Politics in the Witcher 3 – Part 2

Could it be better to be conquered by an aggressive state than to live under an oppressive, but peaceful government?

The Nilfgaardian Empire is an aggressive state. No one doubts this. The government is explicitly imperial and conquers weaker states merely by virtue of having a stronger economy and army, rather than upon any claim of legitimacy. Unless one happens to be a Nilgaardian and is directly benefiting from its aggression, everyone is in agreement Nilfgaard’s expansion is unjust. The empire’s expedition into Temeria and eventually Redania in The Witcher 3 is just the latest example of this.

However, based on the evidence we see in the game, there is a good case to be made that living under the Nilfgaard Emperor is better than living under any of the other government in the known world. Nilfgaard has a strong culture of law and order, which has apparently ensured the foundation of a thriving economy based on an efficient judicial system and the respect of property rights. Non-humans and magic dabblers aren’t exactly accepted with open arms in Nilfgaard, but they are tolerated by imperial degree. Even witches are allowed to live and practice their craft in Nilfgaard as long as they accept oversight from the government.

The states which Nilfgaard attempts to conquer seem backward in comparison. Their economies are rooted in traditional medieval structures, as opposed to Nilfgaard’s manufacturing focus. Novigrad is still a bustling trade hub, but its economic influence has weakened since its dive into radical religion. Temeria and Novigrad are both under the influence of the Church of the Eternal Flame, which preaches persecution against anyone connected to magic, and non-humans. This eventually leads to oppressed citizens literally being burned at the stake in Novigrad. Likewise, witches are all officially outlaws and are ruthlessly hunted by church and government agents, to be executed or tortured indefinitely. Meanwhile, the Skelligan Jarls have been devoted throughout all known history to a lifestyle based on raiding, raping, and plundering, overlaid with an absurd honor code which demands ritualistic self-sacrifice.

It was blatantly apparent to me fairly early on in the game that the Nilfgaardian Empire was the more just regime internally, but… was the destruction wrought by their conquests worth the gains accrued by its citizens relative to peace under a worse government?…”


Read the rest of the article at Gaming Rebellion:

Politics in the Witcher 3 – Part 2


The Phantom’s Pain – Turning Venom Snake into the Boss: A Metal Gear Solid V Narrative Analysis – Introduction


Author’s Note

6/16 EDIT – All done!

This four five six-part article (including the introduction) is currently over 21,000 27,000 words long, thereby making it by far the largest thing I have ever written for Theory of Objective Video Game Aesthetics or gamingrebellion.com (where I write a weekly article). I may add more to this piece later, but I really want to hear more feedback from the Metal Gear community. For one, I wrote and edited this thing all by myself, so I’m sure there are random typos and Metal Gear lore errors that I need help sniffing out. But I also want to get feedback on my overall points and structure (and a pithier title would be nice). Any and all feedback, good and bad, is welcome.



“Now do you remember? Who you are? What you were meant to do? I cheated death, thanks to you. And thanks to you I’ve left my mark. You have too – you’ve written your own history. You’re your own man. I’m Big Boss, and you are too… No… He’s the two of us. Together. Where we are today? We built it. This story – this “legend” – it’s ours. We can change the world – and with it, the future. I am you, and you are me. Carry that with you, wherever you go. Thank you… my friend. From here on out, you’re Big Boss.”

– Big Boss

When I first finished Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, like so many other players, I was disappointed. MGSV was supposed to be the “Missing Link” in the Metal Gear canon. It was that game that would reveal the bridge between the heroic Big Boss of MGS 3, Portable Ops, and Peace Walker, and the grand historical villain of Metal Gear 1 and 2. As expressed by numerous launch trailers and Hideo Kojima tweets, MGSV was going to be a tale of Big Boss’s fall into darkness, driven by an insatiable lust for revenge, a consummate anger lit by his enemies which would scorch his soul until nothing was left but a power hungry mad man who would threaten the world with nuclear war for the sake of his power-hungry ambitions.

Instead we got an incredibly weird twist which did little more than retcon patch a largely ignored plot hole in one of the least-played Metal Gear games. We found out that the final boss of Metal Gear 1 was not Big Boss, but a body double, who through surgery and hypnotherapy was made into almost an exact copy of the legendary soldier.

Again, like most other players, when I first finished the game I thought this was a neat trick, a typically crazy, convoluted, but seductively entertaining twist from one of my favorite story tellers of all time. But of course… it was also a major let down.

Finding out that I had just played as some random ass medic from Militaires Sans Fronteres for the last 80 hours instead of the most important character in the entire Metal Gear canon was certainly a mind-fuck, but also left me feeling deflated. What was the point of it all? Why did I just follow some entirely new character for an entire game who has only a minor, tangential connection to the series’ larger plot instead of seeing Big Boss’s moral/psychological/narrative transformation which is at the heart of the entire series and was supposed to be the entire point of Metal Gear Solid V?


Continue reading “The Phantom’s Pain – Turning Venom Snake into the Boss: A Metal Gear Solid V Narrative Analysis – Introduction”

Shelter 2 Almost Makes Me Hate Cats

“One of the worst sins of modern story-telling is “assumed empathy.” If a movie, book, or video game wants me to care about something, they have to earn my feelings. But all too often creators will rely on common emotional associations as a short-cut for creating actual connections between the audience and a particular character or event. Thus we get stories where it’s assumed that I, as the audience, care about the plight of a particular child, family member, loved one, or even the entire world, simply because all people are supposed to care about children, family members, loved ones, and the entire world. Maybe I’m just callous, but I find that this technique particularly doesn’t work on me, and even tends to produce the opposite effect wherein I start to despise the very thing I was supposed to empathize with.

Apparently cats are an exception to this rule for me. Especially kittens…”


Read the rest of the article at Gaming Rebellion:

Shelter 2 Almost Makes Me Hate Cats

Does Good Robot Deserve its Title?

“Good Robot was co-developed by Shamus Young, best known for his work at the Escapist Magazine (Stolen Pixels and the recently ended Experienced Points) and his own personal website, Twenty Sided. I’ve been a regular reader of Young’s work for about two years and consider him to be one of the biggest influences of my writing, both in terms of style and content. While standard video game review sites tend to be concerned with driving pre-release hype machines (and aggregating the superficial aspects of new releases into point systems so they can be further aggregated on Metacritic so they can serve as some sort of proxy to evaluate a game’s critical success in the most superficial way possible), Young tends to write long-form analyses of games which situate their qualities within the video game medium as a whole. He is less interested in describing why a game is good or bad, or whether or not someone should buy it, than in figuring out what makes video games work and not work, how narrative and mechanical properties can be skillfully integrated, and how the medium as a whole can be improved over time. (He describes his commentary approach here.) Along with pundits like George Weidman, Campster, and Yahtzee, Young is one of the few video game commentators today who makes real intellectual contributions towards moving video games forward as an artistic medium.

(It’s also worth noting that Rutskarn worked on Good Robot as well, and I like a lot of his stuff too.)

So of course I was excited to get my hands on Good Robot, even though I honestly wasn’t really sure what to expect of it. I didn’t know how Young would or could incorporate the insightfulness found in his hilarious take down ofFallout 3’s moronic story or his seemingly endless walkthrough of the Mass Effect series (which is up to Part 42 as of writing this) into a relatively simple game about shooting a lot of robots. I was also concerned about how my perception of the creator would affect my evaluation of the game. Would I be overly-disappointed at every minor error because I expect more from a creator I admire? Or would I unfairly ignore faults because I want the game to live up to my expectations?

Ultimately I have no idea if my evaluation of the game is skewed, but regardless, I’m happy to report that after seven hours of playtime, I am loving Good Robot…”


Read the rest of the article at Gaming Rebellion:

Does Good Robot Deserve Its Title?