Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Videogames are shit

Gamers put up with a lot of shit. Not shit for being gamers – though that, too – but shit from and in games themselves. We all know it: the great majority of games are witless retread junk garbage wastes of time for losers with no taste. Eggheads (like me, sometimes) can beak all they want about how games are a legit new art form bleah bleah bleah and draw comparisons to film, but the truth is that in all shared aspects of games and film – plot, dialogue, art direction, etc. – your average game is a million times shittier than your average movie (which is pretty fucking bad).

But we eat it up with a smile, because what else are we going to do? We praise some samey role-playing game about an orphaned boy finding his magic-orb destiny by eliminating some shadowy bad guy for its “involving storyline and engaging characters” when the same script in a film context would be basically barfed on. We play the same lame scenarios in the same boring locations against the same retarded enemies over and over and over again and pretend to like it. Is Hollywood “afraid to take risks”? The game industry is terrified to get out of bed in the morning, because almost every time it does, it loses money like an Alzheimers VLT addict with holes in her pockets. Gamers basically want to buy/do the same familiar things, over and over again. I guess this shouldn’t be surprising.

What really set me off this time was the fucking elements. I am so fucking sick of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. It’s pretty much a law that every RPG has to be based around this fucking ancient bullshit grid of ontological rock-paper-scissors, sometimes dressed up a little with some other metaphysical dualities – dark/light, etc. Without fail, these forces will be embodied in Orbs, Crystals or Talismans of some kind, each with an associated magical fairy or something. I was playing Lunar Knights when the dam burst; I saw that godawful little cartoon asshole pop up and introduce himself as the elemental (“Terrennial” in this case) of Light – I’d already met the spirits of Dark and Fire – and I yelled “Fuck you” to my DS and walked away. To hell with the elements, and to hell with the brainless “fantasy” consumers who can’t relate to anything else.

When will gamers quit eating the same shit, over and over? We’re like some kind of shit-eating Ouroboros, our mouths open beneath our own assholes. We want videogames to get some respect as an art form... but our money makes a game featuring a dude named “Marcus Fenix” and his cliché sci-fi Heavy Metal army weightlifter grunt buddies and their sub-Starship Troopers adventures into a dectuple-gold megahit. Our most wondrous flights of magical fantasy – those we don’t import from the psychotically formula-bound Japanese -- are Z-grade riffs on Toklien via Dungeons & Dragons, written and designed by nerds who think shirts with flames on them are the coolest things ever. “Brooding loner haunted by the past” stars in 80 per cent of titles, and any game without exploding barrels is fighting an uphill battle on the charts.

It’s so bad that anything even remotely departing from formula is hailed as genius innovation. Beyond its terrible beauty and thoroughgoing good taste, Shadow of the Colossus blew gamers' little minds because it actually made them wonder, for a second, whether their colossocidal little sword-dude was doing the right thing. In gameplay terms, Katamari Damacy was basically Mr. Do or Pac-Man… but we went crazy for it because – if you can believe it -- its art design didn’t come right off of a junior-high metalhead’s math binder or an manga nerd’s little sketchpad.

It’s only going to get worse. Games are big business, and the market is only going to expand, but the cost of producing a triple-A game to meet next-gen expectations is rising fast, so risks are even riskier. In the interests of financial safety, sequels, formula pieces, and "licensed" (ie. movie cash-in) games must rule. Making it worse is the fact games don’t get the same downstream revenue movies enjoy; any movie can eventually make its money back, but for a variety of reasons games have to bust the block immediately or they’re fucked forever. Indie games exist only on the fringes, their channels to success even narrower than those of indie film.

Exploding barrels, annual sports titles, wasp-waisted tit-racks, grimacing gun-men, mundane fantasy and juvenile writing -- that’s the now and forever of mainstream gaming. Videogames are pieces of shit... and I guess that's all gamers want or deserve.


Anonymous said...

This is why we have to go back to the basics, by which I mean Star Control II.


Anonymous said...

Pretty bleak. And while you were ranting about it, really, the only thing I could think about was Fallout and Deus Ex.

Sometimes it does pay off to take risks. Even if they were playing it safe a bit.

Sid Heart said...

Shit, you should get some pussy.