Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Realism in games

I have this idea about why maybe games aren't taken seriously.

Games are art, technically, but there isn't a single fucking headshot or sex mini game or bulging bicep that can compare to Picasso's Guernica, or Kevin Spacey's disappearing limp in The Usual Suspects, or, I don't know, fucking Jeff Buckley's cover of Hallelujah. Not that a close up of a chainsaw to the face wouldn't have improved any of these works.

Games won't be taken more seriously because you've given characters beards, or because geo coordinates featured in the game correspond to real world locations, and I'm looking at you, Medal Of Honor.

Quote from Greg Goodrich, Medal of Honor executive producer:
"If you plug those geo coordinates those into google earth you'll actually be represented by the actual location... I guess some people, most people, probably won't notice..." - Greg Goodrich (quoted from a gamespot uk inteview, available here)

Yeah, or maybe literally no one will notice even though you have actually told actual people this.

Enslaved: Odyssey To The West features acting, voice and motion capture (I presume, though obviously I have researched this not at all), from Andy Serkis. Fucking ANDY SERKIS. The story is written by Alex Garland, author of, most famously, The Beach. Though the game follows the God Of War formula (take an old folk tale/myth and give it a top down view and special moves), it's working really fucking hard to go beyond that and make an impact in the games industry.

Garland and Serkis are well respected artists, with proven talent, working on games. The game they're featured in has nothing to do with a real world war, but it builds a stronger connection with you than Medal Of Honor, through actual acting and characterisation.

Soldiers, by definition, are meant to be characterless. The HBO mini series, Generation Kill, features soldiers who are characters with actual personalities, and you learn who those people are by spending time with them, in and out of combat. Modern games are flawed, in that sense, in being constant stimulation shit fountains, but there's a balance to be found between exploding heads and artistic expression.

When I say artistic expression I don't mean games like Limbo or Braid, the go to indie arts games. I mean shit like acting, poignance, atmosphere, craft. Call of Duty 4 has shitloads of this in moments such as when Captain Price grabs you and pulls you into a helicopter, or obviously in the aftermath of the nuclear explosion mission. Modern Warfare 2 has none. We've seen it all before, in the first game. All the subtlety is lost in the sequel.

Maybe I'm way, way off on this, and the people making those big FPS games aren't trying to even be taken seriously, don't care about games being taken seriously, and just want to make money, because any game with quadbikes, sand and guns is going to fucking sell right now, but if they are trying to make something artistically valid, the only way to do that is to express something personal and to involve people who know how to do this, and are really fucking good at doing it. Or, if you're going to do it yourself, watch more than just Quantum of Solace and fucking Black Hawk Down.

Realism is people, emotion, not just beards and numbers.

Medal of Honor is out on October 12th, yesterday, (US) October 14th (AU) October 15th (EU) and October 21st (JP) 2010 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. It is a first person shooter. There will be sand in the game.

1 comment:

  1. As you, and no one else, know[s], I bought Call of Duty 4 a few days ago, and replayed through a bit of the campaign. The main thing that struck me this time was how even handed it is.
    I mean yeah, you get in to your quest to kill the naughty lad, but in terms of how it's shown, you're really neither some hero saving the day, nor some asshole civilian-killing soldier.
    The section when you're up in the AC-130 is probably the best example of this. You/they are just a couple of guys on shift, called out to help their friends. You have this huge plane full of guns that can kill everything effortlessly, but at the same time it's often hard as shit to see, and even harder to tell who are the baddie terrorists and who are Captain Price and your friends. You're told not to fire on or near the church in the village. It doesn't say shit about not wanting to fuck with the locals way of life because that will make you a dick, and also no one on the plane says anything like 'Fuck that, fuck them and fuck their church.' It's just left for you. The guys over the radio make a few jerk comments about how shit you do will look good on 'the highlight reel' which is pretty dehumanising, but you're up in the plane seeing it how they're seeing it, and it is very dehumanising. Even within just the game it's hard to remember that it's your moustache-pal Price and indeed the guy you control down there. The guys in the plane also sound stupid when they get lost and can't find the big road out of the village. But shit, I couldn't see it either.
    The whole section is only a couple of minutes long, and you spend most of it just using the giant 105mm cannon and seeing how far the little corpses fly, but they manage to fit in a very even-handed portrayal of those guys, of fucking 'modern warfare,' and it's probably the most powerful statement on war I've seen in a videogame. I guess that really isn't saying shit though.