Tag Archives: Video games

Video game violence: Skyrim vs Fallout 3

If you’ve read any of my Skyrim posts, you’ll know that I like Skyrim quite a lot and recommend it.  I’m writing this little post for parents, basically, who don’t know that much about video games.  When I wrote my first post on Skyrim, I knew that there were games that were more violent and had more gore in them than Skyrim, of course.  But after playing Fallout 3 – another Bethesda game with similarities to Skyrim, I wanted to share some thoughts.

Fallout 3 (2008) is violent and gory, no doubt about it.  It is rated M for mature, but so is Skyrim (2011).  Now, Fallout 3 is far gorier and has much more foul language in it (especially when the DLCs are added in), than Skyrim.  So, how can anyone know about these games unless they play them?  I mentioned in other posts how Skyrim has “passive gore” (bloody skeletons lying around), but that the game can become gorier if the right “perks” are chosen.  With Fallout 3, one cannot turn down the gore.  Comparing these two games, I’m surprised Skyrim isn’t rated T for teens; if the gore couldn’t be “turned up,” I imagine that it could be so rated.

Fallout 3 is definitely a grown up game, if anyone is interested in playing games like that.  It is a high quality game, with lots to do and actually much humor.  It has a lot more humor in it than Skyrim, and it is far far less glitchy, too.  It is more challenging, for sure, and the atmosphere and information in it are worth thinking about (the game takes place 200 years from now, after China and the USA have a major nuclear war).  It is like a morbid, crazy, and humorous Easter egg hunt for grown-ups.  But, all in all, these games are for people who want to relax and have the time to do them.  When I was a young adult, I was interested in my education and career, and rarely even watched TV.  I’m not sure how alluring these games would have been to me, since they are quite “addictive” (who wants to stop looking for eggs in the middle of the hunt?), however.   I believe this is something to consider when addressing game play of any kind with one’s kids.

From a Christian-cultural perspective, there’s one thing I think is neat about Fallout 3, and I wonder if it holds true for Fallout New Vegas (2010) or for the upcoming Fallout 4.   This is the fact that Jesus is held to be the epitome of good in the game.  Jesus is not talked about (that I know of right now), but when you behave well in the game and seek to be a good character, the term “karma” is used, but the image shown for the best levels are an image easily recognized as Jesus.  While the game makes fun of people following any old thing in the name of religion, it obviously gives a nod to true good.  There’s nothing wrong with pointing out how people make up religion and follow false prophets – it is something Christians should probably talk about publicly more, in fact.  Are we interested in people knowing the truth and getting into heaven, or could we care less that people are so easily led astray?  We are compared to sheep in the Bible, after all.

Note:  If you’re interested in finding out more about the Fallout series, my related articles are:  Fallout 4. Sometimes Bigger Isn’t Better (Overview),   Fallout 4. Sometimes Bigger Isn’t Better (Story); a detailed look at the Honest Hearts FNV DLC and its By the Waters of Babylon theme; and Fallout New Vegas: Comments from a Christian earlier.  Thanks for checking them out!

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Dragonborn DLC Playability and the Skaal Religion

Statue of Talos in Whiterun, with Shrine in front, Dragonsreach to left, giant Eagle in middle, and old Companion's home to right.
Statue of Talos in Whiterun, with Shrine in front, Dragonsreach to left, giant Eagle in middle, and old Companion’s home to right.

I wrote about this dlc already (at dragonborn dlc wordpress)  but wanted to convey some more information about the Skaal’s religious views, and generally about the playability of the new dlc content.  So basically this is an addendum to the linked article; please see it if you would like more coverage of the Dragonborn dlc.

Dragonborn DLC playability.  First. when we got the DLC I was playing a game where I had a high level character, over 60, and I was getting close to wrapping all the quests up.  Playing at this level in Solstheim is relatively easy.  Only Karstaag was a difficult opponent (surprising battle, that was!).  But, beginning a new game and going through it so far – I’m now level 11 and had gone back to Solstheim after first going there at level 6 – I can say Solstheim is not a place you’ll get through easily for a while.  Of course, the game level setting can be adjusted to its lowest level, but I’m going to bet that fighting off random lurkers will prove pretty impossible for a low level character.  I wanted very much to make it to Neloth and so I swam there.  The only real problem I had was when my companion, Lydia, wouldn’t just swim along and ignore a Lurker.  *People ask when “the quest” starts with the DLC.  There are various quests, but the main quest with Miraak will activate after you go and see the Greybeards for the first time.  A couple of his cultists will meet you somewhere and attack you.

The Skaal and their religions views.  The Skaal are most interesting, as their visiting researcher (like an anthropologist amongst a far away and dying tribe) frequently points out.  Unlike the majority of Nords, they believe in an All-Maker god and not in the pantheon of deities.  If you never read the book, Children of the All-Maker, or don’t talk to Frea after the main quest is over, you would very much think that the Skaal believe in a Judaic type of God.  They talk or write of going to be with the All-Maker after they die, and seeing others that have passed on there too. They also allude to spirtual consequences that are Western, not Eastern (there is the call of the All-Maker, and ignoring it has consequences).

YET, oddly, the two sources I mentioned say they believe in reincarnation, even for humans.  So, it doesn’t make much sense (you can’t be with the All-Maker visiting relatives while also being another person on earth).  Interestingly, there are real-world people groups in Asia that, when found by missionaries in the past, have shown that they believe in God and even had premonitions of Christ.  But this is not what is happening with the Skaal.  I would give Bethesda some credit for actually taking apparent early Norse belief in reincarnation and adding it into the game (as evidenced in the real-world Norse Poetic Edda).  However, having the religious leader (“shaman”) pray in an Eastern religious fashion takes away from this seeming historical reference.

* Added to post on December 29, 2012,

 

Funniest or Weirdest Searches to My Blog in 2012

The dark side of Hello Kitty?  (Author photo)
The dark side of Hello Kitty? (Author photo)

I don’t know about you, but one of my little enjoyable pastimes is to read the searches that have led people to my blog.  Most are pretty straightforward and it’s obvious why the person decided to check one of my posts out.  Others are just unexpected and funny, and still others seem too general or off-the-subject; of the latter, I’m glad the person visited.  I wish very much that these people (anyone who visits here, really) would leave comments or questions – that would be fun!

“the samarathon woman”  She probably was in good enough shape to run a marathon after constantly lugging around jugs full of water in the middle of hot desert days.

“stormcloak officer armor revealing”  Really?!

“adam lanza christian fanatic”  Why not “adam lanza muslim fanatic”?  Just wondering . . .

“christian poem on the tongue”  (No comment . . . ha ha, perhaps they’re referring to James chapter 3, which has some very harsh words regarding the use of our tongue in conveying lies, evil and hurt.)

“butter my heart three person’d god”  This has made me laugh out loud more than once.  Of course, it’s supposed to be “batter” my heart, not butter my heart . . . makes me feel like a turkey being prepared for God’s oven.

“hellokitty skyrim”  I wonder what they’re looking for?  Knowing Sanrio, they’re working to contract something with Bethesda, surely.

“skyrim 1800s”  ?!??!  Seriously?

“evil bible king’s famous instrument for telling time”  If anyone can explain this one to me, I’d be grateful.

“can christians play skyrim” (“skyrim seems like a bad game for christians”)  CAN they?  Do they need permission from some pastor?  You know what’s bad for Christians?  Living in this world with so much evil in it!  I’m not questioning God’s motive for having us live in this world, I’m only making a point.  Skyrim is a game, and by today’s standards, a quite clean one that actually enjoys playing around with religious ideas and culture, and the complexities of people and politics.

“how women should play skyrim”  =D  Well, they could ask . . .

“god is evil quotes”  Just weird and sad; glad they stopped by, though.  But then again, maybe they were simply doing some research.

“what do christians think of hello kitty story”  Is there a story?  If I knew the story, I could form an opinion.  As far as I know, Hello Kitty is simply a very successful product venture.  There are some unsavory HK products out there, but if some people want to abuse the cute feline, that’s their business.

“short intellectual quotes”  Out of all the pages the searcher must have gotten from this search, I’m surprised they found my page url . . . and actually stopped by.

“religious poems for dads that died”  I know it’s perhaps morbid to call out this one, but it still made me laugh a bit.  How can you give a poem to a dead person?  Did they want poems about dads that died, or a poem for the children whose dads died?  My dad died when I was young and it was completely devastating; I never thought of writing any type of poem about it.

“unthink christmas card”  Not sure about this one . . . but please, don’t unthink Christmas, unless it’s the commercial aspect of today’s holiday.

There’s a search that, even though it’s from more than a year ago, I still remember and consider the oddest one to lead someone to my blog (my old blog, which DID have a recipe for a great sandwich on it), so I just wanted to share it, though it’s adult material (sort of!):  “Is there a good sandwich that can make up for bad sex?”  Well, a pile of McDonald’s fish filets (with some fries on the side) just might do it for me.

Skyrim: Dragonborn DLC, a Christian’s View

Seeker from Bethesda
A Seeker in Apocrypha. Copyright, Bethesda.

The “Dragonborn” addition to the Skyrim video game, which came out earlier this month (December 2012) for XBOX, has – I think – the most “Christian” oriented content overall (in Skyrim, not the other Elder Scroll games).  I wish I had written down certain dialog as I played it with my high-level character, but I simply wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary to takes notes on!  (If I start a new game, it will be some time before I can get to those dialogs again – for now, this commentary without quotes will have to do.)

This latest DLC adds additional land mass via a large island known in the Elder Scroll series as Solstheim.  (Update of Dec. 24:  it appears to be playable from the beginning of a new game, as I went to Soltstheim at level 6, after I fought my first dragon and made my way to Windhelm).  It is no doubt loved by Elder Scroll fans since it brings in elements from Morrowind (the home of the Dunmer, or Dark Elves), and indeed, the flavor of the place is quite a bit different from Skyrim (the home of the Nords).  There are various quests to be found and accomplished, but the main quest involves the defeat of the first dragonborn, Miraak, who still exists after ages because of his service to Hermeus Mora, the powerful spirit being of knowledge and fate.  Miraak desired power and thus made a “pact with the devil” – a safe allusion to Mora and his top minion.   The DLC takes place when Miraak has used his powers to enslave the sleeping minds and bodies of the denizens of Solstheim, whom he is using to build a temple to himself.  Miraak has only a small amount of dialog, but that small amount sounds an awful lot like satanic desires and promises.  In addition, he has his hypnotized followers say things that are a copy, and thus a sick mockery, of true spiritual expression.

What’s interesting, from a Christian-in-the-current-world point of view, is that Hermeus Mora’s realm is called Apocrypha.  (“Apocrypha” are extra-biblical writings of various qualities some are legitimate but have some textual or factual issues, while others are outright forgeries with false “witness”).  It is dark and hazy and is made up of books (literally – the walls are made of books), and all underneath and around walkable areas is a very black sea.  This “sea” has black slithery arms coming out of it all of the time, and they will whip you and hurt you if they can.  The most dangerous creatures that stalk the place look very much akin to the old “creature from the black lagoon.”  The other dangerous creatures are “seekers,” whose hideous appearance includes a lamprey-like mouth where their stomach is.  These seekers of “knowledge” are never satisfied, but devour what their gut desires and not what their heart and mind discerns as true.  This is my take on them, anyway, which I see as the problem with seeking and using secret – usually false – knowledge, and which is the point of this dark and eery place.

When it comes to Christianity, God chose to communicate with man and it was His desire to be known and understood.  Those who purport to have “secret” knowledge of Him in order to steer someone away from God’s revelation, are not working within God’s desires for mankind.

On the other side of the coin are the Skaal of Solstheim.  They are Nords of the ancient way and claim to have been given Solstheim by the All-Maker.  They believe in one creator God, and the way they talk about creation and how we are to be in it, generally fits in with the Judeo-Christian biblical message.  You can have an interesting conversation with Wulf Wild-Blood of the Skaal, who asks you if you can find his run-away brother whom he believes turned into a werebear (like a werewolf, only a bear).  His brother could go down that path only be rejecting the call of the All-Maker.  While the Skaal have beliefs that mesh with scriptures, they have others that do not – they believe in reincarnation.  Conversations with fellow Skyrim players  about how reincarnation doesn’t at all mesh with a loving creator God, and how it is wholly incompatible with Christ’s message and work, is a possible real-world benefit of playing this game.*

If, as a Christian, you will only play games that have pure Christian messages and signs, then Skyrim and Dragonborn aren’t for you.  But if you want to play a game that actually gives a nod to God and certain Judeo-Christian beliefs and virtues in today’s world, then Skyrim is an OK game for that.  I wrote about Skyrim earlier, here.  That review by no means covers all the aspects of Skyrim.  There are things about the game I don’t like and scratch my head at, wondering about the game maker (Bethesda) every time I think of them (there are aspects of the game you can only play if you decide to do bad and dishonorable things).

Hopefully I’ll be able to flush this review out in the future, with quotes and such.  In the meantime, enjoy the Dragonborn and listen to the new leader of the Skaal:  do not follow Hermeus Mora, but follow the path laid out for you (and to the Skaal, this would be by the All-Maker).

* These last two sentences were edited in after the initial posting of this review (12-20-12).

A post that updates, or adds to, this post can be found at Dragonborn DLC Playability and the Skaal Religion.   Thanks!

I lost the men in my family to DayZ

DayZ Official Site banner.

In line with encouraging circumstantial thinking, like “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” I’m making the most of the video game DayZ by sharing with you its addictive qualities.  The men in my family team-it-up in this multi-player online game, and the survival aspect is so intense it’s like they’re literally out in a gorilla warfare battlefield.  Consider yourself forewarned if you haven’t played DayZ yet, and I’m assuming that’s the case since if you had, you’d be playing it right now instead of reading this.

DayZ is actually a mod made for the military simulation game, ARMA 2.  This mod places the player in an apocalyptic zombie world of survival, but it’s the other online players that are more often the real danger.  This game is not anything like shooter zombie games such as Left4Dead.  Sure, you shoot zombies if you want to, and no doubt you’ll have to, but they are often slow or relatively easy to deal with.  Well, during the day, anyway.  Most online players, however, are just really horrible individuals.  I say that so generally because as far as I and the men can tell, the vast majority are snipers, bandits, hackers, etc.–we’re guessing 80% to 95% of all players fall into these categories.   Most will shoot you on site, which is really a “jerk” (that’s putting it kindly) move since when you die, you lose any of the hard-won items you may have found.

A good little background summary from Wikipedia:  “The mod places the player in the fictional post-Soviet state of Chernarus, where an unknown virus has turned the population into zombies.  As a survivor with limited supplies, the player must scavenge the world for supplies such as food, water, weapons and medicine, while killing or avoiding both zombies and other players – in an effort to survive the zombie apocalypse.”

When you first spawn, you start out with only a flash light, a bandage, and pain-killers.  Wow!  Nothing to fight off zombies with.  You must scavenge for even the most rudimentary weapons, such as an ax or crowbar.  There are of course a whole variety of guns in the game, but you must find ammo too, and unlike many online games, you have limited backpack space.  You can become injured easily in the game and require morphine, blood packs, or even hospital care, in order to survive; playing as a team, the men help each other out with drugs, blood transfusions, that sort of thing.  You might very well  imagine playing the game for some time without really getting too deep into it yet, before some unpleasant fella (gamer, not zombie) murders you.

Which brings me to a well-known YouTube player called FrankieonPC.  He’s generally a good guy and has done some pretty awesome stuff, with the help of some friends.  He has shown that the game has a surprising range of multi-player capabilities.  In one video where he has gotten rid of some bad guys (he, along with some other hero players, rid the servers of snipers and bandits – this really takes skill when the snipers simply bump people off upon spawning) and raided some hacker stashes, he calls all good folk to a church.  They arrive on a bus.  Can you believe it?  There are usable buses in the game, and you can see all the people – online players – riding in the bus.  Anyway, Frankie has dumped the weapons from the hackers in the church and anyone is free to take what they want.  This is very cool and warm and fuzzy, and then . . . someone bombs the church!

Besides buses, there are helicopters, trucks, cars, ATVs, and even bikes, though none of these are common.  Vehicles can be found (or stolen), though they may need to be fixed.  Not surprisingly, you will make a desirable target as a vehicle driver.   The game is open and huge, and has an awesome markable map available.  Servers vary in their difficulty level (there are fewer people on the higher level servers), and they may have other differences, like vehicle spawn rate, day or night only play, and so on.

The men that I’ve lost to DayZ say that what they like most about the game is killing bandits and saving bambis (that is, newb players that are easy targets for the snipers and bandits).  They like working together under pressure, helping each other survive, and finding vehicles and fixing them.  The difficulties they’ve encountered include hackers with over-powered weapons, fatal glitches (like from doors and stairs), and not being able to see at night, at all, as if it were always a new moon.  And, of course, they love the challenge of surviving longer than the average time of 1 hour and 8 minutes, or whatever the current figure is, as kept at the DayZ site.

Hearthfire (Skyrim): The Quest for Butter

Original home with main hall being added. http://bethsoft.com/en-us/games/hearthfire

(If you’re looking for more of an overall review of Skyrim, please see this article as well:  Christian Parents, Should you let your kids play Skyrim?)

The newest Skyrim DLC is a mini one, called Hearthfire (this review is based on the XBOX 360 game).  It allows the player to build up to three houses on property outside of the cities or towns, and to adopt one or two orphaned children.  The trailer promised more flexibility in building, in my view, so at first I was disappointed in Hearthfire on that ground.  But, after playing it for some time and building all three homes, I am disappointed and annoyed even more.  Not totally disappointed, mind you, and I’m not advocating not buying it and trying it out, but I do want to present what is annoying and what needs to be fixed.  HOPEFULLY, Bethesda will get around to making some fixes and making some additions to this DLC.

Let’s take a look at adoption first.  Instead of simply allowing you to adopt the children already orphaned and being forced to live in the Riften (yuck!) orphanage, you have to decide amongst the four new orphans in the towns and them.  There are now more orphans than ever to choose from . . !  No matter what you do, there will always be orphans.  When playing Skyrim before, I wanted only to adopt some out of the orphanage, but now there are others – it just never ends and you are not allowed to adopt more.

Anyway, the kids are a nice addition for the most part.  (If you don’t want children bugging you to play with them, maybe you should forget about adopting any in the first place, however.)  It’s fun giving them things, and they will give you things once in a while, too.  One day my son gave me a unique and odd green robe to wear.  They love when you give them daggers.  You can improve and enchant their wooden swords, and duel wield them yourself if you want a bit of a fun challenge.  A problem with giving them items, to me, is that you are very limited in what you can give.

Now, for the building bit – I’ll get to the hunt for butter after this.  The three homes you can build are on three specific pieces of property you can buy from the Jarl’s or their stewards.  One is near Whiterun, although it’s part of Dawnstar hold.  Another is outside of Solitude, with a view of the land bridge that is that city, though it is a part of Morthal hold.  The third is close to the lake south of Riverwood – a beautiful area that is like having a vacation home in the woods – and is a part of Falkreath hold.

I am not going to go through all of the addition choices, but will mention a few that give notice for some reason.  You can build what is in a provided list for each room/addition, but you don’t have alternate choices within the list.  You don’t have a choice between a bed and a table for a certain spot, for example – there’s is only one thing designated for that spot – you can only add it or leave it open.  And, you cannot demolish a wing later in case you change your mind about the kind of house you want.

All the homes start off with a small starter room (home!), and in order to add the specialty wings, you must build the main hall attached to the first starter room.   The starter room has a bed and fire pit in it, and so it is livable as is.  However, if you hire a steward – very advisable since not all the mill owners will sell you wood, as the add-on claims – then where do both of you sleep?  This is actually more of a problem later.

You will have the ability to add two small beds and a double bed in the main hall for you and your spouse, and your  kids (forget “choice” – there is no other options for this area, nor any other, in these Hearthfire houses).  However, the steward and housecarl always sleep in the beds that are for the kids, or one of them may sleep in your own bed.  This is a problem with the game.  If you choose to build the bedroom wing, this is not a problem.  But if you choose to build a different wing and use those main hall beds, then good luck!  The problem is only compounded by the fact that there is only one bed left in the original building for both the steward and the housecarl.  This obviously was not thought through by Bethesda, and I find it quite astonishing.

The storage room was a very major disappointment.  Seriously, Bethesda couldn’t spring for a dragon claw holder and some other holder for specific items – like the various named jewelry you can find – especially since everything always pops out of display cases and off of shelves?  This really fries me!  Come one, Bethesda . . . really!?!  Give us something for the money.  The cellar is a bit interesting in that way:  you can build a shrine holder and all the shrines to the gods.  But a storage room that doesn’t store all those specialty items?  Wow and weird.

The homes do not incorporate anything from the Dawnguard DLC.  It seems like the ability to add new plants and new creatures, like from the Soul Cairn and the Vale, at least, should have been designed into this new DLC.  It becomes obvious that this add-on was planned from the beginning.  Skyrim had orphans and they asked to be adopted, yet you could not adopt them.  There is no Dawnguard content in Hearthfire, except for one thing: you can give your child an armored dog from Fort Dawnguard (a nice surprise).  So, why wasn’t this simply part of Skyrim to begin with?  My “other half” is really into the Elder Scrolls, though Morrowind specifically.  He told me that in the past, an add-on such as this would’ve been free.  It seems Bethesda held some of the content out in order to make some more cash, while providing a not so great product.

Which brings us to the butter quest.  There’s not a formal quest for butter, of course, but there is an actual one.  Butter is as hard to find as gold- if not harder – as far as I can tell.  You will want butter if you build the kitchen wing (it probably has the best looking wing interior), which has an “oven” for baking.  Butter is an 0ft-needed ingredient, but good luck finding it!!!   You can’t make it, even though you can own cows now and there is a butter churn in the kitchen.  So far I have only received one butter out of the churn.  I have searched high and low for butter, looking to find it in various places, and to buy it.  I never find it (it isn’t laying around like soup or stew), and have been only offered it to buy about three times from various vendors.  Wow.  Who knew baking could be so hard?

So if you want to have something new to do in Skyrim before the next big DLC comes out, and you like having children, then Hearthfire would be worth the $5, in my opinion.  But otherwise, the choice is of course up to you, especially if you want to bake but don’t feel it worth hours of your time in a quest for butter!

November 9 Update (XBOX):   After months, the churn finally had a new bowl of butter in it.  BUT, within a short time, it had butter in it again.  Perhaps there was an update that loaded that we didn’t notice, or perhaps it’s very random!  Also, the best places I’ve noticed to buy butter are from the town stands, from the vendors selling vegetables and other foods (that is, the dark elf in Riften and the two humans in White Run and Windhelm).