Just take a moment. Settle down. Close you’re eyes and cast you’re mind back to a simpler time. A time diminished in history by the expansive wonder of progression. When society was bereft of reliable Internet connectivity. Trolling was reserved to dungeons and dragons or forms of communication spoken under bridges. Back when the male of the species would forage for provisions, utilising crude implements and utensils forged from blunt stones and fabricated branches. When dinosaurs weren’t merely confined to theme parks (because the youth of today is so flippantly ignorant of time before they were born that dinosaurs literally wandered unmolested through the 90’s, despite the movie reference predating this particular year by 3 years!). Heroes like you’re own father endeavoured to decimate their child’s dreams and aspirations at a tender age, by initiating a illicit affair with their wife’s best friend. This was also a time of tremendous prosperity for the survival horror, with the defining ubiquity known as Resident Evil leading the way. It’s now largely redundant format, ridiculed for its photographic environments and Tommy Wiseau scripted dialogue was at the cutting edge of knicker drenching paranoia and fear. You had deserted mansions in the middle of a forest. Twisted scientific experiments resulting in the reanimation of the dead. Canines hurtling through windows for no other reason than to send you vaulting towards you’re ceiling like a terrified toddler. Dining on the fine dialogue nutrition of a Jill sandwich. 1996 was a tasty time indeed. Of course Capcom, Satan’s most astute minion that holds dominion over all things stupid adopted the popular notion that success, particularly the modern definition of success precipitates that anything lucrative must be as abused as a male escorts anus. So let us all place a firm back hand to the cheek (whichever you’d prefer) an authoritative flick on the nose and a resounding chorus of “No. Stop that! That’s a very bad game. Very bad game! Now sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done. And don’t you dare look at me!” to Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City.
For me the series has maintained a gradual decline in quality, evidenced in the aberrations to the primary series such as Survivor and Outbreak. The rigorous frivolity of the farcical spin-offs are paraded in all their sequential disorder, delivered with all the distinguished principles of a Kardashian sibling. But Operation Raccoon City had so much potential. For me it was a great concept, poorly conceived. An anomaly with potential. Failing to capitalise on the series waning popularity by outsourcing it’s mangled corpse of a series to the gaming equivalent of a Taiwanese broom manufacturer (that’s more of a personal estimation, but you get the point). The game that failed to exploit it’s full potential of a corporate pharmaceutical company soliciting the aid of internal militia to silence any survivors of the Raccoon City incident. Or something like that? The idea of being the initial cleanup crew, encountering the failed mutations and waste experimentation’s is a novelty I would’ve enjoyed. But because you and you’re team a merely corporate mercenaries hired to contain the spread of a deadly pathogen there’s no conflict. Because their names are derivatives taking from the phonetic alphabet and the entire infantry are cloaked in protective gear, concealing their identities in the process you can’t differentiate between them! These aren’t people but weapons. Ballistics utilised to cull extensive militarised conflicts. So trying to introduce a story to characters that posses no discernible character, whose only differentiating characteristics are what weapons they specialise in is like inviting Theon Greyjoy to a brothel. Pointless!
And like a dog going back to its sick, the series just couldn’t resist refining (trampling) over its own narrative continuity with plot inventions. What should have been one of its more riveting conflicts was introducing characters from that period such as Claire Redfield, the Tyrant and Leon S (you can’t forget the “S”) Kennedy fleeing Umbrella crew in a “What if?” structure. The idea that you can actually kill one of the series main protagonists was a stroke of near genius. But it was so poorly executed that such a unique hypothetical scenario came across as almost arrogant, imparting a similar measured sensitivity to the idea of killing a beloved character, even one that wouldn’t of been considered canonical in the same way that Guy Richie depicted Sherlock Holmes. In fact it’s impossible to rationalise the arbitrary way in which it presented itself, evidenced in the way characters interacted, the way the game took critical narrative liberties, the players stilted capacity for mobility and the way it dealt with the franchise most defining incident: the contamination of Raccoon City. It’s more like the red wedding told from the perspective of a guard outside peering through a keyhole. And in the end just the elaboration of a bad liar.
What bad games have you played that wasted its potential? Let me know in the comments below. Cheers.
The gaming trade is an industrious little entity. It exists as a unified ensemble derived of many fluctuating components, that can adapt to survive in any hostile environment. Striving even when creativity fails. It can also be a stubborn and devious little miscreant, undermining it’s own utilities by adhering to the conformity of what’s popular. As such games with similar concepts, configurations and general imitation saturate the increasingly polarising market with derivative emulations of the same game. Yet in some rare circumstances developers manage to convert a once reviled method of player interaction such as QTE’s into a beneficial resource. Context sensitive game-play has become an incredibly lucrative source of revenue for the likes of Telltale games, generating a substantial profit annually, with “The Walking Dead” accumulating 1 million units in sales in its first 20 days. The simple yet dynamic choice function is accessible to casual gamers with the episodic continuity providing prompt and compelling excerpts that can be completed quickly, even over the course of a weekend. Making these kind of expedient, straightforward games particularly attractive to gamers with limited skills or time. But the rise of content with such gameplay latency does leave you to wonder if episodic games are the future or merely a popularised convenience for lazy developers? When you think about it creating compelling content structured as interactive entertainment with finite elements of actual game-play is incredibly difficult to accomplish. So to ratify this a game needs to expedite game-play with a captivating narrative, something Telltale has successfully achieved with many licence properties, including securing the high profile content of both “The Walking Dead” and “Game Of Thrones.”
Being much more a fan of the latter you’d assume that I’d assert preferential bias towards the “Game Of Thrones” game, yet it was “The Walking Dead” that precipitated my immediate praise. Perhaps it was because I was unfamiliar with the overall affrays in the television show or graphic novel, but there was something odd about the Game Of Thrones game that never really appealed to me. In fact I really struggled to get any distinguishing features that provoked any enamoured response from either Game Of Thrones or The Walking Dead really. Though the art design was intentionally rendered as some sort of oil painting effect, it never really appealed to me. I struggled to form any kind of affinity with the characters which diminishes the intended peril if you don’t care what happens to them. Arguably the games most distinguishing feature and one it prides itself on, is enabling users to dictate characters reactions to potentially hostile situations which I found surprisingly restrictive. During an episode of Game Of Thrones I was instigating a rather hostile negotiation to parley the release of my brother in exchange for the kidnappers son, who’d been incarcerated at my behest. After some verbal pandering and general meek capitulation by my character an option appeared that basically prompted the death of practically everyone in the room, including myself! Now I’ll admit that I was riled into a petulant retaliation after enduring protracted smugness from my accuser, yet felt rather satisfied with the resulting provocation of swords and arrows piercing his and my own body. “Meeting adjourned” I quipped with contented glee. I thought it was the perfect representation of many a Game of Thrones meeting. Telltale appeared to disagree with this conclusion, immediately placing me back to before I had gone full Tarantino.
If you’re supplementing game-play for story, then it needs to be engaging. The game-play limitations should allow for a greater emphasis on story, depth to characters and the way that individuals perceive them. For instance if there is a character you’re not particularly fond of you can be more aggressive in conversation or just aloof by not saying anything. Yet the games reliance on 2 pivotal decisions belies the dramatic tension that has been steadily progressing through conversations, especially if a decision you make is wrong. Every conversational response you make prior to these affirming decisions are negated to mere subsidiary dialogue with little consequences other than a character remembering something you said. There shouldn’t be a wrong answer, no prohibitive penalties for fallibility. I’d like to feel that all of my decisions have implications, whether good or bad and aren’t simply hinged upon 1 vital decision, but a series of lesser compartmentalised resolutions. It’s also jarring when a button prompt you’ve initiated leads to a hostile response, yet seconds later they automatically revert back into passive tolerance? As such the dynamic feels very procedural as if you’re just going through the motions of a largely limited format. QTE’S and button prompts aren’t particularly riveting to me as I feel as though I’m participating in a vaguely pliable television show, which I guess is the point. There’s a catalogue of conventional games that lack any real narrative depth, but can compensate that with entertaining game-play. Here, if the stories or characters fail, then the game fails. I just don’t believe that you can adequately convey an interactive story with only partial intervals of actual game-play elements. I mean it’s likely you won’t remember events anyway with the interceding months between episodes you’re once again be establishing a connection with these people, identifying who is reliable or potentially dangerous.
Of course this adaptive industry, again I’m referring to it as one objective entity, episodic formats aren’t exclusively limited to QTE’s as the primary source of interaction, with more contemporary games such as Resident Evil or Hitman adhering to the same structural partitions. Dividing content out over a period of months rather than all at once. Arguably having such elongated interludes creates disruptive coherency for players as they once again establish the controls, but these concepts are flourishing. Perhaps this is merely another stage in the evolution of gaming that I won’t entirely embrace. Not that I’m criticising the principal behind it. The whole point of a game being episodic is to create the illusion of a television show. To have each episode conclude with a cliffhanger that leaves you begging for more and encouraging players to participate in games that technically haven’t been completed yet. But there’s a huge difference between QTE driven exposition, relating behavioural decisions through negligible button prompts that can get decidedly monotonous and a horror, action adventure like Resident Evil that requires the ability to harness and progress a specific set of skills as you proceed, that will invariably be compromised by vast interludes between missions. How many times have you had to reaffirm you’re dominance in a game due to an absence? Of course I could be completely wrong and many of you may feel compelled to disprove my opinion, but as of right now I’m not convinced that the industry has actual evolved into something better.
What do you think of episodic or even QTE games? Let me know in the comments below. Cheers.
Ever since Resident Evil 2 I’ve been a keen advocate for Capcom properties. This admiration extended to the likes of Devil May Cry, Street Fighter, Viewtiful Joe, Dino Crisis, Marvel vs Capcom and the biblically underestimated gem that is Okami. In recent years many of these endowed series have become peripheral or diminished in social stature, with the likes of Dino Crisis, Okami and Viewtiful Joe shifting towards total obscurity. And it hurts to see such respected games become so grievously renounced. But the one that wounds the most is Onimusha. You’ve probably never heard of this game, which is really indicative of just how spurned this series became, but it was a series of games I just couldn’t get enough of. Set primarily during a feudal Japan, at a documented period in Japanese history of political upheaval and constant military conflict, with the addition of supernatural elements just to compound the strife, you portray the role of a skilled warrior who is granted the ethereal powers of the “Oni”. Abilities that forge you’re already attuned sword skills with weapons that possess magical properties, enabling you to engage and defeat the scourge of demonic oppressors known as the “Genma”. As you battled you’re way through feudal Japan or celestial “hellish” realms teething with a various assortment of demons you were capable could of absorbing their souls, allowing you to regenerate health, magic or even enhance abilities. The absorption of their souls was so gratifying too! The distinctive setting and receptive combat elevated it above other Capcom games that possessed similar control functions. And then after the release of “Dawn Of Dreams” in 2006…..nothing.
It’s absence is curious if not entirely unexpected though. Onimusha’s most discerning obstacle was it’s conspicuous similarity to other more successful Capcom titles of that time. Dino Crisis, Devil May Cry and of course Resident Evil were all released at a time of incredible resurgence for Capcom. It hardly distinguished itself above these contemporaries on a technical front, with all of the above games utilising similar aesthetic designs, button configurations, inanimate environments and doors with elaborate mechanisms that required long and convoluted resources to unlock were all common features associate with them. Despite the striking Japanese design it never really generated the same public fandom with the same impetus as it’s other more distinguished colleagues. The popularised, hyper stylised combat and Gothic tone of DmC and the atmospheric isolation of Resident Evil seemingly hindered Onimusha as well as Dino Crisis as a desirable source of equity. Sure all of these titles contained interchangeable structures but it’s an irreverent comparison considering just how immersive Onimusha’s narrative, lore and characters were. Yet by far and away it’s biggest problem was that no one had heard of it. Even now you’re probably reading this and thinking “Hmm? It sounds familiar but I can’t really place it?”. Onimusha really wasn’t promoted to the same extent as Resident Evil for instance. Perhaps Capcom felt there was little necessity in promoting what was considered a Resident Evil clone, just with samurai’s or because there was little commercial viability to a western audience that possessed no knowledge nor interest in such a culturally contrasting story. In either case Onimusha never really garnered the respect it deserved.
Last December however Capcom applied for a trademark for the name Onimusha but have yet to indicate a desire to extend the series beyond its four entries. This could simply mean a re-release of the original titles with updated graphics, which I’d gladly take at this point and considering Capcoms penchant for revisiting older entries in a series, it’s probably more likely than a new interpretation. But considering the way Capcom has handled most of its notable content that’s probably not a bad thing. Capcoms complacency has been a substantial hindrance to any developing franchise as well as instilling a measurable decline in quality titles. A declination now extending to some of its most lucrative properties, most notably the Resident Evil and Street Fighter series. With the relative cost efficiency that it will take to finance the aesthetic improvements to the PS2 era of games, it would be far easier for Capcom to generate revenue for an existing series and establish just how popular the franchise still is before risking a new entry. But I wish they would at least consider bringing it back as I do miss it. Nothing in gaming is ever as powerful as nostalgia.
What forgotten games series do you wish they’d bring back? Let me know in the comments below. Cheers.
Let’s not insult our collective intelligence by stating that misogyny doesn’t exist in gaming; it’s more a question to what extent? How much of it can be attributed to conditioned ignorance as opposed to deliberate female antithesis? Are many merely differentiated by inadvertent preferences to what accurately depicts a hero/heroine? Is there a collaborative plot by male driven studios to subvert female heroism? If a tree falls in the woods and there was no one there to hear it, who would care less? A male or female? These are all probing and pertinent areas for lamentation, but largely inconclusive queries that I couldn’t possibly answer with any considered brevity. All I know is that many bloggers better suited to this kind of combustible subject have discussed with great detail the particulars with far more earnest analysis than I can produce, so instead I’m going to discuss a female character I feel has been largely successful in contradicting the trend. I don’t want to get bogged down in the semantics of overused masculinity, the permissive attitude towards female representatives in games or pathological interpretation men present in their depiction of female characters……But I probably will, so for that I apologise.
Resident Evil always had a fair representative ratio of females, bolstered by the likes of Jill valentine and Ada Wong. However speciously absurd the conceived plots became, with Resident Evil 6 deserving its own trial, as well as the scantily absent clothes many were attired in there was always ample commodity for gender equality. Resident Evil 2’s Claire Redfield was a truly balanced deviation from the naturally persistent troupes. She arrives into an inhospitable environment teething with orally reliant assailants, desperate to establish the location of her absent sibling, isolated and under-prepared. She’s scared, vulnerable and confused. Does that diminish her as another helpless female desperately seeking the solace of assertive masculinity? You must be joking! Anyone under such severe circumstances would be just as terrified! Difference being is that she adapts to the irrational situation with surprising rationality. Attired in self crafted jeans shorts and leather jacket that was hardly conservative, but nor was it salacious inditement of the female form. It’s surprising practicality and badassery (a word my spell check doesn’t seem to agree with) was only exemplified by her adeptness with guns and her extreme versatility, and not exploiting explicitly. I couldn’t have done what she did. I would have wilted, hidden in the debris, searched for a way out of the city muttering that “I didn’t like my sister that much anyway!” or just casually ventured to the Winchester and waited for all this to blow over. The ubiquity of its female characters in Resident Evil is so nonchalant that a game consisting entirely of female protagonists would be met with a shrug. But if GTA were to introduce one, it’d be a media cluster sponge. It’s all relative I guess.
There’s a natural assertion that a character, typically female displays overt signs of distress or fear is somehow a derogation of her ability to cope. But just because they are scared shouldn’t precipitate that they are weak. You can have a vulnerable female character without it inducing a chauvinistic characterisation, just as long as it doesn’t diminish someone like Clair’s individuality just because she remarks on how difficult a situation is, any more than it would do if it’s a man. Or even the regressive malady that arbitrarily compounds the systemic misogyny afflicting male represented females, but rather something that undercuts the negative affiliation with the two separate extremes. I can empathise with misrepresentation. When you have the arresting masculinity as false as depictions such as Nathan Drake or Dante, with your spouse suggesting how attractive they are, there is a sedating sense of insecurity that I feel from that. You have Disney movies convey palatial princesses as merely the conduit for a masculine prince with suave troupe to save the helpless feminine. So perhaps it’s not about the instigation of realistic representation of a female gamer, but a fairer reflection. When I see a female like black widow, a 5ft, 9 stone assassin hurling assailants like they were paper air planes I don’t think “Well, she wouldn’t be able to that?!”. You just think, “wow, she’s kicking ass and looking good doing it!” And before you start criticising me for admiring Scarlet Johanson’s ample butt, the emphasis of cosmetically enhanced anatomy is an overture of gaming customisation we all subversively do, even if we don’t know it. I’ve never met someone that’s aspired to be the hunchback!
There are moments that determine callous examples of misogynistic disparity and every week there are further instances that provoke these often refuted claims. Presenting the female anatomy as some kind of rarefied, hyper sexualized implement, a kind of naturally occurring weapon against highly suggestible males is one thing, but having such pronounced aesthetics as depicted in MGS V with the quiet is representation of exploitation of the female form. “Expose your cleavage, hold a gun, bite your bottom lip and let the money roll in!” seems to be Konami’s, perhaps even Kojima’s philosophy. Perhaps it’s more misrepresentation as opposed to misogyny, and I certainly believe that significant strides have been made not to endorse these chauvinistic displays of exploitation, indicating a legislation that promotes tolerant and equal representation of femininity, not helpless damsels or androgynous portrayals such as in the Metroid series. For me it’s about equality. Adapting policies to accommodate more rounded characterisation that better reflects the number of female gamers. It’s high time that companies began making a concerted effort to prioritize diversity, I mean what difference would it make to alter a traditionally white male protagonist into Hispanic female? Or any ethnicity for that matter?! Knuckles is the closet thing to a black character the Sonic series has. And he’s red? How about a homosexual character? There are so many dimly illuminated avenues in gaming despite the litany of technical strides made, that it’s strange that culturally gaming really hasn’t progressed as well as it should.
What female characters do you think hold up well? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments below. Cheers.
Fear is the degenerative maelstrom rooted in the hearts and minds of humanity. Sucking the sanity from your very soul! You can see why horror is so popular? I’m not hear to philosophise or contradict what compels humanity to endure such feats of narcissistic endeavour. Other historians can philosophise what fear is and why we crave it, but I’m more concerned with how games can “maintain” that sense of fear. The installation of fear as well as the total loss of faculties that leads to bouts of decrepit senility, such as wetting yourself and screaming is the most base human instinct. And the emotional fragility associated with it is seemingly what the human condition thrives on. The thrill of the chase, the palpitations that sends the blood coursing through your veins at the very notion that at any moment you could die is exhilarating. With movies your observing interpretive perception of what a character is feeling, simply a distant spectator observing instances from an interpretive perspective. With literature your more involved, yet restricted by your own depicted conception of fear. But with gaming YOU are there. It’s you placed in these perverse locations. But due to the exposure of horror in gaming you’ll inevitably develop an immunity to its persistence. Once the overtures of a game and the suspicion of fear dissipates, what’s left? It’s difficult to emit a sense of ambient hysteria when you’ve inherited the terrifying fixtures of identically veneered dull grey walls and polyester drapes. So how do you retain fear?
Sure I’ve been scared. I’ve tossed my controller and ran from my room like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, but so many horror games squander their creative conceits in favour of cheap scares. Many horror situated games possess the innate capability to terrify its user, but with many falling prey to the inured monotony of routine. Jump scares, the otherwise dedicated proxy of video game anxiety expedites the dramatic tension with expository routine and plodding mechanics. The quantifiable mass of hysteria generated by jump scares does provoke a sudden brown tinge to accumulate on your undergarments, which arouses anxiety effectively. Jump scares are an arbitrary implementation and merely an illustration of fear not explanations. It is an effective substitute in inflicting terror, if used efficiently. Yet the juvenility of some proposed scares becomes an irksome plagiarizing of popular troupes. The regularity of jump scares obviates that instantaneous panic that causes a shuddering convulsion of your faculties. And herein lies the problem. That a games predictability results in content treating the audience as if they are stupid. As if the genre in any of its various forms has alluded you? Devs seem to forget that the majority of us have well established prescient for what to expect from the genre. Sure determining specifics that apply to the venerable breadth of horror franchises is like categorising the number of women Tiger Woods has slept with, but the general thematic is fairly stunted in progressive variation.
Okay I’m perhaps getting a little argumentative, but there does seem to be a conscripted inference that we as gamers require a ponderous dalliance of ubiquitous exposition to elaborate on very general plot points, forgetting that the genre itself is suggestive enough. It’s going to scare, or at least attempt to provoke intermittent fear. The simplicity in brevity seems to elude developers who had at one stage created something truly special. Resident Evil for instance established impressively eerie concepts under elaborate circumstances then waste it’s intriguing, if not subtle premise on convoluted stories. Its like sitting behind a cool fan on a hot day, your just wasting all of its intended potential! To add narrative complexity in addition to zombie pandemic mutes the entire cohesiveness of the series, as you waste hours attempting to understand what the hell is going on! It was always laced with ebullient B-movie ascetics, but now it’s a desolate vial regression. Some games forgo subtlety altogether, emphasising the situation with dramatic cacophony of masonic balladry which actually diminishes the impact of the situation, as if it’s trying to stimulate shock by prodding you on the shoulder to remind you that what you’re playing is scary. “Look, look. This is scary guys!” I mean what’s wrong with transience? Allowing your environment and your own anxiety to perpetuate your fear?
There’s something to be said for silence, the enunciated howl of some distant beast. The eerie plod of footsteps on creaking floorboards or the external ambivalence of your ambient surroundings as branches on aberrant tree are coerced by the nocturnal breeze, lightly tapping the window that then elevates the perception of dread to heightened, pant staining degrees. The perception of what you think you saw, or did you? Of course continually facilitating such fastidious practices of disciplined fear without the effect becoming contrived and scripted as any cheap ghost ride is almost impossible. Alien Isolation modulated the direct threat (the Alien) in the overtures instead utilising the darkened, ambient crevices of the ships cerebral structures that would dictate the level of fear. Reducing the visibility lowered exposure, nullifying your trusted sights to fleeting glimpses of identification meant that every inanimate utility posed a potential threat. You were questioning the validity of your surroundings, slinking through corridors, laterally skirting around precipices and getting scared by our reflective shadow! Everything was intent on causing respiratory failure, seemingly aghast at everything as you develop a mild case of Tourette’s! “Strange noise! Shadow! Nodding Duck! Toilet!!” Alien Isolation was also so clever in the way it’d utilised the clunking music to imply imminent danger, even though the benign environment presented no discernible danger. As a result your fooled into hiding into a locker for 10 mins as some technician who worked on the game is somewhere in the world chortling “he fell for it”. Eventually as you progress the game begins allocating predictable convalescence. Due to the overexposed regularity of the dangers, fear diminishes the once intimidating scenarios. Again maintaining perpetrated fear is difficult, instead generating involuntary nuisances.
Your curiosities to open a door for instance should feel like feats of gallantry. Fear and loathing are inexplicably linked. Fear is generated by the idea of death, not death itself. There’s no conclusive finality in simulated death, in fact if the game doesn’t provide enough resources to derive a feasible escape, then even the fear of death is diminished. Too much, and the same effect applies. There’s no negotiable parity insuring assertive fear as so many games generate varying philosophies when achieving it. For me though you shouldn’t be able to regenerate health or cure ailments through combative absence. Amenities and ammunition should be limited. Or in the case of Outlast, should be non-existent. Outlast presented a new challenge, negotiating through an insane Asylum without any defences to protect you from the innumerable patients in all there mutilated forms. It sustained anxiety with tempered moments of respite, thus instilling complacency in your safety with the adept profusion that–at least for the moment–everything is fine. The repository passivity counters the insistent trepidation, without negating the fear completely. Allowing moments of terror to resonate as much as it did at the start. Of course once you’ve adjusted to the scripted mechanisms, Outlast does struggle maintain this same fear without it turning into a Benny Hill sketch. And I think that’s the problem; you can only contribute so much before you’ve assimilated with such immersion that you begin to actualise and perform without the restrictions of fear to subvert you.
The purest essence of fear is derived from the connection you have with the situation. Now despite Resident Evil thematically imploding on itself and Silent Hill seeping deeper into vacuity, the likes of Alien Isolation and Outlast prove that games are still scary, without referring to the recycled excerpts from horror 101. Yet they also corroborate my theory that no matter how frightening, no matter how many times you poop yourself through every orifice, naturally games can only retain fear for so long.
What games have scared you from start to finish? Let me know. Cheers.