I wrote this the day of the referendum:

Today’s the big referendum in Ireland! There are two things being voted on: 1) whether to reduce the required age for candidacy for the office of president from 35 to 21; and 2) add the following text to Article 41 of the Constitution:

“Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

It was only in 1993 that homosexuality was decriminalized. The fact that this is being voted on, and that all the parties are supporting it, is a sign of how much influence the Catholic Church has lost in the last few decades. (The separation between church and state in Ireland is complicated. Even now 90% of primary schools are Catholic.)

The organizations lined up against it are Mothers and Fathers Matter, who argue that marriage is about procreation and the rights for children to have a mother and a father; the Iona Institute, who are fighting the increasing secularization of Ireland; and (of course) the Church.

I can’t say much about MFM, all I know about them is that they started putting up signs a month ago. Amusingly, the family on the “Children Deserve a Mother and a Father” billboard was taken from a stock photo, and were appalled to discover they were the face of Vote No.

The Iona Institute first popped up on my radar when they successfully sued RTE when local drag queen Panti Bliss called them bigots on air. This led to her famous speech at the Abbey Theatre last year. I think they’re trying to promote an extremely conservative version of Catholicism. The parody twitter account is great.

As for the Church, some priests have actually spoken up in favour of marriage equality. There was a pastoral letter urging people to vote no, which led some people to walk out during the homily. We won’t really know how much influence the Church still has until the results are in.

I’m optimistic, but I’m in the Dublin bubble. Recent polls suggest it’ll pass, ‘tho support is falling. When the ban on divorce was repealed in 1995, the polls suggested 70% support; it ultimately passed with 50.28% of the vote.

That might be why Irish from around the world are converging on Ireland to vote.

Wish us* luck!

(* Disclaimer: I’m not actually Irish and can’t vote, but I’m here, and I really want this to pass. YARRRRRR!)

And it passed! In the end, the only county that voted against was County Roscommon. I can’t hold it against them, I thought it was going to be much closer than it was.

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2015-04-29 18.53.24


Two luchadores in front of a rainbow burst

YES. Students for marriage equality2015-05-09 17.16.46

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(OK, this last one is not related, yet somehow so appropriate.)

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Been here a while

I had one of those experiences last week. I was walking home from work, and there were six guards at the intersection of Nassau St. and Kildare St. I looked down Kildare and there were more guards, and people off in the distance. So I asked, “Sorry, what’s going on?”

“A protest.”

“Irish Water, right?”

“Yeah,” he replied.

“Thanks,” I said, or something to that effect; then, in front of all the guards, I immediately jaywalked across the intersection to Leinster St, and I didn’t think anything of it ’til I was halfway down the block.

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Broken Age

Heh, another video game post. I’m a monster!


Broken Age was fun. Some of the later puzzles were frustrating, but otherwise it was pretty much how I pretend adventure games used to be.

Its big hook (aside from being a new adventure game) is that it has dual narratives that you can swap between at (nearly) any point. In one you play Vella, a girl from Sugar Bunting, who doesn’t want to be a sacrificial maiden for the monster Mog Chothra. In the other you play Shay, a boy alone on a spaceship, who wants to find something more in life. Vella’s pushing against people who want her to do as she’s told. Shay wants to get away from the infantilizing computer that controls his life. In other words, they’re both trying to grow up. (gasp!)

The two stories intertwine in unexpected and fairly awesome ways. The villains are a bit underdeveloped. Otherwise it’s good craic.

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AC3: Less than the sum

I like Assassin’s Creed games. I bought everything up to (and including) Assassin’s Creed 3 (AC3) in a steam sale several years ago, after I played through nearly all of the second game on my roommate’s PS3 at Fort Awesome. Recently I beat AC3 (actually the fifth game in the series, heh); here are some thoughts on the series and that game in particular.

Assassin’s Creed (the first) was a proof of concept, I think. The fundamental appeal is there: You’re an assassin, sneaking around these beautiful playgrounds of cities, fighting off guards and killing evil-doers. There’s something awesome about climbing to the top of a minaret and looking around (then diving into one of many conveniently placed haystacks). Likewise it’s fun sneaking around unseen and taking out your target unawares.

But otherwise it’s rough. The story is repetitive, building up to an end-of-game plot twist that was visible early on. The actual gameplay boils down to a couple different types of missions, endlessly repeated. As the game continues it gets frustrating, not challenging. In particular there are nuisance NPCs, beggars (all women) and lepers (all men), who spawn in increasing numbers and only target your character. (Video games have politics, and this one wants me to hate the poor.)

I just brutally slaughtered your men. Let’s rap.

I just brutally slaughtered your men. Let’s rap.

It’s sequel, Assassin’s Creed 2, is still my favourite. The gameplay is the same essentially the same, but it’s welded to a stronger plot, the amazing settings of Renaissance Italy, and an entertaining protagonist. You run around Florence and Venice, and in the end you try to kill the pope. What more do you need?

Pretend I have a better screenshot.

Venice! Pretend I have a better screenshot.

After that I went straight into its immediate sequel, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. It’s Ezio again, a little older, running around the streets and countryside of Rome. The plot was weaker, but it added all sorts of extra stuff: liberate the city by taking out Borgia towers, rebuild the Assassin Brotherhood, go through the thief / mercenary / courtesan challenges, complete the challenge dungeons, and (of course) buy up every piece of real estate available in the city. It’s still largely the same game as the very first, but it’s loaded with content.

Rome! Great setting. Better than Venice, 'tho it pains me to admit it.

Rome! Great setting. Better than Venice, ‘tho it pains me to admit it.

I still like that game, but that’s probably why I burned out on the series. It took a few years before I hopped back in, played the first game, and finally played AC3.

(I skipped over over AC: Revelations. Ignoring mobile-only games, AC3 is the fifth in the series. Yep.)

There’s a lot to like about AC3. I don’t particularly care about the revolutionary war in the US, but playing as Connor, a half-Mohawk man trying to protect his people, is a good take. There’s the “Frontier”, a large area with forest and villages that you can explore freely. The two primary cities, New York and Boston, are huge and varied. Several missions take place during big events, like battles or bombardments — entirely scripted, but dynamic. Plus you get to command a boat, and it’s awesome.

But the game didn’t click for me ’til very late. Partly because you start as Haytham, Connor’s father, and he’s a vastly more compelling character. When you switch to Connor’s boyhood in a Mohawk village, the game grinds to a halt.

But the biggest problem is that the game doesn’t come together at all. You’re given a wide assortment of weapons and tools that you can completely ignore. There are hunting and trapping mechanics that you have to learn, but are never asked to repeat. You can recruit assassins, and they’ll give you extra tactical options, but you’re never pushed into doing it. There are military forts to be destroyed (which I quite enjoyed), but only because they’re there. There’s a whole crafting subsystem that I used long enough to make a nice dagger, then gave up on. And there are brawling challenges, hunting challenges, all sorts of optional things to chase down that I couldn’t be bothered with.

The only optional content I particularly cared for was the homestead missions. At several points in the game Connor invites various NPCs to settle around a manor he shares with his assassin mentor. These missions are pretty much the only ones in the game where you get to relax and help other people out, usually peacefully.

Which brings me to another complaint I have. Yeah, it’s a series of games about assassins. There’s always been a disconnect between the pile of bodies lying around you and the NPC thanking you for rescuing them. In this game it was just too much. A couple of times I helped out a lowly farmer by protecting him while he’s harvesting his crops, meaning he puttered around a field while I slaughtered dozens of redcoats who are attacking because the game says so. And then he thanks you graciously. I recognize that the primary verb of the game is “kill”, but that’s not what I want. I like playing non-violently as much as possible; if I’m fighting off the guards, it’s because I failed to be sufficiently sneaky.

I can see what they intended. There’s a lot of new stuff and content to keep players busy. But it’s bloated and lacks focus.

At least it’s pretty.

Haytham is up to evil, no doubt

Haytham is up to evil, no doubt

Connor was so cute when he was young.

Connor was so cute when he was young.

I'm on a boat!

I’m on a boat!

He knows he isn't going to win.

He knows he isn’t going to win.

This is what I wanted.  It just happens to be a sidequest.

This is what I wanted. It just happens to be a sidequest.

It could be worse. it could say "Press X to mourn".

It could be worse. it could say “Press X to mourn”.

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