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    Entries in Rockstar (5)


    Max Payne 3: I Aggressively Hate This Game

    Three Times Your Daily Allowance Of White Saviorism


    Max Payne 3 turned out to be the game people wanted after they realized realistic gun violence needs a better soundtrack.  I never was a Max Payne fan. I think this is a result of playing the PS2 games well after the Matrix hype died down. Shooting bullets at a slower rate of speed was cool. I mean “bullet time” became a known term because of Max Payne. What have you done for me lately Max Payne? Have you upheld all the current tropes in gaming? Yes, you have. This video game stars a white dude in a land of poor people of color. He shoots them and the developers made sure it felt mechanically great. This game is well liked in my friend group and I can see its charm, but outside of the dope soundtrack, Max Payne 3 a big budget fart of a game.

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    The Niggering Of Grand Theft Auto V

    They will show characters you have no agency over and speak for you when you cannot talk 

    As a preface, I really stewed over the title of this piece. I concluded, that if a billion dollars worth of people are eager to hear this word, hundreds of times in a video game, then why socially veil it behind “the n-word?”


    I’m writing this because I’m truly conflicted about that word -- because I use it. I use it in private company. I listen to it in my preferred music. I see it in some of my favorite films. And now, I guess I have to get use to it in my video games.


    Another vital point: as of me typing this, I have never played Grand Theft Auto V. I’ve played others, just not this one. I’ve been over a friend’s house and watched her play it for a few hours. I’ve watch a few live streams by critics and pals on the internet, but I haven’t [for whatever reason or many reasons] played this game.


    This word isn’t new. The internet will tell me to not be surprised at Rockstar’s ability to have it’s finger on the pulse of such specific cultural witticism and casual slang-infused dialogue between their characters. Ever since hearing CJ shout it out of a speeding car in San Andreas in 2004, there was some sort of benchmark set here. A benchmark for the word, nigger.


    It really stings to write that word versus saying it aloud. That word. Ugh. A word I use. A word I ‘joke’ with. A word I put the “a” at the end of to try and dilute the impact and its history. A word that, I majorly use around friends who so graciously let me pollute their ears with it. There is no excuse for me using it conversationally. There is no excuse for me using it at all. Knowing why I use it doesn’t give me a conscious feeling of maturity.


    I’m use to using it. I’m use to poor, colored folks using it. I’m not use to it in video games. My brain, at times, doesn’t accept certain games beyond a toy image and this toy has traditionally been made by non-colored people in positions of power.


    The elephant in the room is that in order to accept the image of colored folk in multi-dimensional roles they must adhere to a stereotype that makes their presence “more palatable.” Colored people in award winning films are: slaves, prisoners, whores, thugs, addicts, dimwits, clowns, violent1. Violent. Violent. In five months you will see nominations and awards given to a film called 12 Years A Slave. A film directed by a African-European. Film has had time to slowly mature and the rarity of having a black person direct a film involving black issues, colored people issues. This is something, I can only hope, the gaming culture can accomplish on just as large a scale.


    Almost 10 years after hearing CJ use it in San Andreas. A character I was almost too happy to say represented shades of myself and family friends in my  … old neighborhood. There was also this feeling, even at 21 -- a “mature gamer,” that I was playing something so edgy that my mom shouldn’t know about it. She wouldn’t get it. The very black woman who brought me into this world, who’d raised me on her own -- who showed me how to play Ms. Pac Man, wouldn’t get it.


    I guess we all were dumb kids at some point.


    This character, CJ, represented so much and held so much weight in GTA: San Andreas [even though you could send him on murderous rampages and have him beat up women] he was written to not only use that word, but to be an attempt at a three-dimensional person of color. A person from poverty who had tired of his gangbanging days and wanted out of the Los Angeles inspired, Los Santos.

    GTA V hopes to depict a naturalistic depiction of Franklin and his friend Lamar. While using problematic language is accepted in the GTA franchise, I worry if showing aspects of culture in GTA while encouraging violence as a means of escaping poverty is concerning.


    There is this part of me that I’m not allowing to mature. I’m not letting go of that word and I think writing this whole thing out will help, in some way, process if I ever will. Either that or there will be several family members and friends on the internet giving me what-for, I expect mom to be the first to slap me. Form a line behind her.


    Here’s where my logic becomes something unrelatable to many. I feel, especially after the word’s use in several games since San Andreas and now with casual conversation between Lamar2 and Franklin. I don’t know why this has to exist in GTA games anymore. I also feel, after the recent revelation that more people are currently playing GTA V than any game on Earth [for the time being], that if more people see this word used in casual conversation -- that the word within this generation, loses meaning. Within that there is this idea, that I should prepare for more major game publishers to culturally cherry pick portions of us3, more so than they have already.


    Semantic satiation. The act of using a word so many times that the word is just a sound you hear. Meaningless.  The psychological phrasing is semantic saturation, which may be more apt in a post-Dave Chappelle world. I also have to acknowledge that we live in an online connected community and as of me typing this, GTA V’s online features haven’t be turned on. When that happens, I’m wondering if my illogical hypothesis will bear fruit.


    It’s not that I think having a game that has black people saying that word back and forth to one another will provoke others, in real life, to do as the Romans do. Because then we open the horrible conversation of “do video games cause…” when in reality, I’m not trying to be absolute in the result. But since CJ’s appearance in San Andreas, and the rise of violent video games being played by more people in an online capacity -- I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that there are more people on the internet calling me … that word.


    A word, that I still use, but never online and never in mixed company. I still use it. And it disturbs me that a game that can’t -- won’t depict more minorities having casual conversation in their games is still willing to show these ‘attempts’ at semi-developed black men say one of the most hurtful words to one another to an audience that has spent decades co-opting and vulturing ethnic culture.


    What perturbs me most, out of all of this, is that we see that there is so much good possible within games culture by looking at the most recent Grand Theft Auto games in the past decade. From depicting CJ as a thug who wants to escape his social caste system in San Andreas. From an Eastern Promises inspired Nico who immigrated from Russia to pursue the American Dream to find anything but. To The Ballad of Gay Tony, an attempt to feature a character who is gay, but is given more character development to the point of his sexual orientation being moot.


    It would hurt less if these attempts weren’t made, but since they were we have to state the obvious. Rockstar is not capable of depicting the disenfranchised beyond established stereotypes. They will put women in sexually suggestive poses on their box covers, but not give a player the options of playing them in any story capacity. Rockstar is very capable of giving you an almost turn-by-turn realized virtual reality of Los Angeles in Los Santos. They can enthrall you with the many mechanics of violent outcomes of characters they’ve established as anti-heroes. They are not interested in showing these anti-heroes beyond a stereotype in a world they’ve so meticulously mimicked.


    This fosters an audience of people who think things like this are funny. This makes me think that the language, the depictions, that word [THAT word] that Rockstar is so eager to display for hundreds of millions of dollars is merely just for that. And the glaring omission of anything meaningful, of women -- of their conversations? Is purposeful and that makes me upset. Nigger is not an edgy dialogue device to be encouraged in a game that isn’t interested in showing that word’s cause and effect.


    I’m not a punch line to your joke.



    1Apologies for the serial commas, but I really needed them.


    2The character who plays Lamar is a comedian named Gerald “Slink” Johnson that I find funny [and problematic] and I’m happy he landed a pretty big role in one of this generation’s biggest games.


    3By “us” I mean the royal “us.” The poor, LGBT and disabled. All forms of the intersectional society that remains the punch line of jokes and a plot-point to move an edgy story forward.




    L.A. Noire Developer Exposed -- Brendon McNamara

    Nice work on the neck-fat there John. 

    [image courtesy of Hardcoregaming 101]

    [I was originally going to post this on, but their editor won't save my work. Also, I'm at my day job and I don't want to make it a habit of writing up stuff, while I'm supposed to be doing other work. So, this is just between you and me internet.]

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    Red Dead Redemption -- Why Open World Narratives Fail

    A game rich with architecture, dialog and distraction. Red Dead Redemption makes huge steps for open world games with narrative, but plays it safe with a bevy of sidequests and mulitplayer options that distracts more than it immerses.
    Red Dead Redemption -- a very fortunate game with some unfortunate pieces. I feel like I’m destined to never complete an RPG or an open world game. I’m not sure if this should be seen as a review, because [by my standards] a true review comes from thoroughly exploring every aspect of a game. But times have changed. Red Dead Redemption and games of its massive budget-ilk are a fantastic example of how different games are in this generation in comparison to any preceding. A game rife with imagery and characters that bleed imagination and heavy influence from a time and genre the common gamer will not completely identify with. With as many inspiring answers as to what gaming is capable of today, I’m left asking more questions to the contrary. Why isn’t this an MMO? Do open-world games break a game’s narrative outline [no matter the quality]? And more importantly, why couldn’t I finish this incredible game?

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    Video: Red Dead Redemption Weapons

    A couple things of note:

    • I couldn't help but notice that the star of Rockstar's most recent epic doesn't have a perfect set of teeth. I have no idea why my eyes became affixed on something so small and minute, but I guess I never noticed [out loud] that most games have 'ideal' modeled faces. Down to the pearly whites.
    • Can I hold my gun 'gangsta style' a la 50 Cent: Blood On The Sand, because this could be a deal breaker. I need my enemies to know they are going to die with style.
    • How sexy is this guys 'tech demo' -style voice over work. Its great to live in the age of games getting the National Geographic treatment; really, its a serious tone of respect I thought I'd never see. But honestly, we couldn't shell out the extra bucks to get Morgan Freeman to voice over the main guns in RDR? These truly are troubling times.

    Video Provided By Joystiq