The Big Picture: Combat Evolved?

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I've only skimmed through bits of the discussion, but from what I've seen, the following point hasn't been addressed.

I think the reason that the "Us vs. Them" storyline is so pervasive in our culture is that it's an inherent part of humanity. I'm not saying that it's a good or positive thing, but I'm saying that it is part of our species' survival traits. For 95% of time that humans have been on the planet Earth, we've lived in band societies. It was in the interest of your tribe/clan/etc that the group should care more about themselves than about other tribes/clans/etc. This is a trait that would have been reinforced over the evolution of pre-human Homo species, who were also social groups that survived by cooperation.

No only is "Us vs. Them" part of human evolution, it's how human's themselves acted for 95% of their time on Earth. It's no wonder that it's such an inherent part of our culture.

Once again, I'm not saying that "Us vs. Them" is a valid viewpoint. If a global society is to function at all, we're going to have to overcome a lot of inherent prejudices and societal biases. This is simply one of the worst/most pervasive of them.

I tried to find a topic on "Us vs. Them" on TV Tropes, but I gave up after the site threatened to swallow the rest of my morning.

After having gone to bed and got up, and reading this thread the morning after, i think it's pretty clear that 90% of the posters are unanimous, Bob has lost some of his credibility on this one. That's the overall vibe i'm getting from these 20 pages.
The community here seems pretty docile and reasonable too, they argue their points without attacking Bob personally, which i think is great as i freikin' love Bob, just not this episode.
I'm hoping Bob is going to read at least some of this, and learn something from the arguments presented to him, becoming a better reviewer in the process.

We love ya Bob, just learn what you can from this thread and use it to make your reviews even better!

Anyone who doesn't seem to get it should just read this:

<wrong link will fix later, it's the concept of "The Other" in pyschology>

It's an ingrained part of the human psyche that we don't like things that are different than us. For example: Strip away years of built up social guilt and political correctness and you'll find that everyone is a racist, no matter how vehemently they deny it or try to hide it behind the above guises.

Thats quite a view you have on things though.
Interesting show that i might watch weekly.

Combat Evolved?

This week MovieBob rants about Halo.

Watch Video

The unfortunate side effects of form following function, as well as "accidental storytelling."


In video games, particularly those that surround primarily a single protagonist, the villains are far more interesting and diverse. While, in this case, it can confuse the "message" of the narrative, I think the actual reasons are simpler:

1) If you play the single protagonist, you spend most of the game not seeing yourself, so there's no real emphasis on making you visually striking. Particularly in a first-person game.

2) Villains must be visually very diverse so that players can, from a casual glance, tell the difference and gauge the associated strengths and weaknesses based on established tropes in the genre. (Little guys are weak, but numerous. Big guys with swords are stronger and more durable. Red guys use fire, or whatever.)

3) As most of the weapons you'll use are collected from enemies, it will always be the case that the enemies have far more variety in terms of armament, while the guys on "your side" will be using same-y default stuff most of the time.

4) Aiming for the lower end of the middle of the population, you want to ensure that your players can readily relate to the tools they'll be using. That means things will generally look like items we're already familiar with, so we can approximately guess that this gun functions as a pistol, while this one functions as a sniper rifle. Far more liberties can be taken with alien technology, which usually means enemy technology (since people usually prefer to play people).


I think that explains the dichotomy of the "homogeneous good guys" against "heterogeneous bad guys." As far as bad or bland characterization, that usually owes to it all being an afterthought. Programmers create games. Your mechanic doesn't usually also do paint jobs and sound systems, because he's wrapped up in all of the nuts-and-bolts aspects of the vehicle. Stories are tacked on to the game mechanics.

That's not to say they create the math and then pick characters. It's just that choosing a setting is not the same as crafting a story. The story usually has to be applied to the setting afterward... and this usually involves subconsciously referencing tried-and-true formulas from stories we've encountered in the past.

And, as you've discovered, when you're not fully aware of the implications of your narrative, you can "accidentally" create a whole lot of subtext--much of it not favorable. It's hard to intentionally create good subtext, so it's exponentially more difficult for any good subtext to accidentally find its way into the story.

The less intentionality there is behind the narrative (and, by extension, the characterization), the more likely it is that things will revolve around old tropes, which in turn often play dangerously close to old stereotypes. Using old stereotypes rarely results in creating something profound, especially if it's unintentional.

The best stories are those written by folks who are fully aware of the expectations, biases, stereotypes, and other emotional elements the story will be accessing in the reader (or viewer, or player). Not just on the surface level, but well underneath, even recognizing that half the audience may never be aware of some of these elements. The folks writing this story (Halo, as a whole) are just strumming a few of the standard emotional chords, realizing most of their target audience are not looking for an epic chock full of symbolism.

It's unfortunate when companies expect so little from their audiences. It shows lazy development (in the story department), a mild condescension toward the player, and an unwillingness to fully engage the medium in all its dimensions.

*sigh* if only that impressed me. im sad now. wont keep watching it.

Congratulations, MovieBob. You've figured out something I figured out when Halo Two was still in it's baby years.
Good big entrance.

*sigh* if only that impressed me. im sad now. wont keep watching it.

Same for me.

I like some of his movie reviews, the ones where he isn't obsessed with Hit girl or Scarlett Johansson.

But this felt like he was just reaching for shadows, trying to stir a pot already done.

I wonder if he really believes what he says, or is just trying to sound original. Either way, I didn't enjoy this.

hmm. well I agree of what you said, bob.

I find the story okish but not as great as i hoped but more felt abit bittersweet from begaining to end, the main charatcers arn't as intresting or thay seem deadish (if you see what I ment) and the gameplay was good in single player but alot better for multiplayer and extras.

The first halo game to me was alot better. it disen't tell much what spartins really are for the game thats from the book and the game seem to feel different then other titles from other games. just I wasen't really expeacting to see a prequel and found it alittle unessesary.

I can understand how extreme that the backgrounds of the SPARTAN Project and the UNSC can be. bit like Cerberus on expeirments on childran to bio weapons from mass effect.

Overall, halo background to me is similer to soldier, universal solder and starship troopers.
while halo reach is similer to , 300 and the Alimo.

hope my writing is clear enough to you ladies and gentleman to understand and see what i'm trying to say, aswell as you too, sir bob.

Thank you for reading my post.

And true. Covenant>UNSC

The Covenant are more interesting, that's why you see far more of them during the games than you do people

Holy S#$T Bob. 20 pages of comments already......maybe your employers aren't so crazy. I'll certainly keep watching this new segment. Especially since I'm still trying to recover from the film festival from last week. Your about 500% more interesting to listen too then what I saw there.

I am feeling a bit like "big picture" is "big to do about nothing" in some ways. An interesting view, and at least he did not speak about conscious motives toward monoculture. I always thought the whole problem with the covenant was centred on the idea that they were trying to wipe humanity out if they couldn't subjugate them completely.

Perhaps I am wrong on this one though.

Sorry, you lost me when you say "but ignoring the context, my point is valid".

That scene with the blue eyes is very creepy indeed.
Reminds me of Dragonball, where everybody who goes "super" becomes a blonde, blue-eyed super human.
That also always seemed rather odd to me.

That's from Halo Reach itself or some Halo movie or something?

I have two words for you sir.

[BLAM] yeah!

Yep, not only Halo but Uncharted, army games and other stuff. In fact the game industry flirts with racism, fascism, xenophobia, sexism.

I understands bob's point, but like he critically thinks about this idea of "the master race" arming up against the agglomeration of mixed societies, i thought about it in a different way.

When i saw halo i depicted it as the "Human Race" coming together, any color, any culture, any religion, any language; in order to survive and protect the "Human Race" best interest. I mean in todays society in were we are all culturally divided, listening to a Hispanic soldier cursing in Spanish while I was kicking some covenant ass made me feel the joy of togetherness, even the setting of the game indicate that the world of "Humans" became more culturally involved. The earth part of the game takes place in Africa... and you see huge buildings, technology, and advancement. The fact that we made it out of Planet Earth, alive, and were able to colonize other planets shows that there had to be a big level of cultural acceptance, after all the only way to progress in the real world is to connect with other cultures and other people and help each other up one by one. At the end the game example of the "Human Race" shows us that a practice of Globalization as it is intended to be used was achieved by that "Human" society to an extent that they were able to unite even before the Covenants started to invade.

And about the blue eyes, that can also be misinterpreted, the color blue does not give the mark of the Arian race, bold cuts doesn't indicate that he is a white supremacist, that just shows the military protocol they had, just like other countries have these days. I know that his eyes turned blue and not any other color, but if by any chance the eyes would have turned another color, lets say Red, what would you and other people might have thought... He is the representation of a Demon?

By the way, i respect everyones opinions this i just the way i see it and i believe everyone has different ways of looking at this.

I think the video felt way too short. Just as it felt like you were really starting to dig deeper, the video ended.


<wrong link will fix later, it's the concept of "The Other" in pyschology>

I believe Dr Morris Massey touches on that subject; about when we grow up and have to meet people who are different from what we're use to.

Come to think of it, Bungie indeed played on human's fear of diversity... on humans fascist nature. Not the first time someone takes advantage of it.

The way i see it is that while ZP is for punching at individual games, Big Picture is for punching at almost anything. As said in the video, as it happens. Also mentioned in the video his first rant was about Halo because he wanted it to draw attention, and seeing that ive just posted on the 20th page of this thread, mission accomplished.

While I never really liked Halo for anything it did, at all, ever, I never really had a justifiable reason for it, until i watched this video which pointed out what I only gave a passing thought to at first. Good going Bob, cant wait for the next one.



and that is why I never trust anybody who says they find symbolism in anything. I only trust what the author says. Symbolism is too subjective and can easily be skewed to your viewpoint. If you're looking for something you'll find it somewhere. I wish I could find the post that someone posted on here before analyzing the symbolism in Snakes on a Plane, it went into a lot of detail on how its about the eternal struggle of Adam and Eve verses sin and technology. It shows why I dont trust symbolism.

If you ever wanted to know what "reading too much in to something" is - watch this clip :)

And 'yes' that is really all I'm going to say on this clip. I could start my arguments on how the aliens were obviously created diverse as they were the enemy and you see them on screen more than any other thing and that the Spartans were created so uniformly because of memory constraints in the original game, or that you could take any other game (book or movie for that fact) and create a similar theory about those too - but I'm not even going to bother.

Bah, bullshit I say.

Can it not just be a gameplay mechanic? Big burly dudes are hard to kill, Little guys practically explode when you sneeze, and the rest is somewhere in between?


The Journey:
Reach has been the best Halo game to date ... plot wise.

This is about where I realized you have no idea what you're talking about.

Wonderful. I have played all of the Halo games to date and I understand most of the back story, and it's derivative. The reason Reach is the best game plot wise to date is that it has some actual characters in it. Some people for you to relate to or be interested in, something to draw in the observer and make them give a crap. No it doesn't do it well, but it tries for the first time in a Halo game, ever. I mean really tries.

Do I have a word for word knowledge of the entire Halo universe? No, and I don't need to in order to form my opinion on it, and this is it.

I liked it, except for the solemness of it all. Drop the faces, they don't add ANYTHING to it. Change the back round color to something a little more bright, and have a slightly better M.O. for your characters, so it is instantly recognizable as your show (ala white stick figures on yellow back round). Please do this, it will make your show a lot better in times to come.

I liked it. It was insightful, just not as insightful as extra credits, and it filled my video gap from Monday and Wednesday. Keep up the work movie bob.

Personally, I think you're looking at this too deeply. I know you have the name "game over-thinker" but the whole diversity may not be for any underlying tones of hate of mixture, rather than a method of convieniently identifying "which alien will kill me faster." Similar to TF2s character designed where a quick silouette glance can tell you all you need to know about what's attacking you and how, having a diverse set of enemies is a good way to streamline threat assessment, which can be the difference between mission complete and 30 minutes of time wasted going nowhere.

It's not just in FPS, Mario's enemies are a very diverse bunch and that helps you decide what to do (if it requires a method other than jump on it) and how they will try to mercilicley rob you of all the fauna you collected (fire flowers). RTS series often feature various infantry types so you know who to use to shoot down the big "screw you" zepplin hastely aproaching your construction yard. RPG games have vastly different human enemies so you can again: decide who to target first.

It does tend to make the villains more interesting than the heroes from a visual standpoint but hey, what can you do?

If you're going to cling to this interpretation of the Halo story and follow it to it's logical conclusion then it absolutely bears mentioning that Halo 3, the installment in which the UNSC is finally victorious, finds the humans joining forces with the Elites. Ultimately, humanity is only able to achieve victory when it puts aside its prejudices and sacrifices some of its cultural "purity" in favor of diversity and cooperation.

And that's

Fantastic show and nice style.

Furthermore i feel that i should point out that the Covenant tried to perform genocide on human-kind because "they were weak and not worthy". Just saying. He does have a point though...

Dastardly describes beautifully what I was about to say...

While I was intrigued by Movie Bob's analysis, it was definitely a symptom of over-analysis. If you played the original Halo, you will see how the story was a lot simpler and humorous. Bungie didn't take the Halo storyline seriously until the second game, and only because they saw how popular the first game became.

It is like when people go into deep thought trying to figure out why Nintendo made Mario a plumber with a mustache, and forget that back in the 80s it was the only way to make the character look like it had a nose and clothing given the limited number of pixels available. Or when people ramble about how the technology of the beam transport in Star Trek came about, and forget that it was simply a TV show budget solution so as not to have a shot of a space ship landing every time the cast had to land on an alien planet.

"Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe."

an excellent first video. I enjoy bob's work about his movies that he observes so intelligently (it's all in middle style, but it's still very solid rhetoric regarding its points) and I'm excited he has a new show out that addresses a larger range of things. I can't wait to see what else is to come of this.

Ya, I think most people here have it at least partially right. I've played all the Halo games, but I can see what might lead Bob to concluding what he did if he's only ever played Halo CE and Reach. I'll keep watching the show, and I usually like what Bob has to say (I'm a fan of his GameOverthinker series as well) but I hope next time he sticks to a franchise/genre he's more familiar with. He does raise some valid points about the franchise, but I think he takes it a bit to the extreme.


Seriously, I'm not a huge Halo fan, largely because I don't like the gameplay style of bunny hopping around and BXR'ing people with perfect four-shots. It's simply a test of thumb dexterity requiring very minimal strategy or stealth. Even the active-camo in reach announces your presence by messing up the radar.

My point is that anyone who has played Halo 2 and 3 will know that the entire series is a staunch criticism of religious fanaticism. The 'Great Journey' that the covenant wants to start is actually the activation of an ancient super-weapon that will wipe out all life in the galaxy, but they're too fanatical to realize this.


There is no place for discussion or democracy in warfare, if you do not follow orders strictly then you will die. When the entire human race is embroiled in a fight to survive it would NECESSARILY become fascist.

Also the spartan program is not the highest ambition of human children, it is a clandestine program that had huge moral outcries against it. Once again, a completely false characterization.

One more thing... If Halo was so anit-multiculturalism, then why did Sgt. Johnson/Master Chief and the Arbiter become friends and fight alongside one another? I took that as a CLEAR message of multiculturalism; of two very different people coming together to fight for a common purpose.


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