Push My Love Over the Borderlands

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Background

Borderlands 2 is an action role-playing first-person shooter video game developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games. I like to think this game has a very different style in comparison to most other shooters. This is as much as an RPG as other games so do not let the title of “shooter” fool you. There are numerous side missions, story quests, collectibles, recordings, skins, gear, guns, guns, and guns. Missions provide you with weapons and gear as well as experience which you will need to level up throughout the course of the game. Missions also provide in my opinion the very best portion of the game and that is the story and lore that is deep inside of the Borderlands Universe. The stories are extremely well done, they are extremely challenging without being overburdening, the missions are equally spaced out enough to where you feel like you do not have too much on your plate. On top of that, they are fun to do which is not something you see too often in RPG’s where usually you have some 3-5 stand-out missions, in Borderlands 2 it was safe to say most missions were fun, stand-outs to me. Like I mentioned earlier with obtaining experience and leveling up, the game serves as an incredible RPG in the sense that you do have a skill tree, there are individual roles that your character can take on to either traverse the world of Pandora alone or with a team (roles such as Tank, Support, and Damage to name a few). There are 4 different classes (now there are much more but I will stick to the pre-DLC game as I think that is fair) each of which possess their own skill trees, preferred styles of play, and abilities to use in battle.

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Axton (Soldier), Zero (Assassin), Salvador (Gunzerker), and Maya (Siren)

This is the second installment of the Borderlands series and plays as a bit of a sequel to the first game. Just like the first game you are to choose from four different treasure hunters. Unlike the name may sound, they do not hunt treasure in order to just find numerous riches but because they have no other choice. All of the selectable players have their own individual backgrounds that explain how they all ended up in the same boat. Essentially they do not have a choice, due to past actions the characters were banished to the desolate planet of Pandora as a means of punishment, the thrill of adventure and the lack of choice leads these 4 protagonists to cross paths, work together, and find the treasure that they seek. These individual stories about each protagonist are not explicitly known in the game. It is through the scoured ECHO devices throughout the game that helps to uncover not just the past of the protagonist but many other characters, as well as you, meet them through the game.

Plot

The Plot of Borderlands 2 pits the player in trainwreck from an explosive trap left by the main antagonist Handsom Jack. This is when you are prompted to choose your character and proceed on with the game. You wake up in the snow to find a small, annoying robot who rambles on and on about everything but more or less, all you need to know is that his name is Clap-Trap and he is a friend. You are then presented with a woman’s voice to trust Clap-Trap and stop Handsome Jack before things get way out of hand. So you like any good Role Playing Game, you listen, do what you are told, and watch what becomes of your actions as the game unfolds. As you progress through the game you can see that there are two sides that combat each other through the entirety of the game, the Hyperion Corporation led by Handsome Jack who is at constant odds with the Crimson Raiders led by one of the main characters from the first game, Roland. Essentially the Hyperion Corporation wants to dig and find the treasure located in something they call a vault. Hyperion has the time, money, and manpower to locate the vault much faster than most and the idea of that scares all other inhabitants of Pandora because they know if that kind of technology, riches, and power fall into the hands of Handsome Jack then everyone is good as dead. So it then becomes the player’s job to help the Crimson Raiders to combat Hyperion, halts their vault search as much as possible, as well as find the vault yourself, all while helping the locals of the planet. The main story is actually really well spaced out and sized, riveting, and most importantly, it is fun to play and extremely funny if you key on what they say or get the bigger picture as to what really is going on in a lot of the missions.

 

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Jack and the Hyperion Corporation

Emotions and Aesthetics 

To start of the aesthetic and emotional journey that Borderlands takes you through, we need to look at a few definition first.

  1. Emotion:  an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate, or the like, is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness.
  2. Aesthetics: relating to, involving, or concerned with pure emotion and sensation as opposed to pure intellectuality.
  3. Art: the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

One final scope I would like us to look through would be Niedenthal’s definitions of game aesthetics as they are thus.

  1. Game aesthetics refers to the sensory phenomena that the player encounters in the game (visual, aural, haptic, embodied).
  2. Game aesthetics refers to those aspects of digital games that are shared with other art forms (and thus provide a means of generalizing about art).
  3. Game aesthetics is an expression of the game experienced as pleasure, emotion, sociability, formgiving, etc (with reference to “the aesthetic experience”).

Borderlands 2 is famous for its spunk, visual pleasing aesthetics, unique audiovisual experiences, music/sound choices, and of course, the emotional rollercoaster that it takes the player on and rarely lets us go. Looking at the setting and art of the game, you will notice that is a very unique, cartoony almost comic-book-like style of art. The actual name for this style is called Cell-Shaded and it basically just bolds all the outlines of objects giving a much more “in you face” kind of feel, as well as it maintains the desolate, wasteland feel that Borderlands captures extremely well in my opinion. One other feature I would like to mention on behalf of the art in the game is the guns and mods within it. There are ENDLESS amounts of guns and loot in this game. One of the biggest artistic feats in a game I feel would be how the individual guns in the game have so many different variants in style, damage, accuracy, sight, range, ammo capacity, as well as most guns have their own unique abilities that they bring such as some guns explode when you reload them, others have elemental effects, some get more accurate as you shoot, and others shoot triple-bursts when aiming down the sights. The sheer number of options in this game keep it so fresh in my opinion because no one playthrough will be exactly alike in this game with a number of different gear options available.

 

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Example of Gun Stats and how they vary

 

The emotion behind this game is immense as well. This game will have you wowed at times, leaving you breathless to the sites, sounds, and findings throughout. Other times you will be sad, you will see the horrors of Hyperion and how terribly they treat and use everyone. You will grow attached to characters and watch them make the ultimate sacrifice. The game will shoot adrenaline up and down your body. The combat to this game, in my opinion, is second to none. From insane boss battles to an overwhelming number of enemies, too resistant enemies, scaling, ranged, up close, fast, slow, invisible, big, small, you will see all sorts of different encounters in combat, and you will find that they all have their weak spots. I always find myself leaning up in the chair every time I enter a big battle because this combat is so fast-paced but smooth as can be. You will laugh, it is bound to happen, this game HILARIOUS. Yes, the humor varies from each person’s perspective but for me, this game had me laughing out loud to some of the crude, sadistic humor that it throws at us. Plus the easter eggs found throughout and the relationships between the characters always make for a nice break from all of the action as you sit back and laugh alongside the other characters. As Niedenthal stated

“The core of formal meaning of a game, according to many current approaches, radiates out from the procedural nature of games, through rule sets and mechanics to sound, graphics and the controller; the core of experienced game meaning radiates out from the brain and cognitive awareness towards the senses and hands. Game aesthetics research allows us to pay full attention to what we have tended to think of as peripheral, the edges of the spheres. New gaming technologies point us towards these peripheries, and new understandings of the significance of touch, the senses, form giving and pleasure help us better understand what really happens when we take the controller in our hands. Where hands, senses, bodies and the tangible qualities of games meet, the aesthetic meaning of games emerges.”  Niedenthal

 

Conclusion

Borderlands 2 stands as one of my highest rated games of all time, not just because it had the cool guns or the combat itself, but because this game took me and never let me go. I found myself invested, I cared about the characters and what became of them because I saw a lot of humanity in the depictions that Borderlands gave me. I saw characters laugh, I saw them cry, I saw them mad, I saw them fight. Being witness to all these humanistic characteristics is what put me in the game. The fact that I was laughing at the witty writing, and that I found myself actually upset at the deaths of some characters really showed that the game itself did not just put on a show, that it really dug deep and invested the player into it, making me feel like I was just as much part of the story as anyone else. That style of game, that engaging combat, that customizability, that emotional investment that Niedenthal mentioned is why I am willing to argue that Borderlands 2 can be labeled as an “art”.

Resources

Niedenthal (2009). What we Talk About When we Talk About Game Aesthetics. http://www.digra.org/wp-content/uploads/digital-library/09287.17350.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borderlands_2

http://borderlands.wikia.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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