Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Speed Death and Quick Violence

Violence or Death

Call of Duty: Black Ops developer, Treyarch, recently went on record that because of their current technology in regards to faces and the animation of their characters' faces, they had to tone down specific contextual kills in the game because they felt they had gone too far. Gamers responses were somewhat mindblowing and ignorant of the creative process. Part of that process is discovering the lines you won't cross when telling your fictions -- or creating your games, whathaveyou -- but gamers tend to ignore such things and wanted the aforementioned violence kept in the game, claimed it was both censorship and a hype-generator to create even more hype for an already over-hyped franchise, and flat out asked, "Did they not play God of War III?"

If a creator thinks of something, creates that something, and puts it into whatever fiction they're working on at the moment, and find themselves feeling uncomfortable doing so, it isn't up to the fanboy masses to include it into the final work, it's the decision of the people responsible. If it exists in another game, or there's an even more graphic version of the subject in another game, doesn't remove the discomfort of the creator(s) nor allow them to cross that line.

The more I read and interact with gamers on the Internet, the more I'm finding that there's a lot of things about creating a form of entertainment that they just don't understand.

A sidebar to this subject is the comparison of violence that's being illustrated in a realistic and plausible manner (one that takes place in a fictional world that's intended to represent our own) and that of fantasy. Going back to the two games involved, Treyarch removed a contextual kill that involved the snapping of another's neck at your bare hands. In God of War III, you do something similar, but it's very brutal and has a lot of graphic gore involved. The two don't compare. Why? It's context. The context of Call of Duty has always been an attempt to accurately portray the events of real world wars in a virtual setting. It's supposed to be realistic and in that context, some of the things in those games can be quite disturbing. A good case in point is a certain scene in Modern Warfare 2 that involves a contextual kill that 'caused me to set the controller down a few moments before I could continue. It actually disturbed me quite a bit, and that isn't something that is easily done. In the context of God of War, you play the role of Kratos, a former Spartan captain that's become a God. It's fantasy, set in a mythological fantasy world, and the violence and gore accurately portrays that: it's fantastical to the point where it's much more cartoon-like than realistic.

Context changes the intended emotive response to violence and even gore.

Running Time

Another thing I'm seeing a lot of gamers get irritated with is the length of games. Single player aspects of games that are less than ten hours seem to get a lot of negative criticism aimed towards them by not only the game players, but also by the supposed critics of games.

When I was younger, a lot of the games I played were just that: games. Most of them were just point based simple exercises that required good hand-eye coordination and not much else. Games from the Atari 2600, the Nintendo Entertainment System, and the Super NES, among others. With the NES, games began to tell stories and whatnot, but even at that point a great deal of them could be defeated (if you were good enough) in under an hour.

Since then, the storyline aspect of video games have turned them into something different entirely. They're still games, but that's the most simplistic aspect of them. Now that the narrative is there, it's a complex storytelling medium that involves a lot of interaction between you (the player) and it (the fiction) and no game takes under an hour to get to the end, as far as I can tell. Some games have a five hour or a little more single player campaign, but that doesn't mean the game lacks quality nor does it mean it lacks replay value. A really good video game storyline is just the same as a really good movie or a really good book, and could very well warrant multiple play-throughs.

The most recent game I see getting flack for the lack of length is Vanquish, a third-person shooter that's accompanied by a pretty decent and epic science-fiction plot that could easily have substituted for either Transformers movie and had made a much better project. Without even playing the game outside of the demo, many gamers railed against the subjective quality of Vanquish simply because it had a less than ten hour single player campaign. Having played it myself, it's a pretty impressive single player campaign that proves that you don't need six billion plus hours of game time to make a good game. Just like all really long movies and really long books aren't the best things in the world, neither are a lot of really long games. Vanquish is one of many video game definitions of "short and sweet," and is accompanied by tremendous replay value, both in the single player campaign, and in the single player challenges the game offers you to be unlocked.

In my opinion, these same gamers need to read more short stories and learn the art of the short, powerful, and effective narrative.

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