Best of the Best … lists and expectations

New York always ranks high on the best of cities lists… lists about nightlife, arts, culture, and population… masses and masses of people. I have been to New York a number of times… the first time felt anti-climatic. My whole life has been populated with movies and television shows that depicted the Big Apple… seems every New York landmark has been used in some movie or show… and I have seen it on the silver screen… thus seeing it in person seemed a little of a let down. If you have never been to New York… you will quickly realize upon visiting there that there is probably not a more photographed or filmed city in the world… you have seen New York your whole life. Central Park is not dirty or scary the way the movie The Warriors depicted it… my expectation was a battlefield fought over by gangs from the 1970s… or a scary nightmare in which all the Death Wish movies portrayed it. The dilapidated vision that a lot of us had from movies in the 1970s was replaced with scenes of big buildings and giant toy stores as seen in Big

Instead New York has become this tourist mecca that is now clean(ish) with gaudy neon of Times Square and gentrified lower Manhattan neighborhoods… and a brand new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Brooklyn is where you go for late night bars and pizza… West Side Story fights and dances are nowhere to be seen. Yes there are bums and vomit… but your grandmother is there too… catching a Broadway show. New York does have a unique smell though… New York smells like hot sauce, a hint of urine, a whiff of sexual predator and a lot of sweat/body odor… and those smells are what accompany Spongebob and Woody as they pimp themselves out.

Supposedly, one of the best of the bests has a smell problem… and I have identified it. Fortunately, my identification skills are not limited to the olfactory glands. Seems I can also figure out what Rolling Stone magazine considers the best of the best… it is the Beatles, Marvin Gay, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan…. and the fucking Beach Boys… which I can’t really figure out… the fucking Beach Boys?… The “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” is not too surprising until you get to the top ten and see the Beach Boys standing there shoulder to shoulder to the no-brainers. Oh, when you go to the “500 Greatest Songs” you find the Beach Boys again. Arguably, one can state that Dylan, Marvin, and the Fab Four are pretty damn great… but I find it totally disheartening to think the Beach Boys break the top ten in both of these lists… subjective no doubt. Who am I to doubt Rolling Stone magazine. Obviously, the staff of Rolling Stone is populated with people… music nerds… who escaped their teens [1]  as a social outcast… went to college and got some mass media degree… or one in journalism and now fill the pages and the Rolling Stone website with list after list of *cough*cough* well-thought out and meticulously researched of the “greatest of all time” all things musical. I am not a Beatles fan, [2] but I will agree with their albums and songs being in the top ten of any music list… but I will not agree with the Beach Boys… nope.

Yes, I over analyze everything like this, and since this about the “best of the best,” let me explain the best video game to come out in 2012… in my very uninformed opinion. Dishonored by Bethesda Software is one of the most engaging, imaginative, and addicting… fucking addicting… games EVER. PERIOD. It is a mix of Victorian era architecture, themes, and steampunk [3] fantasy. After about 30 years of understanding what the Victorian era was… and an adult life of loving Victoria Secrets… I learned about steampunk about a year ago… and now it is fucking everywhere. In the game there is a little magic and lots of rats… unfortunately there are no Victoria Secrets’ models.

Here is the synopsis of the game. You are the Empress’ head bodyguard. The Empress is assassinated, you are used as the scapegoat and her daughter (the new royal head) is captured by government ministers who wish to run the city/country. Loyalists help you escape from the government prison… you then go around the capital city doing missions that lead to the eventual freeing of the young empress and her return to power. This “doing” missions entails you creeping, climbing, killing, and knocking out the bad guys… or civilians in a plague-ridden city. Okay, that is the synopsis… this is why the game is so fucking awesome:

Graphics… the city of Dunwall with its crumbling Victorian architecture is mesmerizing. Until we can play video games via the USS Enterprise’s holodeck… this will be the standard for future gaming graphics. Shadows, water (lots of water), and hulks of burned out buildings are where you have to manuever yourself in search of clues and targets. There are multiple paths throughout this beautifully rendered, but sad, city and landscape… exploration is encouraged and there is no one single path to your target or destination.

Morality… like all video games, Dishonored’s attempt at morality play is quirky and very black and white… however, your entire gameplay and the decisions you make from the very beginning affect how the game ends and how other AI characters treat you as the game progresses. The first time I played through this game I went heavy on killing everything in sight… loud violence over stealth… bloody assassination over nonlethal take-downs. This increased the plague-carrying rats that attack in packs at the most inopportune times… I left a trail of dead bodies all over the city, and thus rats got more prolific and more aggressive. The second time I played Dishonored [4] I actually attempted to keep the body count down which resulted in fewer rats and a far lighter and happier ending to the game. The decision to be more humane, or morally good, in my decisions throughout the game may have been simplistic… but in the world of video games this is head and shoulders above other games that attempt to provide this to you.

Fluid movement… unlike most First Person Shooters/View (FPS) games, Dishonored does not feel linear or boxy… your movements from ledge to ledge (you have cat-like abilities… you’re a fucking assassin) are shown through your eyes as blurry movements… when you creep your body (and vision) is affected by the terrain… leaning and movements are less up, down, left, right, and more like a real person. This advancement [5] in-game play seems revolutionary. At times I actually felt myself getting motion sickness from the realistic movement of my assassin’s ass. [6]

The only thing missing from the game is the smell of hot sauce, a hint of urine, a whiff of sexual predator and a lot of sweat/body odor. Woody and Spongebob may prostitute themselves for dollars in Times Square… but this adult video game character… this assassin (Corvo is your name) in Dishonored… whores himself out to no man…. and thankfully there is no Beach Boys on the soundtrack.

[1] Social outcasts who did nothing but listen to, talk about, and doodle on their notebooks all things music… we hung out with them to get great mix tapes.

[2] The Beatles are the godfathers of pop music… yes they were geniuses, yes they made music that shaped a generation… they also ruined modern music by giving providing a path for pop to be more accepted than good ol’rock-n-roll.

[3] Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century.

[4] This is the only game that I have played twice in a row.

[5] I’m sure there is some nerdy term or definition for this gaming advancement… no I didn’t look it up.

[6] I just wanted to type “assassin’s ass.”

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