Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

Guns of the Patriots: Vaguely Referencing the Now

Posted by deckard47 on April 22, 2009

To reiterate what I said, if you’re done thinking about this game, don’t want to think about it, or love it to death, this may not be for you. Anyway: I was kind of digging things (gameplay-wise), until and after a few things happened:

The intermittent adds were super weird, and didn’t make me think about the commodification of various aspects of life, mass production, or anything like that. Mostly because the level at which their discourse works could be trumped by the kitten I don’t have but desperately want. Seriously, just have a flashing sign that says “Rapidly expanding capitalism and privitization = bad, Snakes and their solidity + life affirming message = good. Or something like that.I guess I get that the adds make a point with their peculiar opulence and excessive consumption, and their delight in war and violence as tools for social betterment, but without actual discussion of these topics to back up the ads, the ads are just that: flashy ways to seem smart. Does the dialogue back it all up then? Look below!

Back to things that bugged me. The controls are silly. Not RE 5 silly (which I thought made sense, from a certain point of view), but just silly. The menu scheme and in game weapon switching makes me long for Fable 2‘s 10 minute potion drinking ordeals. The aiming and shooting are slow, floaty, and feel detached from the action. Or maybe it’s just not fun to control. Ooooooh, maybe that makes you feel more detached from death, or war, and by that I mean War.

Next up: The fact that the frog things were cool, and then they pooped green stuff for no reason. Maybe that will be explained later?

Finally (and most annoyingly), the writing reaches a new level of bad. Characters darkly inform me that they’ve received new “Intelligence” (or even better, “Intel”), pointing to Liquid Snake being in “a warzone” in “the Middle East.” Which is like, in the middle. Of a place. Maybe the East? It’s in the the middle, and there’s fighting. Because War is there. In the Zone. I can’t think up of any more hackneyed ways to say these things.

Also, “organizations” want “things” so that they can continue changing things (like War). Making War Change and No Longer be the Same. I think Snake’s narration told me 5 times over that War Had Changed. I know, guy. Thanks. I understand that they’re trying to say something about the future of war, privatization, capitalism, and other interesting topics, but they’re using a hammer (no, maybe a Death Star) where they should be using a scalpel. It’s annoying and dumb and in your face all the time.

I am interested in the gameplay they seem poised to offer me, but I find myself losing consciousness for the tiniest cutscenes. It’s obvious to me that the writer and designers have a very precise, exacting vision. The scene where Snake is chased by frog-robots, and then checks to see if a stolen gun has been ident-locked, are both impressive in their attention to detail and the directness of their production. These people knew what they wanted to say and show, and they did it. I just don’t know if I care, what with the way they’ve decided to “communicate” with me. I know that MGS4 is something you “get” or you don’t. I don’t see how I could ever get it though.

Movies like Three Kings and The Hurt Locker seem damn visionary (and insightful and open-minded) compared to this game (and I liked both of those movies, so I’m not trying to make too much fun of them). I’ll give it a bit more time to explain itself, but if it continues to spew these worn down, vague narrative and stylistic tropes, I’m done. I’m not sure how grown ups put up with this kind of grasping, incoherent narrative: the notion that “the government” and “corporations” are “up to something” and “mass producing” war or soldiers can be addressed in a less vague way. It’s as if they’re gesturing at something, far off in the distance, and that something is hidden behind a cloaking device, covered in vaseline, inside a black hole. I can’t think of language less decisive, descriptive, or comprehensible. More news from “The Front” later today, I guess.

Again, sorry if you hate me now, or were bored. But I’m not really that sorry. Only if you’re a nice person. Snake should be sorry though.

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13 Responses to “Guns of the Patriots: Vaguely Referencing the Now”

  1. Looks like I’m the only person who hates Beyond Good and Evil, and you’re the only person who hates MGS4. Besides hating the fact that the cutscenes are so long, it’s cool to think that. Nobody actually talks about how inane the fucking story is. I love when you read these comments on gaming critic’s blogs from English professors who need help making a course lesson on Metal Gear. I want to fucking shoot them through the Internet.

  2. deckard47 said

    Wow, you read way cooler blogs than me, I never see messages like that. Where would I find such posts? I’m sure they’re hilarious in every way. Gotta go read that post of yours to fathom your BG&E hate, because as you say, it’s difficult to find any other similar opinions. I’ll make sure to send you a picture of it when I pick up the sequel, just so you know how much fun I’m having.

  3. Eric said

    Vaseline?

  4. deckard47 said

    It makes things blurry. Like when they rubbed vaseline on the lens of the camera when they were filming Luke’s landspeeder (if that story is true).

    • Eric said

      Oh, duh. I thought you meant the vague, hidden thing itself on the horizon was covered in Vaseline. That was a weird image.

  5. You can stretch film stock to get a similar effect. See the beginning of the film “chungking express” 🙂

  6. Oh I’ll play BG&E2 if it’s good. I think the first is competent. I just think the localization voice acting is insulting, the premise is naive, and the Nietzsche reference is completely off-base.

  7. deckard47 said

    Errr, refresh my memory. What Nietsche reference? Was it the abyss looking back? I mean, that bit is stolen for every game: Baldur’s Gate 1, BG 2 (I think), BG&E, Too Human, and maybe a few others. Lots of games like to steal from him, because he’s “quotable” even if you don’t know what the hell he’s talking about… The premise may be naive, but I still like Pay’je (or however you spell it) and Jade’s interaction, and Jade’s script, middling acting or no.

  8. Oh, the title Beyond Good and Evil is the title of one of his books. It’s about abandoning Christian morality in favor of the will to power. It’s also about giving up a claim to objective “truth.” Hence my problem with trying to reference it with a game that relies on a naive understanding of truth.

  9. Sam said

    If I taught a class on a video game, it would /not/ be Guns of the Patriots. I think it might be mass effect. Maybe. Or /The Witcher/. Probably that. But how would you do weekly assignment? “Beat Aci III?” What if they couldn’t? Could you blame them for not doing their homework?

    Shit, I’m in the wrong profession.

  10. @Sam – Mass Effect and Witcher would be good for an English class because they’re both so clearly hobbled by the fact that traditional writers had such a huge influence on how they were designed. It’s the same problem English professors have when teaching film classes: they emphasize the narrative and don’t even tell their students that there are people concerned with the formal properties of media other than books and poetry.

    So it goes.

  11. deckard47 said

    @Sam: Do it! Teach The Witcher! It would be so much better than that Henry James fucker who has sucked away so much of your youth.

    @Simon: I’m curious what you think a better balance of the more formal aspects of game design w/the traditional writing style that you’re leery of. I mean, assuming you want to include that much of the latter in the first place? I assumed you leaned away from that kind of stuff, but I’m just so set in my ways that I love games that swing that impractical, un-gamey way…

  12. I think it’s any academic’s responsibility to cut through the bullshit of departmental lines *after* they’ve snuck a new topic like “game studies” past their department head. Sure, tell the 80 year old windbag who loves Toni Morrison, Shakespeare, and Dante that you’re going to show how videogames are a new storytelling medium. But once you get to the class, you need to resist the temptation to say, “Hey look, this game has a story. This is the story. It’s like these stories in the books you’ve already read.” You have to explain that the formal properties of literature and poetry do not translate exactly into other media. Thematic analyses of games are wonderful (I do it quite a lot), but you have to tie it to the mechanics. If you’re discussing a game where you can’t tie the two together, you’re probably looking at a game where the writers and the designers weren’t even talking to each other. That’s poor design, and it’s poor writing.

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