Mass Effect Movie, or Shepard should be a woman

Every tie some video game has been optioned off for a movie, there is a flurry of activity among the video game community- one of either hope or pessimism (currently, the latter is being used more often than not) for the project. Unfortunately, the film projects have one of two results- either the film languishes in development hell for one reason or another (see the film projects for Bioshock or Metal Gear Solid for two films stuck in movie development hell.) while others come out to somewhat mediocre results-see every video game movie ever made. Seriously. There was a Tekken film. No one remembers it because it went direct to DVD. I saw it and I slightly hate myself for doing so, even if it was just to see how weird it was to have people in those silly outfits. Seriously though, a woman wouldn’t even dare try to fight in assless cha-okay, you get the idea. Mass Effect has just been optioned for a film with Legendary Pictures. This is a unique new opportunity for video game movies- giving the original creators some input into the creation of the film. I doubt Shinji Mikami or anyone at Capcom were given key roles or consulting opportunities when it came for Resident Evil films, for example. I do believe that to make a video game movie work properly, there needs to be a balance set- one between that of the original game designers and that of the creative team of the film- screenwriter, director, et. al. It’s a tricky tightrope to follow, but even with some creative input from those who originally created the story, balanced with the creative team behind the movie, magic could be made. But besides that- what fascinates me most is the possibilities for the Mass Effect movie- what could come of it if it came to fruition. The game was open ended, and gamers came together with different tales of their Mass Effect experience. I would like to submit my own idea to where the Mass Effect movie should go- something in my own part of the Mass Effect experience. Shepard (the main character), should be a woman. Okay, so it’s not entirely unheard of- I understand that. And the majority of the advertising for both games feature the standard male Shepard (or maleshep, as a couple of ME fan friends of mine have informed me to the lingo of the fans), and the adversity the character presents in having to save the world. So why this femshep?

The world of science fiction films is crowded with the idea of the one male hero fighting adversity for the good of their respective “universe” so to say- everyone from Captain Malcolm Reynolds(Serenity, Firefly) to older classics like George Taylor (from Planet of the Apes). The male hero fighting for good in the face of so much adversity is a world to which comes natural to the science fiction genre in films. Let’s mix it up a bit and place a female Shepard into the role. After all, when you think of a female hero in science fiction, most minds turn immediately to Ellen Ripley of the Alien films. And that character is almost thirty years old at this point- have there been no other real sci-fi super heroines. Okay, maybe Buffy, but she was more fantasy character than sci-fi. Some of the Firefly characters were quite strong, but they weren’t the main character- only playing second fiddle to Nathan Fillion’s Malcolm Reynolds.

Why not allow the female Shepard not only face adversity as being the only human ever to become Spectre (an event that occurs early in the first game)- facing adversity not only to her race- but her sex- thus facing adversity within her own people. Make that battle to gain acceptance and understanding from those in the Citadel- and in that universe- that much harder to accomplish.

It would be a difficult sell, yes, perhaps, then going safe and filling the tropes of science fiction films to a strong male lead, but to challenge the audience to respect this Shepard would indeed shake things up.

The Mass Effect experience was the ability to shake things up- to allow players to choose their own path and make their own moral experience. Why not shake it up and allow the central character- the protagonist to which Ashley, Liara, and Garrus and the other secondary characters- rally behind to save the universe with- be that of the fairer sex? To have a female character that not only has the distinct problems to attempting to save the galaxy already discriminated as a human (a already looked down upon group within the Mass Effect mythos, as humans are relative newcomers to the galactic political-sphere), but to receive further discrimination from those within her race as a woman– if done correctly, could create a rallying character to which is sorely missing from the realm of science fiction. The story was written in such a way that playing as either sex would feel natural to the player. The same could be said of the movie- having a female lead may be difficult- especially for those who were used to playing through the Mass Effect with the male Shepard.

Unfortunately, that can’t be the case anymore. At Comic Con, Bioware had a panel for the film, in which they confirmed that the movie will be about the origin story of a male Shepard. Now to go and say that this plan is a bad one is a foolhardy move on my part- who knows, the film may be an amazing success. I would have just liked it if there was a challenge on the behalf of those involved to create a new science fiction heroine in their already vivid, expansive universe, basing it on a story already known by the fan base created so far. But that’s just my thought as a writer, just a compilation and musings of someone who would like to see the Mass Effect story make the jump to the silver screen effectively, by challenging itself to become the next great sci-fi universe in film.

The Free Pass Actors

In heated discussions with my friends, I’ve held up an odd belief about the actors to which I uphold can have something I call “The Free Pass Actors”. There are certain actors, in my belief, that they can do however many shitty movies they want- they have a free pass in my book. These actors have done so many amazing roles in their lifetime that I don’t even question them, nor rail against them, for the amazing work they had done so far. Make all the crappy movies you want at this point- you’re a legend already, you already have set a basis for your legacy as an actor. Relax, take a load off and you’re good to go. You’re the very damn best. The actor that started it all was of course, the fantastic Ben Kingsley. The man has done almost anything you can think of. He was Ghandi- what is left to say? But quite the argument against the free pass could be said that for all those movies Kingsley has done in the past, he’s ruining his legacy by doing all these terrible movies today, putting to shame what he has done as an actor in Schindler’s List or anything along those lines- but he continues to put out amazing films. Just take a look at House of Sand and Fog as a prime example of Kingsley at his very best, even in a film only a couple of years old. He still has the ability to be in some amazing films (like Shutter Island) while being able to have some fun with blockbusters like the Prince of Persia movie. You know what Better example, however, one that trumps Ben Kingsley, is the ever brilliant Morgan Freeman. Seriously, stop reading this for a second, lean back in your chair, and try to think of a role he wasn’t brilliant in. Every movie he does seems better with him in it. From the head of an assassin leauge in Wanted to the chauffeur in Driving Ms. Daisy, Freeman is ALWAYS good in the film. (as a personal sidenote, I would want to have morgan freeman narrate a day in my life. I don’t know about you, but I’d be eternally happy if I heard Freeman’s voice say “Daniel woke up late in the morning, his oafish form sprawled out upon a bed that was too small for him…” every time I woke up). Upon further discussion other actors came to the forefront of our discussion. Other free pass actors may include: -Jack Nicholson -Gary Oldman -Alan Rickman -Sigourney Weaver More explanations aren’t needed for the rest. Seriously, stop and think how much each one of those actors could have carried each individual film they’re famous for. They can do all they want now for all I care. But nope- each one has done films that have created unique memories- Alan rickman has played terrorists (Die Hard), a wizard (Harry Potter film series) and even the voice of god (Dogma). He can do anything else he wants now for all we care. He’s Hans Gruber, after all.

Thoughts on Google Chrome OS

This is a post that’s been waiting in my drafts folder for quite some time now, and I figure this is a good time as any to get it out. I’ve been thinking about Google Chrome and what it exactly means, at least to my observations. I was one of many dorks who watched the livestream of the conference, who watched with a slightly underwhelming view of the announcements. No installed applications! It’s all in the cloud, baby! It was all so very new and such a weird take that I had to wait to think and process the information that flowed forth about the OS and what my take on it would be. But in all honesty, I agree with so many critics- it’s a small step. It’s a small step between a full fledged OS and something you’d find on a cell phone (a smartphone, that is). And for the applications that can run on it so far, that would be just fine for certain uses. I could probably see myself running the Google Chrome OS on a netbook someday- something that can boot quickly, to check the plethora of GMail accounts I have running (last time i counted, it’s about five so far, but that may grow with passing time), Twitter, Facebook, etc. The Google Suite has been a major part of my workflow the last six months, so the use of Chrome OS would be a welcome addition to my workflow. The ease of which I could check emails, type out some writing I had in mind into Google Documents, so on and so forth, would be a snap on the Chrome OS. Hell, I’ve used GDocs to bounce out scripts to later convert and move over to Celtx for formatting. To have the Google OS as a stopgap to between my random ideas and rough drafts to the finalized versions on my computer would be a tremendous help. Hell, this was written in Google Documents before I moved the document over to MarsEdit for editing and posting. I could have foreseeably used the OS in the process of writing this. As John Gruber stated, “The idea of a computer that does a lot less — leaving out even things you consider essential, because you can still do those things on your other, primary computer — is liberating.” To have a small netbook running chrome with my usual menagerie of permanent tabs (gmail and twitter, mostly) off on another computer while I save the system resources for Final Cut Pro or some other resource hogging application. It’s just a small resource that would complement the entire computer experience. It is my belief that the strength of the whole project can be seen in the fact that the OS itself is open source. Everything I’ve seen so far with the OS has been offshoots people have cooked up for the public to play with, and in time, I can see major companies doing the same. Imagine, what if Asus built a motherboard that had a small flash drive onboard just for chrome OS? Sure, you can take your time and boot into Windows, but you can just hold down a key when booting up and Chrome OS kicks in from that onboard flash drive and lets you check email or show that funny cat video you wanted to show to your significant other before you leave for work. A fully customizable instant on OS. Imagine the offshoots some valiant coder (or company!) could pull off with the operating system. With the code being open sourced, there could be a plethora of flavors of the Chrome OS that could come out for different uses. Perhaps one version could be created to be run on MacBooks and Macbook Pros, for quick bootups. Another version to be run on tablet PCs. What could be seen as a slow tablet could run quite briskly with its own flavor of the Chrome OS. Hell, aging computers could be given a quick update with a 10 dollar ethernet card and given a new lifecycle with this OS- something simple to allow a family member to check their email or annoy the entire household with a terrible youtube clip (if you don’t, more power to you). One offshoot could benefit my current place of work- the library. Imagine a flavor of the Chrome OS that would be designed for library use. Patrons to the library could keep their bookmarks, their settings, hell, even their own background as they come in to use the computers, as they move from terminal to terminal. The OS could be limited to have parental controls and time limits for children and for adults alike. Instead of suffering from the constant upkeep regular windows computers have to face, a simple Chrome OS system that’s self updating, and much more secure would lower the frustration and the costs of said upkeep with public use computers, such as the ones at the library. A similar system could be put into place at a cyber cafe, with little to no overhead compared to its windows counterparts. Of course, like with the actual OS, such an idea would come in the pipeline- nothing that Google makes right away is all that good to begin with. Anyone care to recall how… simplistic Gmail was back in the day? Or how much the Google documents system (remember when it was still Writely?) couldn’t do basic exportability to word documents? Everything is a work in progress at google, and I would expect Chrome to be no different. What we see now would probably be remarkably different even months down the line, even six months after the fact. It will grow, it will evolve, and in what ways, it may turn to be interesting. For what it stands now, a small step, it’s quite small. But the magic lies in the potential to where it may grow and flourish. The initial steps may be underwhelming, but where it can go is promising.

GTA Retrospective Review

This is a little piece i just felt writing, just for the hell of it. I thought about GTA IV some, and seeing a friend just recently play through the multimillion dollar game made me think a bit about the whole experience of the game. I wrote it a long time ago, and I just found the whole review on my Google Documents account. So uh, here it goes. Up to the launch of Grand Theft Auto 4, there was practically an embargo of information on the game, so much so that there was speculation on internet forums to how the HUD would actually look like. Rockstar kept pulling down early gameplay videos from youtube and other sites hours to the launch of the hotly anticipated game. So much of the game was kept under wraps it felt as if this was actually a super-secret government project (might as well have been one, really). So when video game reviewers had to review the game, it was short, quick and rather dirty, and to have them base the review upon any first impressions of the game were… well nonexistent. As such, I’m basing this whole review upon playing it, listening to other people’s reviews and concerns of the game, and as such, shaping it to be a review after the fact. When the first fully 3D GTA game came out, GTA3, it was almost a proof of concept to where can games go and what the genre can do. Think about it. There wasn’t much to do, save for the main storyline and the car racing (well, it was car racing, ambulance, taxi, and cop missions, but really, when you think about it, the three are just racing but with different style to each one) but it was a proof of concept, and a fun one at that. It also was a prime tech example of the Renderware engine, an obscure engine at the time, became one of the prime engines during the previous console generation. Everything from Tony Hawk to Spongebob Squarepants games were built upon this game engine. GTA3 led upon this platform, which made the programming upon the once difficult PS2 to be a breeze for developers. Games like this wasn’t so open as we knew it, and games to follow have followed along to that standard the original had set. The following Grand Theft Auto games brought along different ideas to the game, including the simplistic mogul concept from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and the gang control element from San Andreas. Each simply improved upon the sandbox formula and brought upon new flavorings to the genre. So where does this put GTA IV, then? Simple: right back at GTA3. The return to Liberty City as a setting is also one of a stylistic flavoring, for the developers to return to the original sandbox they had created and rebuild it. No, it was much more than that- it flattened the sandbox and built something new. What had been an algham of various New York city elements actually felt like a fluid city with its respective neighborhoods and people. What was at the time the de-facto standard for third person shooters (lock on and shoot and pray that you’re actually hitting the guy that’s shooting you) the game replaces it with a rather ridiculous cover system. (Mind you, i could not find a word for the aiming system in my vocabulary at the time- I instead turned to a friend playing the game at the moment, to which he responded “ridiculous” as he used said targeting to pop a headshot with relative ease.) This game is no longer simply a better version than its counterparts- by doing away with the standards it had set out to do, the game simply raised the bar for other games in the genre within this new generation of games to follow suit. GTA4 also attempts to push yet another new engine, Rockstar’s own RAGE engine, which is yet to be known if this engine will be licensed along the Unreal Tournament 3 engine and other next gen properties. However, its animation engine, known as Euphoria, had its first major debut at E3 2006. With videos showing crudely sculpted characters dynamically reacting to one another instead of using pre-scripted animations, it proved to be a major stepping stone for next generation games, and was to be released with a new Indiana Jones game (which with much of Lucasart’s non-Star Wars games, seems to have disappeared). With a high profile game such as GTA4, the Euphoria engine may recieve much more licenses in the future as GTA4 serves as a posterboy to the technologies in the game. However, as much as the game attempts to be it’s own GTA3 for the next generation, it’s own realism can be its downfall. GTA games were always campy in nature. It was ultra-violent, yes, but there was a level of surrealism and coy jokes layered upon the best selling series. Really now, is any regular person going to break into a Area 51-esque place to steal a jet pack? Is a drug dealer really going to rise to the top in a Scarface-esque fashion? Hell no. But the GTA series showed it, and gamers, while recognizing its parodying nature, enjoyed it. GTA:SA was worth simply having Peter Fonda as a hippie talking about erethral goats he rides (it’s in the pot farm mission). There were no memoral moments like that in GTA4. Sure, Brucie’s subtle gay innuendo was funny enough, but the game just took itself way too seriously for anyone of the series to truly enjoy it. The constant bleak reminders of Niko’s tragic past and events garnered very little concern- in fact, it almost brought on yawns among many gamers. Lighten it up, Rockstar. We know you can do better. The characters, while having some small comedic moments, end up giving the player little or nothing to connect with. GTA4’s characters either disappear or are killed in a quick and dirty manner (more so than any other game. How many characters that gave you missions ultimately died in the game? There were quite a bit…) so any connection a player attempts is short lived and rather unfulfilling. Consider Tommy Vercetti, CJ, and all the other characters in the series- they were outlandish, sure, but it melded with the already campy nature of the GTA series. The weapons were realistic, but it really isn’t a GTA game until you can light some people on fire (with a flamethrower, of course) in some ridiculous rampage that requires the Army to intervene. Here? Homeland Security. Realism has it’s place in games, but GTA isn’t one of them. GTA is (or should i say, was) a campy series in nature. Yes, graphics have improved, we see new game engines powering it, but why should the rather comedic nature of the series change? It was always ridiculous, it was always over the top, but it was fun. Yeah, there are rampages, yeah, there’s those over the top missions (especially the final one) but… it doesn’t have the grandiose and Hollywood style bravado that the previous incarnations did. This version may be simplistic, but hell, the way i see it, this is a start. Is it the grade A game of the year that we’ve all been expecting? No way in hell. But this new standard it sets makes every other game in the sandbox genre a run for its money, at least in its revolutionary game engines and tight-controls. Everything else the GTA games are known for- solid characters, campy nature- all but missing. A solid B would do in this case, but a grade-A/game of the year award winning game? No dice, Rockstar.