Written 22/02/2012. First posted here.
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MORE SPOILERS THAN WORDS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Skyrim is not a particularly good game.
Not a terrible game, just a lazy one. It comfortably settles for mediocre with the occasional jaunt into pretty good or descent into god-awful. It’s not bad. It’s okay. It’s a horrendous brush to tar any creative property with: not so bad as to be entertaining, nor quite good enough for ‘decent’. The pity-prize of the praise world.
So why has Skyrim earned it? There is a lot about it to praise. Magic is fluid and extremely satisfying, Alchemy and Smithing both made for highly addictive little mini games, the Thieves Guild questline was coherent, and-
Written 04/01/2012. First posted here.
What are Narrative Kinks? Well, for a start they’re not normally capitalised but I like them that way. You could almost say it’s a grammatical kink.
Narrative Kinks are story or world elements which push your buttons. While this includes genre to some degree, it’s a lot more precise and tightly focused – you don’t have a Narrative Kink for fantasy, you have a Narrative Kink for ‘rag-tag band forced together by destiny’ or ‘the clash between magic and emerging technology’. They range from being major plot elements to simple character types. For example: I really like non-combative male thief characters, to the point where I’m more likely to buy something if I know there’s one in it. A friend of mine loves settings where magic is treated as a science.
(Those being some of the less embarrassingly petty options, as anything from ‘the badass fighter needs rescuing’ to ‘meaningful conversations next to streams at night’ can count as Narrative Kinks.)
Written 08/11/2011. First posted here.
When creating a world for the player to romp joyfully in, many writers start with the intention of making it a completely post-patriarchal society. Speciesism runs amok, class warfare may be rampant but whether you need a little extra in your breastplate isn’t an issue. It’s especially common in RPGs, where the designers are understandably disinclined to fuck over anyone who doesn’t want to play a dude. The problem is that they’re often not very good at it.
Oh, they try. Your badass barbarian babe won’t face a single gender-based criticism for solving every problem with her axe, but they’re not quite so on the ball when it comes to anything else. Visual differences are common: the tunic skirt cuts a little higher, the neckline a little lower. (‘A little’ is generous. Armour that covers Conan throat-to-knee loses two square foot of fabric when Sonja pulls it over her head.) This isn’t standard by any means – Morrowind clothing is the same badly-displayed monstrosity on everyone – but it is frustratingly ubiquitous.