Thursday, June 10, 2010

How I Met Your Modern Warfare

Today – was a day – of nothing.

But one of those good ones. One of those ones that you crave, and want, and embrace – because it was your choice.

I got up, had some oats, turned on the bed heater, and proceeded to watch four hours of How I Met Your Mother, catching up on the current season until its finale. Now – never mind that they didn't really introduce the Mother character. Never mind that the writers and producers are full of lies. My fear is that this will become LOST. Somehow, despite the fact, that in the first episode they made it so the character Robyn can not be the kids mom (and thank goodness they did that, otherwise they would have – for sure – just become lazy and ended it as such) I still feel it's going to end that way. If the Lost writers can reneg on their “it's not purgatory” ending, well then so can these guys.

So that was a good chunk of my day – but when will such blindingly fast internet access be available to me again? And without having to pay terrible amounts for it at hostels? Curse the strange internets in this part of the world.

So, what did I do when I emerged from my hiding place? I'm not too sure. I have no memory of those few hours. Certainly one internet event couldn't lead into the other – but I think it did. I started adding photos to past blogs. Lordy are there a lot that I neglected. So from Hong Kong to the end of Shanghai now has images up. Mind you, two days in Hong Kong still seem neglected, but it may just be their luck in life to stay that way, lest I can find those pictures once more.

And then it was time to eat. I was taken out to a Japanese restaurant which – yes it did – served Okinomiyaki. My most favourite of all foods, with delicious brown sauce of mystery! I love this food very much. It was Osaka style, not Hiroshima, but who can hold that against such a tasty treat? But what was it called on the menu – because, as I said, no one outside of Japan would go for the real name. Here? It was called Japanese Pizza. Sure – whatever, just fill me with your goodness!

Oh and it was good. And there was unlimited miso soup. And I love Japanese food so, so, much. Why is it the best? And why am I just now learning of it? If a month of it didn't bore me, and I still think to it and crave it, well then it must be doing something right!

And then it was back home. My host had to go study – apparently exams are important, being with 90% of the final grade (who does that?!) but her brother was around – and trading back and forth we powered our way through Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in five hours. Sure, it was on easy mode, but I just wanted to get through the story. There will be time to play and enjoy when I have it, myself, later on.

And oh lord was that a fantastic game that made some bold choices. There is the one level that you always hear about, if you're into hearing about such things, that takes place in an airport. You are undercover as a terrorist, and you slowly march your way through shooting everyone in sight. Women, children (there probably weren't children – but maybe), and men with suitcases all run, and fall, under your gun. You then fight your way through the police, and try to escape. The terrorists you are with, however, know you're an American agent, and shoot you in the face, leaving you to die, and spark an international war.

Red Dawn approaches, and Russia launches a sneak attack on America.

Starting in Afghanistan, you wander through a base there, listening to soldiers talk about the war, and watch as some play basketball before their next patrol. You run through training, and you see the helicopters fly above the desert. Another level puts you in Brazil, where you run through slums – fully developed, with houses, and decorated hotels, courtyards, posters at bus stops. But there's no time to fully look around, as you dodge a hailstorm of bullets.

Then there was the aforementioned airport level – which is in every ways a fleshed out airport. The levels are beautifully designed – including one on an oil rig in the Russian arctic, which reminded me of my time spent amongst the icebergs down south.

But it's the levels in America that strike me most. The ones where you fight through suburbia, and hole up inside a Burger Town (Burger King). The ones where you make your way through the streets of Washington DC, and fight to reach the White House.

Playing through these levels – a world only available through artistic expression, and hopefully it will stay that way – allows a glimpse of what life could be like. And what it is like for so many other parts of the world. It's hard to imagine fighting in the streets of Suburbia, but all through the European campaigns of World War II that's exactly where the battles were. Still – there was no porches with swinging chairs, and energy efficient fans there. No tanks rolling into fast food parking lots. No modern life turned upside down.

And no Washington Monument shot to pieces, white house in flames, capital building destroyed.

Again – I'm not sure how these games can be anything but art. It's not just that you walk and shoot, but there is a world all around you that seems to move and live, from the highly animated actions of a solider performing CPR seen only once, and only if you look in the right spot – but still the work to make this happen, to create a living world, was engineered.

There is nothing else that can put you into these possibilities quite like interactive media such as video games can. All I'm saying, is if we're going to say that novels are art – that giant science experiments are art – that movies are art – well these works of fantastic exploration and engagement that required years to construct, with a team of many many people, well... it's art too. I've still not heard a good argument from Ebert why they are not, but – he'll say what he'll say to stay in the press, and stay relevant. If he's not bashing Twilight though, I've had enough of him.

So that was my day – in one room, but exploring the world nevertheless. And for some people, this is the only way they'll see the world outside. And what's so wrong about that?

My one complaint – and it's not a complaint as much as something that could be easily accomplished and add a new perspective – put a living mode into the game. Either strip the game of enemies so you can just wander around, or add pedestrian AI. In the levels such as Brazil, or the airport, they could be wandering around, just living their life, allowing you to explore the levels that have been painstakingly crafted. In the destroyed parts of the world, you could have people trying to rebuild. Workers on the oil rig.

Much like the passive characters in the first level, before war breaks out, that would add a new aspect to the game. And one that would take away the only real defense people have, claiming art can not be a, “murder simulator.” And – again – it would let me see all the work that went into the project, rather than trying to avoid being blown to little bits.

That was my day. That's how I spent my last full 24 hours in New Zealand. And, it was lovely.

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