Quit It, Gaming Edition

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Quit It, Gaming Edition

If games stopped doing the following things, MovieBob would be very, very happy.

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Good article, I never even thought about some of this stuff.

edit=also first! :)

yeah, I've gotten a little bored of personality-deficient Mary-Sues in gaming as well. For stuff like Mass Effect and Dragon Age I can sorta understand it, but I'd still like to have a more fleshed out character instead of a granite block who I'm expected to relate to (looking at you, Gordon Freeman/Master Chief/Chell/Delta/Jack/Doom Marine) which by itself it's impossible for me to do BECAUSE I KNOW THAT'S NOT ME. It's why I much prefer characters like Fei Fong Wong, Aya Brea, Ashley Riot, Cloud Strife, and Denam Pavel; they're fleshed out, interesting, and flawed.

And yes, we need to get rid of the asshole comedy; Nathan Drake IS NOT FUNNY.

Interesting article, while I've disagreed with you in the past about the state of first person shooters, I'm surprised by how much you and I agree on what's wrong with storytelling and gameplay elements with modern video games

I agree 100%. That is all.

The fact that Bob need's to explain his Billy Joel reference, makes me feel very very old.

Half-aside, but thank you for bringing in Angry Young Man to the discussion - it's one of my favourite songs right now precisely because it completely skewers the entire concept of an "angry young man" - he's really not that popular and he won't really be successful, it's the whole point of the song.

I've quoted it repeatedly in the past to get out of political discussions I don't want to get dragged down in. I once believed in causes too.

On the subject of the lack of characterisation, maybe I'm not the right person to ask (because I am definitely not a mainstream gamer-type), but one of the whole reasons I get into games is to be someone who is not me. Well-written games (there are some) with actually fleshed-out characters let me play and see through someone else's eyes. The one that comes to mind, annoying as it'll be to many people, is FF8's Squall. He wasn't terribly likable or really all that appealing. For that reason I liked playing as him because he didn't react the way I would have. If I wanted to approach everything the way I normally would, well, I have Real Life for that.

Man, I hate prophecies. It's one of the many reasons I stopped reading epic fantasy novels about 10 years ago. The only book that handled a prophecy in a way I liked was Raymond E. Feist's A Darkness at Sethanon:

And by definition, any story with a "Chosen One" is using prophecy, so I'm sick of those too. Why can't game heroes do things because it's the right thing to do, or because it's their job, or because they're getting paid?

And as I get older, I find the coming-of-age, young man angry-at-the-world protagonists less and less appealing. It's hard to relate to a Luke Skywalker or a Holden Caulfield when you're in your 30s. I find a Rick Blaine type (Casablanca) more appealing: a former idealist turned cynical by an unfair and uncaring world, who's given one more chance at being a hero and takes it.

The entire general concept of having that character I'm supposed to "identify with" just pisses me off. Going back to Bob's "Conspiracy Weary" episode of Big Picture: Reality fuckings sucks. Why the hell do I want to be constantly reminded of that when I play video games and movies, the very existence of these things are for helping people escape from their dull existences.

That, and good drugs are way too expensive.

IDK, I liked the Pipe Dreams in Bioshock. It would bring a lull to the action when I was freaking out. That's just me, though. I don't play a lot of shooters, and they can freak me out. Prey, anyone? Freaky.

I do agree on the characterization. I am a 30-something woman. If I'm going to have to play as a man, and I do a lot, I want to play as a specific man with a story. I liked following the story of Niko Bellic, and Tommy in Prey. I find it difficult to pour myself into a non-character with hairy man-hands.

hmmm...some interesting stuff there bob.
I definitely agree with the whole "divine prophecy" bit. It's overused in game stories, and just serves to justify whatever ridiculous quests the player has to do.

However one of the best games which has subverted (sort of) this issue is in Morrowind. The entire game is based upon a prophecy, but instead of being called the chosen one, and having everybody recognise you as such, and then map out the rest of your needed actions, being the prophesied Nerevarine is something which has to be attempted, tried, and overcome. Half the important NPCs only say "you MIGHT be the chosen one" i.e. you can be the one if you WANT to. In addition, you meet various people who failed to attain the prophesied one status, but it is made clear that they could have become the Nerevarine if they had worked harder, not that they weren't the chosen.

I just think that it was a really novel approach to the whole prophesy idea, and one which works really well with both the "you can do whatever you want" design philosophy of the TES games as well as the very postmodern world which you inhabit in the game (you rarely find out the absolute truth about what goes on, and NPCs often say incorrect things as truth because they believe them!)

either way, this approach would only really work in an open world RPG, and in a more linear story the standard "you are the chosen one" crap is more prevalent, and it really shouldn't be.

To be fair when the line "I am no man" was spoken in the cinema it was so awesome my oestrogen production went up by like 1000%

Aiddon:
And yes, we need to get rid of the asshole comedy; Nathan Drake IS NOT FUNNY.

Hey...I liked Drake's Marco Polo joke

Anyways, I can understand where Bob's coming from with most of these, but I happen to like flashing strikes at times, depending on the way it's used. Like in Wind Waker where the music and lights flash with each hit. Same with Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

I agree on some of this. Allow me to take it point by point:

"Gasp! It was The Russians ALL ALONG!"
Indeed this has had me go: "doh" rather often. Can't we come up with something different. One of the reason (many many reasons)I so like the fallout series is because one of the pivotal events in the backstory is when the US annexes Canada. Why can't americans be the bad guys? Or how about it. Couldn't some monumental event spark hostility. Does it have to be the commies every time? (yes yes I know: Nazies but come on)

Blanky McEveryman: Savior of Worlds

I agree here though I don't agree on the use of master chief here. My problem is that it is often Everyman that goes on to save the world, while master chief is something to be recond with. In the opening of the first game the question is raised on wether it is really wise to let Master Chief loose. Also master chief has a voice and personality. A rather one dimensional personality but a personality none the less. In Doom 3 on the other hand: Nothing. You are just a marine. There are no references to you being anyone or anything special. Other marines get killed of rather easily but you apparently just located the on switch of your bad-ass-device. The perfect example of this done right (in my book) is Shepard. You are a bad-ass nearly without peer. You are presented as the best the human race has to offer AND you have a personality.

"Who locks a door with a #@&$! Rubik's Cube?"

This one I don't agree on. Adding minigames for taskes like that is fine to me. It breaks up the action and gives you a bit of a breather. Also if these things where not in there we would just have another quick time event and I would rather play a game then do a quick time event.

Hail Mary, Full of Exposition

on this I have no opinion. Move along.

He's a one-man prophecy-fulfillin' machine!

This on I agree on. Why do profecies always come true? Why can't they be false. And why is there always just one? Couldn't there be contradicting profecies. There is some meat to play with here do something. I will however say i always liked the whole be-mindfully-of-the-wording profecies like the one with the witch king. Another example would be from Buffy. in an episode she is up agains a demon that apparently can't be hurt by any weapon forged. So she uses a rocket on him as technically that wasn't forged. I like the kind fo profecies where you are not technically the chosen one BUT you just happen to be the perfect counter to the evil ones power.

The rest of your points I either don't have an oppinion or have not clue what your on about so I am gonna leave them out (I am lazy so sue me).

I never understood what you have against Nathan Drake. Sure he's a bit of a jerk, but that's part of the reason why he works so well, he fits perfectly into the context and tone of the game. Ah well, everyone's allowed an opinion I guess.

Also, it's worth noting that there's nothing wrong with blank slate characters as a concept, if the game designers know how to work them it's really effective (see: Half-Life 2). It's just that 90% of the silent protagonists are there because of lazy writing, which is balls.

Good article. I'm pretty much in agreement with all of it.

Out of all of them, the ones that REALLY grind my gears the most have to be #1 (Russians) and the second-to-last (nathan drake).

I really don't understand why so many game developers are stuck in the cold war when it comes to writing a story. Enough with the damn Russians already! I think there were like 5 major titles last year where the ultimate villain was Russian. The one redeeming thing about Medal of Honor was that your enemies were at least a realistic and different one (well, in name, I dunno about portrayal since I never played it).

As for constand-wise-cracking heroes, yeah it's f'ing obnoxious as hell. Especially since a) the "comedy" is really crappy and obvious and hackneyed, and b) all of the remarks are putting others down and none are self-depricating. So the "hero" just looks like this smarmy douchebag that in any other real-life circumstance you would absolutely hate and want to punch in the ballsack. God, the dialogue in Uncharted drove me up the wall. Everyone compares those games to amazing film experiences, but if they were films they would be crappy b-movies that get universally panned by critics, or possibly just some for-tv shit on SyFy.

Russian? Isn't the USA is the real Evil Empire? War crimes, moral degradation... Perfect villain.

Sabrestar:
Half-aside, but thank you for bringing in Angry Young Man to the discussion - it's one of my favourite songs right now precisely because it completely skewers the entire concept of an "angry young man" - he's really not that popular and he won't really be successful, it's the whole point of the song.

I've quoted it repeatedly in the past to get out of political discussions I don't want to get dragged down in. I once believed in causes too.

Fair enough, but what seems to be implied by the song and your comment is that you don't believe in any causes at all. which is both impossible and a very sad point of view from which to lead your life (i.e: nothing i do matters anyway)

Also, i really don't see that many of these types of characters. for example, i can't speak to infamous' protagonist as i haven't played that (though i believe you could chose whether he was evil or not.), but i always interpreted alex mercer (prototype) more as an evil bastard and psychopath than a very principled individual.

Some very nice points made. I ended up agreeing with everything bar the glowing weapons complaint. A lot of criticisms I didn't realise but was aware of if that makes sense.

The world is full of bad guys. No one group, no not even the Nazis, was made up of 100% evil people and no group is made up of 100% good people. The Russians are praised for pushing the Germans back all the way to Berlin, but there are countless accounts of Russian soldiers raping axis women TO DEATH during said war.

This black and white we're good they're evil thing is childish.

I'd love to see a game where you play as a Nazi soldier who struggles with his desire to fight for his country even though he doesn't believe in the Nazi propaganda. Which many of them didn't. Oh Fox News would ride such a game to death.

Agreeing with most of what you say here Bob. There is some trouble with that thing you said about so many main characters just being blank slates though...

Trouble is, in order to give your protagonist a fleshed out personality (which includes subtle movement and facial expressions as well as dialouge) and back story of their own, you would have to present most of it in the form of cut scenes. And as we all know, this would lead to all the Valve fanboys running back and forth across the internet screaming "WAAAHHH! IT HAS CUT SCENES WAAAAHHH! IT'S NOT HALF LIFE OR PORTAL WAAAHHH!" Don't get me wrong, I love portal and am fond of half life as well, but Jesus these guy's annoy me.

Also, that whole thing you said about MC and Cortana's relationship being chaste because "to do otherwise would make him weak and her tainted"... Umm, I think it might have slightly more to do with the fact that she is a computer chip, so sex would be pretty impossible there. Think you might have over thought that just a little bit... again.

The Russians are the new Nazi's, both can be universally hated on without. Everytime they try to make the Bad Guy someone else, they get yelled at, i.e. the Medal of Honor debacle. Even Homefront is more or less the russians. XD except in the case of Homefront, making them Russian actually makes more sense than the completely defunct/broke nation of North Korea. Kudos to Kaos for thinking outside the box tho.

Pipe Dream in Bioshock was retarded. Lockpicking in Oblivion was Brilliant.

every else Sure i can use without. Not that im all that peeved that they are there right now XD

Your prophecy example sounds like a a self-fulfilling prophecy. Though I don't have a concrete example at the moment, I don't think they're all that new.

As for a weapon''s light trails: how about swaths of blood trailing a strike when hitting enemies? It might add a nice visceral/brutal touch to combat.

I'm not sure why you picked Infamous as an example at the end. That guy seemed like he had pretty good reasons to be angry and distrustful: He got framed for blowing up the city, three different super-powered secret organizations wanted him dead, and the various covert government agencies wanted to use him in their internal political struggle. He certainly didn't seem like he was just being angry and waving a cause around while ignoring reality to me.

Saxnot:

Fair enough, but what seems to be implied by the song and your comment is that you don't believe in any causes at all. which is both impossible and a very sad point of view from which to lead your life (i.e: nothing i do matters anyway)

Granted, that's a fair criticism. Honestly, I use the line more to get out of an uncomfortable discussion. I have my causes, I just prefer to fight more quietly, from the shadows, as it were. But it could easily be taken too far, as you suggest. And it's good to be reminded not to give up. Thanks.

Saxnot:

Also, i really don't see that many of these types of characters. for example, i can't speak to infamous' protagonist as i haven't played that (though i believe you could chose whether he was evil or not.), but i always interpreted alex mercer (prototype) more as an evil bastard and psychopath than a very principled individual.

I don't see many of them either, honestly. Perhaps that's why FF6 is still the high point of the series for me, particularly in Celes' emotional struggles. I haven't played many recent games, to be truthful, so I'm not the best person to talk. I still find gems in odd places though, such as Iji, which for an indie game has some pretty darn involved characterisation (and I haven't even finished it yet!) I feel very involved in her character when I pick up the game, and I can feel how uncomfortable she is.

MovieBob:
If games stopped doing the following things, MovieBob would be very, very happy.

See this, Bob?

OtherSideofSky:
I'm not sure why you picked Infamous as an example at the end. That guy seemed like he had pretty good reasons to be angry and distrustful: He got framed for blowing up the city, three different super-powered secret organizations wanted him dead, and the various covert government agencies wanted to use him in their internal political struggle. He certainly didn't seem like he was just being angry and waving a cause around while ignoring reality to me.

This is my point exactly. I tried thinking about Cole, and how he was just an angry you man, mad at the world...but he really isn't. Before the explosion and quarantine, he had a normal life as a parcel runner, had hobbies, and even had a girlfriend. Then everything goes to hell, so he gets mad. But he is still able to work with people, and there's plenty of justification in his story for the anger he feels. Another point is that his anger is directed. He knows who's responsible, and he is mad at them, not the world. I think he get's mad at fate, though, but I don't think that counts.

These aren't really cliches, as this affects maybe 20% of videogames out there. Aside from that, again it comes across as one man whining because you offer no alternative solutions or give any examples of better products.

Well he has been brain-washed to kill things and not much else since age 6! and she is a computer progra-HRK

alright, the halo fanboy section of my brain has been suppressed, time to go about things civilly.

i agreed with alot of this surprisingly. the only one i don't really mind was the hail-mary one; i've already mentioned that i'm a halo fanboy, and this doesn't bug me as much; unless it's incredibly gratuitous *coughHalo1*cough.

I think the Angry Young Man trend in modern third-person games can be traced directly back to Prince of Persia: Warrior Within. The hero's nuanced personality was replaced with generic rage, the soundtrack was thrash rock, and everything was as "hardcore" and "awesome" as possible. Sales increased by over a million.

Oh, how I hate Nathan Drake in so many ways. Not only is he annoying, but he's also one of the more sadistic and ruthless videogame protagonists you'll find.

Apocalyptic narratives sometimes need Mary Sues. They represent counterpoints, valued more for their action - defeating the abominable Big Bad, being the Archangel from Heaven offering salvation from great peril - than for who they are.

But when you play as the Mary Sue, yeah, things get difficult. You're around for the whole narrative, cutting a swath through the bad guy's forces, unstoppable, providing that counterpoint far too early. Instead of letting the scale tip farther and farther to the side of "evil" before slamming your Feather of Truth down on the other side, you have at best an almost-perfectly-balanced equation right through to the end, and at worst a story where the outcome is never in question. This might be a flaw in the nature of game narratives - how do you lose the war when the player wins every battle? Or it might just take a particularly clever writer...

I think I can definitely agree with that whole "Russians" thing, because even when the villains aren't Russians, Videogaming will find someway of making them Russians, say if you use Aliens. You will find a character (that's alphabetic characters, not NPCs) written in the same way as one particular letter, or giving the characters (That's NPCs, not alphabetic characters) some kind of obnoxious trait that invokes a stereotype of that country (I actually wasn't very good at Geography, is Russia a Country?).

Having Played inFamous quite recently (Seriously, the Demo, like an hour ago) I don't think I have picked up on anything more than a taste of Cole McGrath and his "Bad Boy" attitude. But the more I think about it, the whole "Shaved Head Bad Boy" is more annoying as such. I can't say I've played too much of Star Wars Unleashed, but seriously, McGrath could be traded for that character and you wouldn't have a real difference (Seriously, Force Lightning to Electricity?)

I can't say much more on that, but I get where you are coming from, Moviebob, And in most of those cases, I think I can agree with you.

1. I think/hope Vanquish was joking with the Space Russians. Yes, I know it's Shinji Mikami, but there were so many in-jokes and references that I can't quite take it at face value. The CoD games still play this straight, of course, but that's because they're fucking stupid.

2. This is true. The very worst part of it is that a lot of developers have the weird idea that the "default" protagonist has to be white, straight and male.

Moeez:
Oh, how I hate Nathan Drake in so many ways. Not only is he annoying, but he's also one of the more sadistic and ruthless videogame protagonists you'll find.

I really don't get the hate for Nathan Drake. Okay, I can see how someone could find his quips irritating, but "he's also one of the more sadistic and ruthless videogame protagonists you'll find"?

Have you ever played a game before? Because I'm having a hard time thinking of a character I've played recently that didn't do more cruel things than him.

mireko:
1. I think/hope Vanquish was joking with the Space Russians. Yes, I know it's Shinji Mikami, but there were so many in-jokes and references that I can't quite take it at face value. The CoD games still play this straight, of course, but that's because they're fucking stupid.

2. This is true. The very worst part of it is that a lot of developers have the weird idea that the "default" protagonist has to be white, straight and male.

Moeez:
Oh, how I hate Nathan Drake in so many ways. Not only is he annoying, but he's also one of the more sadistic and ruthless videogame protagonists you'll find.

I really don't get the hate for Nathan Drake. Okay, I can see how someone could find his quips irritating, but "he's also one of the more sadistic and ruthless videogame protagonists you'll find"?

Have you ever played a game before? Because I'm having a hard time thinking of a character I've played recently that didn't do more cruel things than him.

Name me one videogame protagonist who makes JOKES over dead human enemies? Not even Kane and Lynch are that sociopathic.

I actually think Cortana's alright for the Hail Mary thing. You want a worse one: The Guardian Angel from Borderlands. I like the game but she is so annoying. She may appear less than Cortana, but all of her lines are like, "Good job! I knew you could do it! Now on to the next bad man to kill".

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