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It is at this stage of a diet that two things happen. One, you wonder why no visible results have manifested yet and this is probably when people decide it's not worth doing. And two? You understand why other people see certain foods like chocolate as a hedonistic treat and not just a snack. I know now why Da is able to regard dessert or a Big Mac as indulges instead of options. I think I actually "get" food now.

I've been playing Mass Effect 2. Well, technically I've played it before. Between the PC demo, the PS3 demo and the actual game, I've seen my Shepard killed and revived more times than Jack Harkness. Was definitely worth the wait, though. The PS3 release is a pretty solid bundle, with most of the PC/Xbox DLC already incorporated into the game, and a code for a free download of the Cerberus Network DLC included with every new copy (beat THAT, pre-owned bin).
It takes a little getting used to at first, though. For one thing the controls are not as intuitive as they could have been, certainly not as intuitive as Dragon Age. For instance, I spent quite a while wondering just how you put your weapons back in the holster. The process of elimination determined it to be the Select button, of all things. The Select button, a normally vestigial feature. I can count on the fingers of one hand games I've played where it had much function, this one included. I'm a little unsure of Bioware's reasoning on this one. Maybe they figured once your gun was out, you were gonna be keeping it out for the rest of the level anyway?
Another thing to get used to is how often you're reminded you're playing a sequel. I suppose it's less noticeable if you have played the first one, but many PS3 gamers like me haven't. Don't get me wrong, it's not a dealbreaker. After all, I've seen and read movie and book sequels before their antecedent works, and I've come into TV shows halfway through a series. This is no different. But while Bioware do provide an interactive prologue that allows you to implement choices from the first game into the world of this one, you're still unfamiliar with a lot of the nuances and backstory, and you're going to be reminded of it. A lot. For instance, at the Citadel I met a reporter who'd apparently pulled a bit of a Fox News on Shepard in the last game. I took the game's word for it and punched her in the face. But it's little things like that. There's a HUGE amount of continuity in this series and it's just a shame PS3 gamers have only one half of it.
That being said, it's a tremendously enjoyable game. There was a while back there at the start when I was beginning to wonder if this would just be Dragon Age Origins IN SPAAAACE! After all, it wasn't hard to notice that the characters move and talk and make facial expressions in exactly the same way as DAO. But this game gives you a hell of a lot more freedom. The whole frickin' galaxy is yours to explore (and shoot your way across). It's Star Trek's strange new worlds with Firefly's big damn heroes. A winning combination.
And here's the bit where I admit to being strangely attracted to my Shepard. Which I'm told is not all that uncommon. I've been playing her as sort of a fun mix of Captain Picard and Jack Bauer (let that roll around your head a bit). Picard's integrity, leadership qualities and intelligence and Jack's dedication and ruthlessness. Also helps that Jennifer Hale's performance reminds me quite a bit of Torri Higginson in Stargate Atlantis. And the same thing happened in character creation as with my Grey Warden: I tried to make her look perfect, failed, and later actually preferred how imperfect she looked. Especially the scars. Made up my mind pretty quickly that I actually don't want them to heal, and neither would she. Playing games like these enable you to write the character in your head as you're playing them. Hell, sometimes I'll just be playing along and narration pops into my head when the game won't provide one. I realized early on that Shephard wouldn't want her scars to heal as she prefers them to stand as a clear division of her life before she died and her life after. Plus, they're nice and intimidating, which is handy in a job that involves meeting lots of unsavory characters.
That's what I like about games like this. How character creation doesn't end at creation. By being given so many choices, you get to really know someone whom you pulled out of your head. The sandbox isn't just a place you go to waste time instead of writing - it's a place to do more writing in your head.

It occurred to me today how annoying I find folk who look down their nose at Sci-Fi and Fantasy and dismiss them with a cynical snort. I mean, if you're not interested in them, fine. But the idea that they're a waste of time because they're not "real" is small-minded and, what's more, completely and utterly mistaken.
The stereotype of one who interests themselves in Science Fiction is someone with their head in the clouds, dreaming of different worlds and irrelevant ideas. It's the single greatest misconception that Sci-Fi is completely divorced from reality, when it has ALWAYS been about the human condition. I've seen Sci-Fi be topical and controversial when the masters of other genres succumbed to cowardice and distracted themselves from the big issues by churning out pointless fluff.
Don't try and tell me it doesn't matter. In an increasingly vacuous society, it's one of the few things left that does.

...Though I suppose we don't do ourselves any favors with things like The Cape. I can think of no point to this show other than to make me wonder if getting my Glau fix is worth it. Actually, when I watch it, I'm mostly just thinking about how I could have infinitely improved the whole thing. From a story AND a technical standpoint. Seriously, I've never seen so many pointless Dutch angles in my life. For those of you who don't know what I mean, a Dutch angle is when the camera is off balance, to give the impression that the characters are uneasy, bewildered or stunned. But The Cape uses them all the time in situations where it's not warranted. Like the characters having lunch. For those of you unfamiliar with lunch, it's generally something never done dramatically. If only The Cape had tried as hard to make a decent show as they had at making lunch look dramatic.
This show had the potential to be The Dark Knight: The Series, but they forgot what Christopher Nolan did to make his Batman movies such a success. Usually when a comic is adapted to a movie, reality is changed to accommodate the world of the comic. In Nolan's Bat-films, the world of the comics are changed to accommodate reality. There's no realistic way for Ra's al Ghul to be immortal, so he's not. There's no realistic way for the Joker's skin to be bleached, so he just wears make-up, and so on. The Cape doesn't do that, and honestly that was the wrong choice to make.

I'm trying to remember what the hell I actually did whenever I didn't have work. Can't have been life, I never had one of those.

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Dar

December 2011

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