie, fun and collect all the magic jelly beans elements were added as an afterthought, to please the mass market. Instead, it merely alienated and confused the players that expected a serious, political thriller.

Remember Titan A.E.? It was a sci-fi cartoon that tried to please both adults and kids alike. Ultimately it did neither. The kids went and saw Tarzan (Jax and Daxter, Spyro), and the adults went and saw non-cartoon movies (Halo, Half-life, Fable and such).

All that was left were the slightly confused geeks sitting alone in the dark, wondering if they accidentally wandered into the wrong theater.

– Robert Max Freeman


In response to “Mass Effect Saves Humanity – for What?” from The Escapist Forum: To a certain extent, it’s ironic that Mass Effect, by trying and succeeding so well at being a product of pulp sci-fi from yars of yore, managed as a consequence to leave the core thing that makes something sci-fi: A new place, a new idea, a new experience. Sci-fi is fundamentally about the unknown, or the unknowable, or the eternal mysteries (what is man? what is the purpose of life?) that are at least somewhat revealed when you throw humans into weird places.

Instead, it seems, the game turned into a time capsule of thoughts about the future from a few decades ago.

– Chilango2

I actually struggled to decide whether the article was pro Mass Effect, or con. I really enjoyed Mass Effect, and despite the notion that its not the most world shattering creation ever, I never forgot this was a video game. That it still had to provide an action packed adventure for the gamer to enjoy, instead of focusing on being the most unique sci-fi story ever told. And that while the sex scene might not have been the most artistic work on sexuality ever, were still talking video games, where its main claims to sexual content are Hot Coffee, and God of War sex mini games. The Mass Effect sex scene felt no different than something pulled out of a movie, which I think is a step in the right direction for video games. Like it was said, these things have been done before in the past. But were they by video games?

– Xaositect

Honestly what really saddens me aside from the fact that we haven’t yet left the nest (thanks cold war and death of JFK thanks) What bothers me is that we still in most media have to imagine aliens as bipedal and similar to us, look out there how many different “things” do you think are out there. Do you really think we would be able to mate with them let alone communicate with them, cmon that is daydreaming and is almost the same as believing that we are alone amongst all this debris wandering through space.

– MrHappy255

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In response to “Where Things are Hollow” from The Escapist Forum:

One woman had been clandestinely following him around all week, finally accosting him on his way to the airport to show him her sketchbook. He had a beguiling manner about him, she said, showing him how she’d captured the jaunty tilt of his hat with pencil and ink. The experience was jarring.

…..Yeah. Well.

That woman was me.

God help me, I’m a Creepy Fan Anecdote.

For what it’s worth, I was not following anyone around all weekend, not even the party I came with seeing as I did so much running around, I drew lots of people over that weekend as it’s what I do whenever I’m sitting anywhere for extended periods of time (

(Especially at panels), and I’m pretty sure I never said the word beguiling…

I talked about his weird walk: he sort of glides from place-to-place, no up or down, and I have no real excuse for that observation besides that people who know me know I’ll say just about anything to just about anyone, consequences be damned, which is probably why I have never found anyone in any sort of profession willing to employ me. Except as a baby-sitter. Kids seem to think I’m funny, rather then scary. Fear for your next generation, humanity.

I sure as hell never meant to jar anyone or anything, and I apologize whole-heartedly for the weirdness of it all. I’m really very sorry, and I appreciate that no one called security or kicked me down the escalator.

Mr. Russ is an exceptional writer with a malancholy but very beautiful voice, so at least when he described my moment of public humiliation, he did it poetically. That’s some consolation prize I guess. I’ll have to thank him if I ever see him again.

– DreamerM


In response to “Programming as Art?” from The Escapist Forum: In the following, forgive me for neglecting classic aesthetic treaties by philosophers such as Kant or Hume, but this doesn’t quite seem to be the place to debate stuffy modern philosophy.

The notion of art merely being something that we have pleasure in is certainly compelling, but breaks down when we are then forced to call something like potato chips art. They are certainly pleasurable, and there is definitely a craft involved in creating them, but a potato chip in and of itself doesn’t seem, to me at least, to suggest something artistically beautiful (beautiful being the loaded word that typically gets thrown around in this kind of talk). Art makes a statement and, like the author intelligently states, is something that reflects on the endeavors and existence of humankind.

To me, that axiom suggests that the judgment of art is reflexive, that is, it is not possible to create something and have it immediately be universally referred to as art. Since art becomes so by being perceived as impressively or interestingly commenting on humanity, it seems that humans must be the ones to declare it so (this most certainly invites relativism into the picture, so I apologize to those who fight against it).

Bringing Flores’s creations into the picture, as well as any similar electronic creations, it seems that such products have the potential to be referred to as art. Such work brings questions such as the purpose of computing, how humans derive pleasure, or even the nature of affection between something called a “mouse” and a lobster (I’ll admit, that last one is a stretch). Another great example: artistically analyze the popular death clock that floats around the internet. That thing is ripe with reflection.

The point is, the impact of these programs do potentially exist, but their wealth is unknown to our time. I think that programming for the sake of programming will definitely become a maxim of the art-grammer and that such projects cannot remain unnoticed in the age of computers.

– TheWickerPopstar

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