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Shock value and terrible writing: the future of gaming?
Editorial by 
Editor
October 28, 2009, 01:31:45
 
Games are looking more realistic and developers keep trying harder to excite their audiences but I'm finding that instead of them getting better, many are crossing a line of good taste and demonstrating just how shallow our talent pool of writers and directors is.

The march of technology should automatically improve games, shouldn't it? But instead of games rivalling film and literature in their ability to express ideas and emotions, the demands of the technology are instead exposing the juvenile, shallow and overall inarticulate nature of a lot of developers. Today, story and visual impact is valued as much as gameplay, but it doesn't feel to me like most developers are able to deliver.

For me, Resident Evil 5 was spoilt by the ignorant portrayal of Africa. Whether you could say it was unintentionally racist, blissfully unaware of the socio-politcal context of its imagery, or just laughably spun from crude Japanese stereotypes of black people and the continent, it was a disaster because it felt so dimwitted. Expensive, flashy and shocking, yes, but devoid of any creative integrity. Capcom had the budget and the tools to make something incredible, but either their ambitions or their skill as content makers failed them.

Bad content displayed in high defintion at 60 fps with blood physics and surround sound voice acting seems so much worse than bad content displayed in 8-bit pixels.

We all knew that as the generations went by, the violence that most games are based on would start to get more realistic and perhaps more uncomfortable to experience. As the graphics improve we expect deeper and more nuanced stories to go with them, to live up to what we see on the screen and to justify the violence, or better yet, flesh it out with other experiences. Unfortunately great ideas and great writing seem to be in short supply. Do developers have the right kind of directors and writers to achieve it? Is the talent there? Where it's lacking we'll see more and more games that rely on shock value to stand out, and that's unfortunately what I think we're seeing.

Take Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The game has a level in which you play a terrorist (or undercover agent with terrorists) shooting civilians inside an airport. The civilians in the crowded terminal are your only targets during this mission, and with state of the art graphics the crowds howl and scream as they try to run and are cut down by your hail of bullets or are picked off through the scope of your rifle. It's pretty shocking. If you haven't already seen the movies, you're bound to hear about it when the mainstream media picks up on it.

Maybe I'm just turning into Danny Glover and getting too old for this shit, but from what I've seen it's genuinely repulsive and it doesn't exist for any other reason than to cause controversy and to appeal to the anarchistic nature of teenagers. Let's be honest, Infinity Ward doesn't have the literary skills for this to be described as a commentary on world events, or a thought provoking interactive sequence - or any of the other things they will defend themselves with.


This seems to be the worrying formula:


Inherently violent game genres

+

increasing realistic graphics

+

densensitized gamers

+

crowded marketplace

+

mediocre developers desperate to stimulate them

=

Depressingly unsophisticated games clamoring for your attention with thoughtless graphic violence


I'm not bothered by the fact that artistically bankrupt games exist. It's that the gaming media seems to embrace them as being the core of gaming. Journalists write off the old guard, imaginative games like Mario platformers as being casual, kiddy, family, not for the core, meanwhile these clumsy, grisly epics are held up as the biggest releases of the year. They are the poster children of modern gaming, they're what people inevitably judge gaming by and so long as they do that, the medium won't progress.

Those games wouldn't stand a chance in hell of garnering respect in other mediums. MW2 wouldn't stand up against a double episode of 24, let alone a novel or film with actual depth. It's sad to me that we have so far to go.

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Posted: 10/28/09, 01:31:45    
 
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@Guillaume

And yet you responded!



Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 01:47:21
Mr_Mustache said:
@Jargon
@Guillaume

We probably just need more pictures of girls licking things. That'll make {most} everyone happier.

This.


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 02:01:02
@Guillaume

But it's the internet. Anyone can say anything about anything. If I'm in a game and then I tweet about how awesome it is to my hundreds of followers, is that a conflict of interest for Negative World? Let's say that Chobot completely left G4 and joined EA. She would still have as much influence on the people who listen to her opinions as she did before.


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 02:10:21
For Mustache:



Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 02:10:59
@Secret_Tunnel

But you ARE in a bunch of Wiiware games.

The whole conflict of interest thing really isn't that hard to grasp, I would think. If there is possible confusion about which persona you're speaking as, you need to clear it. It's the whole reason the people on the 8-4 Play podcast tell people when they've worked on a game they talk about. Full disclosure. As long as it's made clear that the person has some stake in the game, then it's fine. I can choose if I want to trust that person's opinion or not.

But not disclosing that stake is pretty much the same thing as concealing it. And it comes across as dishonest.

It's as if, I don't know, Nintendo hid the fact that it financed Nintendo Power. In one case I know I'm reading basically an advertisement, in the other hypothetical case, I don't.


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 02:19:41
@Jargon

Hey, its for Fink, too!

And "yesssssssssssssssssssssssss."


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 02:27:11
@Jargon

Gamer girl with two Wii Remotes.

Guillaume said:
@Secret_Tunnel

But you ARE in a bunch of Wiiware games.

lol


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 02:30:34


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 02:58:58


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 03:01:11
@DrFinkelstein

Hey I'm the one who posted it!


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 03:01:45
The writing in most games, ESPECIALLY ones with "serious" stories is fucking embarrassing. I love how critics are constantly clamoring to put gaming as an artform on par with movies and literature and then hold up a piece of shit (from a narrative perspective) like GTAIV and hail it as a "masterpiece on par with The Godfather". It's absolutely moronic.

Gaming needs to grow up if it ever wants the mainstream to take "serious" games as serious. Teenage action movie bullshit is about as grandiose as the plots get... and even that may be a stretch in many cases.

I love gaming however I'm finding the window of games that can actually hold my attention shrinking each year. As someone who generally bags on jrpgs, I must say that at least the Japanese in many cases realize the story is shit and make light of it.


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 05:06:51
I guess some people who aren't used to being critical thinkers might not see the issue of Chobot being on EA's payroll.


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 05:16:04
Guillaume said:
I guess some people who aren't used to being critical thinkers might not see the issue of Chobot being on EA's payroll.

Huh?


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 05:18:31
@Guillaume Fucking really? I don't really care too much about Jessica Chobot, but... what the fuck? That's ridiculous.

A lot of mainstream gaming journalism is fucking horrible, and this doesn't help it look any better.


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 05:38:38
@Oldmanwinter

The implication being Chobot/IGN would go easier on EA games.

A. I doubt Chobot has that much pull at IGN

and

B. It's not like Mass Effect 3 is going to be butchered in reviews.


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 09:10:02
I saw the Chobot thing, and yeah it's a little iffy, but IGN did say that she will not be doing any coverage of the game for them as a full disclosure, but either way, whatever. IGN, and many sites are laughable when it comes to "journalism". I hate gaming journalism really, it's a joke, and I do hope someone out there makes it more respectable than it is now; i.e. no fratboy mentality editors, journalists that actually went to school for journalism and are now applying it to gaming, critics that are paid to actually critique games, not journalists who also write reviews (I'm pretty sure Ebert doesn't cover who just landed a role in what and all that), etc.


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 10:01:33
Stephen said:
@Oldmanwinter

The implication being Chobot/IGN would go easier on EA games.

A. I doubt Chobot has that much pull at IGN

and

B. It's not like Mass Effect 3 is going to be butchered in reviews.

I said huh because I didn't have any idea what "Chobot" was. I had to Google it.


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 16:16:23
@Mr_Mustache
Now if you would only agree about fighting that Barroth!


Posted by 
 on: 02/02/12, 19:11:52
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