What's a Game That Caused You to Rethink Crappy Beliefs?


#1

On today's Waypoint Radio, Danielle, Rob, and Patrick continue some of the impassioned beverage discussion from last week, concerning coffee and water (this time, it's really about coffee), Rage 2's existence, and the disappointment of Total War: Britannia. We take a nice dip into the question bucket, including a thoughtful query about games that have caused us to rethink certain bad beliefs of traits, and close on some Waypoints!

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/pavdkz/waypoint-radio-rage-2-total-war

#2

I grew up in a very conservative and “patriotic” subculture and really enjoyed war movies and military games. I had been raised to think that the American military was this unstoppable force of good and justice and always won the day because we were the good guys.
No games did a better job of changing that viewpoint than Metal Gear Solid & Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
Both games contain themes and messages about American’s military industrial complex (the whole series does, obviously, but MGS2 flew over my head when I played it as an 11 year old) and the way that the American military betrays or dismisses the characters in these games again and again really stuck with me, even though I was only 9 when I played MGS and 14 when I played MGS3.
The notion that America would turn it’s back or double cross characters like The Boss or Solid Snake, characters who fit my younger self’s idea of “patriot” really shook me and changed my whole outlook on the issue.


#3

I used to think tea wasn’t very good and that the only good tea was orange pekoe with a bunch of milk and sugar.

I played Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, and the tea set minigame convinced me that tea is a wonderful thing and that many teas are good in different situations. To this day I’m thankful for that lesson.


#4

I don’t know what it is about Nathan Fillian, but I really don’t like him. I don’t know if it’s because I believe he isn’t earnest about his film roles or what, but I do know he isn’t Brendon Frasier.


#5

Rob’s bashful “and it has to be exactly 205 degrees…”

I love this podcast very much, thank you for making it.


#6

Not directly from the game but I was like right age, right time, right level of maturity when Halo 3 came out to really engage with the community. I’m talking like I was playing custom games that shouldn’t work in Halo 2 and 3, I glitched out the map in the 3 Beta, read the Eric Nylund books, and I was in a montage or two saying dumb things and getting sniped.

This was also the peak of masturbatory conversations about how Master Chief and Spartans in general were ciphers and that they could be anybody. Except that they were always white, hetero, male, cisgendered and gruff unless noted otherwise, at which point the diversity would be massively pointed out to shout down criticism.

A brother and sister shared and account and I remember being friends with both. The sister and I would play and this was the time of voice chat. One match, on the pit map, descended into chaos when she spoke. Our whole team stopped playing and began to crown around her, teabagging and making rape etc jokes. I decided to white knight and snipe some of them and tell them that there were being assholes to a girl. I mentioned what assholes they were but I never really played with her again.

This stuck out to me because I knew I had alienated her and that how I had acted had been wrong even as it happened.This was right as I was about to enter highschool and I started to be better about really understanding not wanting to have your entire breadth of interactions be based on your identities, even in the “positive ways.”


#7

I feel like a lot of my bad attitudes have been changed not necessarily by the games themselves, but by the discourse around them. I distinctly remember The Witcher 3’s release as a big turning point on getting me to start thinking critically about games. A big criticism against the game was its lack of PoC characters and NPC’s, and I actually remember reading Austin’s article on GB about it, among others and kinda sorta coming away dismissive. I certainly wasn’t being intentionally malicious, but I was in the camp of “This is a European mythology-inspired game, of course there would be no other races in it”, ignorantly unaware that they were within the same universe but also just missing the broader picture in general. The more I read though, the more I came to understand, and it became even more obvious to me how little the devs were thinking about all of this when the first DLC expansion, Hearts of Stone, came out. We get some of our only PoC characters and all they really end up doing is getting killed pretty darn quickly.


#8

I would love to point at a game but really all the crappy beliefs, or in my case probably more accurately all the crappy cynicism, crappy centrism, crappy hypocrisy and crappy political apathy, that I held were beaten out of me by reading, university, more reading, thinking, lots of thinking, some more university, and a lot more thinking - and, really, growing up as I was doing all that.

There are certainly games that can be powerful, but I started engaging with games at an analytical level, at a level where I situated myself in a space where I could let games affect me, emotionally and intellectually, only in the last 2 years or so, when my politics and beliefs have all aligned to around the state where they’re at now.

EDIT: Having listened to that conversation on the podcast, I can definitely attest to the fact that being part of the “gaming culture” (shudders) on the whole, has definitely moved me to a more empathetic and progressive position, specifically in evaluating responses to movements, trends and flashpoints in the industry. I would say that having entered this space, I have certainly become aware of a wide variety of social issues that I previously either had not given too much thought or even dismissed.


#9

75g and 205 degF? Cmon Rob, either own your Imperial upbringing or fully embrace the modern Metric world. But mixing them up? What are ya, a damn Canadian?!


#10

So jumping to the end waypoints, reading that Brendan Fraser interview certainly brought about a wince watching things like the physical comedy of The Mummy. Because you can’t not think about the price of those performances now: years of surgeries was part of the cost of that on-screen display.

It’s a very short step to considering wider entertainment (ie including sports). The NFL being the most infamous example. And just as that full story involves lots of people who never made it but still picked up injuries (while lack of universal healthcare means the cost is even higher in the US than elsewhere), thinking about Fraser’s performances brings up every stunt performer and physical actor who doesn’t ever break big, who doesn’t get interviewed by GQ.


#11

Separately, I think quite a lot about Nier: Automata, which, upon more and more reflection is definitely my favourite game of all time, and I like to talk about it any chance I get.

What surprises me, or maybe more accurately what saddens me, is seeing people who clearly enjoyed the game and sought out all the main endings, but who miss so many of the core messages in the game that revolve around empathy and oppression.

I’ve written about the game elsewhere (serious spoilers in the link), exploring how public memory is both a trap to be avoided but also something that needs to be reckoned with. Nevertheless, I see people completely ignore the ideas that this game presents: its anti-war and anti-violent stances, exploring the relationship between hegemonic narratives and Otherness, exploring how societies bound themselves in opposition to Others, only to collapse in on themselves, how marginalisation and oppression is inherent to the way human societies work and that understanding this can lead us to better ourselves and how we treat others… All this is central to the game yet is often ignored in favour of concentrating on the personal relationship between 2B and 9S, without even learning from their story.

Overall what I’ve also written in my GOTY list kind of sums up my thoughts:

"Yoko Taro uses the videogame medium, and this game specifically, to tell a story about the human experience, about the most basic human desire for connection and the resulting tragedy and failure, but also about the hope we find in each other, about us bumbling through our lives mostly blind and lost, trying to make the best of it all.

We may never succeed, but it is the chance that we might that drives us, and – Nier will tell you – that is enough. There is not much else that we can hope for. Yet, this hope is beautiful, and it leads us towards the best, and the worst, that the human experience has to offer."


#12

The treatment of female characters in Miyazaki’s Soulsborne games have given me a massive opportunity to reexamine some real garbage assumptions I’ve had about about gender and power, both in the world and my own identity.


#13

I honestly can’t think of a game that made me rethink any of my beliefs. More often than not, I have to ignore what games are telling me in order to enjoy them. Something like Hitman for example, which is an incredible toy box to play with full of emergent moments and improvisation, I have to ignore the fact that it’s basically trying to make me feel ok about murdering people for money because they’re, like, real bad y’know? Let’s try absolve you of any weird moral questions here while also completely sidestep the notion of murder for justice by just not talking about it at all. Oooh, the scary man is making a bad virus, execute him for cash.


#14

How so? I’d not heard of them being particularly shitty or exceptionally positive.


#15

These are good places to start for Dark Souls:

I’m sure there’s an article that goes deeper into it, but in Bloodborne the whole unknowable, cosmic horror is described with allusions to pregnancy and menstrual cycles. On hand that works in the moment because the presentation is real creepy, on the other hand using exclusively female terms to portray unspeakable evil falls apart as soon as you look at the story in a broader context.


#16

I’ve only ever heard the read on Bloodborne that all the eldritch horrors are more or less victims of humans.


#17

I actually have really mixed feelings about the whole “Gwyndolin is a Trans Woman” because being coercively raised as a specific gender is exactly what trans people go through and Gwyndolin being a Trans woman kind of implies that people are the gender they are raised as which… is wack. Transmisogyny not excused, of course.


#18

There’s for sure gender essentialism in the souls series, mostly around the female characters and their relation to magic, or their status/role in the world. Like in Demon’s Souls the witch says her magic comes from emotions and is evil and dangerous, something echoed by the male wizards who claim their own magic is different and better because it’s oh so scholarly and logical! But here’s the thing, you eventually discover all magic and miracles come from the same demonic place (The Old One) and so there isn’t anything actually more evil about her magic, it’s just the sexism she has internalized from constant persecution. The game doesn’t say that last part specifically so that’s just my reading, but I think it’s supported. A lot of the handling of gender in the series gets more complicated on deeper reading after learning about the context of the lore within the world and the often hidden motivations of the characters. The destructive consequences of patriarchal pursuit of power is a major theme of the series, and the women are usually working against those patriarchs. But there’s a lot more to dissect there, and the series could still be much better about all this stuff, especially on surface level.

For example, the Queens in Dark Souls 2 (the one Miyazaki had the least involvement with), are the worst example of sexism in the series imo, where they’re portrayed as inherently evil creatures born of corrupting darkness who exist only to bring about the downfall of virtuous kings. It’s something borrowed from Arthurian Legend like a lot of DS2’s lore but made far more sexist by having darkness be inherent to their nature instead of their betrayal coming from being unhappy with an arranged marriage to a shitty absent husband like Arthur. DS2 also has Lucatiel who is one of the most interesting female characters in the series, but her quest still is motivated by her missing brother even if ultimately it’s all about her own tragic journey.

I don’t feel especially qualified to talk about Gwyndolin’s transness but I will say that I never felt Gwyndolin was actually portrayed as a villain, and feels like more of a misguided, sheltered person trying to uphold their dying father’s legacy. It always seemed apparent to me that Frampt, not Gwyndolin, was the real architect of lies pulling the strings from the shadows.

Also yeah the eldritch horrors in Bloodborne, or at least Rom, Ebrietas, and Kos, are all strongly implied to be benevolent or at least non-hostile innocents who have been slaughtered, imprisoned, and/or exploited by the human Healing Church.


#19

To clarify, I’m totally cool with reinterpreting and reclaiming characters and their narratives, and think it’s often a healthy thing to do! A lot of women reclaim the archetype of the witch, and I love that! :slight_smile:

I have concerns about the subtext, though, specifically with certain queer narratives. There are people who reclaim the mythological character Caenus who, similarly to Medusa, (Warning: rape) was raped by Poseidon, and cast out by Athena because of it, and was so distraught that they (when Poseidon offered a to grant a wish) requested to become a man so that they never had the same thing happen again.

I’m not a trans man, so I can’t speak to this reclamation. But the same kinds of narratives can be found as explanations not just trans women’s identities but a huge amount of queer identities. (Overbearing parents, distant parents, trauma, etc., etc.) These narratives have also resulted in so much psychological abuse and pain. (Read some early psychology books on homosexuality and other LGBT+ (and unfortunately recent books, too) to see what I’m talking about.) So when I see things like Caenus or Gwyndolin being held up as trans characters, I get the sour taste in my mouth of sinister psychoanalytics and transphobia.

I actually love Gwyndolin’s aesthetic, and do find appeal in the interpretation of them being a trans woman. I just also believe those interpretations need to be critically addressed, too. That’s why I have mixed feelings on it. :confused:


#20

Reinterpretation of characters, their histories, and their authors’ intentions is completely valid. I mean, people interpret the story of Christ to be anything from the first hippy to supporting spartan, intolerant tedium.