I've Got to be a Macho Man

Kieron Gillen | 13 May 2008 20:17
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Therein, of course, lies the problem.

Serious gamers have a problem with embracing the concept of unvarnished juvenalia - unless there's an out. They're typically eager to escape from the popular perception of games as entertainment for teenagers - especially if they're teenagers themselves. Gears of War's serious-men-with-chainsaws formula? That's the most petrifying thing in the world; it's the last thing they want associated with them.

There are notable exceptions to this rule, however. Games like Devil May Cry get a pass because objecting to its aesthetic reveals yourself to be culturally illiterate, the sort of RPG fan who'd reject a Final Fantasy game on the grounds of characters using too much hairspray. But the double standard is kind of obvious - they find redeeming value in another culture's juvenalia while rejecting wholesale their own. Juvenalia with a sense of exoticism passes the test on its exoticism alone.

Game critics' dogged insistence that games are more than a teenage pursuit reveals some fascinating conflicts. A serious gamer who rejected a proper Mario title (not Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, mind you) just because of childish graphics would be ridiculed by his peers. Miyamoto worship has become so ingrained in our critical dogma that no one seriously considers arguing against it. There's never been a need for teenage games to be defended, if only because the ones who are most aggressive towards kiddie games are those self-same teenagers. But as the demographic grows older, it's about time we actually considered the visceral wonders of those angsty years as a possible source of as much delight as the more innocent pre-teen ones explored by Miyamoto, et al. Because it's fun to saw someone in half and watch his guts spray everywhere.

Hopefully you've seen the incredible Edgar Wright comedy, Hot Fuzz. It's an affectionate satire of Hollywood action films. Stress the "affectionate." While it relishes the absurdity of transplanting the "jumping through the air while shooting" tropes of high-octane summer blockbusters to a small West Country hamlet, it has nothing but love for all things Keanu. A key scene has super-cop Nicholas Angel and bumpkin Danny Butterman drunkenly bonding over their mutual love of Point Break and Bad Boys II. As stupid as those movies are as works of art, they're wonderfully stupid, the kind of stupid that feeds a real human need. After all, man does not live on Proust alone.

So, yes, Gears of War is pretty gay, and Felix and Dom probably have testosterone-producing glands the size of grapefruits. But that doesn't mean we can't appreciate its adolescent charm. When I heard My Chemical Romance for the first time in 2006, just as Gears arrived, I knew that if I were 12 years old, they'd be the most important band on Earth. Now, in my early 30s, they're the funniest. And I'm fine with it, either way.

I think we should feel exactly the same about Gears of War.

Kieron Gillen has been writing about videogames for far too long now. His rock and roll dream is to form an Electro-band with Miss Kittin and SHODAN pairing up on vocals.

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