Robin Sachs R.I.P.

It’s a strange phenomenon when a person who has entered our homes either through television or been a familiar figure in movies dies.  You feel a sense of connection, and can feel grief for that loss.  But I’m feeling it all the more strongly with word that the very talented Robin Sachs who voiced so many games has died at age 61.  I feel especially close to that actor because he voiced characters with whom I’ve gone adventuring.  As Zaeed Massani in Mass Effect 2 and 3, he imparted wisdom to my (in Zaeed’s opinion) wet-behind-the-ears Shepard.  He brought Seneschal Varel to life in Dragon Age:  Awakenings.  In fact I badly wanted to take him along as a companion rather then the ones I had.  He was nicely sinister in Buffy.  This is a real loss to the industry.  To be a great voice actor is a real gift, and Robin Sachs possessed it.  Sad news.

Violence and Video Games

As people have probably noticed I have become addicted to video games.  I have an X-Box 360.  I belong to X-Box Live.  I post on the Bioware Social Network.  I’ve written a Mass Effect fanfic story.  And I ended up in an interesting debate/discussion with two couples at a dinner party last week.  These are folks I know from the barn.  We are all roughly the same age, and level of education.  The couple hosting the dinner party were teachers at an elite school in Connecticut.  The other couple are both psychiatrists.  Very bright people, very thoughtful people, very well educated people.  I, however, am the weird geek in the mix — the novelist, screenwriter, the gamer, etc.  Craig asked me if I thought video games were making out culture more violent and if they had an effect on people.  (By extension violent movies were included in this.)  I said no.  I did say I thought perhaps the lack of consequence in many of the games might be coarsening people, but I didn’t believe we could blame levels of gun violence on games and movies.

The two psychiatrists disagreed.  Firmly, profoundly.  These are people I respect.  They deal with mental illness so that had me questioning my position.  Was it just a knee jerk reaction because I love these games so much, and because I write movies and television?  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this since that dinner party.  Then I came across an article that talks about the fact that video games are ubiquitous in Japan, and that many of the Japanese games are far more violent, sexual and downright odd then the American games.  Yet this is a culture with an extremely low rate of violence.  So, I begin to think this goes far deeper then the games we play or the movies we watch.  This is baked into the culture.  We’re a relatively young country, stitching together a culture out of very disperate fabrics.  We’re not a homogeneous population.  We have the stain of slavery.  We have a celebration of the “rugged individual” because we had a frontier that didn’t exist in Japan or Europe.

I do think there should be more consequences to the choices you make when gaming.  In Dragon Age: Origins, if you play as a right bastard you are going to end up at that final battle with virtually no companions.  I know because  a friend of mine tried it.  She took every ugly, mean spirited choice just to see what would happen.  She had virtually no one with her for the final battle.  And that’s how it should be.  Unethical and evil choices should come with a cost.  These games should be about more than just racking up experience points by killing things and collecting shit.  Perhaps they can model behavior without being preachy.  Dragon Age certainly succeeded in that.

Entertainment that preaches or stands on a soapbox is no longer entertainment, but there are ways to subtly suggest that being an morally bankrupt person maybe isn’t the best approach to life.  We all want to be the hero of the story.  Maybe we should have to earn that.

Yet Another Mass 3 Effect Rant

I’m sure this won’t be the last rant I make about this damn game, but as I was working on crafting an “alternative ending” that leads into my ME story another piece of out and out idiocy in the ME3 ending as written occurred to me.  The Star Brat goes on about how he/it controls the Reapers, and he/it has been aware of the development of this weapon, and the critter has the three color button options all set up and ready to go — BUT the Reapers leave the Citadel alone until the very end?  WTF?????  If you  were an ancient, sentient synthetic race and knew this station was the key to your destruction, and your glowy annoying Star Brat overlord was living there wouldn’t you for pity’s sake go there _first_?  Blast the Citadel into its component atoms?  Or at least take control of the damn station so some random human can’t wander in and pick a color?

For some reason this latest bit of bad, stupid writing  just enraged me all over again.  Must.  Get.  Control.  But Hulk wants to smash.