Friday, March 1, 2013

Not a lot of good roles in video games

Dreamed that my brother and I were at Toys 'R' Us to check out a demo for a new video game. It was not an especially big release, but the demo was being hosted by Halle Berry, who was also voicing one of the characters in the game.

Arriving at the store, which was set up like a Toys 'R' Us from twenty years ago, with the game aisles lined with tickets instead of actual physical copies of games, we found it surprisingly empty. It was just us and Halle Berry there for the demo–no other fans, no PR people, no press, not even any regular customers showing up for the playable debut of this brand new IP. Which starred Halle Berry! And Halle Berry was there at Toys 'R' Us!

Greeting us, she was warm and professional enough, though clearly not too excited to be there working a dead event. Seemingly glad to at last have someone to talk to, she briefly explained the story of the game, which was something like a Philip K. Dick short story turned into an action movie (think Minority Report or Total Recall) turned into a derivative, ultraviolent, morally vacuous shooter. We asked her how she liked being in the game. She said it was just a job–the best part in a video game that her agent was able to find for her–and she lamented that there were simply not a lot of good roles in video games for a mature, self-assured woman of color. Finding her frankness refreshing, and since we were enjoying such a nice, casual, and exclusive chat with Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry, I went ahead and asked the Catwoman star what kind of game she would have preferred to be in, if she could have had it her way. She immediately named a much higher-budget ultraviolent, morally vacuous shooter in a best-selling series. I think my brother responded with an approving "Niiice!" or maybe a "Wurrd." Or maybe that was me. Halle Berry affected a shy smile and pumped her fist.

That fist pump might have lasted the next twenty minutes, for all I know, because my brother and I stopped paying attention to her. We were ready to dig into that demo, and we had to give our full attention to deciding which two out of the forty-or-so nearly identical-looking colorful sci-fi assault rifles to load into the game with for our frowning male protagonist, who looked quite a lot like Jeremy Renner with shades. Finally, some twenty minutes later, we were at last gunning down squads of shiny armored (or maybe robot) soldiers. At one point, we blew up a tank, prompting a "Yeaahhh!" from Halle Berry.

My first thought upon waking up: Oh crap, I just bought Call of Duty: Black Ops last night, literally right before I went to bed. And it's a digital purchase, so no returns or refunds. What have I done?!?

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