playing, video games

Persona 4 in one week: Day 2

Video update:

I’m not sure what to do now. My internet connection isn’t stable enough to maintain a Twitch.tv session for several hours straight and, while I do have a complete recording of the first day, the local file is rather big (42 GB). It took several hours — maybe 8 hours total? — to create the one version I have of it too.

All of which raises a major problem for me. While I am recording, I cannot use my computer to do any more taxing than playing music or podcasts. And while it is transcoding, I cannot use it either for the same reason. Basically, then, I am tying up my computer for upwards of 14 hours a day in either recording the video or then transcoding it afterwards. Then, assuming I can get this down-verting thing working at some point (which is isn’t currently) to switch it into a smaller format, that will also use up more time after all that is done when I am more-or-less locked out of using this computer for much of anything for its duration as well.

I also haven’t posted it to YouTube yet, obviously. I’m NOT going to wait a week to upload a 42 GB file to YouTube either. That’s crazy.

So, I will give it one more day. If I can’t figure out how to get the video into a smaller format, and then off my computer, I will have to stop. My hard drive will have filled up by the third day’s recording.

(I’ll be starting a new session around 7 PM EST most nights. But without the Twitch streaming, that doesn’t really matter as much anymore.)

Day 1 Recap:

Oh-god-oh-god-oh-god. Why did I decide to do this?

Towards about the third hour yesterday, I had gotten into a mindspace where I was really hating this idea. I’ve gotten to the point, and maybe this is just me getting older or having other responsibilities or something, where I was actively disliking myself for agreeing to do this. I kept thinking I was “wasting” my time playing video games when I have several books I need to read within the next week and a number of guides I have (to some degree) promised I was going to write before the year ends.

Instead of spending time on any of that, I was sitting here playing the same game for several hours straight and feeling bad about it. I wasn’t, even though I thought about it a few times once the Twitch stream failed to reconnect, listening to podcasts either and potentially learning things through the many online courses and iTunesU stuff I’ve been saving up for awhile now. Sure, I did get a couple loads of laundry done while I was playing, but I don’t particularly consider that an accomplishment; it’s more just a thing I do once a week or so.

Sex!

It’s been maybe a year since I last played Persona 4 and I had completely forgotten that the game starts with a women in a bikini. And then spends a great deal of time firmly — throbbingly? — locked onto the male gaze. Ladies. Girls. Hur. Hur. Hur.

Some of it I can just roll my eyes at its ridiculousness. The cutscene for Yukiko’s Castle is one of these cases, where the game is purposely playing up the “loose” side of Yukiko and matching the character’s conservative nature in an “opposite” tone. However, other parts, like Chie not being allowed to investigate because she’s a girl, is just flat out misogynistic.

It’s also, partially in its defense, subversive in small ways. It may play up things — like Teddie’s “Is this scoring with a hot stud?” moment — but allows for the player to twist the norm in some responses. Of course, the game is positioned as a heteronormative artifact, so it sometimes take a little bit of mental gymnastics to get around its blunt message to the one that is more subversive in approach.

You decide

I played through Persona 3 back during the summer and, at the time, thought it odd that that game (as Persona 4 does too) switches between a front stage, back stage text delivery. Most of the time, if people are talking to you, it is treated as voiced dialogue. However, the game will often take at least a single screen within a group to “tell” you something directly. It usually begins with “You decide” and then finishes with what the game will do next to you.

As a hold-over from text adventure days, it creates this transgression of the narrator-narratee line. Often, “you” are the character, but some of the time, you are not. When the game wants to progress something, it is not afraid to reach through and take direct control of the game to push the plot further. It will allow a certain range of exploratory options and then, once some have been used, it will bluntly “tell” you something has happened.

It’s a balancing act between show (allowing me to make a choice) and tell (“this is what happened next”) I’m not always comfortable with as a player.

Ju-nes

I’m not mentally equipped, I think anyway, to really dive into the argument presented by this game and the store chain Junes within it, but I know enough to recognize that it is there. For as much as you might visit local stores within this smaller city of Inaba, Junes — think of a big box store for the right image — is the “gateway” to another, stranger world. Bits of Yosuke’s plot, as son to the manager, is about this too: the struggle of a small town in the face of capitalism’s effects on small businesses.

While I don’t think it is a fully formed opinion, not a consistent one I would say, the game does go out of its way to setup this rural Inaba versus city argument within the side plots. As a person from the “big city,” you are confronted with a slower pace and with people who want to escape from their lives; those who view the city as a metaphor to reinvent themselves in another setting and amongst the glamor it represents in their lives.

However, and here is where I’d like to investigate this more, many of the “shadow self” plot lines are about seeing this side of a character, of confronting it directly, but then integrating those feelings into the surroundings. People don’t actually leave Inaba. They may want to, and the game fluctuates if this is good or bad, but they don’t ever do it.

Use your friends!

Oh, social links. I both like to hate and hate that I like you so much.

One the one hand, yes, having the social link system connects the social aspect of the game to its battle mechanics. By hanging out with more people and spending time to get to know all the available characters, your “power” will increase. The game makes this very explicit.

However, on the other hand, it presents a situation where you are pushed quite hard to plan your time with your friends and other links very carefully. Since one relationship may impact another, which may impact your ability to raise other statistics, you — more correctly me — end up trying to puzzle box everything because it becomes all too complicated not to do that.

With the scheduling as a core part of the game’s system, and since you can only do certain things on days when other conditions like the current weather are met, it is hard not to always be thinking about doing something one day, meeting a friend the next, and then trying to fit in raising levels some time between all that. My personal life is no where near as complex as this game presents this high school character’s life and yet here I am trying to balance playing it several hours a night and, in the game, fit everything in too.

Video: