Two Shoot Clubs ago, when everyone repaired to the PCs to play Command & Conquer 3, Trevor asked me if I had the new Ghost Recon.
“I have both of them,” I told him. “Both GRAWS, for the 360 and the PC.”
“I want to try the new one. I want to do some Advanced Warfighting. I’m tired of RTSs. This isn’t Drag Select Club, it’s Shoot Club. Can you set up the 360?”
The more stuff someone has hooked up to his TV, the harder it is for some bystander to work it. If you’ve ever house sat, you know how that goes. It’s the old ‘figure out the three remotes’ puzzle. So while Trevor poured a Diet Dr. Pepper and extracted a stack of chocolate covered Oreos from the box, I turned on the TV, sound system, 360, and switcher box, a process that only takes two remotes. Then, making sure he wasn’t looking, I switched GRAW 1 and GRAW 2 in their boxes.
“Okay, you’re all set,” I told him, wandering into the next room to see if Peter was going to do his cheesy Scorpion Tank/Buggy rush.
“So this is Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2?” I asked Trevor after getting bored of watching Peter’s army move around the map like scrubbing bubbles. Trevor probably thought he was playing the sequel. I was going to gloat about tricking him and in the process prove that the two GRAWs are indistinguishable.
“It’s the one in Mexico.”
“The one about the nuke?” That would be 2.
“I’m not really following the storyline. I’m just here for the guns.”
Clever. Was he on to the gag? Did he know he was playing GRAW 1?
“Have you done a Little Bird insertion yet?” I asked. It was one of the few new things in GRAW 2. You only got to quick rope out of Blackhawks in GRAW 1. But in GRAW 2, you could ride a Hughes MH-6 helicopter, also known as a Little Bird, into the level. Then it flew away and you might as well be playing GRAW 1 again.
“I don’t really pay attention to how I get here. I have a job to do. I’m just here to do the mission and then go home.” He picked off a couple of Mexicans by shooting into the distance at the bright red diamonds superimposed over their torsos.
“I switched disks,” I confessed, pleased with myself.
“No duh. You know, there’s a big screen before the game starts that tells you what you’re playing.”
He had me there.
“It might have worked on someone else,” he added to make me feel better. “But I figured out what you did and then just switched disks back.”
“Oh, so this is GRAW 2?”
Which pretty much proved my point. I didn’t even realize that Trevor hadn’t fallen for the trick. Trevor downed another half dozen Mexicans before asking, “So is this gun porn?”
I considered it for a moment.
“Why not? Why is this not gun porn? Look at that. Look at my big fat gun.” For show, he reloaded his Generic Near-Future-ish Assault Rifle (or GenN-FAR), wasting a clip in the process. If there was one thing GRAW did right, it was keeping track of clips instead of presenting ammo as a pool of bullets. We would appreciate this a few days later, after bruising our soft gamer thumbs struggling to push rounds into their clips.
“This is ambush porn. Half way between a tactical shooter and a Splinter Cell game. You creep around and kill one or two guys at a time. Everything else is pretty much in service to that. Advanced Warfighter fetishizes creeping around and killing one or two guys at a time. It’s not about shootouts, it’s not about running and gunning, and it’s not even about managing your teammates, although it would have you think it’s about that. But it’s not. It’s about getting the drop on bad guys and shooting them. Ergo, ambush porn.”
“Did you write that in your review? That sounds like something you’d write.” Two more Mexicans down.
“But gun porn is a game where the gun is given more attention than any other element. Where it takes center stage to the exclusion of all else. The gun is regarded with a sort of fetishistic awe. There will usually be slow motion or extreme close ups. The Darkness isn’t gun porn, but those cutscenes during the loading, where the guy is standing in a spotlight caressing his guns, those are definitely gun porn. I’d say Max Payne is maybe gun porn.”
“Is Rainbow Six: Vegas gun porn?”
“Close. It’s gunfire porn.”
“Gunfire porn? That makes no sense.”
“It’s about the act of shooting, instead of the guns themselves. It’s about interacting with the environment to deliver gunfire and avoid incoming gunfire. It’s the best shooter about shooting since Vietcong. Gunfire porn. It’s a subtle but important distinction.”
“No way. Gears of War does the same thing, but better.”
“Gears of War is space marine porn, just like Doom III is space dungeon porn. They should be a double feature.”
“Is Painkiller gun porn?”
“It’s monster porn.”
“Okay, maybe horror meme porn would be a better way to say it.”
“I liked monster porn better. You make it sound like all games are porn.”
“Most games are, of some sort or another.”
“Police procedural porn. Suspect restraining porn. Pepper spray porn.”
“Stalker isn’t porn. Neither is Oblivion.”
“So all first person shooters except Stalker are porn?”
“Stalker is just a really good free-form post-apocalyptic shooter-slash-RPG, but without character stats. From now on, it will be its own sub-genre and we’ll refer to other games like it as ‘Stalker clones’. At some point, the sub-genre might achieve critical mass and we’ll give it its own name, as happened with stealth games, action RTSs, and tactical shooters.”
“I don’t think porn means what you think it means.”
“Plenty of RTSs are porn. Dawn of War is Warhammer 40k porn. Company of Heroes is World War II porn. Age of Empires III is history porn.”
“You’re just making all this up. Porn doesn’t mean what you think it means. Can you have porn porn?”
“Are you guys talking about porn?” Peter asked, having just beaten everyone at C&C3. By buying the game and playing online, he had moved himself into a whole different skill bracket from the rest of us. He had perfected some sort of optimized strategy, where you play as Nod and make tons of Scorpion Tanks and Buggies. He was on the verge of killing C&C3 for us. We were going to have to not let him play if we still wanted to enjoy the game.
“I was wondering if you can have porn porn?” Trevor told him.
“That sounds like something Japanese,” Peter said. “Like you’d see it on a vending machine in Tokyo in big pink letters. Porn porn.”
“Porn is by its very nature porn,” I explained. “It emphasizes sex to the exclusion of everything else. By the way, calling something porn isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some games that focus on one thing in true porn fashion are still awesome. Dead Rising is zombie porn, and that’s why it’s so good.”
“I still don’t think porn means what you think it means,” Trevor said.
“Look it up.”
“You look it up,” he countered.
We looked it up. The definition of porn was ‘pornography’. So we looked up pornography. It said something about sexually explicit images or writing. Which either shot down my argument or gave me plenty of leeway, depending on how you looked at it. Then we looked up fetishistic, because I kept using the word and they were making fun of me. Then we veered off to see if ‘fuck’ was in this dictionary. It wasn’t. So we went online and found that ‘fuck’ was in dictionary.com, and there wasn’t even an age gate, although you had to register if you wanted to hear the word pronounced out loud, which we did, and it was funny. Then we made Peter play GRAW 1, telling him it was GRAW 2, while we all played C&C3. And that was the last Shoot Club before Trevor showed up with that pistol.
To be continued…
Tom Chick has been writing about videogames for fifteen years. His work appears in Games for Windows Magazine, Yahoo, Gamespy, Sci-Fi, and Variety. He lives in Los Angeles. Shoot Club appears in this space every Thursday.