It seems like people don’t very much like Beyond: Two Souls. With a Metacritic average score of 70 points, negative comments about the game abound, even on positive reviews. Over at Game Trailers, Ryan Stevens writes that the game makes players feel inconsequential. Over at IGN, Lucy O’Brien writes that ““playing” it a very confusing and unrewarding experience”, while Ludwing Kietzmann over at Joystiq writes that the scenes aren’t tied to one another, that there is no chemistry between the actors, and that the writing is goofy. Ben Croshaw’s Zero Punctuation review was specially harsh. Certainly, the game review community largely agrees that Beyond: Two Souls is a “bad game”, with some even arguing whether it’s a game at all. Although some like James Wright over at Impulse Gamer write that it’s one of the more memorable gaming experiences to date, the consensus is that it’s bad. However, I am not only inclined to agree with critics like James Wright in that, yes, Beyond: Two Souls is one of the most memorable experiences in gaming, but I would also argue that games like Beyond: Two Souls (along with the other Quantic Dreams games and Spec Ops: The Line) and are spearheading a new era of videogame narrative which shows a grown up side to this form of media.
I have previously written about the Fallout games, specifically Fallout New Vegas, about the interesting choices it forces players to make, and about how players can become more self-aware about certain aspects of their personalities through play. The ending of the expansion titled The Divide had the potential of providing another such moment of introspection, but it dropped the ball at the end.
At the end of The Divide, after either killing Ulysses or convincing him to stand down, the player will be forced to make a choice. Standing inside a missile launch facility with the missiles already activated and the countdown sequence already engaged, players will be forced to either attempt to stop the missile launch, launch the missiles at the NCR, launch the missiles at Caesar’s Legion, or launching the missiles at both the NCR and Caesar’s Legion. To stop the missile launch, however, the player has to sacrifice ED-E, a robot AI companion that accompanies the player throughout the entire Divide. This choice is meant to make the player decide between the lives of the innocent residents of the NCR, the slaves captured by Caesar’s Legion, and one of the player’s companions. Although this had the potential of being a gripping moment where the player would wrestle with his consciousness in a moment of introspection, weighing the lives of thousands of innocent people versus the life of one friend, because of the way the game is designed and the programmed outcomes, players are inclined to simply send the missiles to both the NCR camp and Caesar’s Legion.
Last year, on December 27th, former chess world champion Garry Kasparnov took to Twitter to make some comments about the eSports scene, specifically in Seoul. He wrote that although Chess and Go are far less popular than eSports, because of the volatile nature of videogame fandom, Chess and Go will still be a popular game-sport 100 years from now, while League of Legends tournaments will be relegated to at best a footnote in the history of competitive gaming (broadly defined to include tabletop games). He wrote that ” the strategic purity of chess (or go, etc) is timeless for a reason. No storyline to tire of, no expansion packs to buy!” Despite the backlash from the (video)gaming community and my own inclinations to prefer playing videogames over tabletop games, I am inclined to agree with Gary. I don’t mean to say that eSports won’t be around in 100 years – in fact, as technology improves and we become a more technologically immersed society I expect eSports to only grow in popularity. However, I don’t see League of Legends tournaments (or Starcraft 2 tournaments, or tournaments revolving around any given videogame) to be around 100, 50, 20, or maybe even 10 years from now.
Despite ridiculous claims about how teachers “make too much money” because the private sector pays teachers less than the public sector [perhaps private institutions should pay teachers a more dignified salary], because teacher make an “obscene” 35$ an hour, or because a group of science deniers decided that teachers aren’t smart enough, the truth is that the level of respect given to teachers in the US, at least in national conversations regarding education, is remarkably low. They are constantly framed as leeches who work for the sake of “paid vacation” (never mind the fact that they work on a salary and that by the time summer comes along they have already earned their summer pay) or because they want an “easy job” (last I checked, teaching was not an easy thing to do).