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Thursday, March 15, 2012

To Tell The Truth...I Cannot Lie

Have you ever heard of the Ace Attorney video game series, produced by Capcom?

Upon hearing the phrase “Ace Attorney”, you might assume that the main protagonists of the games are defense attorneys and prosecutors, and that the majority of the game takes place inside a courtroom.

Well, that assumption happens to be true. It is a game where you play as one of four lawyers, and your main goal is to produce evidence during trials that will help you get your client proven not guilty.

So, based on that description you might have the idea that the idea of having a game where you defend clients in a courtroom is one of the dullest, most boring ideas for a video game in the whole world, right?

Well, I say...or rather, Phoenix Wright says...

...ahem...thank you, Mr. Wright.

After playing a couple of these games (there's six total, five of which have been released in North America between 2001 and 2009), I've become a huge fan of the series. It's so much more than proving that your client is innocent. You get to see exactly what makes criminals tick. Why they act the way they do. Some of the people on the stand actually go through hilarious breakdowns as their little web of deception comes crashing down all around them. Knowing that it was you who caused the criminals to crack under pressure is incredibly satisfying.

I mean, let's face it. Some of these criminals were downright disturbing and were outed as cold-blooded killers. Why wouldn't you feel some pride in locking them behind bars? It may be a fictional setting, but the way the games are set up are incredibly real.

As I said, there are four main playable characters that you can control, based on the games that you play, although there are a couple of minor characters that make an appearance as well.

Probably the main character of the whole series is defense attorney Phoenix Wright, who really seems to grow with each case. He's featured as the main character in three of the six games, as well as a supporting character in a fourth. One thing that I noticed about Phoenix was just how much he grew as a person and as a lawyer. From his first case where he stumbled his way to a victory, to his penultimate case where he dominated the courtroom, he definitely proved himself to be a powerful attorney. Sure, there was one incident in which he was set up by another prosecutor, and he ended up losing his badge, but Phoenix never really lost his touch. His unique ability was that he could unlock secrets locked away in people's testimonies (the secrets being in the form of Psyche Locks). The more locks he unlocked, the closer he got to exposing the truth.

There's Apollo Justice, who is also a defense attorney, and much like Phoenix, he was a bit of a basketcase during his first trial, but managed to find a way to get through and develop his skills accordingly. He also had a unique ability to point out exactly when a person was lying on the stand. By using his bracelet, he could focus on little habits that witnesses did which outed them. It could be something simple like tugging on an ear, or fiddling with a page in a book (and yes, witnesses in this game can take everything from books to bowls of borscht with them on the stand), but if Apollo noticed it, he could really run with it. As of now, he only has one game where he is the star.

We also have Miles Edgeworth. Unlike Justice and Wright, Edgeworth became a prosecutor. Initially having the opinion that one had to have a perfect case to win, he changed his ways, and his stoic and defensive nature softened over time. Miles Edgeworth has two games in the series (one released in North America, one in Japan), and in both games, he actually takes on the role of investigator, investigating crime scenes to solve murders, robberies, arson attacks, and smuggling operations. His special power involves something called “Logic”. He can take two pieces of completely different evidence, and join them together to form a new conclusion. Once he has these new conclusions, he can use them to poke holes in the alibis of witnesses everywhere.

Finally, we have to give special attention to the late Mia Fey. She was a lawyer in the game, and although she never had a game of her own, she did take on the role of lawyer in a couple of Ace Attorney games. Tragically, her life was cut short when she was murdered in her own office...but just because her body might be dead didn't mean that her SPIRIT was.

Perhaps one of the biggest selling points for the games is that all six of them are connected to each other in some format, and all the main characters were connected to each other in some way. For instance, Mia Fey's second client was Phoenix Wright. Mia was also Phoenix Wright's mentor during his first trial. Coincidentally, Phoenix Wright eventually became a mentor to Apollo Justice when he began his law career. And, the reason why Phoenix Wright became a lawyer was to track down his childhood friend, Miles Edgeworth.

So, between all the Ace Attorney games, there's a really rich character background present in addition to the number of cases filled with background humour and double entendres...some being a bit sexual in nature, might I add.

(Don't worry...there's no nudity, and there's barely any swearing in the games...but they aren't exactly innocent either.)

So, now that you know a bit about the Ace Attorney series of video games, I bet you're wondering what this has to do with the confession that I am supposed to make on this and every Thursday. Well, I'm getting to that.

You see, part of the whole idea of the game series is to point out contradictions and lies in witnesses. When you spot the point in the game where you know that the witness is lying, you are supposed to press them at certain statements to reveal more testimony, and then present appropriate evidence that confirms that they are in fact, lying. It's a skill that requires a lot of work. Certainly during my first playthrough of Ace Attorney Investigations, I didn't have a perfect game. Far from it, actually. But, that was fine, because I knew that it was a game, and I could always restart the game and start again at the last save point to correct myself. In real life, it isn't quite so cut and dry. If I were a real lawyer, I can't very well walk out of the courtroom, lock the door behind me, and then come back in to start again. It would be pretty ridiculous, right?

But again, there's a reason why I never pursued a career in law.

THURSDAY CONFESSION #11-A: Unlike Phoenix Wright, Apollo Justice, Miles Edgeworth, and Mia Fey, I find it difficult to separate the truth from a barrage of lies. Though I've gotten less gullible over the years, I still find it hard tell the difference between fact and fiction.

(And, yes...this confession is in two parts!)

I don't have a fancy bracelet to hone in on people's habits. I don't have the ability to see Psyche Locks floating around people when they speak. I can't even say that my logic skills are as sharp as Miles Edgeworth's.

I have a horrible time determining whether people are telling the truth or lying through their teeth.

Well, all right, maybe my skills aren't THAT bad. I mean, if someone came up to me and told me that the sky was green, I'd be hard pressed to take them seriously. Or, if someone tried to tell me that they were eighteen when they clearly looked like they were seventy, they'd be pretty hard-pressed to convince me that they were telling the truth.

I'm talking about lies that are more...subtle.

If we just go back to the Ace Attorney games for a minute, would you like to know how long it took me to complete the first case (of which the first case of each game is a tutorial level)? It took me eight hours! Now, to some of you, that might not sound like a lot of time, but when you consider that hard-core gamers have completed the entire GAME in eight hours, that's not a great start.

Specifically, do you know which part of the game really threw me for a loop?

It was the cross-examination period. The one part in the game where you listen to the testimony of the witnesses, and your job is to go in and poke holes in their otherwise flawless alibis.

I admit that I completely sucked at that part. Half the time, I couldn't even figure out where the lie was. When I did spot the contradiction, I was at a loss as to what piece of evidence to present that best proved that they were lying. I ended up getting more “Game Over” screens than I really wanted to admit to.

I hate to say this, but to get through some of the harder cases, I actually used a cheat sheet in order to get through the cross-examination part of the game. That's how terrible I am at picking out lies.

And, that's just a video game! Could you imagine how bad I am at picking out lies in the real world with real people? When I was younger, it was absolutely difficult for me.

In fact, I'm sorry to say that when I was in my school years, I was quite gullible as a kid.

Take the example where kids promise to be your best friend at recess so that they can get their hands on your Oreo cookies, and then once they got what they wanted, went right back to teasing you. You'd think that after the first time, I'd get the point and see through the lies, and never trust them again. But no, this continued on for the whole school year, with me thinking that they would warm up to me. But it was the same. They loved me until the cookies were gone and then they ditched me. But, it was a lesson in trust that I had to learn the hard way.

I also remember a moment in which a couple of kids tried to convince me that I hadn't done my homework that was due in class that day. If I remember correctly, it was a project on snow and ice. It was an activity booklet that I knew that we worked on only during class time. There was no need for us to bring the project home because we only worked on it in class. But yet these two rotten boys had told me that on the day that I was sick the week before, the teacher had told us that the last two pages had to be done for homework. Naturally, the snow and ice project was to be turned in to be marked the very day they told me, and here I was with two blank pages at the end of the book that had nothing on them. I think I grabbed a blue crayon in my haste and started drawing random pictures of igloos to make it look complete before I handed it in.

It wasn't until the teacher handed back our projects that the truth came out. I was the only one who completed the last two pages in the booklet. We hadn't even covered that section in class. And, yet, here I was...the only one in the class who did the last two pages. I felt like an idiot, and I imagine those two boys in the class really thought they were smart for pulling the wool over my eyes. But, then when it came time to complete the booklet, I watched with glee as everyone else in the class did the work that I had done two days earlier. It was almost the perfect karmic retribution.

Even as an adult, I still get tripped up by telling the difference between truth and lies. You know those television shows that sometimes air on the History Channel, or the Syfy Network that have the programs on urban legends? They have three stories that air, each one more unbelievable than the next, and your job is to determine whether the stories are real, or fake. The shows are entertaining, and I admit that I have fun guessing...but unfortunately, watching those shows, I can't seem to tell the difference. Every story that they prove as being false I actually believed happened!

Though admittedly, as I grow older, I grow wiser as well. I'm definitely not as bad as I used to be when it comes to acting in a gullible fashion. I find that I'm much less apt to trust people at their word, especially when it comes to meeting them for the first time. I guess like the characters on the video games that I brought up earlier in this post, I find it a bit easier to tell when certain people are telling me fibs. One way that I can tell when certain people are trying to pull one over on me is through facial expressions. I've noticed that if someone is telling me a lie, they never look at me directly in the eye. Their gaze is almost always to the side, or towards the ceiling or floor. But, it's never direct eye contact. And unless they have a really bad case of lazy eye, chances are that the story they are telling me is not true.

But when the shoe is on the other foot, I find that my poker face is quite terrible.

Um...thank you Lady Gaga, but that's not quite the poker face that I was talking about. I'm talking about the second part of my confession.

THURSDAY CONFESSION #11-B: I make a terrible liar.

I'm absolutely serious about this too. I find it incredibly difficult to tell least in face to face interactions.

As someone who wants to be a published writer, I imagine the ability to stretch the truth can come in handy when it comes to plotting out character traits and plot devices. And, I most certainly have had people telling various fibs in any pieces that I have written that are not blog related. But when it comes to trying to tell a lie in front of someone face to face, I just can't do it. I don't know what signals I myself give off, but somehow, I always manage to get caught. I make a horrible liar.

I would do absolutely terrible in the game of poker. My bluff face simply isn't that good no matter how hard I try. I understand the mechanics behind poker. I know the difference between a royal flush and a full house. I can tell the difference between a club and a spade, and I do know that a King is a more valuable card than a Jack. What I lack is the ability to hide my disgust over a bad hand, or glee over a good hand. People can read me like a book. I can pretend to act like I have a hand that is totally contradictory to the one I really have, but it is to no avail. I somehow always manage to have people see right through my bluff, and I always lose the hand. Because I'm incapable of lying during a poker game.

Note to all of you. If you are playing poker, please don't invite me...unless you actually want all my money.

That's not a joke, by the way.

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