Sunday, February 19, 2012

Whatever happened to heroes?

I like to play video games. I don't have lots of time for it, and I don't have (am unwilling to make) much in the way of fund-age to acquire them, so my collection is fairly limited, and I am kinda picky about what I buy, (For instance, no way I am playing online games like WoW. I am not paying a grundle for the box, and then a grundle more every month just to play a game.

There are really two things I expect to get out of a game: Distraction and Escape. Whether those are good or bad may be arguable.

The first of those - distraction - I believe is a benefit. When I get stonewalled by a particularly difficult problem, I have found that playing a game for bit will get my conscious mind out of the way, so my subconscious can work through it and find an answer.

The there are a few ways a game can give me this. A good first person shooter keeps me on my toes by virtue of the pace at which things move. Other games achieve this through timing (platform games, or games like Assassin's Creed).

Still others (Battle for Wesnoth for example) accomplish it by absorbing me in the tactics (one word: strategery).

The other thing I desire is escape. I won't say that this is necessarily a good thing. People frequently over-use escape, to the extent that they stop living in the real world. For me it is tied to the distraction, and I like to think that I manage it properly. I won't argue against someone who sees it otherwise though.

At any rate, what I mean by that, is I like to be immersed in the game. An exceptional plot, good, appropriate use of visuals, a consistent universe (i.e. free of gaping technical holes and plot holes, not that I have anything against paranormal or supernatural activity, but it needs to make sense. The rules need to be defined and consistent.).

I am therefore particularly drawn to RPG style games. The first two Deus Ex games have been some of my favorites. I loved that you could choose how you played the game. You could go guns blazing, blasting your way through doors, or you could play ninja style, circumventing security systems, hacking computers... I played the first one once with only one kill. I have played that game through dozens of times more than any other game.

The Elder Scrolls Games are similarly likeable. Good RPG, wide open playing area, nonlinear story. And highly mod-able, so you can alter things to suit your tastes. Skyrim is on my wishlist right now, but since I am a cheapskate ($20 is about as high as I will go for a game), I probably won't get to play it for a few more years.

And no game yet has beat Myth when It comes to strategery. It took weather into account. High ground gave combat advantages... I think the ultimate game for me would be something like the Never Winter Nights RPG system built on a Myth-like engine. *pause to drool*.

That was a very long intro to get to my point, but here it is. I have been watching gameplays and trailers recently, looking for a new game that I might like. What a disappointment.

That bit about escape? See, when I want to escape, I want to be immersed in the role of someone heroic. Someone who does the right thing against all odds.I was very disappointed when after seeing Far Cry 2 game play, I picked up a copy only to discover that I took on the role of a rather morally ambiguous mercenary (Not to mention all the language. Yes, I am probably a hypocrite for being bothered by profanity and sexual content, but not as much bothered by the violence.).

So here I am looking at the latest batch. The Follow-up Assassin's cCeeds have been rather too risque for my comfort. Far Cry 3... I can't really tell, it seems like you might be a decent guy, but they could easily go back to ambiguous, and the Profanity is outta control. GTA has no moral ambiguity, you are the bad guy. period.

A new rainbow six? Surely I have a winner here. Game play was looking great, Nice stealthy bits, taking out terrorists. But then, there is an order to kill the cops because they are shooting at a bomber. And though there was time for an argument about whether they should try to contact the police first, there apparently wasn't time to actually radio them. Then we get to the bit with the bomber, some poor fellow dragged out of his home and wired up with explosives. His wife and child's lives are forfeit if he doesn't comply. But as the the stories "heroes" get to him, and he is begging for help, pleading for his wife and child. A remote detonator is discovered and the "heroes" hurl off the bridge to his doom.

I don't want to play a game like that! What happened to the good heroes? The one's who beat the odds, who slipped out of the impossible situation. What happened to the James T. Kirks? What happened to the Master Chiefs?

It's hard enough for me to talk myself into buying newer games, given the nasty DRM they put on them, but when they can't even let me save the girl, kiss the horse and ride off into the sunset... What is the point?

This isn't just a feature of newer games though. Movies lately have been pretty much the same. The villains get the cool factor. The snazziest outfits, the best skillz, the coolest gear, the awesomest music...

The protagonists are frequently so emotionally damaged, it is a wonder they manage to get through the first half of the film alive.

Whatever happened to the heroes? What happened to the men and women who devoted themselves unwaveringly to the cause of justice, and protecting the weak, the innocent? Or even just the average Joe's who rose to the occasion out of necessity?

*end of rant*

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