This is a post about Call of Duty, Ego, and Pumping Iron

Written by Jordan Rivas

There is a person who’s half downed a Monster XXL, is sitting in a beanbag, with a pair of Triton’s on, and their eyes are bloodshot. They’re playing Call of Duty and they’re good at it.

There is another person who’s doubled up on their creatine monohydrate and whey protein, hit a couple of magnesium pills, and every muscle in their body looks ready to burst out of them as they squat twice their weight. They’re working out, and they’re good at it.

These two people have something in common, and it’s that they’re both feeding their ego.

They aren’t often associated with each other because their methods are so different. Nevertheless, the motivation, payoff, and psychological drive is similar. I’m not directly comparable to either of them, but I’m similar enough to each of them that I can share some insight with you.

I work out everyday. I like to do it. It makes me feel good, it gives me energy, and I like the challenge. It’s not that I don’t ever struggle to get started (I do), but I enjoy having such a disciplined area of my life.

Four days a week I do free weights (on “off days” I do intensive cardio). … Read More »


This is a post about SWTOR and Micro-transaction Immersion

Written by Jordan Rivas

I used to joke that I’d never try Star Wars: The Old Republic, because as a gaming Star Wars geek, I was the perfect example of someone who’d have their life taken over by a Star Wars game with no ending.

I’m decent at telling jokes – most of the time they don’t come true.

When I started, I tried to ease into it. That didn’t work. The game, like any MMO, is geared towards driving you to a primary objective – more. But not too much more; that would be daunting. No, specifically, one more. One more quest, one more loot grab, one more armor piece, one more group operation, one more level – always just one more.

But what SWTOR adds to that medley of more, unlike most MMO’s, is story. Story is crucial to my experience with a game. One more story, I’d tell myself at 2AM, eyes already drooping, bloodshot and Sith-like. That’s what every MMO I’ve ever played was missing – deep, pervasive, cinematic storytelling.

Although not a “pure MMO” in the eyes of critics, SWTOR has opened a branch of audience that World of Warcraft and others have always been shut off to – the single-player story lover.

Read More »


This is a post about Skyrim and Self Deception

Written by Jordan Rivas

Ulfric Stormcloak, a true Nord and the Jarl of Windhelm, stormed the city of Solitude. I helped him do it. I charged in at his side, as we burned and murdered a path to the Imperial fort inside the city. Our thu’um combined to shake General Tullius to his knees in surrender. I took Ulfric’s sword; I beheaded a kneeling general and leader of the empire in Skyrim.

I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

My second character in Skyrim is named Ruhon (rOO-awn), a Nord. He’s hardy, wields the battleaxe Wuuthrad, leads the Companions, sports a mohawk, and can become a werewolf at will.

Like your character in Skyrim, like every character in Skyrim, he is Dovahkiin — dragonborn. He ventured to Sovngarde to vanquish the oldest dragon, the world eater Alduin. But like your character, that’s not what makes him unique.

The protagonist in Skyrim is one of your choosing — gender, race, size, shape, skill, and name are all yours to determine. How they behave, where they go and when is at your whim. Your character doesn’t speak audibly; he or she isn’t colored through any actor’s inflection. You have to fill in those blanks. … Read More »


This is a post about Assassin’s Creed 3 and Jingoism

Written by Jordan Rivas

In Assassin’s Creed 3, you don’t kill native Americans. Or at least, you mostly don’t kill native Americans.

Ratonhnhaké:ton, an Assassin ancestor of series protagonist Desmond Miles, serves as the main character for Assassin’s Creed 3. He’s a member of the Kanien’keha:ka — which means People of the Place of Flint. Not long after the game begins, Ratonhnhaké:ton (called Connor) sees his village burned to the ground by the game’s fictitious version of Charles Lee, a ruthless Templar who sees the native Americans as standing in the way of colonial progress.

Years later, Connor learns that George Washington has ordered his village destroyed once again, this time because of reports that certain natives are fighting with the British.

When Connor learns of the plan to use his tribesman as fodder, he rushes to stop them. As I led Connor into the forest in a careful dash, the optional objective flashed on my upper left screen — “Stop the Kanien’keha:ka with non-lethal methods”.

In the one moment when it could be argued that the native American portion of the cast in Assassin’s Creed 3 was as open to a bloody exit as anyone, the game still emphasizes the non-lethal approach.

AC3 does an admirable … Read More »


This is a post about Dishonored, Monarchies, and Non-lethality

Written by Jordan Rivas

Spoilers ahead. Thanks for reading.

Corvo Attano, the protagonist of Dishonored, is not a good guy — but I tried to make him one. I’ve always tried to play characters honestly. I enjoy stories, and whether a game is labeled role-playing or not, I require honesty in order to be fully immersed.

Because video games allow agency within story and characters, I bare some of the responsibility for ensuring honesty in the narrative. I have some control over how Corvo behaves, and in Dishonored I also have some control over how the story concludes. That’s why when I started playing Dishonored, I was determined to choose non-lethality whenever possible.

I surmised that as a bodyguard, Corvo would value life enough to avoid killing whenever possible, and only kill with no other alternative. That was the premise, but it  fell away quickly, replaced by something more concrete, but subtle.

I realized Corvo is not a “good guy”, and that the cast of Dishonored is mostly deficient of virtuous characters. This makes the fiction more authentic, cynical; it makes the characters less sympathetic. It disrupted my motivations as a player, and my ability to relate to Corvo.

I ascertained I … Read More »

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