Chapter VI: Technically Speaking

For this chapter, I would like to discuss a few technical issues I have with the game. They’re not so much related to writing, as much as programming. So let’s not waste any time and get right on-

Dave: Not so fast!

The fuck do you want now!?

Dave: In the last chapter, you complained about how Alduin attacking Helgen made no sense, and went on and on about how it was a tactical blunder and how stupid he was for showing himself, and revealing the return of the Dragons, all in order to save Ulfric!

Yeah?

Dave: Well, that’s not why he attacked Helgen!

It wasn’t? Then what was the reason?

Dave: Well, there are a lot of theories on the subject….

I’m not interested in theories and speculation. What was the actual reason given in the game?

Dave: Uhm…. They… don’t actually give a specific reason….

Really? Well, colour me surprised! I would’ve never guessed! You’re yelling at me for getting the reason why Alduin was there wrong… when the game doesn’t actually give a good reason for it? Doesn’t that mean the theory I’m questioning is just as valid as all the others?

Dave: I suppose…. but it’s not the only theory!

Oh, right. I suppose expecting the writers to justify their own plot points was a bit naïve. I’m sorry for assuming that such a monumentally important moment for the game, the catalyst of everything that happens, would have some explanation! I don’t know WHAT I was thinking!

Dave: Well,  Maybe they didn’t explain it, because they wanted to keep things mysterious?

Oh, so they wanted to create a sense of mystery? A very interesting theory…

Never mind the fact that nothing else in the game is kept mysterious. Never mind the fact that there is absolutely nothing mysterious or interesting about the dragons, since you know their history, their language, their powers and their tactics. Let’s ignore the fact that Alduin, the great black dragon, who once ruled the world and everyone in it, gets chased away and HUMILIATED by the Dragonborn, a moron with the personality of a POTATO!

Let’s ignore the fact that since killing dragons is such an obvious thing in the game, they end up little more than obnoxious pests, and what should be an epic fight that’s usually reserved for the end of a game, instead becomes tedious routine.

Let’s just ignore ALL OF THAT for a moment, and instead answer me this. Do you know what you need, when you make a mystery?

Dave: Well….

You also need to give a SOLUTION to the mystery! The whole point of a mystery is to unravel it! If your mystery doesn’t have a solution, it has no reason to exist!

You can’t just add a big dragon attack because it’s cool, and then claim that you don’t need to give a reason for it because it would “ruin the mystery”! If you don’t want me to complain about the bad writing, give me a valid reason for Alduin attacking Helgen. Seeing as the writers can’t be bothered to provide a reason, I’m placing the responsibility on you, Dave. Let’s take a look at these other theories, and see if they add up, shall we?

Dave: Wait… Are we doing The Skyrim Chronicles or Why the Fans Are Wrong?

Well, thanks to you interrupting, we’re now doing both! Let’s just get this over with.

Dave: Alright. Alduin came there looking for you, the Dragonborn.

Ok, do I really have to explain why this doesn’t add up?

So Alduin has the ability to track the Dragonborn because…. why?

Dave: He sensed the presence of a dragon soul in you, and thought you were a dead dragon he could raise.

So, let me get this straight. He goes there, sees you, figures out that the dragon soul he’s after is actually your soul, proving you are the Dragonborn….

Why doesn’t he kill you?!

You’re the ONLY obstacle to his plan! With you dead, there is nothing stopping him from succeeding! You can’t tell me he’s able to pick you out of the crowd, because if he can, HE IS MINDSPLITTINGLY STUPID FOR LETTING YOU LIVE!

In fact, I refuse to believe that Alduin would be able to sense your soul or any other dragon soul, because it makes no sense that he’d be able to!

If he can, why doesn’t he try to kill you at any time after that, until you call him at the Throat of the World!? Why doesn’t he show the SLIGHTEST interest in you after Helgen, if he KNOWS WHERE YOU FUCKING ARE!?

Why doesn’t he just obliterate you once he realizes “Oh shit, the dragon attacking Whiterun has been killed by the Dragonborn”?!

Surely, if he can sense dragon souls, he’d be able to tell if one of them suddenly vanishes, right?

Oh, and also, if he wanted you dead, you know what might have worked a lot better than attacking an entire city and ignoring you completely? What he could have done if he wanted you to die?

He could have done absolutely nothing! The only reason his ultimate plan failed and he was defeated, was because he attacked Helgen! That attack saved your life! Instead of killing you, he was literally the ONLY REASON YOU DIDN’T DIE!

And don’t you fucking dare suggest this has anything to do with dragons being arrogant and proud! There is only so far you can play the “arrogant villain” card before it becomes fucking ridiculous! If that is the reason, we’re dealing with the kind of clichéd supervillain writing Austin Powers made fun of!

On second thought, no! I take that back! In Austin Powers, the villain tied the heroes up, locked them in a room and left them slowly sinking into a pool of killer seabass and assumed everything went according to plan.

This is like putting the actual James Bond in an empty room, with all his gadgets and weapons, with detailed information of your master plan and the schematics to your doom laser, then closing the door without locking it and PRETENDING HE DOESN’T EXIST ANYMORE!

Next theory.

Dave: Uhm…. let me think… OH! The Throat of the World is right above Helgen! When he came out of the time warp thing, he went to the first best settlement, in order to destroy it!

Why would he do that? That theory seems to rely on the idea that Alduin intends to go on a murderous rampage across Skyrim.

Dave: Yeah!

So why is no other settlement in Skyrim destroyed like that? Why is it that Alduin attacks Helgen… and then starts flying across Skyrim in a distinct pattern, going from grave site to grave site, to the point you can actually arrive at one of them before he does? That says to me that he had a pretty clear idea of what he had to do when he came out of the time warp. Doesn’t it make more sense that he went to Helgen for something beyond mindless destruction?

Ok, Dave, You get one more chance. Give me a theory that explains why the flying fuck Alduin went to Helgen.

Dave: That’s… all I’ve got….

I see…. Tell me, did it ever occur to you that there might have been a reason I latched onto the idea of Alduin going because of Ulfric? Do you want to make a guess why that theory appealed to me?

Dave: Uhm…

It’s because it’s the only theory I’ve found that isn’t instantly disproved by the game itself! It’s a good basic idea, that’s just poorly executed.

(Which could probably sum up the entire game…)

It’s an idea bordering on decent writing! It’s a great justification, if they’d just taken advantage of it! Not only does the basic idea add up, but it would actually tie the two plot lines of Alduin and the Skyrim Civil War together!

Dave: But why do they have to be tied together? The civil war is just the setting for the story!

No, it fucking isn’t! The fact there is a civil war doesn’t affect ANYTHING in the main story! The only time it’s EVER brought up in the main story is towards the end, when they arrange a peace meeting. A meeting, which (say it with meDOESN’T CHANGE THE MAIN STORY IN ANY WAY!

As it is, there is literally no reason why the civil war should be in the game, other than padding!

THAT’S why I latched onto the idea! Because in some subconscious way, I refused to truly believe that anybody would be so extraordinarily stupid, so hilariously incompetent, that they would add an entire alternate plotline to an existing story, with NO CONNECTION OR IMPACT TO THE MAIN STORY WHAT SO EVER!

As it turns out, someone would actually do something that fucking stupid! And not only that, but now I’ve realized that the opening of the game makes absolutely no sense what so ever, and the writers are far, far more useless at their jobs than I could have ever imagined!

Yes, Alduin recognizes you at Helgen, since he yells “Dohvakhin” when he arrives… but all that does is A) raise a whole heap of questions and B) illustrate my point perfectly!

These writers are idiots! Not only is the part with you being executed stupid, since they outright tell you there is no reason for it, but they also decided the best way for you to escape was for Alduin to attack for NO ADEQUATLY EXPLAINED REASON!

The ONLY reason he was there at all, was to provide the writers with a Deus Ex Machina, to solve a problem THAT DIDN’T FUCKING EXIST IN THE FIRST PLACE!

Thank you so much, Dave, for setting me straight!

Dave: Uhm… You’re welcome… Does this mean you will change the previous chapter?

No. I will keep it there, as a constant reminder that I, a random guy on an obscure blog in the back end of the internet, managed to produce a better opening to Skyrim in five hours than all the writers at Bethesda managed in FIVE FUCKING YEARS!

Not only that, but just for my personal entertainment, here are three solutions to the aforementioned scenario that does not require Alduin attacking.

  1. Ulfric uses the thu’um to escape, causing a riot (they put a gag on him, but if you can use the thu’um to throw people across rooms, he can use it to rip apart a piece of cloth.)
  2. Stormcloaks attack and frees Ulfric, causing a riot.
  3. The Imperial Soldiers free you, since you have done nothing wrong. Ulfric is executed, but it turns out this didn’t end the war as expected, since he’s now a martyr.

Presto. Three solutions in under ten minutes. No doubt, Bethesda will now hire me as their lead writer. Clearly I’m more gifted than any of the people they’ve got working for them.

Now, if Dave doesn’t mind, I’d like to get on with the subject I originally planned on discussing.

Now, what I was going to talk about, before Dave interrupted me, is that there are several issiues I have the game mechanics. I’m not talking about glitches or bugs.

Sure, I know I’ve mentioned the lack of a morality system or a decent character creation menu. But there are some very basic things beyond that, which are sorely missing from this game.

Dave: You’re still on about that? What else is there about this game you don’t like?

Well, how about the bullshit leveling system?

You see, in most RPG’s, leveling up works pretty much the same way, with some minor differences. Let’s take Fallout New Vegas as an example. You do a mission, kill some enemies, pass a few skill checks and you’re rewarded with XP. When you have enough XP, you level up. When that happens. You get a pool of points to assign to skills of your choice, in order to improve them. Every two levels, you also get to pick a perk, with some perks just requiring a certain level, but others have certain prerequisites, like a particular level of skill in certain things.

These perks can be things like raising one of your S.P.E.C.I.A.L traits by 1, or maybe giving you the ability to repair any weapon with any other weapon of the same type.

Then you go on more missions, kill more enemies and get more XP, to level up further until you reach the level cap.

Simple as that.

This system is good, because it allows you to customize your characters skills in depth. It makes the quests that much more enjoyable, since not only are you given so many choices on how to resolve them, but you’re also rewarded with experience. Even the level cap is useful, since it means your choices have more finality to them, while also enticing you to play the game again to reach a different end result.

Skyrim’s system, meanwhile, is a bit… oh, what’s the term…

Dave:  Unconventional?

That’s right, piss-boilingly fucking annoying! Here, you don’t level up by accumulating XP from quests, skill checks or killing enemies.

Instead, you level up by improving your skills.

In gaming parlance, this is what is known as completely fucking backwards!

Dave: Well, it makes sense. You don’t just get better at something overnight. It takes training and time and effort to become a world class blacksmith or the worlds greatest pickpocket. Besides, it’s not a backwards system. It’s just a system similiar to an MMORPG.

Great! But you know what the problem is? SKYRIM ISN’T AN MMORPG! It’s a single player game! So why in the name of christ is that in this game, instead of a more traditional system?

See, there is a reason why the system used in Fallout, Pathfinder and countless other RPG’s is so widely used.

It’s because that system works fine! The idea of improving your skills being the RESULT of advancing in level, rather than the CAUSE, has been tried, tested and deemed perfectly fit for purpose!

In other words: If it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it!

Because not only does this system mean that leveling up takes fucking ages, forcing you to grind skills for hours on end (and I fucking HATE grinding), but the lack of choices in the game means that almost all characters end up far too similar. Hell, the longer you play, the more similar they become, because the lack of a level cap means you will eventually max out all skills.

Oh, and you know what else this system does?

It makes the quests completely meaningless! There is no reason to do any quests in this game, because you don’t get anything from it! You don’t get any XP from finishing quests!

Dave: Hey, that’s not fair! You can still get money and loot, like special armor and weapons!

Oh, certainly! You can get magic armor and special weapons…. or you can just create a few thousand iron daggers (which improves your blacksmith skill) and enchant them until you’re a master of enchantment. Then you can make weapons and armor just as good or better than the majority of loot you get in any mission.

Dave: But if you don’t do the quests, you can’t get the weapons that have those enchantments! Aha!

Sure you can. With two exceptions, as long as you find someone with a weapon with a weak version of the enchantment, you can learn the basic enchantment and then cast an improved version of it. And finding someone with a magic weapon outside quests is easy.

And there is no reason to play the quests for the sake of making choices, since (as we established in Chapter IV) none of your choices matter.

Dave: You’re overreacting! There are missions that change things! You can choose to either join or destroy the Dark Brotherhood! That’s a choice that has long running ramifications! If you destroy them, you rid Skyrim of a cult of murderous fanatics who kill for money!

That’s a very good point… until you realize that killing the Dark Brotherhood won’t actually end the killings.

Dave: Ok, back up! This time you’ve gone too far! You’re trying to tell me that wiping out a group of killers won’t stop killings from happening?! Explain yourself. What the hell are you talking about!?

Do you remember how you start off the whole brotherhood arc?

You hear about some strange kid in Windhelm performing the Dark Sacrament. When you find him, he then hires you to kill the matron of an orphanage in Riften.

Do you really think that won’t happen again? If you perform the Dark Sacrament long enough, somebody is going to hear of it, and another nitwit will stumble in and accept the contract. After all, everyone in Skyrim is either evil, stupid or both. So no, the killings won’t stop. They just won’t be performed by the Dark Brotherhood. Then the word spreads that using the Dark Sacrament still works. More people will perform it, More people will look for these contracts, maybe they’ll get organized… and then you got a new Brotherhood, without the part where they’re fanatical cultists…

In other words, the exact same type of Brotherhood you destroyed.

Am I wrong, Dave?

Dave: No…

Exactly. Because of the system they used for this game, there’s no reason to do any quests, no depth to the characters, no real choices and your character isn’t unique or special in any way.

It is, fundamentally, an awful example of an RPG.

Dave: But it’s a fun game! 

So what? You’re acting like that “Fun” and “Good” are synonymous, when they’re not. A lot of things are fun, but not necessarily good. Plenty of movies fulfill that particular criteria.

Or are you’re saying that the terms “fun” and “good” are mutually exclusive? That we should favour games that are fun to games that are good?

If so, please enlighten me. When exactly did games become a choice between “fun” and “good”? Why is it suddenly unthinkable to have both? I can name several games that are both fun and good. In fact, I’ve written about several of them on this very blog!

Just because a game is fun doesn’t mean it’s automatically good, and it sure as hell doesn’t mean we should be made to choose one over the other. We have the right to demand both. After all, isn’t it our money being wasted if we buy a crappy product?

Dave: But it IS a great game! It has such a big world, with many adventures!

Firstly, the reason there are so many adventures in the game is because the vast majority of them go NOWHERE! The world is big, but that’s because there’s barely anything IN it! Almost none of the quests have any depth or grandeur to them, and the game doesn’t take advantage of the areas it gives us to explore.

And secondly, what you’re describing isn’t an RPG. What you’re talking about is a sandbox.

Dave: And as a sandbox, it’s a great game! 

Perhaps it is, but it’s not SUPPOSED to be! It wasn’t intended as, advertised as, sold as, categorized as or praised as a great sandbox! The Elder Scrolls isn’t a series of Sandbox games! It’s not appearing on any lists of great sandbox games! IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE A FUCKING ROLE PLAYING GAME!

And call me a pessimist, but I’m pretty fucking sure people didn’t BUY it because they wanted a sandbox game!

All this game does, is fooling people into thinking “Sandbox” and “RPG” are the same fucking thing!

And I’ve got news for you.  If someone promises me an RPG, and then delivers an action sandbox with delusions of roleplaying, I will call it false advertising. I will call it THEFT!

Which of course leads to the final argument I always get when I discuss Skyrim. Dave?

Dave: If you don’t like it, why don’t you mod it? That’s how you’re supposed to play these games! Just add the missing pieces!

I have several good reasons why I don’t use mods.

Firstly, I don’t play on PC. I play on console. I can’t afford to buy a computer that plays Skyrim. And do you know what the trouble is when playing on console? I cannot use mods. And IF mods are necessary to enjoy it, DON’T DISTRIBUTE IT ON A PLATFORM THAT DOESN’T ALLOW YOU TO MOD IT!

Secondly, I paid 450 SEK for this game. That was a used game that was on sale. In US dollars, that’s $62. If I pay more than $60 for a game, I expect to get more than a fucking mod platform.

Thirdly, I’ve been playing video games since I was 7 years old. Do you know how many times I’ve had to mod a game to enjoy it?

NEVER!

Because I shouldn’t HAVE to mod a game in order to simply enjoy it. And Dave shrugging and saying “It doesn’t matter if the game is bad, since I can just mod it so it becomes good” tells Bethesda that they don’t have to make an effort. They don’t have to care if the game is good or not. Why would they? If they make a bad game, Dave will just shrug and mod it and DO THEIR FUCKING JOB FOR THEM! And I don’t mean just the programming! The vast amount of theories about why Alduin went to Helgen says to me they’re expecting us to do the fucking writing as well!

Do you know why I hate this game?

I hate it, because it shows that screwing your customers over is OK! It shows game designers that you, the people who buy their products don’t care!

So what if they took your money? So what if the game is a piece of shit? There are pretty pictures and funny sounds! You can even kill a dragon! You want more for your money? Well, then you have to add it yourself. See, when you bought this game, you paid them for the PRIVILEGE of fixing their game. They charged you for the HONOR of doing their job for them! This game is bad because the people who made it didn’t care, and they didn’t care, because they didn’t HAVE to care.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against modding in and of itself. There is absolutely nothing wrong with customizing a game and adding small things here and there to make it more personal.

But the problem is that Skyrim isn’t just mod-compatible. It’s mod-DEPENDENT! It REQUIRES mods in order to be good! By the time you’ve added enough mods to make it as good as it can be, you’re playing a completely different game!

Not only is that a sign of lazy programming and terrible writing, but it’s also a giant middle finger to console gamers, telling them “If our game is bad, it’s not our fault for not putting effort into it. It’s your fault for not playing on the right platform, which means you can’t fix our fuckups!“.

And then people are surprised the game pisses me off?!

But most of all, I hate it because I can see what it COULD have been!

Not because the game is bad, but because while playing it, I can see the negative space where a good game SHOULD be!

It has all the potential in the world to be an excellent game, but from what I’ve seen, the people at Bethesda are either unwilling to or (more likely) incapable of putting that potential to good use!

I hate it, because the people who made it didn’t give a crap about the game, and then had the nerve, the gall, the fucking AUDACITY to demand PAYMENT for it!

If this game was even HALF as good as it could have been, I wouldn’t be writing this!

If Bethesda had done the smart thing, recognizing that they lack the skill to do this game justice, and offered someone like Obsidian to do the writing, people who have demonstrated that they KNOW how to make the most with what they’re given, I would be writing a completely different set of chronicles right now! I would rant and rave of how great the game was, how exciting it was, and hold it up as one of the all time great games!

But instead I am here, explaining exactly why this game is nothing but a GIANT FUCKING WASTE!

This is a game made by people who didn’t care about anything other than making a quick buck. People who thought it was more important that it looked pretty than if it was any good. People who favored style over substance. A shallow game, made by greedy, lazy, conceited fucksticks.

There are more things wrong with this game. I could probably write several chapters about all the glitches or how the voice acting is terrible. But glitches and dub work isn’t my concern.

I read a while back that Fallout 4 is a possibility. If the people at Bethesda are smart, they will leave it to Obsidian. Otherwise, I fear they will do the same with Fallout as they did with The Elder Scrolls. Hopefully, by reading this, people may recognize how good Skyrim SHOULD have been, and maybe people will start holding Bethesda to some higher standards! That way, we may yet be able to save Fallout from suffering the same fate.

Of course, there will always be Daves that will buy games by Bethesda and defend them, no matter how awful the games are.

Now, am I saying that these people are infantile, that they have bad taste in gaming, that their standards are low, that they have no idea what an RPG is or that by defending this game, they are indirectly ruining The Elder Scrolls as a franchise and that they may well end up ruining Fallout as well?

Yes. Yes, I am.

I’ll leave you with that sentiment of mine, along with a quote which, I think, perfectly sums the game up.

It is a tale, told by an idiot. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

– Macbeth

 

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WTFAW: Pinky and the Brain

This is a theory I came across not too long ago, about the TV-show Pinky and The Brain.

The theory is that Pinky is in fact the smart one, and Brain is the stupid one.

So, shall we see why this theory doesn’t add up?

Let’s review the arguments people raise.

Dave: Almost every episode follows the same formula! Brain comes up with a plan, Pinky spots an obvious flaw, Brain ignores it and Pinky turns out to be right!

Hmm… interesting argument. Let me think about it, and I’ll get back to you. In the meantime, let’s go to the next argument.

Dave: Well, the theme song is “They’re Pinky and the Brain/ yes Pinky and the Brain
One is a genius/ the other’s insane”. The fact that Pinky is named first might be because he is the smart one.

Oh, of course! It’s so obvious! Never mind the fact that when that part is sung in the intro, Brain is seen writing on a chalkboard…. while Pinky is jumping around in a straight-jacket. Now, this could just be a ruse or, you know, the fact that it’s a SONG, and “Brain” rhymes with “Insane”, whereas it’s pretty hard to rhyme something with “Pinky”.

It’s a long shot, I know….

Dave: Ok, how about this? In one episode, Brain is in a quiz show, and fails to answer a question Pinky managed to answer. Now, surely this proves Pinky is the smarter one!

Really? And what, might I ask, was that question?

Dave: well… uh…

See, everyone who raise this argument fail to specify what the actual question was. The question was “This classic TV character is known for saying ‘Bang! Zoom! Right in the Kisser!

The character in question is from one of Pinky’s favourite shows, a show which Brain has no interest in.

Conversely, the questions Brain got RIGHT included knowing three neighbouring islands to the isle of Yap and the inverse-square law.

Dave: Well, in that same episode, we’re shown that Pinky is able to read! Brain is barely able to write his own name on the game show!

First of all, Brain is shown, in that very episode, to also be able to read. He has been shown to master physics, ballistics, lockpicking and naval navigation, among other things.

And poor handwriting is in no way proof of a lack of intelligence. Not to mention said handwriting was done while in a robot suit, which is shown to be extremely difficult to control.

Dave: Oh, ok! I didn’t want to do this, but the episode That Smarts has Brain calculating why his plans keep failing. And the result shows Pinky to be the cause. Brain makes Pinky smart (with SCIENCE) and Pinky’s personality doesn’t change at all!

Is that all?

Dave: No! Smart Pinky spots an error in the calculations, and it’s shown that BRAIN is the reason they keep failing! This proves that Brain is the stupid one, and Pinky is just pretending when he’s actually the smart one! The machine never worked in the first place, and Pinky is just given a chance to show his real self to Brain! I’d like to see you explain that!

Don’t mind if I do. Ahem…

The idea seems to be partly that Pinky’s personality is tied to his intelligence. According to that idea, you can’t be happy, friendly and intelligent at the same time.

Dave: Uhm….

And I suppose we’re just going to ignore the fact that Pinky, being dismissed by Brain, flat out says that “Being a smarty’s no fun…” and he can use the machine to make himself stupid because “He’s smart enough now”.

Doesn’t that sort of prove that being intelligent is a new experience for him?

Dave: Well, I….

Then there’s the idea that since the calculations show Brain as the cause of their continued failures, it proves that he’s the stupid one.

And that would perhaps be true, if the purpose for the calculations were to find out who was the stupid one. Unfortunately, the purpose of the calculation was to find out why they keep failing.

When it showed Pinky as the cause, Brain made the logical conclusion it was because Pinky is less intelligent. It is one of his most prominent characteristics.

Now, let’s take a look at Brain, with that in mind. He is arrogant, narcissistic, he believes that he is always right, and his reason for wanting to take over the world is that he thinks he can rule it better than anyone else can.

Maybe he hasn’t conquered the world because he is what I like to call an “Asimovian Idiot”.

Dave: He’s what?

I’ve named the term after prolific science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. You see, in his stories, he very rarely wrote characters that were uneducated. Apart from a few average people, like Elijah Bailey and family, or the people in the Dahl sector in Prelude to Foundation, Asimov focused mainly on the intellectuals. The reason for this, as I’ve found, is to illustrate how knowledge can be dangerous when abused by greed, ambition or lack of forethought. Just because you’re well educated, doesn’t mean you can’t be ignorant.

Brain is, in the end, a victim of his own hubris. This is where I get back to the first argument you raised, Dave. When Brain makes a plan, he is so certain of his own genius that the obvious flaw eludes him. It never occurs to him that he’d overlook something so obvious, because he’s too much of a narcissist. Add to that the fact that it’s PINKY who suggests the flaw, and it’s no wonder he’d dismiss the idea.

If he was able to recognize that flaw in his character, he would have no problem taking over the world. Of course, if he wasn’t such a narcissist, he wouldn’t WANT to!

Hell, when he finds out that he’s the cause of his own failure, he leaps to the conclusion that it has to do with his intellect, rather than something to do with his personality.

As for the episode That Smarts, Do you know how the episode ends, Dave?

Dave: Pinky goes back to (pretending to) being stupid.

Wrong. BOTH of them end up stupid, which should prove that the machine did indeed work.

Also, let’s assume that you’re in fact right, and Pinky is the smart one. Why would he want to keep it secret?

Dave: So he can keep an eye on Brain and ruin his plans.

Is that so? Then might I ask why he bothers to tell Brain the obvious flaw in his plans? If he knows right from the start the plan will always fail, and he wants the plan to fail, why would he point out a flaw that would make the plan less likely to fail?

Seems to me this theory of yours doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Why am I not surprised….

Anyway, I think we’ve established pretty conclusively that Pinky is, indeed, a nitwit and Brain is the smarter of the two. It’s just that he’s steeped in his own irony.

Oh, I almost forgot. Before I leave, I think people might find this X-Ray from the intro somewhat interesting.

By the way, where’s the theory of Brain being a Robot?

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Bioshock Infinite

Before I start writing in earnest, I’m going to say one word.

Bioshock

If this word means nothing to you, if this blog post is the first time you’ve ever come in direct contact with that word, beyond some sporadic passing in a game store, then listen very closely.

You have to stop reading right now! Close this window down and go play Bioshock. If there is the slightest chance of you wanting to play that game, you owe it to yourself not to read any further. The same goes for Bioshock Infinite.

I would never forgive myself if I spoiled this game series for someone who’s never played it.

With that out of the way, let’s begin.

Bioshock Infinite casts you as Booker Dewitt, a man hired to find a young woman named Elizabeth.

Piece of cake, right?

If you agree, then you’re clearly not familiar with this game series. (which also means you shouldn’t be reading this.)

As it happens, Elizabeth is kept in Columbia, a fine city famed for its scenic views, it’s peculiar architecture and the fact it’s floating some 15.000 ft in the air.

After a murderous, violent bloody rampage, causing death and destruction throughout the city some minor issues with the local population, you rescue Elizabeth from her captivity.

As the game progresses, you find that she has a strange ability to open tears in the fabric of reality, opening windows to other worlds and bringing objects through those windows.

Hijinks ensue… and by hijinks, I of course mean a long, bloody campaign against Zachary Hale Comstock, the self-proclaimed prophet and agent of God, and his fanatical followers, and a revolution led by the equally merciless and devoted “Vox Populi”.

If it seems like I’m glossing over a lot of things, it’s because I’m assuming you’re already familiar with the game. After all, if you’re not, surely you would’ve listened to me and stopped reading by now, right?

And finally, after much blood, sweat, tears and gnashing of teeth, you reach the end, and you’re treated to one of the most mindblowing twists I’ve ever seen.

A large focus of the game, as illustrated and discussed by the twins and quantum physicists Robert and Rosalind Lutece, is the idea of probability, chance and choice. As we reach the ending, we’re shown that there are an infinite number of parallel worlds, for every probable outcome of every probable scenario.

Not only that, but Rosalind Lutece developed the ability to observe and travel between these different realities. Comstock was able to use these “tears” to see the past, present and future of any scenario.

As the siblings (in reality alternate counterparts) put it.

Lives, Lived, Will Live. Dies, Died, Will Die. If we could perceive time as it truly was, what reason would grammatical professors have to get out of bed?

The downside, as you learn during the course of the game, is that the side effects of the machine resulted in  Comstock aging beyond his years, and also rendering him sterile. Convinced that Columbia is doomed without his bloodline at the helm, Comstock demanded a solution.

The “Twins” came up with a plan: passing into an alternate reality, and take the child of Comstock’s alternate self. The child in question being Elizabeth. She would then take Comstocks place and fulfill his goal to rain down fiery death  on the “Sodom below“.

(After all, if you’re a fanatic religious leader with thousands of followers, you are contractually obligated to rain down fiery death on sinners. it’s part of the job description. Sure, he could choose not to, but then he’d lose his membership card, his discount at the local café and his parking space.)

You and Elizabeth both realize that as long as Comstock exists in any reality, this future will come to pass. As such, you have to kill him before he’s ever born.

To do this, you travel to his birthplace… the baptismal meeting where he went after the massacre of Wounded Knee. The place where he was reborn and abandoned his old name.

Booker Dewitt.

And the game ends with Elizabeth drowning you before you can accept the Baptism, preventing Comstock from ever existing.

Now, the more observant among you might be wondering why I’m talking about this at all, if I like this ending so much?

To which my answer is: Who said I liked it?

Ok, that’s not completely fair. I don’t dislike the ending. I just dislike the implication of the ending. This is partly because it renders every choice you make in the game pointless. Spare the couple at the fair, killing Cornelius Slate, picking the bird-locket instead of the cage…. it doesn’t matter, since somewhere else, you made the opposite choice.

And none of your choices affect the ending. At one point, Elizabeth flat out tells us that no matter our choices, we will always end up in the same place.

Of course, this in itself is the point. Having these choices and the alternate realities is really the focus of the game. My own disdain for the illusion of choice aside, what is there to dislike?

The answer: The fact that at one point, you arrive in Rapture, the City from the first and second game.

THIS is where I have a problem, simply because the philosophy and message of this game is violently at odds with the message of the first game!

The first game was all about choice, giving players a new perspective on the idea of free will, with one of the most powerful and astonishing cutscenes in video game history. I don’t even have to describe the scene. If you’ve played the game, I just have to say one sentence.

A Man Chooses. A Slave Obeys

By introducing the idea of alternate realities into the canon of the first two games, they’ve rendered the message of the first and second game completely meaningless.

Suddenly, there is no choice. There is no point in making a decision in the first or second game. Sparing the little sisters or harvesting them, murdering people or showing mercy, it’s all irrelevant. This has now been retconned and established as a FACT in these games.

Had they just left out Rapture from the game, and had this be a self-contained entity, I wouldn’t have minded it!

It could have sparked some debate about whether or not Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite takes place in the same universe. But the moment you see Rapture, that’s all destroyed.

They could’ve called it something different, but they had to keep the name “Bioshock” to make sure it sold well.

Of course, I’m not trying to say that I could do it better. I just feel it’s a shame to have the first game, that was so revolutionary and amazing in how it used cutscenes and the metaphysical concepts of “objectives” and “free will”, be swept aside with a game that’s essentially saying that my choices in that game were meaningless.

Now, I don’t think the game is bad! I know it sounds weird of me to say it, but I think the story is amazing! The characters are great. The visuals are stunning. But I think putting it in the same canon as the first two games was a big mistake.

Had they made it a standalone game, it would have been great, but as an entry in the series, I can’t help but see it as a failure.

Then again…

One goes into an experiment knowing one could fail

– Robert Lutece