Faith, without a map

Mirrors Edge - Faith looks over the City

Hi Feministe — it’s been too long! My non-digital life has been a little frenetic in recent months. I won’t go into an extensive personal update, but suffice it to say that I managed to lose my job, but then I landed about six other jobs (I’m still a game designer). Also, one of my cats was diagnosed with lymphoma, but now it looks like he might just have bad digestive problems. Also, my old laptop literally melted itself, but I got a great deal on a new Sager. Along the way, we all managed to elect our first black president, gay marriage returned yet again as the hot topic to argue about in queer and progressive communities, and the economy melted down badly enough that the financial-sector people around here have started angrily nickel-and-diming the deli guys for not putting enough butter on their bagels. But you know all of that already.

I thought I’d give you all an update on a recently-released video game we talked about this summer. No, not Fat Princess — that one hasn’t been released yet. I mean Mirror’s Edge, which I brought up as an example of a game with a strong female protagonist. I just finished it, and I gotta say… yep, strong female protagonist! That’s not what makes the game interesting, however. SFPs have been a dime a dozen in games and movies and TV shows for some time, and video games have featured them all the way back to Samus Aran of Metroid and Lara Croft of Tomb Raider.

Lara Croft, who also has a new game out, is a classic example of the tricky ambiguities of video game protagonists. She’s smart and capable and tough, but she’s clearly a sex object for the mostly-male audience of her games. She explores ancient ruins in short-shorts and somehow swims in arctic oceans wearing wetsuits that show a whole lot of her bare (and freezing) ass. More than one dry academic paper has been written about how Lara Croft’s not really a feminist character because she’s a sexpot marionette for game-playing puppetmasters. I tend to think the subject-object relationship between player and game avatars is a lot more complicated than just “you are the avatar” vs. “you are jerking the avatar around on strings,” and interestingly Lara’s cup size has dropped significantly over the years, but that’s another story. I’m not going to get into the history of Tomb Raider or try to define what makes a feminist protagonist. I’m going to tell you what I found interesting about Mirror’s Edge.

Mirror’s Edge is at its heart a game about parkour, the athletic art of moving between two points as rapidly as possible, using nothing but your body and features of the environment. The game’s protagonist is Faith, an Asian-American courier with a knack for hurling herself into harm’s way. Like a lot of parkour enthusiasts, she spends a lot of time on rooftops, and Mirror’s Edge is largely about jumping, vaulting, climbing, pushing off of walls, rolling as Faith falls from great heights, and other almost-impossible seeming feats of gravity defiance.

This trailer actually may make you more motion sick than the actual game, which incorporates the fascinating technique of a little contrasting dot near the middle of the screen. The dot draws your focus in such a way that you don’t feel vertigo — it’s like magic, given that it’s done with just a few pixels on a screen.

DICE, the developers of the game, clearly wanted to give players a feeling of inhabiting Faith’s body. This has long been an argument for the first-person point of view that dominates certain genres of video game, like the notorious “first-person shooter” — think Quake, Halo, Half-Life, or Call of Duty. The idea is that the player will be more immersed and feel more connected to their in-game representation. That theory is rather flawed from the outset, if you ask me (sorry, Warren) but DICE has come up with a new twist on the idea of being in a body: you see Faith’s arms and legs as she moves around, jumps and rolls and grabs guys who are trying to pistol-whip her. This has been done before with hands (usually holding a gun) but it’s much more dramatic as you start to see more of a character’s body. I was put off by it at first, but I’ve come around to see it as a fairly effective way of communicating the idea that you are not just a “point of view” in the world, but a body who has to spread out as she leaps, curl up as she hurdles over a stretch of low-lying barbed wire.

As anyone who plays World of Warcraft knows, there are an awful lot of female avatars being played by male players. In some cases, this really is a form of self-expression or identity exploration, but the most common reason given is “if I have to be staring at the backside of my character all day, I want it to be a cute backside.” Make no mistake — this is part of why more attention has been paid in recent years to the construction of Lara Croft’s ass as opposed to her rack. Gamers want good-looking avatars, and are at least as interested in the female characters looking hot than in the male characters looking tough. Most third-person perspective games, and quite a few first-person games, let you rotate the camera around your avatar to inspect them from all sides. This is how we play dress-up dolls in the virtual world, boys and girls alike.

Faith stubbornly resists this trend. Unlike most first-person avatars, you can see her arms and legs, clad in loose white pants, red sneakers and glove, and a techno-bone tattoo. But you rarely see the rest of her, except in the occasional reflection. Interestingly, there’s no way to look at Faith’s torso or head, to check out her chest or her butt. I found this a little odd at first, to be able to look down and see my legs but not my chest — I mean, I can do that on myself (checks). I’m not sure whether DICE found this to be the best compromise, or whether they deliberately omitted the most-ogled parts of the female form, either because they cringed at the thought of ogling, or because they felt it might disrupt the thin line of gamers’ identification with the virtual body.

Even when you do see her in ads, mirrors, and cutscenes, Faith has a wiry, androgynous form suited to someone who runs and climbs for a living. Her clothing is utilitarian, not decorative, and her style of movement is closer to the efficiency of parkour than the aesthetics of free running. Tom Farrer, the producer of the game, was recently quoted about her character design:

We’ve spent time in developing Faith. And the important thing for us was that she was human, that she was more real.

We really wanted to get away from the typical portrayal of women in games, that they’re all just kind of tits and ass in a steel bikini. We wanted her to look athletic and fit and strong [enough] that she could do the things that she’s doing.

We wanted her to be attractive, but we didn’t want her to be a supermodel. We wanted her to be approachable and far more real. It was just kind of depressing that someone thinks it would be better if Faith was a 12-year-old with a boob job. That was kind of what that image looked to me. […] To be honest, I found it kind of sad.

Farrer is talking about a fan-made image that started making the rounds six weeks ago, created by a Korean gamer who felt that the character design was a Western stereotype of Asian women, and didn’t cater to “Asian tastes” enough. Here’s the comparison:

Faith as designed by DICE vs. Faith as designed by torokun

Guess which one is supposed to represent “asian tastes?” Refreshingly, the response from the gamer community has largely been in favor of the original Faith, with a healthy smattering of “uh, I’m Asian and I prefer the one on the left, OK?” I can’t give people TOO much credit for being creeped out by the combination of D-cups with a little girl face, it’s like getting the “yay, you’re not a pedophile” award. Even hardcore gamers like variety, and a change of pace from the usual improbably red-headed loincloth-clad Chinese girls with giant swords for something slightly more realistic. (As a side note I can see the point about stereotypes in that Faith’s eye shape is highlighted and then accentauted by makeup, and “lithe and wiry” is the usual body type that’s paired up with Asian ethnicities… but the boobs and the anime-cutie face? Come on. I hope it was a tongue-in-cheek joke, which is what some are saying.)

Some comments on other sites have gone so far as to say that a less-sexy character design is responsible for the relatively low sales of Mirror’s Edge, but I’m not really sure how that could play such a huge part given that you don’t actually see the character in the game. If anything, I suspect it’s more that the concept of the game, a true 3D platformer that’s not billed as a fantasy adventure, is a little too unfamiliar for many holiday shoppers. It’s a shame, really. Parkour has been popping up all over pop culture lately, from action-packed television ads to the villains in the latest Die Hard film and other games like Assassin’s Creed. But Mirror’s Edge is the first to really nail the experience, and the result is fantastic gameplay.

At the beginning of each level, you’re told roughly where you’re supposed to go, often a landmark on the horizon. You can press a button at any time to face your goal, a fact that should be explained a little earlier and more clearly, but other than that, you’re on your own — which is part of the point of parkour, you’ve got to find your way across rooftops, through ventilation ducts, up pipes on the sides of buildings, any way you can. This seems to have baffled a few game reviewers, who may be used to having a map or other clear signs telling them where to go, but those tools would defeat the essential gameplay in this case. The only real concession to help you out comes in the form of objects that turn red, indicating that you can interact with them–leaping off ramps, climbing up footholds, breaking through doors–and even those can be turned off for hardcore play. I’ve actually found it makes for some fun Thanksgiving-weekend social play with friends, as everyone hanging out on the couch looks around the environment and says things like “wait, can you get on top of that roof? Slide down that railing!”

A traditional map would be cumbersome and somewhat useless for a different reason in this game–the intense verticality of the environments. Faith is always climbing way up or sliding and plummeting way down, an intriguingly urban change of pace from older forms of explorative gameplay in 3D worlds, which usually involve traveling around to various locations or finding every location on a top-down blueprint-style map. The city Faith travels through is full of death-defying feats that you can just barely believe might be possible if the direction of the wind and the strength of her legs were exactly right.

DICE has taken an interesting direction with the environments as well, creating a city of skyscrapers that almost looks like it’s been whitewashed. Too many games these days revel in the ability of modern graphics processors to create extremely detailed renditions of grime, dust, rust, lichen, and decay, or at the very least, complex ornamentation. The anonymous City in this game, mostly white a gleaming metal broken up by intense swatches of primary-colored paint, looks like it was designed by a Scandinavian minimalist. (And it probably was, since DICE is located in Stockholm.) When you get up close, however, and are pressed against a skyscraper wall, you see a very realistic porous, slightly crumbling texture that’s all the more astonishing for its subtlety.

Gritty problems behind the clean facade of the City are the focal point of Faith’s story, which I have to admit is half the reason I bought this game. How could I not buy a game that has the word “criminalized” in the opening scene, where the stage is set? It’s simple enough idea, not all that different from other works of popular culture where resolute rebels fight against an oppressive state, but Mirror’s Edge avoids the filter of science-fiction or fantasy and plunks its rebels right down in an unnamed city that could be anywhere in the USA, any time in the next decade. There are no futuristic elements other than increasing corporate-government dystopia.

It’s not clear what Faith’s parents were protesting or why dissident elements are being criminalized (other than just for being dissidents, of course). There are any number of possible reasons, but it’s all kept in the abstract, and the use of repressive force and surveillance is brought to the foreground, represented by security cameras and black helicopters. It’s at this point that Mirror’s Edge gets a little shaky in the story department, and starts to feel like it was cobbled together to help explain the parkour gameplay and the clean visual design. Faith and her friends are “Runners,” couriers who carry messages that are too sensitive to be sent online, where the government monitors everything. (I guess PGP has been reclassified as a munition in this future, and Phil Zimmerman is probably in prison along with the entire EFF.)

The actual business of delivering messages only really happens in the very first chapter of the story, and Faith spends the rest of the game either investigating or on the run from a shadow set of city-government overlords who are trying to frame her sister for the murder of a virtuous politician. The whole Runner idea is a little silly, and I suspect it came out of conversations that went something like this:

A: “So why is the city so totally clean and bright?”
B: “Well, we need a conflict for the story anyway… maybe it’s because the government has ‘cleaned up’ all the dirty troublesome elements to make it all look like a brand-new corporate park!”
A: “OK, so why is our heroine doing parkour on the rooftops?”
B: “Well… city governments do hate it when people trespass on rooftops so they can jump over ventilation systems and stuff like that…”
A: “Uh… not really dramatic enough.”
B: “How about this: they’re carrying messages! Messages that have to be… uh… carried over the rooftops for security! Because Big Brother is watching everything, so it’s actually the best way to send an e-mail!”
A: “So she’s like a super bike-messenger! Except on top of skyscrapers!”

In other words, it’s a little tacked on. I might be a little sensitive to this kind of thing, since my own work has focused on trying to create narratives that stem more organically from gameplay. Despite the stretches in plausibility, I like Faith as a game character. She’s a little flat, mostly just a punk street kid who likes dodging the law, but she has sympathetic motivations — she wants to save her sister from the same bullies of the state who killed her mother, and that’s hard for me not to like. There are plenty of “fuck the police” protagonists out there these days, but most of them are deliberately low-life criminal anti-heroes in the vein of Scarface, and almost all are male.

What’s more, Faith’s style of action is all about evasion and speed, as opposed to force. Although you can pick up guns in Mirror’s Edge, even shoot down the SWAT teams that constantly pursue her, you can’t carry a gun for long, because Faith needs to be light, agile, and hands-free to get around. Instead, she relies mostly on martial arts and precisely-timed disarming moves to deal with the cops — either that, or fast escapes. She can’t really take on more than one or two cops at a time, which is a lot more realistic than the walking tanks that some games turn you into eventually. If you manage to get through the whole game without shooting anyone, you’re rewarded at the end with the “Test of Faith” achievenment.

Farrar has also talked about how DICE wanted to create a game “where it felt good to throw the gun away” and it’s yet another refreshing move. I’m not a pacifist when it comes to entertainment — I’m also playing Fallout 3 right now, and there’s nothing more satisfying than running around the post-apocalyptic ruins of Washington DC in a party dress and a summer bonnet, making people’s heads explode when I punch them with my giant metal fist, “Fisto.” But I’m always in favor of new approaches and changes of pace, and the choice of whether to use guns or not in Mirror’s Edge feels like a genuinely moral decision that you have to make for Faith.

When it comes down to it, the combat system is not the strongest part of the game, despite its interesting take on weapon-toting. It feels rushed in design and cumbersome, and I always roll my eyes when Faith’s dispatcher announces “you’re going to have to fight your way through these guys, Faithy.” A lot of reviewers have said the same thing, and more than one has pointed out that the game really shines in Time Trial mode, which is pure parkour — get to the destination as quickly as possible, the clock is ticking, with no cops or puzzles or storyline to get in your way. This form of gameplay is really the heart of Mirror’s Edge, and it’s kind of a shame that successful console games these days have to be blockbuster productions; nobody would publish a game that was just parkour time-trials without an epic storyline about battling evil. But then again, without the impetus towards grand blockbusters, we wouldn’t have a truly interesting lead character like Faith.

Mirror’s Edge is available now for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Windows PC. If you’re going to buy it, use the links below and Feministe will get a cut!

UPDATE 1: Kotaku has covered some more reaction from the Japanese-speaking Internet about the original design of Faith. I’m not surprised at all that a lot of gamers think that the Swedish-designed Faith is stereotypical and not that attractive. Part of this has to do with the (creepy and sexist) “moe” standard of cuteness that prevails among Japanese geeky types, but part of it is definitely a reaction to the stereotypical Asian features, haircut, body, etc.

UPDATE 2: In January DICE will be releasing some new maps that can be downloded for the game. They’re gorgeous, abandoning the story setting of a city and having Faith parkour her way through abstract shapes hovering in space. It’s like climbing and vaulting through a beautiful and complex display of information. Which, of course, is what a video game essentially is — it’s what any game is, at the heart .

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26 comments for “Faith, without a map

  1. Emily W
    November 28, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    My question is – how is it for those of us who can’t handle super complicated controls? This is the first game in a while that I’ve thought highly of when finding out about it on my own (ie: Not a recommendation from a close friend), and part of that is that I can’t stand complicated controls. I played NES and then jumped back in a little at PS2, but I didn’t really get the “controls have a few more buttons each gen” thing that some more serious gamers have learned from.

  2. November 28, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    That’s a very good question, Emily. For a modern 3D game, the controls are pretty simple. There’s one button that means “up,” which you use to jump, vault over obstacles, grab onto ledges, climb ladders, and so forth. There’s another button that means “down,” which you use to shimmy down pipes, crouch, slide under things, and let go of ledges so you drop down. That’s all you use most of the time besides movement.

    That said, moving and looking around is a whole ballgame unto itself. Mirror’s Edge uses a standard two-stick control system, but it can take a little while to learn. The right stick controls your feet, so you walk or run in whatever direction you press, walking forward or backwards or side-stepping left or right. The left stick controls your head, in other words which way you’re looking, left and right and up and down. If you can master that, you’ve gained an interactive literacy skill that will help you experience most first-person games of the current era. It’s worth doing, especially since skills like this (if not this exact one) are likely to be part of what constitutes media literacy in the next century!

    It can definitely take some getting used to — my non-gamer roommate is still struggling with it, and I make her play much more stressful games than Mirror’s Edge. She’s become determined to master running around and looking around independently as a skill, in part because she’s a parkour fan, and it’s much easier in this game than in other games we play, where I am always yelling things like “OH MY GOD! RUN, THE ZOMBIES ARE COMING, QUICK, GET DOWN THE STAIRS I’M ALREADY HALFWAY TO THE DOOR!” and she’s like “I can’t get through this doorway I keep banging my head on the side!”

    Other than those controls, there are less important buttons that make Faith look towards whatever objective you’re trying to reach, a button that kicks doors or cops down, and a button that you can use to do disarming maneuevers on cops, but I never use that one because my timing sucks.

    If you’re using a PC, then instead of “two sticks” like I mention earlier, your mouse will control where Faith is looking, and the WASD keys on your keyboard will make her walk forward, left, back, and right respectively.

  3. November 28, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Are you talking about Left 4 Dead?

    Great take down of Mirror’s Edge (and great to see you back!), which my husband has been playing since he could download the demo. He loves it, and he is one of those guys who will play a game on “insane” difficulty right away b/c he is worried he will get bored (this has worked out for him on everything except for The Force Unleashed, which is currently on a little time out right now), but finds Mirror’s Edge pleasingly difficult on a lesser difficulty.

    He is also really liking the attempt to get the “Test of Faith” achievement, and will re play stages until he can get through it otherwise. I didn’t realize it would be so difficult to NOT just pick up something and blast your way through. Ha ha.

  4. November 28, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    messages that are too sensitive to be sent online, where the government monitors everything. (I guess PGP has been reclassified as a munition in this future)

    Or maybe it’s like the UK’s “Regulation of Investigative Powers Act”, where if the police investigate your computer, and there is an encrypted part, they can lock you up if you refuse to give them the key to decrypt it.

    So perhaps it’s just the case that simply sending or receiving an encrypted message would be sufficient to land someone in trouble with the law.

  5. November 28, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    I’m glad to see you’re talking about Mirror’s Edge! Even though I don’t own a 360, I bought a copy of my own so I could play it on my friend’s system. I was also impressed by the game, both for the gameplay reasons and for the fact that Faith is a realistic, sympathetic, and straight-up awesome female character, which is practically unheard of in first-person games.

    While I was playing, I kept thinking about Portal, which is the only other FPS I know of that also has a female as the “FP.” And the striking similarity between these two is that neither involve much shooting, unlike the majority of (male-charactered) first-person games. Your thoughts on this?

  6. Jha
    November 28, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Now THERE’s an Asian look I could get behind. Great review, Holly!

  7. Onymous
    November 28, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Well Perfect Dark springs to mind as a counter example. That said the lack of female protagonists in (the single player campaign of) FP games makes it hard to really draw a conclusion there, meanwhile in the 3rd person world, they’re generally as violent as the men.

  8. November 28, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    I don’t really get many computer games, but I think this review convinced me to get this one. Thanks! (And I’ll buy it from the Feministe link)

  9. Cerberus
    November 28, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    Actually with the messenger thing, I thought it was a pretty straightforward homage to Y.T. from Snow Crash. Dystopian capitalist society? Check. Non-stereotypical young female protagonist? Check. Said protagonist being a member of a “secure” message delivery program involving daredevil stunts in non-traditional methods of transportation? Check. Relying more on brains than brawn to get out of jams? Check. Check. Check.

    I’m really quite in love with the game and this latest trend of incredibly good games with non-stereotypical female protagonist. If this keeps up, developers will have few excuses for sticking to the same old grizzled man in a power suit concept. The Metroid Prime trilogy, Portal, Mirror’s Edge, the up-coming Beyond Good and Evil 2. It’s a good thing

  10. November 29, 2008 at 12:31 am

    I also recommend Mirror’s Edge. There is a learning curve if you’re bad at platformers (like me) or are not used to modern console controls.

    It’s a really challenging game, horribly frustrating at times, but when you get past that seemingly insurmountable obstacle, the feeling of accomplishment is awesome.

    IMO the story is a little weak (though I am only at Chapter 6), but I do really like Faith as a character.

    I absolutely love the art direction and the aesthetic they went with in this game as well. It looks really distinctive.

  11. November 29, 2008 at 12:45 am

    I also want to bring up “Trespasser” for Zula. Which I think is even more important to mention than Perfect Dark, because it -was- a game where you looked down and saw your character’s chest. You also saw your character’s arm out in front of you, when you went to manipulate objects.

    Hopefully, they make a more solid Mirror’s Edge sequel.

  12. arielariel
    November 29, 2008 at 1:44 am

    As the aforementioned non-gamer roommate, I LOVE this game. I have hated 3D games ever since the n64 came out and I got lost in level 1 of that Mario castle game. I think this is going to be the one that finally gets me over the hump.

    This is what I like: it all makes sense physically. I am a nerd for parkour and other physical activities and I find this really simple and graceful. I can get a sense of the movement and that helps — swinging on bars and stuff is easy because it’s like how you would do it in real life. I find in other adventure games like this I get lost in trying to switch guns or heal myself or whatever. This one you are just moving and you don’t have to deal with objects.

    The buttons are simple — one to go up, one to go down, one to attack things, and one to look behind you. There are a few others but you can do it with just those and the two direction sticks. I don’t like having to learn a ton of complex moves and I feel like I could make it work just on the basic commands.

    Ouyang Dan: she is talking about Left 4 Dead. I tried it and it was a TRAGEDY. I am not qualified. Holly + the NPCs killed 30+ zombies each and I killed 2. I spent most of my time trying to run without running into things, falling through floors, and trying to shoot my gun and accidentally switching items instead. Too stressful for my beginner skill level.

  13. November 29, 2008 at 9:41 am

    thanks for the fantastic review, holly! my (male) friend downloaded the demo for PS3 and i have to say that i was highly impressed. i’m a geek for parkour, ever since watching “district b13.” in addition, being half-japanese myself, i get a bit tired of the depictions of busty asian females that are in reality, normally anything but. i found faith to be very realistic, and an empowering female protagonist in gaming that just isn’t seen often enough.

  14. November 29, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    While I was playing, I kept thinking about Portal, which is the only other FPS I know of that also has a female as the “FP.” And the striking similarity between these two is that neither involve much shooting, unlike the majority of (male-charactered) first-person games. Your thoughts on this?

    There are plenty of counterexamples, most of which have already been mentioned — Perfect Dark, Tresspasser, and Metroid (the last few metroid games, which have all had a strong FPS element). There’s also the light-hearted spy series No One Lives Forever, with its spunky heroine Cate Archer. On the other hand there are first-person games with male protagonists which emphasize non-violence as well, such as the Thief series, where getting into a fight is almost always a bad idea. Mirror’s Edge isn’t a “sneaker” like Thief, Tenchu, or (sort of) Metal Gear Solid, but its evasive tactics and combat avoidance definitely draw from those genres.

    I think there are two trends in how female protagonists are positioned in video games. One is to have female protagonists behave pretty much like any other video game protagonist would. In games like Fallout or Mass Effect, you can make your character female, and it affects dialogue and even cutscenes with voice-over, but you can and do take any action that a male character would. Most of the games mentioned above, and Tomb Raider as well, have female characters who are “just as tough as the guys.”

    The other less-common trend is to give female characters roles that are distinct from the way male protagonists would handle a situation, that emphasize traditionally “female” qualities like healing, nurturing, non-violence, etc. Some cultural feminists might approve, but this is basically just stereotyping. Although I’m a huge fan of Portal and Mirror’s Edge, I think there’s a reason these “non-violent” forms of gameplay were paired with “non-violent” female characters. I’d be more bothered, however, if there weren’t so many other examples of equal-opportunity bloodshed for female characters out there.

    I’d also definitely recommend the very highbrow and intentionally hilarious treatise on Portal as a feminist text.

    Actually with the messenger thing, I thought it was a pretty straightforward homage to Y.T. from Snow Crash. Dystopian capitalist society? Check. Non-stereotypical young female protagonist? Check. Said protagonist being a member of a “secure” message delivery program involving daredevil stunts in non-traditional methods of transportation? Check. Relying more on brains than brawn to get out of jams? Check. Check. Check.

    Good point! I could definitely see that as the origin of the idea. It’s funny, I love that book and I used to work with someone who was one of the inspirations for Y.T. (a skateboarder from LA, no big surprise) but I totally didn’t make that connection!

    IMO the story is a little weak (though I am only at Chapter 6), but I do really like Faith as a character.

    Unfortunately it doesn’t really get much better or less predictable — the plot “twists” are more like huge obvious bends in the road that you can see coming a mile away — but hey, you can’t have everything in one package, I guess. Or at least not yet; I’m kind of grateful to just have a really solid realistic character.

    I also want to bring up “Trespasser” for Zula. Which I think is even more important to mention than Perfect Dark, because it -was- a game where you looked down and saw your character’s chest. You also saw your character’s arm out in front of you, when you went to manipulate objects.

    That game is so utterly bizzare, it’s worth mentioning in a number of contexts for historical curiosity alone. It definitely makes sense here as a forerunner in the “manipulate your body and see it” category, because of all the crazy controls you had to use in order to move just the character’s ARM to aim a gun or hit things. A strange evolutionary dead end, but one with a lot of interesting not-quite-debugged adaptations.

    Hopefully, they make a more solid Mirror’s Edge sequel.

    They’ve already been talking about releasing some downloadable content that will supposedly take the game in an interesting direction — not sure what that might mean. Since the game didn’t quite perform up to expectations, and mostly scored points for innovation but less for polish, I think a sequel is likely… although not guaranteed.

  15. exholt
    November 29, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    The last electronic games I’ve played which are remotely similar were Wolfenstein 3d, Doom 2, and Marathon 2 Durandal.

    Out of curiosity, what were the technical specifications of your old laptop when it melted? Was it a Pentium 4 based machine by any chance?

  16. November 29, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    You’ve been out of the loop for a while then, exholt :D

    I actually hadn’t played any FPS-style games since those until about a year ago. Then I thought it might be worth checking out the latest generation. Halo hasn’t changed the basic formula all too much, although co-operative first-person shooters feel very different in terms of tactics, and AI is good enough now that you can be grateful for computer teammates. The real interesting games that use that same old FPS engine for new purposes are ones like Portal, Bioshock, and Mirror’s Edge.

    As for my laptop, it was an Asus z71v with a Pentium M chip, but the real reason it melted was due to power supply problems between the AC adapter and the power connection for the laptop.

  17. November 29, 2008 at 5:07 pm


    Ha! That’s how I feel about it! I like playing games w/ my husband, but I get so frustrated. He will clear a whole room of zombies and I am still trying to figure out how not to run into the wall. I spend all of my time trying to not run into things and not get shot! My inability to master standard controls made me give up on Mass Efffect before I had gotten very far at all. It frustrated me too, in Assassin’s Creed, which I really want to play. One time I got my controller stuck staring at the sun in some game and had to quit.

    *sigh* I will have to stick to computer games. A mouse and arrow keys in WoW is about all I can handle. I love gaming, but I get a little frustrated w/ the controls when the pressure is on!

    Left 4 Dead is still fun, though.

  18. November 30, 2008 at 2:06 am

    Ah, I hadn’t thought of Metroid (the franchise brings to mind the older, less FPS games for me), and I haven’t heard (or only peripherally have) of the other ones. My gamer creds have been thoroughly disproven. *sad panda*

    Holly – I have read that article before. The only way I can see this being “intentionally hilarious” is if the author is intentionally pulling crap out of his butt. If he is, I love it and think it’s great; if he actually believes some of the tenuous arguments he lays out, then I’m terrified. Alas, my irony-sense is not keen enough to determine whether he’s serious or not. I blame that whole “it’s impossible to satirize fundamentalists because someone, somewhere, has said the exact same thing while actually believing it” thing. Except replace “fundamentalists” with “pompous feminist academic stereotype.”

    And now I have sucked all the fun out of that article. Dammit! Sorry. -_-

    Also, re: Mass Effect – though I concur that it was refreshing to choose the gender of the protagonist (among myriad other aspects of the character), I was sorely disappointed by the relationship choices presented. If you were female, you could either have a heterosexual relationship or a homosexual relationship. If you were male, however, you could either have a heterosexual relationship… or a heterosexual (kind of) relationship with an alien. Hm. It leads me to conclude that the game developers were more worried about the “straight men think lesbians are hot” stereotype than striving for true sexual equality.

  19. November 30, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    I blame that whole “it’s impossible to satirize fundamentalists because someone, somewhere, has said the exact same thing while actually believing it” thing. Except replace “fundamentalists” with “pompous feminist academic stereotype.”

    Poe’s Law! =)

    Oh, and yeah… this is why I don’t read gaming websites. The only time they mention anything about feminism is to mock it, or to bitch about how we’re trying to take away their booth babes and boob physics.

    Mirror’s Edge looks shiny though; I might go play through the demo just to see if I can hack the controls.

  20. November 30, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Thanks for this post — I am aching to play this game, but just about every first-person game gives me motion sickness. We downloaded the demo and I could only watch for about two minutes before I had to leave the room — so sad! So I’m glad to be able to experience it vicariously a little bit here. :-)

  21. November 30, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    My brother downloaded the demo for Xbox, and I can’t wait to get my hands on this game. The first thing I said to him was how happy I am that this woman isn’t all sexed up or anything like that. It’s really, really difficult to control, but the tutorials are pretty helpful. I’m more into fighting games, which have some pretty complicated controls too, so I’m sure I’ll be able to learn Mirror’s Edge. Hopefully, one of us will buy it after Christmas and play it while we’re on break.

  22. Ens
    December 1, 2008 at 2:53 am

    Zula – The same publisher’s previous title was “Jade Empire”, with similar interface and gameplay, and which had a bisexual man, a bisexual woman, and a straight woman* who could be wooed by protagonists of a an appropriate gender. They also stressed over and over in the dialogue of Mass Effect that the blue alien wasn’t gendered at all, but their species happens to look and sound a lot like human women — which is an excuse, sure, but at the same time it is an exploration of ideas most video games don’t have.

    * That said, male characters can convince both women into a threesome, which brings back your point of appealing to the “whoa, two chicks at once” crowd.

  23. moo moo
    March 19, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    the artists intention, which was to show what an attractive woman looks like through asian sensibilities, is spot on. i believe that the look of celebrities/models in asia do align with the second picture much more than the first.

    think to euro fashion shows with asian models who always seem to have that extremely severe face and needle thin eyes (more like 1st pic) and compare that to to cutesy doe eyed baby faced women from any asian CD cover or movie (see: anne suzuki, liu yifei), or even the girl on the poster for your upcoming local asian nightclub dance party (more like 2nd pic).

    i’m not saying either are more accurate representations of what asian women actually look like, but it’s a valid point that there are distinct looks that both cultures find attractive… or maybe i’m totally wrong! kelly hu is pretty hot, zhang ziyi crossed over successfully, grace park especially in those fhm pics, riyo mori was chosen by japan to represent japan and won the very american miss universe competition and none of them would go in the severe looking needle eyed asian category (sorry lucy liu and sandra oh, you’re firmly in that first category). perhaps we do have good taste in asian women in the west! it’s just that maybe we just don’t know how to draw em pretty yet.

    which is fine, i think an asian artist person would be more likely to accurately depict an asian person than some swedish team. seriously, i’ve never met any asian girl that looks like the chick from heavenly sword.

    having said all this, i think the artist should have left the whole breast augmentation business alone. it just sets the new image up as an easy target for claims of being superficial and contradictory (“oh, the asian man gives the asian girl bigger boobs which are so only a western thang!”) the whole breast issue is ethnically insignificant anyway, its not a race thing, it’s an individual preference thing. if changes had been left to the face only, people would be having much more interesting discussion on cultural perceptions of beauty.

    anyway, even though the boob job wasn’t necessary, i definitely prefer the second one. she looks prettier.

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