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Blind-Fire Mode – Running Headlong Into ‘Horizon Zero Dawn’ and Social Issues

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Blind-fire mode is a lighthearted (and occasionally serious) column on games and the industry at large; trying to have fun while everything collapses around us.

Leaving The Killzone

A pretty special game came out recently, it involves a rich open world unlike anything you’ve ever seen, filled with meaningful things to do and a mysterious backstory of events. What, Zelda, who? No, no I’m talking about Horizon Zero Dawn. Would you put that Joycon down a second and listen to me! Fantastic. It was while playing Horizon Zero Dawn that something clicked, now I’m not saying we haven’t had any other great games this year so far – Nioh was, and is a beautifully crafted action game – but Horizon is a stark reminder of what games can be when they strive for more, when they push their ambitions beyond expectations. Guerrilla Studios have been known as the Killzone folks for a decade, now they’ll be known as the Horizon folks. Not that the Killzone games were ever especially bad, clearly Guerrilla have a mastery over tech and visual fidelity, that remains prevalent throughout Horizon, but Killzone always lacked that spark; solid but lacking in drive.

Aside from the echoes of Killzone DNA, Horizon surprises on every level, when I say it involves an open world like no other I really mean it. Though the game is the biggest thief in recent gaming memory – ransacking features from a plethora of other RPGs and open world games including Mass Effect, Assassins Creed, The Witcher 3 and even The Last Of Us, somehow its world still feels unique. It captures the sense of exploration perfectly with continuous surprises in the landscape at every turn with revelatory story implications. Guerrilla had managed to transition from making narrow corridor shooters to perfecting what open world games should be better than its competitors. Every location at any time looks phenomenal, with the amount of polish and detail likely to be found in linear Naughty Dog games. Returning to that world and its unbridled natural beauty has helped me get through some dark days, it somehow has the ability to brighten my day, the unrivaled magic of gaming on display.

What also helped with that was how attractive all the characters seem to be, oh boy! Follow me on this tonal shift, what did I tell you about those Joycons! Possibly through some genetic mutation a lot of the characters in Horizon Zero Dawn look like models (I’m saying they’re hot). If this is the future, one filled with the most healthy, affable and attractive looking men then I’m sure down for that, even the whole Matriarchal society thing – which shows that no matter what gender is in the role of power, they always piss things up. The game manages to create an amazing emotional connection to its characters and world within a very limited span of time, it’s people are immediately likable with great voice acting and dialogue, covering dark and relatable themes respectfully.

Aloy, our main character will be immediately recognizable to Life is Strange fans, the voice actor Ashley Burch played the endearing and well loved Chloe and plays an equally resonate role in Horizon. Aloy has grown up isolated from the world around her with only her protector Rost to rely on. She’s dissonant, sarcastic and callous but also she connects to people’s problems with experience from her own life. She’s played well by Burch and several early scenes get rather emotional in regards to parenthood. She’s a woman too, but who cares? Right, that corner of the Internet crammed with bigoted, cowardly, small-minded people do. Another game to add to the SJW list, a game that dares to present a female-oriented power group with divergent cultures and races – yes, it’s soapbox time.

A Switch In Tone

Recently we have had this whole trend of games being labeled as ‘pandering to SJWs’ or ‘Tumblr the game’ with the likes of Life Is Strange and Her Story. Ironically spouted by the same people who use ‘special snowflake’ and ‘triggered’ as ‘wins’ on the Internet, having a game not singularly cater to them sends them into a blind rage. It makes me proud to see game developers diversify their cast, proud that creators have learned not to listen to the feedback of people whose opinions mean less than nothing.

Equally, viewing the Mass effect Andromeda feedback of characters being ‘ugly’ and that Bioware have bowed to the whims of ‘THE SJW’s!’, I wish I could romanticize the people pushing for diversity as some elite force of Internet gatekeepers, while in reality we’re just gamers looking for representation. Endlessly humorous when it may occur to them that Bioware is a company made of a diverse and cultured group of intelligent people telling personal stories that speak to people from all walks of life. Maybe that fact scares said people, that for once people are no longer afraid to not cater exclusively to white, straight, cis males – that games are becoming more inclusive. Mass Effect has had a problem with entitlement before with the ending of Mass Effect 3, I trust Bioware not to bow to it this time when people grit teeth over a favorite character’s sexuality. People can hide behind any ideology they want but at the end of the day have the guts to admit your bigotry. The complaints about ugliness I don’t know, maybe the butts and breasts aren’t pronounced enough, or more understandable that the facial animations are creepy looking.

Seeing these games recently has made me proud to consider myself a gamer, that’s hard sometimes when you look at the vitriol surrounding a lot of the medium but things are changing for the better and even though these complaints will persist, they are falling on deaf ears. Equally I can understand that people are hoping to bang some sexy being in Mass Effect, hey aren’t we all – though I’ll be more angry if we can’t holster our weapons this time. The first thing I’ll be be on the lookout for is who I want to bonk and the last thing you want is…. someone dangling Joycons in your face when you’re trying to get your sex on! John, I’ll play Zelda later! What’s wrong with wanting to have sex with a virtual being made up of polygons, brought to life by lines of code? Best not to answer that one. But the people who make up this audience include men, woman, trans, heterosexuals, homosexuals and more, everyone deserves to enjoy that part of the game and if that means a favorite character can’t be romanced then, well that’s life.

I hope the black guy is gay….

One day it struck Oliver what his true calling in life was; to become a millionaire celebrity while doing nothing. Unfortunately YouTube has enough of those, so until then Oliver will have to deal with writing about games. He has experience writing for several games sites, talking nonsense and working on a novel when sanity can gain traction. Currently dancing through life until the impending death of the sun consumes us all. Likes sandwiches.

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