Double Agent
Idoru - June 4, 2001 - Chris Jones

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this column are those of the participants and the moderator, and do not necessarily reflect those of the GIA. There is coarse language and potentially offensive material afoot. "Once, at a truck stop in Tennessee, I bought a plate with a big picture of Hank Williams Jr. in the middle. I tried eating off it, but got too freaked out." -Entertainment Weekly. Don't say we didn't warn you.

One of the reasons I like doing this column so much is that it exposes me to some truly alien viewpoints - some are obviously deranged lunatics, or middle school kids with poor grammar and a serious grievance about some trivial issue, but sometimes I'll get a well written, reasonably coherent letter from someone with a view of life that's just... different. A view of reality that's fairly self consistent, but completely orthogonal to how I see things. Case in point, the link pointed to by the first letter below; I tell you, it makes this job completely worth it, sometimes.


Applied pacifism

It's a Christian game review website. Whenever I'm bored, I'll take a look at the Quake III and Conker's bad Fur Day reviews. Oh man, I'd love to see them do one of Fear Effect: Retro Helix....

I grew up in Louisiana and went to school in Texas, so the people and philosophy at the above site aren't revelations to me, but the dedicated, systematic application of that philosophy to the secular world of video games is damned interesting. You've seen those long essays on why Pokemon is a tool of the devil? This is like that, but more quantitative and not quite as fanatical.

First off, credit should be given where credit's due: the reviewer makes a few glaring mistakes here and there, but he's clearly been around games for a long time. He knows what he's talking about, and could probably make a decent argument in this column. It's also interesting to see what games look like to someone who's morally committed to nonviolence - it's clearly difficult to find anything worth playing, and I salute his attempts to try. If nothing else, it's refreshing to see someone embracing Nintendo's kid-friendly heritage, although I think he's going to be sorely disappointed in the Gamecube's 3rd party development.

That said, a lot of what was on this site painted a mile-wide smile on my face, as I read about his discomfort with E3 games like Metal Gear Solid 2. I think most people will get a kick out of the Xenogears review, and I'd also like to see a review of FFT or Vagrant Story. Heck, I'd be fascinated with a simple discussion of Yuna's water summon video. And as fun as the video game reviews are, they don't hold a candle to the movie reviews found elsewhere on the site: this must be the only site in the world which finds Titanic more morally objectionable than Saving Private Ryan and Red Dawn. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to ridicule anybody's beliefs here, but one of the reasons I read sf by guys like Bruce Sterling and Greg Egan's for the head trip, and this gives me a doozy.

Kings of perception
"On the wall infront of him is the shadow of what appears Vulcan Raven, with his big gun from Metal Gear Solid. Am I the only one who sees this?"

Yes, if by "only one" you mean every E3 showgoer and the vast majority of people who downloaded the video on the internet, not to mention the other showgoers who screamed out "Vulcan Raven" despite being on the wrong side of the video screen.


After asking around a bit, I'm fairly certain that is Vulcan Raven's shadow, but sad to say, I missed it the first time through... and every other time through. On the other hand, the first time I saw the video I was so blown away that I didn't even notice Snake's bullets deflecting away from Fortune, and every other time I watched the video I was just happy to be sitting down, off my feet.

The one thing I think people should remember here is that there's a lot of hints and buried information in the background of that video... and the majority of it's probably red herrings planted there by Kojima to mess up our expectations, so we can be completely devastated by what really happens.

Blast from the past
Howdy Chris,

Regarding The Kasier's letter yesterday, IGNPS2 released a screen of the shadow he's referring to several months back, and I would have to say that it definitely looks like it could be Vulcan Raven. Vulcan Raven's shaman abilities were very underplayed in MGS, so it's possibly that he may not have really died when the ravens consumed him at the end of his battle with Snake. As farfetched as it may seem, perhaps they were just transporting him to another location so he could recover from his battle injuries. Besides, if Liquid can come back in the form of Ocelot's new hand, anything is possible.

-CTZanderman, pulling random theories out of the air

It's a possibility. Problem is, I don't want to post too many of these as we get close in, just because somebody might accidentally hit on a spoiler. Case in point, somebody sent me, half in jest, a theory on who the new Ninja could be... and the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that the theorist got it right. So I'd just as soon not have people yelling at me in case Drew's theory about Fortune being Pamela Anderson's evil twin turns out to be correct.

We've always been at war with Eurasia, right?
Isn't it amazing how many supporters Xenogears suddenly has? I mean, considering the fact that when there was no sequel, all you heard was "Xenogrs sux", and now that Xenosaga has been announced and looks like it will be halfway decent, all we're hearing is "I loved Xenogears and I can't wait for the next one". Oftentimes these same arguments come from the same people. Weird, no?

John (who never takes a stance, except to be positive)

I don't see Xenogears bashers turning around and saying they loved the first one, but I do see some people who were disappointed with the game expressing interest in the prequel. From this a lot of Xenogears fanatics may be finding reason to criticize these nay-sayers, but I think that's unfair. I mean, everybody likes sci-fi, giant robots and existential/theological philosophizing, just as long as it's not taken to unhealthy extremes.

More theorizing... did I spell that right?
Yo Chris,

I'd just like to clear up something in yesterday's column. Someone thought that Cion Uzuki from Xenosaga was some sort of gender changing mutant and turned into Citan for Episode V. Luckily, that's not true.

Remember, Citan Uzuki is not that character's real name in Xenogears. It's actually Hyuga Ricdeau. Hyuga was born on Solaris and given that name when he was sent to Lahan to guard Fei. He got the name from the Emperor, who named Hyuga one of his Guardian Angels. How do I think this'll fit into Xenosaga?

I bet that Cion is some sort of doctor who works on the Deus engine, possibly even contributing part of her memories or feelings to it. When Deus crashes on Fei's planet, it releases Miang, who then gives birth to Emperor Cain and the Gazel Ministry. I think that Cain gave that name to Citan, because he remembers Cion Uzuki as the one who looked out for him before, and now hopes that Citan will do that while guarding Fei in Lahan. I can't wait for this game...

--The Steve

All I've got to say is this: anybody remember the ending to Iain Banks' Use of Weapons?

Yet another reason Billy Corgan should be scoring FFX
"Instant hit bands, such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, etc., became popular with their flagship albums and made the genre popular..."

Okay, I'll admit Pearl Jam was just a bad attempt to make Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament millionares, but Nirvana and Soundgarden were hardly "instant-hit wonders." Do you know how long Nirvana was around? I'll give you a hint : Nevermind wasn't their first album. Same thing with Soundgarden.

See kiddies? Just because something was popular doesn't always make it bad. That's the type of attitude that makes people scream "SELL-OUT!!" once an indie band sells past 300 records. Sad, really.

Oddly enough, the same type of thing happens in games. FF7 comes out, RPGs are introduced to the mainstream, and what happens? Old-school gamers, as they so charmingly refer to themselves, get a hair up their butts about how all the fun has gone out of their hobby because Square isn't using tiny super-deformed characters anymore. Boo-hoo.

Indie rock and RPGs seem to be an awful lot alike. Small niche genres of a much larger scene - one composed of Tomb Raider games and Backstreet Boys CDs. When you look at it that way, even the worst efforts start looking good.

So if you don't like it, go buy anything by Travis, compare it to the worst Soundgarden song you've ever heard, and see which one you'd rather listen to for an extended period. Or better yet, go play a Mary Kate/ Ashley Olson game and then play FFIX.

I rest my case, your honor.

-Negative Creep

Sounds good, except that you see cyclical patterns in music you don't often see in video games, a constant shifting back and forth between frothy pop and hard core rock. Think about it: the heavy rock of the late 60's faded to light rock and disco in the 70's, only to be fought back by the first punks in the early 80's, which degraded into late 80's crap like Milli Vanilli and New Kids on the Block, which got wiped out by the Seattle grunge scene you speak of above, and now we're back to trash pop again. (Thus endeth Chris Jones' official Theory of Rock and Roll.)

Of course, on a smaller scale you could also make the argument for consoles shifting back and forth between great games and commercial knockoffs: the original Atari 2600 started off with simple but fun games like Combat and Breakout, and declined until we got stuff like the infamous ET. Nearly every Nintendo system you can name starts off with some incredible, classic flagship titles, but then ends up hawking crap like the Noid game, or the 7-up Spot game. In these dark times, cool, "rebellious" upstart consoles like the Genesis and PSX pop up to remind people what gaming was about in the first place. At least, that's my take on it.

Closing Comments:

Tune in next time, when I reveal how Gendo Ikari and Hiroshi Yamauchi will use the Dead Sea Scrolls to create a giant nanotech Mario who will tower above the planet Earth, ending all human existence as we know it. Or, if you'd just as soon avoid listening to me talk about that, send in your own bizarre theories on how the history of gaming is cyclical, or potato shaped, or whatever. See you then.

-Chris Jones, still giddy from that Christian review website

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