Monday, September 24, 2012

Come to the Dark Side...

Does playing an evil character in a game affect your real life? 

Every game has a story.  Whether you’re talking about role-playing games that brag about the amount of immersion or FPS games that say “Oh yeah, and there’s a story, too.”  Every game has a story of some sort.  Mario has to save the princess, Pac Man has to eat dots, and Galen Marek has to help the Rebellion defeat Darth Vader.  

So what makes a story?  To put it simply, conflict.  To tell an interesting story, something has to be wrong.  Sometimes it’s circumstances, sometimes it’s one specific enemy.  A good story has more than one conflict; it has a main, overall conflict and several other, more specific sub-conflicts to add to the depth.  

What I’m going to talk about today, though, is the scenario when a story has one specific enemy, or one specific evil that the “good guys” are fighting.  More specifically, I’m going to talk about those games that give you the choice to be evil, and if it’s a good thing or not.  

After all, RPG’s rave about giving you choices and letting you do whatever you want, right?  In Knights of the Old Republic, for instance, you don’t have to be the Jedi that saves the galaxy.  In fact, you can choose to be the evil person who kills the bad guy just so that you can destroy the Republic yourself.  

Maybe you’re thinking: “Why would anyone want to do that, anyway?  What fun is there in being the bad guy?”  You’d be surprised.  I know a lot of people that enjoy playing the story from the side of the bad guy.  I’m currently playing Skyrim as a not-so-great character myself.  I’m doing the Thieves Guild quests, which means pick-pocketing, lock picking, and general mischief.  It’s not because I think that shop lifting is a fabulous thing, it’s because it changes the story, and I want to see what things are like from another perspective of the game.  

So, does it make me less Christian to enjoy playing a thief in Skyrim?  It’s just a game, but at the same time, it’s still me behind the keyboard choosing for my game avatar to do those things.  This is an age old discussion that Christian gamers have talked about time and again, and from my experience, it’s almost always an even split between yes, no, and both at once.  Allow me to explain.  

The people who say yes make the point that the choices you make in a game are still representative of you, and to be an evil character is still, albeit virtually, making bad choices. 
The people who say no are either the people who say “It’s just a game!” or that they’re just portraying the character in the game and that it doesn’t affect their real life at all.  

I have to agree with the people that say both yes and no, and here’s why: what it all comes down to is your heart.  When you play a villain, does it feel wrong to you?  Does it make you feel guilty to be playing a bad guy?  Then I have great news for you.  

You don’t have to if you don’t want to.  Every RPG ever gives you that choice.

  If you can enjoy playing another side of the story guilt-free, then do it!  Games are just stories that you are a part of, so go and be whatever part of the story that you want to be.  As long as you keep your relationship with God as your first priority, everything else will sort itself out.  

*Hops off soap box* 

Oh yeah, and I have another review to share, which you can read here.

Until next time, have fun... and be evil if you want to!   

Monday, September 17, 2012

My Wibbly Wobbly Life

Has it really been over two weeks since I posted last?  Where does time go?  I mean, time is just a progression of cause to effect, and...

Oh.  I stand corrected.  Thanks for explaining that, Doctor.  

Anyway, on a serious note, the reason I haven't been posting for the past two weeks is that my grandma passed away on the eighth.  She was eighty-seven, meaning that she was already seventy when I was born, but I was very close to her.  When I would stay at her house as a kid, she would always let me pick out one of those little books with the gold spines, sit on her lap, and read me whatever story I wanted before I went to bed.  The Mickey Mouse versions of The Three Musketeers and The Princess and the Pea were my favorites.  Eventually, when I could read well enough, I would read them to her.  It was a tradition that I loved, and I'll always remember it fondly.  If that doesn't make her awesome enough, she also made the best sausage gravy in the world, I kid you not.  

So, what better way to honor the fantastic person who made me love books than to share with you the books that I've been reading?  

First off is Heiress by Susan May Warren, which I got for the great price of free for my Kindle.  Since I don't want to make a crazily giant wall of text by posting all of these reviews word for word, you can see my review right here.  3/5 stars from me.     

Next up is one of the funniest books I have read in a long time, which earned it five stars.  It's called Hero, Second Class, by Mitchell Bonds, and here's my review. 

"Have at you read this book set in Mitchell Bonds' wonderful, quirky world yet? No? Well, if you're a fan of fantasy, comedy, and adventure, this should be on your "Must-Read" list.

From the second line, this book had me laughing, and it kept it up throughout. This book makes fun of the fantasy genre, it has a lot of puns, and it's just flat out funny. Some parts of this novel even reminded me of Monty Python, only cleaner, which is fantastic.

While the main goal of Hero, Second Class is to make you laugh realize how much of a fantasy geek you are, it also manages to weave a wonderful story with characters that I genuinely cared about. One of our Heroes narrates all his own battles, which was very entertaining. There's also a surprisingly sweet love story mixed in, which I was not expecting. The Villain was truly villainous, violent, and had a wonderful supporting cast of Minions, Toadies, Henchmen, "fishy" accountants (You'll see what I mean if you read it), etc.

This is also a book by a Christian author, and while it's clean, there's not a whole lot of inspirational moments, if any. It didn't handle the Christian element too badly, though, so I can't complain.

There is, however, two complaints I have. There were a few spelling and grammatical errors that, while not terrible, were a bit distracting and could have been fixed by a more thorough proof read. My second complaint is that it ended! I have hope that reading the second book in this series will fix the latter issue."

Thirdly is a book called First Test by Tamora Pierce, which I haven't reviewed yet, and lastly is Fools Rush In by Janice Thompson.  I wrote a short and a little harsh review here.  Sorry, it just wasn't my cup of tea.  Which reminds me, my tea cup is empty.  Until next time!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Full Disclosure

My apologies for being a little late, but here's my review for Full Disclosure, the newest novel from Dee Henderson, releasing on October 2nd!  

After five years, I've finally gotten a book from one of my favorite authors. Thanks to the Early Reviewers group and Bethany House Publishers for providing me with my free advance reading copy.

This is an interesting review for me to write, because I'm a huge fan of Henderson's, and loved her O'Malley books. Not that I didn't really like Full Disclosure, but from a technical standpoint, it just wasn't quite as good as it could have been. I'll get to those in a minute, but let's talk about the things I liked, first.
The main characters. Ann was great. I loved how deep her character was and how unique her personality was compared to the others around her. I was even able to relate to her a little, since I'm an introvert myself. Ann rather takes this to the extreme, but I'll let you figure that out for yourself.

Paul was pretty well done, also. I liked his connections with his family, and the way he was with his co-workers. When all is said and done, he didn't feel terribly different and memorable to me, and reminded me quite a bit of Dave from The Negotiator. Not that there's anything wrong with that, he just didn't have anything about him that stuck out to me.

The second thing I liked was the story line in general. The romance flowed along at a nice pace. The cases were interesting, if not quite as suspenseful as some of Henderson's others. A lot of the characters from her other books make an appearance here, which is an interesting addition.

The third thing I like is (and this goes for all of Henderson's books that I've read so far) the story feels natural, the characters feel real, and it's not a captive to any one specific genre. Whenever someone would ask me what I was reading, I would say: "Well, it's a Christian suspense/mystery/romance." All those elements are in there, yes, but you can't have one without the other.

Let's talk about the thing I didn't like. And that is: details. Honestly, I think this book could be fifty to a hundred pages longer and be better for it. We're not told what some characters even look like, which made it hard to remember who is who at times. I get that there are a lot of minor characters in this book, but there can be minor characters that we at least remember. Rita and Sam, for instance, were in much of the book, but since I can't picture them in my mind or remember a certain scene where they made a serious impression, I'll probably forget them in a month. Maybe that's okay and maybe I'm just being picky, but it wasn't just the characters that were missing fine details. The story also had some small threads that could have been touched on later. There's one in particular that I have in mind when I say this that would have made me laugh, but for the sake of spoilers, I won't say any more.

Overall, I loved this book because it's by one of my favorite authors, but if asked my unbiased opinion, I would say that this book lacks the polish that it could have. It's a good book, but not quite an amazing one. I hope that it gets to be amazing before its release.