Monday, February 18, 2013

BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY ACCESSIBILITY REVIEW (PS3)

                                                     Batman: Arkham City Accessibility Review (PS3):

                       


Holy complex control schemes, Batman! The first time I was ever in a fight in Batman: Arkham City, I felt like I was struggling to manically press all the “counter” button even as the tutorial was telling me how to do it. Little lightning bolts appear above your enemies’ heads as the counter option appears…usually for a split second. I have no idea if that’s how it was in Arkham Asylum, the game’s predecessor; but it seems extremely time-sensitive; and in that way that I usually just have to press “punch” ([ ]) and “dodge”. (X)

 Though I do try to counter when the opportunity arises, one miss can screw up the flow of combat, and then the screen gets all blurry as you get beat up, which is no fun. What is fun is how many moves you can do just by mashing button combinations. The fast-paced combat is actually what makes it kind of fun, so it’s a double-edged sword. Most of the combat seems to borrow from stealth games like Tenchu, which encourage silent takedowns. Those are always fun to watch. Knocking heads together, chokeholds, DDTs, etc. The game even slows down to show you the takedowns, or just to tell you that you beat up the last guy in a group.
 
But, it’s in using your gadgets that the controls get really complex. To use gadgets, you have to hit and hold L1. Sometimes, it’s not too hard, but I can hardly imagine a situation where a batarang would be more useful in a takedown than a few punches. No! Paradoxically, the gadgets that the game has you repeatedly use in combat, like the stun gun, have incredibly complicated buttons. Hold L1 to get it out, R1 to aim and square to fire. While in combat! So, I had some help with that one, but certainly those of us with less dexterity will struggle. You need the stun gun, because most thugs have guns, and guns take you down quick.  If I were on a keyboard, maybe it wouldn’t have been a problem.

Overall, I think the game divides itself into two sections: Combat and detective work. I’m better at detective work. And actually, since it’s primarily a stealth game, your greatest advantage in combat (A la Tenchu: Stealth Assassins for PS1, but with Batman instead of ninjas!) is not being seen, and sneaking up for a silent takedown. Several missions require you to do this, especially when rescuing hostages. Oddly, I’m 90% sure the only way to regain health is by winning fights; which is okay, because fighting as Batman feels cool, but it means the only way to regain health is to put your health at risk: Batman logic!

The villains you’ll be fighting are essentially dark versions of the 90s animated series characters, with Mark Hamill back as the voice of Joker. But, this is no kids’ game. The puzzles are complicated, and often involve you backtracking several times to the same spot. The missions are never straightforward. Say you need to find Joker. What you actually NEED to do is FIND his radio signal, and then break your way into his hideout in a steel mill because front doors are almost always locked. Then, fight a boss. Then solve a puzzle. THEN, find Joker. Well, it isn’t easy being Batman.
     
The advantage to this though, is it adds to the logic puzzles, as well as keeps you in one area for a longer amount of time. Nobody wants the mystery to be over in 5 minutes. Also, it keeps you from going into areas you’re not beefed up enough to go into; many of which involve big enemies. But, if you do find yourself in such a situation, you can always, beat up random thugs until you level up, and regain health, and get stronger. You can even respond to other side-crimes happening in Arkham City. Because it’s Batman!

In sum, it’s a fun game, though the control scheme is a little complex on the PS3. I assume this could be easily remedied by playing it for the computer. You can remap the Playstation 3 buttons by types , but not individually. I wonder if you can do that on a computer!  Nevertheless, with its engrossing super detective work, combat, and large environment Arkham City is a place where Batman’s super ninja and super detective skills mix quite well!


FINAL GRADE: B+

ACCESSIBILITY GRADE: B (Easy enough to master basics, but gadgets can be difficult.)

FORGIVENESS FACTOR: A (Checkpoints recap missions; infinite continues, side missions build up strength, detective work adds variety and fun challenge.)

CONTROLS: C (Many difficult combinations; time-sensitive moves; some button-mashing/fast tapping.)

                                                                     FIGHTING!
                                                                      GLIDING!
                                                                    (Shhh...sneaking.)
                                                                       DECODING!

Friday, February 15, 2013

TRANSCENDING THE BODY THROUGH ART, DR. WHO, AND VALENTINE’S DAY:


TRANSCENDING THE BODY THROUGH ART, DR. WHO, AND VALENTINE’S DAY:



Happy late Valentine’s Day! For me, it was a day full of Doctor Who, sending out virtual valentines to loved ones, and a medical assessment. After a medical assessment, I always need a serious break from reality. So, I watched the Doctor Who movie from 1996! (Actually made as a US TV movie; a good intro to this UK series!) I’ve actually become somewhat of a Whovian as well as a Trekkie, it seems. Basically, The Doctor is a time-traveling alien, a Time Lord, a formless being who can reincarnate himself in human form. His spaceship is a police box called the TARDIS. Each incarnation has a different personality, quirks, and companions. A great show for Valentine’s Day! I’ve watched only 5 or so different incarnations. I love that the show is completely illogical and can be anything since he can be anywhere, anytime.

   Like I said, after a medical assessment, I needed a serious break from reality. I hate my body being poked at, and the time-traveling mystical alien in his flying police box did the trick. Full confession: when I started watching Dr. Who in November 2011, I was just curious what all the Dr. Who hubbub was about. But, I was hooked quite easily. The 1996 movie is a good intro, and begins with at the end of the 7th Doctor’s body, all through the 8th. Personally, I started with the 9th Doctor (2005-2006) and just watched the 8th today. Since the Doctor nearly always has companions, it’s a good show about friendship with good humor and fantastic adventures. I think my favorite is the 10th Doctor. (2006-2010) He’s very quirky and memorable, but capable of getting real serious real fast.

   In fact, I recently bought/made a 4th Doctor costume (That wild-eyed self-aggrandizing genius played by Tom Baker from 1974-1981.)  that I’m bringing to another convention in Columbus. My friend Aaron is going as the 11th. We’re the self-titled “Dr. Who Crew”. Perhaps others will join us. I just can’t wait to be among fellow geeks, I suppose. What else? I got to play PS3 recently. What an experience for someone who hasn’t bothered with videogames in 7 years! Batman: Arkham City was good. I think I’ll review it later. Even though I’ve only just begun sort of a re-entry into the videogame scene. During the assessment yesterday, I got a little bit of a chance to explain intercultural communication with my coordinator, after explaining my interest in sci-fi, escapism, dislike of medical pokiness, etc.
 
Speaking of artistic communication, the 5th Annual VSA Day of Arts For All is coming! This is our chance to express a disability experience. Last time I went it was very inspiring and I met some brilliant young artists. No medical pokey stuff here! This is the expression of our individual life experiences as people and artists with disabilities! This year it will be at The Westerville Community Center from 9am-2pm EST; March 2nd! Come and celebrate life, art, and overcoming disability through sheer creative will! The event Ohio will be sponsored by my good friends at VSA Ohio! The address is 350 North Cleveland Avenue, Westerville, OH 43082. Hope to see you there!
 
 So, in many ways, I consider Valentine’s Day to be a chance to reflect on my good friends who see me for who I am, and not just my disability. In this regard, it was a pretty successful holiday, full of friends, and flying police boxes and art! I even did some of my own art to commemorate the nearing of the Day of Arts For All! Yesterday, was a great reminder that how I get through every challenge in life is by overcoming whatever others might think I am! Also, I’m sort of a Time Lord now! See below! Until next time!

                                             



Monday, February 4, 2013

I AM NOT MY DISABILITY: THE INCOMMUNICABILITY OF DISABILITY



                I AM NOT MY DISABILITY:  THE INCOMMUNICABILITY OF DISABILITY

What is a disability? Is it a severe mental or physical limitation? If this is so, are obese people or drug addicts disabled? Both can be either severely physically and/or mentally limiting. Is it a blessing, granting people a different and positive viewpoint on life?  Or is it a curse, confining and restrictive to otherwise able human beings? It seems that no matter how one looks at the issue, both disability and the disabled community are increasingly difficult terms to define. It is incommunicable.

 This flies in the face of the old axiom that  “You cannot not communicate.” I take communicability to mean understandability of experience. While the ADA and other laws have defined (dialogically) some terms that make disability rights understandable, disability itself is incommunicable. What I argue is that disability and the disability community are relative terms that can actually be harmful to a person if they are rigidly defined to medical diagnosis or reliance on assistive devices. To understand why I am against such definitions (i.e. wheelchair user or cerebral palsy sufferer) it necessary to relate how such ambiguous terms have been communicated through history.

Dialogue is described by John Durham Peters as sharing the same time and space.1 Its uses include the clarification of terms and the creation of dyadic relationships (where we talk to each other.) and creating a sense of shared understanding and meaning. Dialogical contexts include role-playing, philosophy, and drama, where time and space are shared. Because dialogue is fundamentally a dyadic sensation, where the meaning or truth of a statement is typically evaluated by agreement on common meanings for terms, I maintain that any set dialogical definition of “disability” or “disability community” will ultimately be more restricting to a person with a disability than would no definition at all. While it is true that a dialogical definition reached by a common meaning and sharing of inner experience on which laws have been established to protect disability rights, this dialogic search for clarity of terms forces on the disabled an illusionary collective mindset that focuses on common limitations, not abilities.

Dissemination however, would provide a much more personal definition of “disability”, thus allowing for interpretation and the personal development to the notion that I am not my disability. Dissemination seeks no definition: it is open for all to hear.    Dissemination is broadcasted to an open-ended destination; it is a feature of all speech, according to Peters.2 (Shepard, et al., 212) I argue that it allows for autonomy in speech and thought, throughout what we might call the “disability community”. Recently, it has become popular to say that there ought to be one word to characterize the disabled experience, and that this definition should point in effect to the notion that we are all handicapped.

Though I am sympathetic to such efforts, I see the search for dialogical definitions of disability “community” as limiting to the concept of community, although such definitions based on assistive devices or medical diagnosis as helpful to the individual in gaining autonomy, not the community. (“deaf community”, quadriplegics, “wheelchair-users”, etc.) It is up to the individual to interpret what his/her disability actually means through self-discovery. This is why an outlook of dissemination and interpretation is helpful, and why I argue that the community of disabled people cannot be defined by the limitations of its members, but instead by its individual overcomings.  This notion that “we are all handicapped.” is not new.

As far back as 1894, Charles Horton Cooley developed the concept that “Transportation is physical, communication is psychical.” (Peters,  184). He saw all men and women as being sensorily handicapped, but by means of new media transportation like trains, radio, and telegraph (he did not include wheelchairs and speech aids.) they could more easily bridge distances of communication between distant people. This is an attempt to squeeze dialogic thinking into media of dissemination; the sharing of two mutually held ideas and the forming of one psychic understanding.

It was Franz Kafka who challenged the idea that media could transport our souls. Humanity knows that “written kisses never reach their destination. Rather they are drunk on the way by ghosts.” (Peters, Franz Kafka to Milena Jesenk√†.) So, they have created trains, telegraphs, and aeroplanes. But, it is no good. In other words, the new communicative media could not cure Cooley’s handicap, being blind and deaf to a larger social world. It is not that “the new communication has spread like morning light over the world,” (Peters, 187-188) as Cooley would have it, but rather, that like the privileged page gifted with the emperor’s last message in Eine kaiserliche Botschaft (1919), the message is never read nor delivered: “The Emperor—so they say—has sent a message, directly from his death bed, to you alone, his pathetic subject, a tiny shadow which has taken refuge at the furthest distance from the imperial sun.” 3 (Kafka trans. Appelbaum, 49) This is a challenge to Marshall McLuhan and his school of thought. The medium may be the message, but it might not be the soul, by which I mean handicaps cannot be reasoned dialogically. As Peters’ noted, Kafka’s Verfremdung [estrangement] explodes the dialogical concept of sharing which is inherent in independent living, but not to disability.

These days, a popular phenomena within disability culture if I may call it such, is the independent living movement. The aims of the movement are to provide persons with disabilities the least restrictive environment in which to live. Which is to say, handicaps are removed through nurse aides and/or assistive devices, or whatever is needed. These aims are fine and noble. But, it raises a question: is the notion of independent living defined? Who has defined it? Under what terms? (Note that here there is a dialogical tint.)

As I have stated, any drive towards freedom should come from the disabled person himself/herself, not as part of a medical examination. I am purposing that it is when the disabled are independent themselves that they really begin to uncover their true handicaps and develop methods to overcome them. Those methods and true disabilities will be individual and as such not open to clear dialogue, but dissemination.

Is independent living harmful to this end? No. One should realize that when one says “independent” we are disseminating. It can mean different things, and levels of independence, just as Wittgenstein claimed that “Water!” could be anything not referring to water itself when used in isolation as a word.4 (Wittgenstein trans. Anscombe, 10) In just that way, one can learn to laugh at one’s own handicap. It is a language-game, and I must play with it in different ways. In effect, the disabled must depend on others as must depend on others. It is wrong to say we don’t need others. We are all handicapped, I believe, robs the individual of his or her own uniqueness.

In summation, is the drive for dialogical clarification of terms and truth misplaced? Perhaps so, but not without benefits. Laws and media have furthered the rights of people with disabilities. However, the community cannot risk finding the one true definition. The aim should be not the dialogical we are all handicapped, but rather a product of dissemination. I am not my disability. As Goethe’s Faust put it: “Name is but sound and smoke, befogging heaven’s blazes.”5 (Goethe trans. Kaufmann, 327)