Tag: assassination

Assassination

Courtesy NPR

Assassination is a selfish, cowardly act.

Case in point: last night, a rhino was assassinated.

The term is usually applied to an individual of prominence, for fame or a political end, but I feel that doesn’t encompass the full depravity of the act. Assassination is murder for profit. Plain and simple. And Vince’s assassination is a prime example. It was for the ivory in his horn. Nothing more.

The rhino didn’t do anything wrong. It was just, you know, being a rhino.

And that’s why it was killed.

The assassins plan to profit from this murder. Ivory sells well on the black market. The nature of our capitalist society motivated these people to murder an innocent, unaware creature. Vince died confused and scared and bleeding out.

Does that seem right to you?

Imagine if the rhino were a person. They were going about their business. Maybe worrying about bills, or looking forward to a date, or making plans to find some way to a better future. Gunshot. Snap. Nothing more in this world. The corpse will feed the worms, the murder will feed someone’s financial or political greed.

Does that seem right to you?

Now imagine the person’s character being assassinated. Their body lives, but they are assaulted on a social and emotional and mental level. They are called all sorts of names, made out to be someone they’re not. The things said and done to them make them question their sanity. Their way forward is suddenly illuminated solely by gaslight. Without help, support, and love, they may go mad. Collapse in on themselves. They might even take their own life just to end the pain and confusion. And all the while, the people who did it to them profit from it. They look better, even righteous, by comparison. They get whatever they want from that person’s agony. Some of them might even laugh about it.

Does that seem right to you?

Superpowers are engaging in assassination on a regular basis. And worse, they’re getting more bold and blatant about it. Speak out against the state, get shot in the street. Express a contrary opinion, get reduced to a joke and rendered impotent and metaphorically disemboweled. Try to be the change you want to see in the world, die physically by way of bullet or blade, or die in the eyes of the public by slander and lies.

Worse, the systems in place to protect us from this are failing. Like the walls and fences of the zoo in France, the agencies that police malicious activity and are sworn to our safety turn a blind eye to the misery and death that plague the innocent. We’re left in the cold while those in power count their coffers and laugh at our pain.

To paraphrase Rachel Maddow, it’s becoming apparent that we have to take care of ourselves.

We have to be loud. We have to stand up for ourselves, and for one another. We have to fight back against the forces that would slay and disempower and belittle and rape us. We have to say “NOT THIS TIME” as clearly as possible. We have to insist on facts, not hearsay, not gossip, not slander, facts. And we have to do it every day, every hour if we have to.

The media has tried to romanticize assassins. Games, movies, other media; they like to portray and exemplify the righteous killer. But the truly righteous thing is not to fire the bullet. It is to take that bullet for someone who’d otherwise die.

Because if we do not put ourselves in the line of fire, nobody will be left to do the same for us.

I, for one, would rather choose to work hard and even suffer in order to secure a better future for the good of all the people around me, than be made to suffer for the selfish benefit of one short-sighted person.

I’m tired of living in fear. I’m tired of jumping at my own shadow. I’m tired of seeing wounds nobody else can see.

But I’m not done fighting.

And I won’t be for as long as I’m still alive.

Wednesdays I wonder at the world in which we live.

Game Review: Dishonored

Subtlety can be underrated in video games. A great deal of them rely on glitzy graphics or bombastic action to carry their experiences. Rock-solid gameplay that relies on things other than frenetic twitchy skills, a unique world with a lived-in feeling, and an interesting story with characters that have depth and complexity all contribute to a game rising above the average. In the case of Dishonored, two out of three ain’t bad.

Courtesy Bethesda Softworks

Corvo Attano had it all. From his birthplace on Serkonos in the Empire of the Isles, he rose from obscurity and a mysterious past to become Lord Protector of the Empress and her daughter. Unfortunately, he did not foresee assassins bestowed with a dark power storming Dunwall Tower and assassinating the Empress. Framed for the murder and on the run, Corvo is on the run with few options – until the same power approaches him with an offer to help him get his revenge. Even as a plague ravages the streets of Dunwall, Corvo finds his way to a Loyalist group willing to back him up, directing him where to point his deadly dagger.

As I mentioned in the intro, world-building goes a long way in making a game both worth your time to play and memorable after. Dishonored‘s Dunwall is one of its main draws. The city seems to have a very unique mix of Victorian-style architecture and dress while things like the Tallboys and Walls of Light have a somewhat dystopian electropunk feel to them. Graffiti, conversations, artwork, and the variety of items to pick up all work together to provide a sense of immersion in the world through which Corvo will be sneaking from target to target.

Courtesy Bethesda Softworks
From its canals to its adverts to its balustrades, Dunwall looks amazing.

Much like Deus Ex and Thief, the sneaking and the possibility of bypassing combat entirely instead of being shoved into it the way you are with other first-person games is what sets Dishonored apart. No enemy, from the standard street-walking mook to what would qualify as boss fights, needs to be confronted directly. You always get a clear indication of how aware guards are to your presence, you’re agile enough that running on rooftops is always an option, and you don’t dissolve in water so swimming can work, too – provided the vicious barracuda-like fish don’t have you for lunch. Your gadgets and powers are a big help, as well. Even the lowest level of the Dark Vision power lets you see guards through walls so you can better plan your routes, and Blink, a short-range teleport, lets you cross open areas and even lines of sight without raising the alarm. Couple these powers with the option to choke folks out and a sleep-dart crossbow, and you have the opportunity to prove that assassins don’t have to kill to be effective and feared.

This leads me into talking about some of the drawbacks to Dishonored. The number of dead bodies you create and the degree to which you use certain powers contribute to what’s called Chaos, a mechanic that functions a lot like morality systems in other games. A high Chaos rating alters the last mission of the game, and the game has multiple endings based on it, meaning that if you want the best ending, you need to be as non-lethal as possible, even if it’s more organic to silence a guard with a quick stab or you’re just fed up with a section and want to blast your way through. On top of that, the characters you encounter, especially your erstwhile Loyalist allies, are very flat and not terribly emotive, many of them having the creepy unblinking constant-eye-contact problem NPCs have had since Oblivion. I almost would have preferred text screens between missions or, even better, a voice-over from Corvo so our protagonist could have a little more personality of his own. Deus Ex (especially Human Revolution) and Thief games benefit greatly from their heroes not being silent.

Courtesy Bethesda Softworks
“Fly, my pretty ones! FLY!!”

Still, none of these problems can prevent me from recommending Dishonored. For all of its faults, the game plays extremely well and feels rewarding when you pull off the right combination of teleporting, sneaking, distracting guards, and finding your unique route to your target. The world is rich and well-realized even if it is populated with stiff characters lacking true depth, and the visual and sound design pull you into Dunwall every time it loads up. A little characterization here, a touch of personality for our hero there, and removing the Chaos issue would make the game damn near perfect. As it is, it’s simply a very good game that fans of stealth, assassination, and games with a stand-out look and feel are bound to enjoy.

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