Samir M Soni

I have a Phd in English literature, specializing in 18th and early 19th century British fictions of empire and gender, but my other passion is video game narratology.

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    Latest Topics


    Casual Violence in the Borderlands Franchise

    I, for one, love the irreverent humor of the Borderlands Franchise. But part of that humor comes from revelry in casual violence. While violence is common in many other videogames and other media, it is commonly only funny when that violence is non-lethal. Nevertheless, in Borderlands 2, for example, we might laugh at Brick praising you for killing all his men, and at Tiny Tina torturing and murdering the psycho while having a pretend tea party with him and her stuffed animals. The game attempts to justify and authorize laughing at murder: bandits infinitely spawn and the villains’ cruelty makes us feel better for killing them. The Borderland’s Presequel seemed to introduce nuance to humor in murder by showing the descent of Handsome Jack into evil even as he (mostly) tries to do the right thing, but the story, as many critics have said, was weak by comparison to the others.

    I’m wondering if there is more nuance to humorous murder in this game, or if part of the fun of it is that there is no nuance to it. How might the series make us think it’s okay to laugh at murder in other ways? Does the franchise succeed in justifying this laughter in violence? Does it deliberately cause laughter at murder only to show us our own guilty pleasure at laughing at the worst humanity is capable of? What are your thoughts on the franchise’s take on violence?

    • This would be an interesting topic to analyze especially when attempting to understand the use of violence in the Borderlands universe. It seems that violence in borderlands is just a part of everyday life and therefore isn't really thought of as anything out of the ordinary. It will be interesting to see if this normalization of violence adds or detracts from the nuance, if there is any at all. – JakeGreenwood 5 years ago
    • This game franchise is definitely very heavy in its depictions of blood and gore. When playing any combative game, an excess in blood and gore usually takes away from the storyline, however, the casual displays of regular violence seem to make the gore more bearable, and the story more digestible. – haleyalexa26 3 years ago

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    Latest Comments

    Excellent article, great review of Metroid history, and I agree that the word needs more Samus. Samus has always been one of my favorite Nintendo characters, and her many appearances in Smash Bros. games and elsewhere has always been welcome.

    I think that Metroid Prime was good, but Metroid didn’t quite make the transition from 2d to 3d as well as Mario did. Prime didn’t even really feel like a platformer to me, so I would like to see it replicate the play-style and 3rd person perspective of Mario 64 (so I could at least see where I’m jumping).

    I’d also like to see the Metroid saga take a darker, more adult-oriented turn. The appearance of bodies was a nice touch to include in sci-fi horror games marketed to kids, but more gore might appeal to those of us who played as kids, but are now grown and ready for more gritty environments. Furthermore, a bit more moral uncertainty to Samus’ immense power might be interesting. Really, I want to see a remake of Super Metroid (arguably the best game in the franchise), in which scanning can be implemented to fill out the story (minimalism to game narratives only works these days with interesting art styles, like Inside or Gris). Rather than the simplistic “humans good, Pirates bad” dynamic of the original, we could humanize the Pirates to a certain extent, showing their xenophobia and pursuit of power by any means necessary as both the only philosophy they can conceive of and a response to the actions of the Federation. Pity for the Pirates fits well with the precedent set by Metroid Prime and fear of the Federation would fit well with the Federation ship Samus finds crashed on Zebes (the Federation sent a ship to commit genocide against the Pirates, so they shot the ship down).

    Why Nintendo Should Make a New Metroid Game

    Great article. I just wanted to give a few observations on the games I’ve played.

    Bioshock Infinite: The many-worlds interpretation has been explored by a lot of movies and literature and some video games before Bioshock Infinite (eg. Singularity), so the philosophical questions I was most interested in with this game involved power and gender theory. The main character is the villain from another dimension, but his overbearing desire to protect his damsel in distress creates a lot of problems for everyone (similar to The Last of Us). The sequels show an independent Elizabeth kicking butt as she travels to Rapture in the future, where the first two Bioshock games were set.

    SOMA: Thanks for including this game. I think this magazine needs more representation when it comes to indie games. Really, there are a ton of indie games that address such concepts (The Talos Principle, Cradle, The Void, etc.). I found the same things interesting, but I’d like to add one more. When the player character switches from one robotic body to another (and he does so periodically throughout the game), the previous body (along with the character’s consciousness) is left behind, trapped until its battery runs out or he is depowered and effectively destroyed. So the question is, when a brain is copied, is it ethical to destroy the previous version? The thought of another me trapped alone and forgotten in an underwater lab still haunts me.

    Chrono Trigger: Good that you brought up Chrono Trigger. It bugged me that in CT you could go to the future, collect an item, then go to the past and collect the past version of the same item, and still have both items!

    Video Games That Ask Deep Philosophical Questions

    Well said! I think dystopian objectivism has been getting more popular lately, but critiques of capitalism that follow the same lines have been around a lot longer than Ayn Rand’s work.

    Video Games That Ask Deep Philosophical Questions

    Interesting article. Metroid Prime 2 had big shoes to fill: Prime 1 was not only remarkably acclaimed and successful, it adeptly broke from the traditional minimalism of Metroid games by filling out a lot of the universe, primarily through Space Pirate lore (the Pirates call Samus “The Hunter,” not just because she is a bounty hunter, but because she is so feared that she become a god-like figure, held in awe by the entire species). This game seemed to expand the universe farther by breaking from the Pirate – Human – Chozo dynamic.

    Immersion in a hostile world has been a core component of the Metroid franchise since the very beginning, and it is central to the sci-fi horror theme that all the games play up. The atmosphere of one area on Zebes in Super Metroid (a masterwork of game design and storytelling), for example, is toxic, until you get the Varia Suit to protect you from heat. As such, the hostile environment is merely repeating the formula. Nevertheless, in certain respects, it hardly seems like a Metroid game at all, given the introduction of new species. It put me off, really, since I was hoping Prime 2 would expand on the depth and complexity of Space Pirate culture from Prime 1. All in all, narratologically, the whole game felt like an aside within the greater Metroid universe, and I felt little investment in Aether, the Luminoth, or the Ing.

    How Metroid Prime 2: Echoes Creates Fear, Anxiety, and Frustration