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    Nov 5th, 2008 at 14:38:58     -    Super Columbine Massacre RPG (PC)

    I ended my hour and a half of gameplay shortly after I got through the school shooting sequence and played some of the Hell level. Here again I felt the message of the game was confused and erratic. After the player chooses to end the school shooting sequence by having the shooters kill themselves, a slideshow of images from the aftermath of the shooting plays along with various photos of the shooters from a young age up through their high school years, each of those two sequences ending with pictures of their graves. Here I felt the game was trying to tell us something, but it was difficult to understand what that was, exactly. Are we supposed to feel sympathy for the shooters? Are photos of the aftermath of the shooting supposed to give us an increased sense of the tragedy? It was difficult to tell, and I found it hard to believe we were supposed to feel bad for the shooters.
    Immediately following this slideshow, the story picks up again with one of the shooters finding himself in Hell, now a demon of some sort. I felt that this was absolutely over the top. The creator of the game wants us to believe that Super Columbine Massacre RPG! is an "insightful, somber, and respectful" experience, and yet it has this completely ridiculous portion where you play through Hell as one of the Columbine shooters, fighting off characters with sprites ripped from the game Doom. It is difficult for me to see this game as being thoughtful or respectful of its subject matter.
    To add to the problems of this portion of the game, the battles are once again completely off balance, this time in favor of the enemy characters. Here again Super Columbine Massacre RPG! fails at delivering a good gameplay experience.
    I felt that this game was absolutely terrible. It's not simply that it uses controversial subject matter as its base. The real problem that I found is that the game is devoid of any real thoughtful and meaningful exploration of this subject. It (apparently) strives to encourage the view of games as art, and yet it was not artfully done. Furthermore, it fails completely in even providing a solid gameplay experience for its players. Super Columbine Massacre RPG! is a broken RPG and is an inarticulate, confused attempt at conveying some sort of deeper discussion of a complex subject. The game's preface stresses, at length, its philosophical and artistic values, and yet I feel the game was not actually created with the intent of conveying the messages the preface puts forth. Thought I agree that games are indeed art, I feel this argument was an afterthought--or perhaps even a justification for the game's controversial subject matter.

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    Nov 5th, 2008 at 14:17:03     -    Super Columbine Massacre RPG (PC)

    As I continued play of this game, I began to encounter more and more problems with the gameplay mechanics themselves. As ineffective as I was finding the game to be in terms of narrative and themes, I was also increasingly discovering it to be in terms of its gameplay. The title of the game is "Super Columbine Masscre RPG!" and yet, I didn't really encounter any RPG gameplay (in terms of battles, levels, inventory, etc) until close to 30 minutes into the game. Once I actually got to the portion of the game with battles, I found the gameplay to be broken and ineffective, with incredibly slow and repetitive battles. There's not really much instruction from the game itself as to how many people you have to kill before you can progress to the next section of the game, so I ended up going through dozens of battles before discovering the part of the school where the police shoot at you. The battles themselves are repetitive and lopsided; All of the people you fight in the school are unarmed and do little damage to your characters, while the player has huge amount of weapontry available to them that devastates anyone you use it on. Perhaps the point intended by this lopsided gameplay was that the player would get some sense of the tragedy of the shooting and how the people in the school had no chance. However, I again feel very strongly that the game was entirely ineffective in communicating this, and all the player is left with is broken gameplay.
    I also feel that an RPG was a poor choice of genre for this game. Because of the battle system, the massacre is far too methodical and slow-paced to convey the chaos and senselessness of the actual tragedy. I have a feeling that the creator picked and RPG for the genre because they had the game modification software RPG Maker available to them and did not know how or were unwilling to create a game without the aid of that modification software. The creators made a game that was, in my opinion, virtually worthless as an RPG. This undercuts the Super Columbine RPG's ability to function as both a good game as well as its ability to convey the social critique that it supposedly is.

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    Nov 5th, 2008 at 13:56:11     -    Super Columbine Massacre RPG (PC)

    For people who still see video games as merely being entertainment alone, or trivial diversions, a game like Super Columbine Massacre RPG! could certainly be a shock. The game does not take place in some fantasy world, but our own, and its primary subject matter is the horrific tragedy of the 1999 Columbine shooting. When I first heard that we'd be playing this game, I assumed it would be a game that tastelessly tries to make a cheap joke out of terrible tragedy. However, one of the sites it is hosted on has a preface of sorts to the game where the creator sells it as an artful creation which is "insightful, somber, and respectful of its material." Unfortunately, I found this to not be the case at all. I played the game for about an hour and a half in total and found it to be a sloppy, poorly thought-out game which lacks any sort of real message or artistic narrative on its subject matter.
    Within the first 30 minutes of playing, I encountered many poorly executed aspects of the game that diminished its ability to convey a meaningful message to players. One of the first things I noticed was the terrible dialogue in the game. The writing seemed forced and over-the-top. There was a heavy reliance on the word "fuck" (and its variations), which I feel is a sign that not much thought was put into the script. In turn, this cheapens the game overall and its ability to present a meaningful narrative on an important topic.
    Additionally, I got mixed messages from this game on what it was trying to tell the player. The preface to the game speaks a great deal about the need for us as a society to accept games as art and a valid representation of our culture. I got the sense that the game's creators would be against the way violent games were being blamed for inspiring the Columbine shooters into committing their act. However, the game itself seems to encourage this line of thought, with the shooters in the game even saying things like "this will be just like the shotgun in Doom!" If the game is indeed a thoughtful critique and lines of dialogue like that are meant to be satirical, I feel that the game's creators fail at conveying this.

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    Oct 6th, 2008 at 03:21:32     -    Grand Theft Auto - San Andreas (PS2)

    During my third session of playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, I admired the many ways in which the game creators attempted to "mirror" the real world in a game.

    The city of San Andreas is, of course, supposed to be Los Angeles (complete with hazey smog and everything). In fact, nearly every aspect of the game world strives to mirror reality. The NPC characters exist and act on their own, as if the game world were a real place inhabited by individuals. There are countless parodies of real-world establishments, people, and places. Even social issues we face in real life are present in this game; Players are likely to notice the very visible difference between the blighted black neighborhood CJ calls home, with its run-down buildings and unkempt plant growth, and the much more affluent downtown areas which have nice streets and impressive architecture. In fact, I think that you'll actually see more Caucasian/White NPCs roaming the streets in comparison to CJ's neighborhood where the NPCs are all African American. If you think about it, that in itself is an incredible social commentary to find within a game--a form of media all too many people often dismiss as being just entertainment with little other value.

    I think a game like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, with its heavy usage violence and stereotypes in race and gender, is in many ways best understood as a satire of our society, and in some ways as a social commentary. The places, people, events, music, and advertising in the game are all parodies of real things in our society. The violence, stereotypes, and decisions the player encounters in the game are dramatic and over-the-top, and yet they all exist in some capacity in the real world. There are people in this world similar to CJ who have similar stories and come from similar underpriviledged backgrounds.

    In San Andreas' world, we see people like CJ who are trapped by the violence and poverty that surrounds them. For these people, getting in trouble with the law is inevitable, and police officers are vulture-like enemies, not helpful protectors. In this world of inevitable crime, there doesn't seem to be much concern for what we would consider ethical behavior, and yet there are rules of respect and of familial ties which in some way function as an ethical framework within the context of this world.

    While most every aspect of San Andreas is exaggerated and over-the-top, there is some element of truth to the game world we're presented with. In this way the game is satirical, introspective commentary on our society.

    This entry has been edited 2 times. It was last edited on Oct 6th, 2008 at 03:25:01.

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