Sunday, November 09, 2008

In space, no one can hear you say, "Hot diggity, this game is awesome!"

I'm positively overwhelmed by great games at the moment, some purchased, some GameFlown. I still need to spend a lot more time with Little Big Planet, and I've barely scratched the surface of Fallout 3. Tonight, I spent some time fending off waves of Locust with friends in Gears of War 2's terrific Horde mode, but the campaign remains mostly untouched.

The game that keeps pulling me away from all the others is Dead Space. I know this is common knowledge, but man, is this game outstanding. It doesn't reinvent the survival horror genre--you can feel the influence of Resident Evil 4 throughout--but it provides an absolutely remarkable setting and tosses in enough pure sci-fi elements to set it squarely apart from RE4 or any other game. Fighting enemies in zero-gravity environments is deliciously disorienting, and the way the sound effects contribute to the experience of running through a vacuum as your oxygen rapidly depletes has to be heard to be appreciated. Putting enemies in stasis and then blasting their appendages off and seeing them slowly twist through the air is strangely beautiful.

In fact, nearly everything about the game is strangely beautiful. The Ishimura actually feels like a once-functional spaceship, and the level of detail makes me feel like I've stepped into a Ridley Scott movie. The sound design equals the visuals in every way, with the ship clanging convincingly and the eerie echo of once-important PA announcements haunting the halls. And although the story seems like pure Event Horizon stuff, it's still told in a way that has me wanting to find out how it's all going to end, with the slick, insane Dr. Mercer giving the gruesome evil a compelling human face, and enough eerie hallucinations to give the game's horror a psychological edge.

Most of all, the game's action is what has me so hooked right now. It's difficult and satisfying, it's constantly introducing new enemies and new elements, and it always has me feeling like I'm fighting for my life.

This is one of my favorite games of the year.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A step forward, a step back

I was an ardent supporter of President Obama's campaign, not because he was black, not even a little bit, but because I strongly believe that his ideas about how to run this country are exactly what we need right now. Yet that historic aspect of his victory cannot be ignored, and it is cause for celebration, an inspiring sign of how far we as a nation of come since Martin Luther King, Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech some 45 years ago. But as I watched the reactions to this monumental moment in our history on television with friends, many politicians and pundits echoed the same sentiment: Now, when a parent tells their child, "Someday, you can grow up to be president of this great nation, that is indeed the truth regardless of who they are." And that is not yet the case.

In his moving endorsement of Barack Obama, Colin Powell said the following:

I'm also troubled by. . .what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

Powell is absolutely right. The America I love is not the one represented by those who object to the notion of a Muslim president. But we are not yet at the point where a Muslim or a Hindu, an agnostic or an atheist, a gay man or a lesbian could be president of this nation. True equality is still a long, long way off.

Never have I felt joy so commingled with grief as I did last night, for even as my bus ride home took me through throngs of people cheering in the streets, celebrating this hopeful new day in America, Proposition 8 here in California, and similar measures in other states, painfully reminded me that we as a society still have so far to go.

In some states, bans on gay marriage passed in yesterday's election. Here in California, a particularly hateful proposition, propelled by a campaign that used shameful scare tactics, passed which will amend the constitution of our state to strip the right to marry away from gay couples who have already enjoyed it, making their unions invalid and unrecognized. The L.A. Times endorsement of a no vote explains just how misleading and downright false the campaign used to support this proposition was, and how unnecessary and backwards the amendment will be, far better than I ever could.

This is not a religious issue. This is a civil rights issue. No religious institution would be forced to perform or recognize gay marriages. Marriage is a social institution, not exclusively a religious one. Will we pass a law preventing atheist heterosexual couples from going to the courthouse and getting married?

Supporters of this proposition appealed to peoples' fears about their children growing up in a world where gay marriage is accepted. What's to be scared of, unless you hold on to this archaic, absurd notion that homosexuality is a "lifestyle choice"? Because, right, the social alienation that goes with being gay is so tempting that lots of people are making that choice, and many straight people--who, of course, chose at some point in their lives to be straight, because it is a choice after all--struggle with the urge to give in to being gay constantly, because being gay just looks like such a good option. No. Ridiculous. I am not gay but I am transgendered, and I can no more change that about myself than I can change the color of my eyes. And believe me, I spent many long, hard, painful years trying. For our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, this is part of who they are, and it should be celebrated as just another weave in the beautiful fabric of human diversity. Instead, we continue to discriminate against them, to put them on a lower platform in our society. This is every bit as hateful as denying someone a right because of the color of their skin, and those who supported Proposition 8 ought to be deeply ashamed of themselves. Your children are not going to be more likely to "turn gay" if they grow up in a world where gay marriage is accepted. Believe me, your children will be straight or gay because they are straight or gay. Giving them a world that is more accepting of this diversity would be a gift.

But even as I grieve for this setback, I know that it is temporary, and the efforts to impede progress will inevitably prove futile. With each passing generation, more and more of our young people grow up understanding that homosexuality is nothing to revile or fear. They grow up, not with the grating, reluctant tolerance expressed by Sarah Palin in her debate with Joe Biden, but a full-hearted acceptance of their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as their equals in every aspect, deserving of all the same rights. That we will get to the point where gay marriage is allowed, where future generations will look back on this decision with all the disbelief and disappointment in us that I felt as a child looking back on the idea that at one point certain citizens had been forced to sit in the back of the bus, I have no doubt whatsoever. This is the slow but sure path of progress that has characterized the history of this great nation.

I was so happy to be alive to see this great moment in America's history. God willing, I will live to see that one as well.