171: From the Barrel of a Gun

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tendo82:
For instance I found myself slightly disturbed at having to shoot the female bosses in MGS4 as they stagger toward you stripped of all their armor, defenseless and dying. I'd spent the past ten minutes hammering away at some overwrought Japanese robot with a ridiculous machine gun and really the most powerful moment of the whole encounter is when you're forced to shoot someone you've already beat.

Actually, I didn't find those moments powerful at all. Supposedly, you're looking at a broken and exhausted enemy, stripped of the armor and weaponry that had made them powerful. Yet they're still bigger bullet sponges than any of the soldiers you had to fight through to make it to that point. If you want a more powerful scene, one shot should drop her to the ground like a sack of potatoes.

That's just the thing--guns in games don't feel powerful because they aren't powerful. Am I supposed to feel empowered in a shooter when I unload half a clip into the average grunt, only to watch him stagger for an instant and continue rushing straight towards me? A real bullet (or even a movie bullet) doesn't just shave off a portion of some unseen hit point variable and get forgotten about.

Let's use Uncharted as an example: you might assume an automatic rifle would be the more effective weapon in a situation where you are outnumbered. In most cases, though, I found the lowly pistol most useful, because you had a better chance of getting a headshot--the only time the bullets weren't just added to some damage total and shrugged off. Even if a headshot didn't kill the enemy, it at least stopped them from shooting back for a moment. On the other hand, if you were lucky enough to find a Magnum or Desert Eagle, for 6 glorious one-hit-kill shots you felt like you had actual power. It was the only time you felt like you were wielding a weapon that was not only longer range than your fists, but also more powerful.

It isn't just because of the lack of tension or consequences that guns have lost their sense of power in video games. It's caused just as much by the fact guns in games are nothing more than a mechanic--just another part of the math that runs the game world, and another variable to be balanced. In the Western, as in reality, guns are not balanced. Guns are the final word in interpersonal conflict. They're the trump card. When many of the most popular shooters allow enemies to soak up dozens of bullets without slowing down, though those same enemies can be neutralized by a single button press using a melee attack with a knife or even your fists, is it any wonder the gun as an entity has lost its mystique?

This reminded me of a letter I read about someone's experience playing one of the MoH games. He said he was gleefully blasting away nazi's until he came upon two of the enemy standing about smoking looking like they were in conversation. And this is when the author started thinking that these two man-shaped polygons could be talking about their kids and whatnot. He said he realised that he felt a bit repulsed y the fact he had to shoot them. They were just going about their guard duties. I suppose to restore "the myth of the gun" your target's have to seem human in more than form maybe.

masterhibb:

tendo82:
For instance I found myself slightly disturbed at having to shoot the female bosses in MGS4 as they stagger toward you stripped of all their armor, defenseless and dying. I'd spent the past ten minutes hammering away at some overwrought Japanese robot with a ridiculous machine gun and really the most powerful moment of the whole encounter is when you're forced to shoot someone you've already beat.

Actually, I didn't find those moments powerful at all. Supposedly, you're looking at a broken and exhausted enemy, stripped of the armor and weaponry that had made them powerful. Yet they're still bigger bullet sponges than any of the soldiers you had to fight through to make it to that point. If you want a more powerful scene, one shot should drop her to the ground like a sack of potatoes.

That's just the thing--guns in games don't feel powerful because they aren't powerful. Am I supposed to feel empowered in a shooter when I unload half a clip into the average grunt, only to watch him stagger for an instant and continue rushing straight towards me? A real bullet (or even a movie bullet) doesn't just shave off a portion of some unseen hit point variable and get forgotten about.

Let's use Uncharted as an example: you might assume an automatic rifle would be the more effective weapon in a situation where you are outnumbered. In most cases, though, I found the lowly pistol most useful, because you had a better chance of getting a headshot--the only time the bullets weren't just added to some damage total and shrugged off. Even if a headshot didn't kill the enemy, it at least stopped them from shooting back for a moment. On the other hand, if you were lucky enough to find a Magnum or Desert Eagle, for 6 glorious one-hit-kill shots you felt like you had actual power. It was the only time you felt like you were wielding a weapon that was not only longer range than your fists, but also more powerful.

It isn't just because of the lack of tension or consequences that guns have lost their sense of power in video games. It's caused just as much by the fact guns in games are nothing more than a mechanic--just another part of the math that runs the game world, and another variable to be balanced. In the Western, as in reality, guns are not balanced. Guns are the final word in interpersonal conflict. They're the trump card. When many of the most popular shooters allow enemies to soak up dozens of bullets without slowing down, though those same enemies can be neutralized by a single button press using a melee attack with a knife or even your fists, is it any wonder the gun as an entity has lost its mystique?

I think almost all the gaming developers either doesn't understand modern combat or too wrap up on the balance issue. To me I think its both.

"Never bring a knife to a gunfight" and "A pistol is there to help you get a rifle".

The first one means that knife are obsolete in a gun fight. There is only one case in Iraq that a knife was use in a gun fight and that was because he ran out of bullets. The second phase means that rifles are better then pistol in almost every situation. Pistol vs. Rifle, 98% of time the rifle will beat out the pistol in a gunfight. Yet in games pistol beat out rifle 98% of the time. In the US military you're aren't issued a M9/pistol unless you're a SAW/machinegun gunner (that because you're aren't issued a rifle), MP, Special Force, or Officer(there might be others but those are specialize cases). The training you receive for pistol is far far less then rifle in the US military.

Reality is a bad comparison. What games should aspire to, at least for the time being, is delivering the kind of impact movies do.

It all comes down to two things:
effect on target
who the target is

Guns will feel powerful, when games dare to go for emotional impact, the people you are shooting are humanized, and the resulting mess is not sanitized. This is not a question of gore.

Who is the person you are shooting? What does he like and care about? Does he have friends or family?

Does the person you shot slump down against a wall, incredulous of his mortality, and lose consciousness? Does he throw down his weapon, surrender and ask you to spare him - or give you his last words to pass onto someone? Does he drop like a rock, but then bleed and scream for minutes before his consciousness goes? Or did you shatter his arm, and he's shooting through a haze of pain and panic unable to aim? Is he unhit, but afraid and trying to get away?

Does someone else stop fighting you and run to the fallen man? Hug him and cry? Or dash out of cover to drag his comrade into cover, braving the sniper (you) because that's what needs to be done?

When the dust settles, did you shoot the right person, or were you perhaps jumpy and paranoid enough to confuse a civilian with an armed enemy?

What we need is the Heat, the Reservoir Dogs, the Battle Royale, the Full Metal Jacket of games. The excuse "can't be done" does not fly, when no one is trying.

As far as the physical effects go, guns need to be louder and more powerful. The bullets should go through objects. (This is one of the subtle things that made Counterstrike guns so great.) They should also destroy objects where it's reasonable. And they should put normal humans down in a flash. If gameplay demands someone is not easily killed, it might be a good idea to make them something other than human.

What about sasha?

I don't think that games are -or, for the most part, should be- worried too much with preserving a the symbolism of the gun as a deadly extension of a man's character. Some characters are still written with this myth in mind (Revolver Ocelot and his beloved Single Action Army, anyone?), and that's fine, but I don't think it's anything more games should aspire to.

First, I'm not sure gun mythos is as powerful as, say, sword mythos, probably owing to the fact that the gun is a relatively recent invention. Stories can be crafted around a "legendary sword" (Crouching Tiger's Green Destiny, for example) but I'm not sure such a story could resonate as well if it were a "legendary gun."

More importantly, though, are the gameplay considerations. A game that is as concerned with gun mythos as the auther would find itself in a very narrow genre. I'm not saying it would necessarily be bad, just that most shooters couldn't take that premise and still be widely received.

I'm waiting for a game that has people die like they do in real life: horribly. Right now, you shoot someone and they drop, suddenly becoming an inanimate rag doll. I want to see a game that has your victim grasp at their wound, fall to their knees, let out a terrible cry, take some raspy breathes, etc. Maybe once in a while we have a Mr. Orange scene. "I'm fuckin' dyin' here!"

Then we will have some impact, and remember that we are shooting human beings. But then again, that wouldn't be so fun (for most people).

How would a video game work as a "love letter" to a single gun? How short would a game have to be to devote a significan portion of its time to a single model of gun? Even the Dirty Harry series switched guns after 2 hours. There was Magnum Force, a duel between the .44 Magnum and the .357 Magnum, then there was the .44 Automag of Sudden Impact. How could a video game of the length a gamer expects these days keep talking about on kind of gun without becoming either totally boring or totally obsessive and creepy? In most modern shooters, a player is given a realistic soldier's mix of Guns, sometimes expanded to reflect the range of guns found in a single infantry squad. The bottom line is that any gun is deadly. Either the game has to reflect that, or the relative power to kill of the guns becomes so exagerated as to make the weak guns worthless and the powerfull guns ridiculous. Why would it be more fun to focus on the gun than the action and the characters? I have owned and used guns all my life, and only the weirdest, sickest crazies want to sit around fondling and stroking their guns. Stupid article by an idiot that needs to go back to editing instead of failing as a writer.

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