Posted on Sunday, November 11 2007 @ 11:12:19 Eastern
Can you remember when "videogame violence" was limited to stomping on oddly proportioned, mushroom looking objects with bipedal turtles and perhaps a half dragon, half turtle? Can you remember when "digital violence" was only limited to a poorly animated laser canon going "pew-pew" and your enemies just fading from existence?
I remember those days. A lot of people believed that video games and the consoles they're played on were merely kids toys. One could of course make the argument that they were right. With titles like Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country, and Mega Man almost always leading the pack in terms of sales, it's hard to think that video games could be used for something more than a child's entertainment. In fact, I remember having to hide my copies of Mortal Kombat and DOOM for the Super Nintendo simply because I thought that my parents would freak out if they ever found what was in these two video games.
And yet I remember, marveling over the game casing of these cartridges and thinking "wow, these are really cool." I didn't think that these games were "incredibly violent" or that they would "damage my psyche" and turn me into a "psycho killer". I thought, plain and simple, that it was pretty cool to be able to punch another character in the face and have them bleed.
And maybe that's the problem. Kids grew up playing Mortal Kombat and DOOM. They grew up with those two games especially because, while they were violent, they were also a hell of a lot of fun to play. There was a sense of maturity, a sense of approaching adulthood because you were chainsawing Imps from hell or because you managed to punch another guy in the crotch. Children can be entertained by the simplest things, and sometimes, they can even be thoroughly entertained because of the adult themes found in entertainment. There's laughter usually when someone finally discovers how to crotch-punch with Johnny Cage, or long winded "oooooh aaaahh"'s from people who finally figured out how to rip someone's head off their shoulders with the spine still attached.
Maybe in hindsight, this does sound disturbing... but for a young male, there can be no greater joy found than playing these games with other boys. There's a sense of camaraderie there as well. It was perhaps our little secret, and one that we would never show our parents for fear of getting the dreaded stamp of disapproval.
Where am I going with this, you may be asking yourself? Well, it's quite simple. Since the very beginning, violence in video games has been a part of our favourite hobby. If you can think back (or perhaps read up, if you're not old enough to remember), there were "violent video games" on the Atari platforms. There was a massive backlash over a video game based on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where you simply ran away from an oddly pixelated version of Leatherface and what looks like a giant wang of doom. These game, if you care to look, is incredibly primitive... but that didn't stop most retailers from banning the game outright and, when they did sell it, slip it in a paper bag as if it was some kind of pornographic material.
I use this example, because I think there is a video game out right now that is not deserving of the flak it's receiving. This game, of course, is Manhunt 2. It's a game that is visceral, pulls no punches, and while it may not be everyone's cup of tea, there is a certain sense of morality at work here.
I alluded to the more "fun" varieties of violence earlier, and I want to say that this game is nothing like that. If anything, Manhunt 2 can serve as a wakeup call and force gamers to remember that the violence shown in Gears of War, Halo, and even Grand Theft Auto are merely cartoon variations. The real violence looks more sinister, is more gruesome, and it makes the player remember that violence is not the best solution to any situation.
The violence you're forced to witness (and even commit) forces the player into an uncomfortable situation. The deaths at your own hands are not all justified like in the first game. There are innocent people here--innocents who just happen to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
I don't want to stray off the point, so I think I should be blunt. Manhunt 2 is not a video game for children. Much like Mortal Kombat, DOOM, and even Texas Chainsaw Massacre were not. This is a game meant for adults. With that out of the way, I can safely tell you that Manhunt 2 is a poignant and gritty look at violence in general. The "executions" are incredibly realistic, the punches your character throws feel more real than any fighting game in existence, and the subject matter (insanity, revenge) definitely screams that this game should be looked at with a serious eye.
I won't deny that there are no doubt some people who will get a kick out of Manhunt 2's stealthy executions. I don't think I am one of them, however. I've personally cringed and shaken my head over half of the stuff that Daniel Lamb does, not out of disgust, but because I was being slapped in the face and reminded that there is a difference between real violence and fantasy violence. That line, to most gamers I think, is slightly blurred. We see gameplay like Gears of War or FEAR, and we think it must be great to chainsaw someone in half or blow a replica soldier to a bloody mist. That gameplay IS fun, but it also keeps us from realizing the true horror of violence.
Manhunt 2, once more, doesn't pull any punches like that. Nothing is over-dramatic, and every ounce of pain you dish out looks and feels real... but perhaps, the real clincher here, is the fact that Daniel Lamb's reactions to killing are perhaps the most visceral and humanistic that I've ever seen in a video game.
The character of Leo Kasper is always egging Danny on, telling him that these people need to die because they stand between Danny and Leo and freedom. Danny is incredibly reluctant and, after taking his first victim's life, he proceeds to vomit. These are incredibly human reactions. The voyeur (Leo), constantly pushing Danny to take the next life so that they can survive, and Danny's reluctance because he is not a violent man by nature.
It's really a marvelous sight to behold. I've never before seen reactions to violence in such a visceral manner. Right from the onset, this game forces you to realize that violence is ugly, and the choice to kill is a hard one, but it gets easier...
Allow me to elaborate. Manhunt 2 not only forces the player to become a killer in order to survive, but it also forces the player to slowly lose his or her grip on the impact of these violent acts. Later on in the game, you seem to grow accustomed to the violence you're committing, and you're growing more and more accustomed to the playful cheers of Leo as he prods you ever onward in pursuit of the Project. I've also noticed how, around the third or fourth mission, Leo's comfort and soothing calls to Danny that killing is something he must do, suddenly turn to giddy, if not insane rambling about how Danny is a one man army, and almost constant calls of "niiice one Danny", seem to hint that Leo may not be all he's presented himself as.
And that's about the gist of it, really. Manhunt 2 should not be banned, but instead looked at as a serious game with serious subject matter. It's a game that decides to look at real violence and then translate it into a digital setting. The atrocious crimes committed here are, from my understanding, not simply there for amusement. It's meant to teach the player all over again that there is a very thick line between fantasy violence, and real violence. It's a line that we should always remember, and I personally think games like Manhunt 2 are necessary to smack us upside the head when we start to forget that.
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Posted on Monday, October 22 2007 @ 15:10:13 Eastern
Since I want to keep this blog alive, I decided that I'd post some of the things I've worked on (past and present) in photoshop. Most of it is gaming related, but some items aren't. Since I already wrote a long and detailed blog that included HTML picture tags and was somehow deleted, I'll just keep this section brief.
Back in the days before Doom 3, and when it was only an announced game, I got my hands on some of the first screenshots for what would be the final build. From that, I worked at it and whittled away the unnecessary bits until I found something I liked.
I made this for a friend, at his request. He loves Final Fantasy (for some reason), so at his request I decided to make this little gem. I'm actually quite fond of it, for some reason.
I first burst onto the scene here at GR with a series of BioShock signatures. They were always frowned upon by yours truly because I really couldn't fit a theme into the small scales given--which became even smaller. I would have rescaled this image if it were to become a signature, but since this is only appearing in a blog post, I figured I might as well leave it as is.
The idea behind it I think (from what I remember of the time), was all of this talk around BioShock. I myself didn't get caught up in the hype until the demo, but even then I was constantly barraged with statements and lofty titles that the game was being given. I was credulous towards it, but eventually, I was sunk to the world of Rapture along with them. I think this image is me kind of poking fun at how big BioShock eventually became.
I made this not too long ago; namely a few days. I had hoped to maintain the same aesthetic appeal from the teaser trailer while kind of putting my own spin on it. The tagline I thought was witty, but in hindsight I could've come up with something better. The text is what I'm the most worried over, since I couldn't find anything that could possibly fit the schematics for a Street Fighter logo in that size. If an image is too cluttered, it brings the quality down. Especially if it's just lines and lines of text.
I think it turned out okay, though.
After playing through the Orange Box and defeating Episode Two, I wanted something more. I hopped onto Photoshop a few hours later and came up with this; a signature advertisement for the climax of the Half-Life 2 story. I loved the line from Episode Two enough to include it as a tag line, hoping that it would stir some kind of grin from anyone who's played through it. I think it's a good tag line, and the text/lambda logo faded in and out of the background was a nice touch to give it a rustic appeal. I wish I could've done something a lot closer to the official text on each box-art, however.
And that concludes my photoshop showing-off (as MasterChris would put it) for this entry. Please note that if you want to use any of the above images for whatever reason, please do. I'm not a stickler for permission or anything like that and, I'd just be happy someone else found some enjoyment in my hobby. The only thing I ask of you is that you don't pass it off as your own.
I'm also contemplating opening a Sig Request thread on the forum. Feedback's always appreciated.
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Sounding Off on the Press
Posted on Friday, August 24 2007 @ 18:28:21 Eastern
I recently read a piece from over at Joystiq where some hillbilly reporter sounded off on BioShock, the premiere masterpiece experience of this year. Naturally, I wouldn't have had a problem with it, had the scribe not decided to try and loosely and vaguely tie the video game BioShock to a murder that had happened recently. The scribe then goes on to claim that a "recent study" showed that Games + Children = VIOLENCE. I absolutely refuse to soil the good GR name with the name of this *******, but instead I will provide a link to the article.
Now, normally I'm not a very confrontational person. In fact, I'm actually quite passive. Things don't really bother me, and most--if not all--comments for just about everything usually slide right off my back... but this, this bugs me. It bugs me a lot. I can't really seem to express how much it irks me without descending into a fit of adolescent cussing to get my point across... by by Super Jesus I will try.
The reason this article bothers me, is that it attacks a game that is widely considered a work of the highest art ever seen in our chosen medium. I have no doubt that as the years go by, BioShock will (or should) become to us gamers what Watchmen was comic books, or even, hopefully, what Citizen Kane became to films. It's really THAT good... but I already wrote a review, and I won't be discussing that here today.
What I do want to discuss, is just what the hell these people are trying to get at? Even with a work of art like BioShock, it seems that some hillbilly hack writer somewhere is still trying to screw with the gaming community. I'm not just talking gamers, I'm talking the whole wide community. The developers, the gamers, the testers, the scribes, your grandmother, everyone involved in it. I personally feel that this article--labeling BioShock as a bloodthirsty killing machine hellbent on forcing your child to fraternize with the devil and steal his/her soul--is truly mindboggling. I just can't seem to grasp just why in the hell not even the doubters of games can sit back and, allbeit probably begrudgingly, admit that this game and others like it are true art. What is so hard about that, really?
Is it because they still view our 360's and our PS3's and even our PC's as children's things? That games are only meant to be played by children and the half-witted? I can certainly see this argument with games like Halo 2. God knows I've been Teabagged into the seventh circle of Hell enough times to believe that there is no God... but come on, this game, this masterpiece, this BioShock is something so much more than a video game.
I think it bothers me to see a game that--in any other medium--would be applauded and renowned by its vulgar displays of morality and ethics. I think that if BioShock were a film and was produced HALF as well as it was as a game, it would have been labeled an instant classic, a masterpiece of science fiction that challenges your very ideas of humanity and the choices that we as humans make... and to see that this wonderful experience, this MASTERPIECE in any medium is just being slandered to death because it happens to run on a 360 as opposed to a DVD player is not only insulting to the developers, but also a down-right slap in the face to all of us gamers out there who jerked tears and were horror-stricken at the very thought of forcing a Little Sister to suffer for our own selfish gains.
And that's the problem, isn't it? This particular scribe seems scared of the fact that games are becoming more than a child's "play thing". He sees an experience like BioShock, one that challenges morality, one that challenges you (the player) to realize what kind of morals and ethics YOU have... and that scares them. I think it honestly scares them to see such a brilliant concept not only in style, narrative, but also in execution work so well as a "lowly child's plaything."
And this bothers me. It really does. Once again I find it hard to refrain from cursing my lungs out, but I honestly feel insulted by this article. BioShock is a work of art, and there is nothing that anyone could say to contradict that. I know this, and the thousands upon thousands of other players who have experience BioShock know this as well. Hell, Irrational knows it. The critics know it. Our community knows it... but to see someone who isn't even a gamer, someone who has no interest in writing a fair and balanced article/piece on the inner workings of BioShock and only wants to see if he can tie it to "violence among children" is sad, disgusting, and most all spitting on the name of Great Art.
It's repulsive, really.
Would you walk into a museum and spit on the Mona Lisa?
Would you walk into a theatre showing Citizen Kane and then burn the footage, perhaps pissing on the ashes for good measure?
Would you burn a copy of Fahrenheit 451?
Of course you wouldn't, because those pieces of art are renowned for being the masterpieces that they are.
Why the **** can't we get some respect for our masterpieces? That, at the heart of it all, is my biggest problem with the media at large. They refuse to give us the respect we deserve, and are only too anxious to drop another Virginia Tech massacre in our lap because the scumbag who did WAS RUMORED to play Grand Theft Auto.
The media sickens me, and will continue to do so until our masterpieces get at least some measure of the respect they deserve.
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Why is Backwards Compatibility so Important?
Posted on Tuesday, August 21 2007 @ 02:13:38 Eastern
So I've been thinking to myself about Backwards Compatibility a lot, and I really do have a few questions. One of them would have to be, why is it so important?
Back in the olden days, when the Third Dimension was still a new and scary con... read more...
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