The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posts Tagged ‘Things I have no real knowledge of’

Posted by Matt on October 29, 2011

From my rather limited knowledge of the actual media involved:

The more I think about these days, the more I come to like the character of Superman. I have often heard people argue that he is “boring” for one reason or another; he’s too powerful, he’s too nice, etc. This may come from the many cases where the potential of Superman were squandered by lazy or small-minded creators; it may also come from a rather skewed sense of what constitutes an “interesting” character, one that has somehow had it been hammered into their skull that nice guys aren’t real, and that purplish angst and brooding and suffering are the signs of a developed personality. Of course, if you have ever talked to another human being in your life, you know that’s shit.

The most recent observation I’ve had about Superman’s character is one that not only makes him stand out among the legions of copycat superheroes (well, that might be going too far; Superman started the genre and all the associated elements, but it’s a pretty broad category), and one that has appeal to me and my own writing tics: Superman is one of the few characters I know of that chose his or her life, rather than having it imposed on them by events beyond their control. Now, you could argue that the cataclysmic event that put Superman on Earth was beyond his control, which is true. But for the most part, the destruction of Krypton has very little bearing on Superman/Clark Kent’s choices in life, a few plotlines involving bottled cities and the like excepted, and feels more like a convenient excuse to give him superpowers. For the most part, though, it went like this: Clark Kent found out he had superpowers, and decided to use them to help people. It’s simple. But it’s also effective.

Compare to that to most other comic superheroes: Batman has dead parents (and the absurdity of the whole origin story is often underplayed because of bat-favouritism, especially when you pile up all the Bruce Wayne exploits they’ve revealed over the years; it’s silly enough that a kid with dead parents decides to punch gangsters in a bat costume, but he also decided to become a word-class chemist and get ninja training in the Himalayas?), the Hulk and Fantastic Four are all blasted by made-up radiation (and the event being beyond Bruce Banner’s control is integral to the Hulk character, it must be said), the X-Men are all born in a world that hates them (turning what seems like every non-mutant person into a mini-Torquemada, a rather hilarious bit of melodrama), Iron Man got shrapnel in the heart, Thor is banished to earth for being a dick, etc. The closest thing to Superman’s situation in another comic character is probably Spider-Man; but even then, his powers are from an accident, and his decision to fight crime needs to be prompted by personal tragedy. All of them, to varying degrees, do what they do because of something that happened to them. It doesn’t feel like it was their decision.

That’s not the case for Superman. Despite being an alien, it’s only the powers he successfully keeps secret that separates him from normal people. There’s no prejudice keeping him down, no dead relatives inspiring him to do one thing or another (well, at leas that WAS the case), not even a big monstrous threat that needs smiting (initially). He simply made a rational decision (or at least as rational as it can be coming with a bright red cape and underpants) to become a vigilante hero using his powers (and also a journalist, something that a lot of people seem to overlook – he’s fighting the good fight on two fronts). This, to me, is rather refreshing. I think we need to appreciate it in these simple stories when they actually show someone actually being proactive and taking what they’re given and going with it, which is surprisingly rare.

Of course, that “simplicity” may be part of the reason people call Superman boring. But to me, it just opens up possibilities – and that’s one of the things I decided I like about Superman, the sheer number of possibilities. A character with that level of power, that kind of background, that kind of mindset? You could do anything with that. When it comes to these long-lived media properties, that’s a real boon, isn’t it?

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Wizards and Goblins I Have Not Known

Posted by Matt on July 12, 2011

With all the noise being made about HBO’s A Game of Thrones, George R.R. “Fatboy” Martin’s newest book in the original series, and the incoming overextended Hobbit movie, we’ve all been getting a massive dose of high fantasy lately. Here’s a secret: a don’t really like high fantasy. At all. this and this will give you a good idea why. But there’s more.

I, for one, find the Medieval Euro-centric concepts of these stories to be pretty dull on their own. Being a white, middle class North American all my life, I’ve had the real and imaginative histories of Western Europe drilled into my brain pretty thoroughly. I’m tired of it, really, especially when the authors have no innovative takes on the hoary old cliches at all. And really, there’s so many neat histories and myths found around the world, I think it would be worth more time seeking those out than hearing about kings and dragons again.

Like O’Neil, I am also unceasingly skeptical of authority, especially arbitrary authority as represented by the monarchies and upper classes that have spent the better part of human existence oppressing 98% of the population. Once you exit adolescence, I think the fantasy of ‘good’ kings should be long gone. Most high fantasy is inherently nostalgic, whether it be for the times of kings and nobles, or for the uncomplicated country living idolized by Tolkein’s Hobbits. But nostalgia in both instances is ignorance of history, a callback to times that didn’t exist. We may pretend that the British Royals are anything other than vestigial entities in a political realm that completely ignores them in every way that counts. Yet, I still see a defence of the Royals in local newspaper columns almost every Victoria Day. “It’s a tradition!” they cry out, as if traditions have ever had a particularly good track record. “It’s what keeps us connected to our unique heritage!”, which only reminds us that our heritage different levels of inherited authority figures sending each other out to take and enslave. But reality is no deterrent to the nostalgic set, and therein lies an appealing factor in high fantasy, a reminder of simpler times that didn’t actually exist. Even the more complicated political worlds of Martin’s books can’t escape it, especially when little to no attention is paid to the people under the warring noble factions.

Then there’s the length. I have always considered brevity a virtue, so if you’re story requires several 500-1000 page books to tell in its entirety, I get the impression that it’s getting bogged down by something. Worldbuilding is probably my least favourite literary trend, as it attempts to wring out a sense of importance and ‘epicness’ from the blandest of tales, and usually hinders plot and characterization. You want a big fucking universe? Write a fucking encyclopedia for it; don’t distract me while I’m trying to enjoy your yarn.

And that’s why I don’t like high fantasy.

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Disturbing Fetishes I Have Known

Posted by Matt on July 11, 2011

Now for something completely unwanted.

Now, I’m not one who thinks the waves of unsettling fetishes one can (too) easily find on the Internet only came about because of the Internet. No, they were almost certainly there since before the digital age. It’s just that people like you or me, who had no idea one could be turned on by such and such, are more likely to find out about them. Learning way too much about them, even. I’m sure most people innocently watching stuff on Youtube have had a moment where they see a video on the ‘Recommended’ list with an unusually descriptive title, click it, and find themselves through the looking glass. It’s far worse for anyone who dares peruse any of the many open art sites like DeviantArt.

I think it would interesting to look up an actual psychology paper on these sorts of things and how they come about, which must exist somewhere, but am too afraid to look it up myself. But for those of who have been lucky enough to avoid finding out about some of these things, sticking to your basic websites and getting in and out of your Google Image Searches quickly, here are some of the odd ones I’ve stumbled upon. I’d love to learn where some of these things come from, but for now, the knowledge that they exist is enough. More than enough.

Hypnotism

On one hand, probably the tamest of the lot with it’s light BDSM traits, but in other ways, very very disturbing indeed. Let’s face it: someone with a hypnosis fetish craves domination, or to be dominated themselves. All the methods seen in the media are featured on the sites, and special attention to paid to the face of the ‘victim’. Some like them to stare blankly (an additional love of vegetables?), some enjoy the ‘victims’ being all smiles. Drooling might be considered a bonus. A subset of this is mind control, which only furthers that rather unsettling feeling.

Quicksand

Now we’re getting more into the Internet era of fetishes, which includes categorizing random scenes from movies, television shows, and drawings of all sorts. Like hypnotism, there are a fantasy bondage aspect to the quicksand fetish, what with the focus on struggling, helpless women and all. Of course, being a groan-worthy staple of children’s adventure stories for so many years, it’s no wonder it’s ended up being an obsession (a real obsession. Just read the quotes from this) for the many now scouring the Internet. Also like the hypno fetishists, there are subcategories. Some, for example, just like the idea of people covered in sticky sludge, which would include things beyond quicksand.
Quicksand and other bondage scenarios involving women even have a ‘cute’ acronym among the fetish circles: DiD, or Damsels in Distress. Are they trying to hide behind it? I don’t know.
A related phenomenon that is far worse is a sort-of sister fetish centered around women being hurt in several different ways called ‘Ryona’ (I don’t know what the term actually means, and like hell am I diving even further into that cesspool). It’s really scary, and I’ve unfortunately stumbled on far too many Ryona videos on Youtube. Just a heads up: stay the fuck away.

Inflation

This one might be a tad more widespread because of the crossover with the furry community. Essentially, this is people who tug to the image of people/things being inflated like a balloon. ‘Muscle inflation’ is a popular term/category. I don’t really have much to say about this one, except “What. The. Fuck.”
There is also some crossover with the final fetish I’m going to talk about here.

Vore

That is, being turned on by the idea of being devoured. There are two main divides in the vore community: ‘soft’, which means essentially being swallowed whole and alive, and ‘hard’, which I assume means not being eaten whole and alive. I have successfully avoided the latter one so far. There’s really no limit to what can eat what in this world, it all works (which is why there’s a segment of the furry base revolving around this, as well). Some subcategories of the soft side include things called “Unbirthing”, “cockvore”…ugh, you get the picture. It’s not a good picture. (Ramble: I remember reading an early report on the PSP Kingdom Hearts game that called the new monsters in it ‘Unbirths’, and I said to myself: “Boy, they’re going to need to change that”).
Cartoon lions are a popular feature on the vore Youtube. Some people like to involve stomach acid in their fantasies. As for ‘why’, I’ve observed a few explanations from those who inflict this upon us all. Some people apparently like the idea that being inside someone will be all warm and comfortable. Some, probably the vore-inflation dual classes, like the image of someone with a cartoonishly inflated belly. There are certainly bondage aspects to soft vore, as well as domination fantasies. Personally, I find it all really, really gross.

Again, my main purpose in recalling these things, aside from creeping myself and everyone else out, is to wonder how things like this happen. The common thread between all these fetishes is that they often take root in childhood, based on something the participant witnessed in their choice of entertainment. The Internet really can’t be considered a true culprit in this matter: it’s an enabler, but it’s not a cause. I doubt many of these fetishists got their starts by just finding these sites. No, something has to be there before. So, what makes it so that something as (seemingly) random as this takes such a stranglehold (uh oh, that’s an unintentional allusion, oh boy) on their psyches? I’m sure most live completely normal lives in all other respects, but something happened there to make them become one of THESE THINGS. There must be an answer somewhere, but like I said, I’m sure as shit not going to go down that highway of madness.

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Posted by Matt on May 22, 2011

…and while I’m complaining about television, I got another issue.

Despite being heavily based in genre fiction, in books, comics, games, and movies, I have a hard time getting into most genre television. Most of it is because of the length issues I talked about the other day (and although many are not so heavily plot-based, most series since X-Files have story arcs). There’s something else, though, something that I think is far more ingrained in today’s genre TV conventions.

I have never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer for an extended period of time. I may have seen a few episodes here and there; in fact, the only season I have any real exposure to is the first one, which contained episodes about giant praying mantises and hyena people that I’m sure most fans are wont to forget (the only other episode I can remember watching? One that featured John Ritter as an evil robot. As far as I’m concerned, this is what Buffy is, a show about giant praying mantises and evil John Ritterbots). I do know many people who have seen all of it, and love it, and evangelize it. This audience kept a cult show on for seven seasons and a spin-off, and it has acquired a bit more cultural cache because of that. It has, really, become an influential force on the world of genre fiction. That’s where my problem begins.

Now, I’m not going to dismiss Buffy or its fans; I have no reason to, as I have not been presented with anything that says the show was particularly bad. But I have become quite aware of the show’s, and Joss Whedon’s, storytelling tics from exposure to fans and critics online. Since that awareness came, I have begun to see them everywhere. The show may not have been a cultural force, but it was a nerd cultural force, and so the nerds with a creative drive start getting their work out there, it’s influence spreads like a plague.

But what is this influence that haunts me? I think it boils down to the following recurring qualities:

1) General cheapness, with little or no desire to make up for it visually
2) Snarky dialog coming from all characters
3) A strong sense of ironic detachment

The first is more or less out of the creator’s hands; TV budgets are notoriously minuscule. Which is generally no excuse for lame direction, which is an epidemic among genre TV. Budget or no, bad action is bad action, and it’s not like its impossible to make something LOOK good on a small budget.

The second and the third are tied together, and this is what really gets me. It’s a nerd thing; they want to like the things they like, but they can’t look like they take that shit too seriously (even when they do), because well…it’s silly stuff. I know it’s odd to think of nerds having any sense of social awareness, but it’s there, every once in a while. What it does is when these types get a hold of entertainment, however, is make a contradiction.

Now, having an ironic, or less-than-deadly-serious take on genre conventions is not in itself a terrible thing. It can be done right, and has. The problem is that…everybody’s doing it now. You can’t have wizards or vampires or aliens in anything without at least one character who thinks the whole thing is a joke. But then the story plays it mostly straight otherwise, so any sort of commentary or comedic value is removed. It’s having your cake and etc., is what it is. These writers really do love stories with vampires and wizards and stuff like that, but they know that most people think that shit is stupid. So, they make this show that basically says “Here’s a monster, but just between you and me, this is really pretty dumb! Keep watching anyway” It feels a bit dishonest to me.

I think a lot of this comes from comics culture. I’m sure most of the people who write genre television was, at one point, a Marvel or DC reader. By the mid-90s, all the kids and teenage comic readers had vacated superheroes, leaving the long-time readers to hold the fort. Being adults, they knew that if other people found out they still loved stories about men in gaudy costumes punching each other, they would be ostracized…moreso. So they started that ironic detachment, mocking most of what had built the superhero comics up until that point: the silly adventure stuff, the world domination plots, the super pets. Then these same guys went on to be the writers of the comics, and they brought that sensibility to the books themselves. Superhero comics have yet to recover from that incursion of irony, and even the movies have yet to really capture the kind of grand cosmic weirdness that they were capable of 25 years ago (both Thor and Green Lantern seem to be getting closer, though).

In fact, it really seems that in the last decade, all the mainstream comics have essentially become genre television in ink form. All above features I listed above are there, in addition to things like a focus on ongoing story arcs, and even the contradictory desire to be both shocking (usually via character deaths) while maintaining the status quo (because change makes people feel scared). As I mentioned, some of this stuff originated in comics and comic readers, so it’s all full circle. It’s worth mentioning that many comics writers in the mainstream today either moonlight as television writers, or seem to desperately want to be (I don’t remember where exactly I read this, but I remember someone saying that Brian Michael Bendis, for example, seems to want to write crime or espionage thrillers, but life dealt him superheroes instead). So there really is no mystery to why all this is going on.

I just don’t really like it. It’s not the type of writing I can really enjoy very often. It gets tiring. You just want them to commit to an idea; either be a full-on comedy making fun of genre tropes, or just write a story using those tropes (hopefully in a creative way). The closest thing to it on my regular viewing plate is Doctor Who, which while not completely serious, is still pretty devoted to its sci-fi ideas, which I find enjoyable more often than not. The funny thing is, the original run of the show is one of the things that I think a lot of genre writers aspire to, but are forced to distance themselves from because of its (perceived or real) cheesiness. The new show embraces its past, but has still taken in what has changed within the world of genre TV within the past two decades, so it ends up avoiding the major shortfalls of both eras. It’s a nice balance, one that I hope to see more of.

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Posted by Matt on May 20, 2011

First thing: I have started a Tumblr site. It is mainly a place for me to post things (videos, pictures, links, etc.) that catch my attention at that moment. I need to post those because the Internet has so destroyed my attention span that I will forget whatever it was I was doing five minutes ago. This way, like my notebook collection and my dream log, I will never forget anything that happens to me, ever. Plus, I made the decision, one I have rarely broken!, that I don’t really want this to be a linkblog. I will reserve wordpress for longer things that are slightly less ill-thought-out, but still ill-thought-out.

****

Enough of that, let’s get to business.

Remember Lost? It was a television show that was on a while back, and I think some people watched it. I never did, and something tells me I never will.

Why is that? Well, there is a lack of interest in the central concept, but good execution or a slightly more interesting take on the idea could still lure me in. But really, the main reason I will likely never watch Lost is this: it would take over 100 hours of my life to finish that one story. It would have to be the best fucking story ever to make me put in that level of commitment. It would probably have been easier when the show was originally being run, but I can barely get myself to watch half-hour shows that don’t follow a regular storyline every week. I am no longer a television viewer, I think.

But thinking about Lost again, after it left the cultural discussion (rather quickly, I might add, which is rather odd considering the force it was), as well as the serial television rage it inspired, alongside 24, I realized something: network television is awful for serialized storytelling, It goes back to what I was saying before: you have to devote so much time in order to follow it. It was alright when it was something like the X-Files, with “mythos” stories mixed in with standalone episodes, but once you start playing with a single devoted narrative? Then things start to become shaky.

This is primarily because of the large episode orders networks put out for shows. 20+ episodes a season is a lot of television, especially at the 40 minutes standard to network dramas. You would need a very expansive overall plot to make that work, with every little character moment or subplot or whatever mean something. Understandably, that would be difficult. So it should be expected that anyone who wants their big overarching story told in this way is going to end up farting around for a couple of episodes a season. The standard television season is pretty bloated, which is why it generally favours shows without overarching stories, and why it took so long for one to become successful.

The other problem, one that I remember being brought up while Lost was still on, was that if something is successful enough to actually be able to complete its story, it is also successful enough for the network to want to expand it beyond it’s original length in order to guarantee maximum profit on it (mostly via syndication, which doesn’t really work well for serial stories, but that won’t stop them). So a story that is already combating the bloat of long network seasons can also face additional bloat, and in these situations, you would need to be a pretty powerful Hollywood player to get the people airing your show to let you make it the way you want. There are ways to overcome something like this…for example, ending a storyline and then starting a new one. But would eliminate part of the appeal of these shows, wouldn’t it?

This is why I think cable channel schedules are far better for a serialized story. The average season on HBO or any other specialty channel is 13 episodes; this is a perfectly good number to work with. Plenty of time to move the plot forward, plenty of time to do character work, and barely any time for excess. You think you’re story is too ‘epic’ for 13 episodes? Fuck you. Limitations will probably help you make your story better. It makes you consider what’s important, what you need to make the whole thing work. Making your little epic leaner won’t hurt it…probably.

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Posted by Matt on September 2, 2010

The phrase ‘Hollywood is out of ideas’ kind of confuses me. I can understand the frustration when you hear every other day that a board game or Youtube video or glob of spit on the sidewalk is being made into a movie. It seems that everything that already exists is getting made into a movie these days, even other movies.

But the thing…’Hollywood’, that fictional entity that is meant to encompass all the studios in America…doesn’t really have it’s own ideas, does it? Okay, all these licenses being acquired and greenlit obviously comes from the brass. And even great movies started out like this; Jaws is a classic, but it likely started with some CEO saying “That Peter Benchley book is popular, make a movie out of it”. The closest thing the studios themselves come to creativity is going with a general idea rather than just a license, like saying ‘People want movies with cowboys!’ or ‘People want movies about the war!’.

So, in essence, Hollywood never has ideas, or at least original ones. The ones with the ideas are the screenwriters who pitch their scripts to the studios. They’re the ones who, one way or another, have to mold a story from the mud, whether it’s their own or something given to them.

It’s a strange thing, really. Most movie ideas come from the top-down, I must admit, but there are still examples of big movies that were screenwriter pitches first, Alien being a prime example. Still, I think there is enough evidence to suggest that most of the creativity comes from the bottom, from those more directly connected to the creative aspect of filmmaking. So then the idea that ‘Hollywood is out of Ideas’ seems faulty, as for the most part, the ideas are not created by the studios, but by the screenwriters, or directors, or even designers; and I’ve heard very little that leads me to believe that they are out of ideas.

This leads to what the actual problem is, though: ‘Hollywood’ isn’t willing to take risks at all, so they are less willing to buy a script unless it has some connection to something that already exists, or is championed by a bankable actor. It’s getting absurd, and the fact that the studios are buying the rights to board games is only the beginning. It seems that they have become so timid about making money back on their investment that they will take anything, literally anything, that might have some sort of recognition factor, no matter how minuscule, as being a safe bet. And they need safe bets: they are losing money all the time, as people just stop going to the movies, preferring to watch them at home, or to rampant Internet piracy. And the budgets are ballooning, because in order to get the quality and star power that is expected of major movies these days you need to START with tens of millions or more (consider that most major actors will cost six figures on their own, and that you usually need a bunch to get some peace of mind). The model is bloated as hell, but that’s just where the studios have led themselves.

This is, as one can tell, bad for upstart screenwriters who don’t have the connections to get into the mercenary part of the industry. They have to start somewhere, but there seems to be less opportunity in the film industry than ever before. There are still some smaller studios that are probably more receptive to new ideas, but it’s probably difficult getting in contact with them for much of the same reasons it’s difficult to break into the big part of the industry: you need connections.

In conclusion, it’s not that Hollywood is out of ideas, it’s just too scared to buy new ones.

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Posted by Matt on April 27, 2010

I know a lot of comics blogs probably have at least one post where they describe what they would do if they were in charge of Marvel and/or DC, and I’m likely the least-informed out of the lot of them. Even so, I have ideas, and I can post whatever I want, so fuck off.

So, here’s the pitch:

Marvel and DC stop publication of all monthly comics. All of them.

Creators seeking to use their copyrighted characters would pitch their story ideas to the company. Those stories would published as complete graphic novels, or would be released as a serial story via either a monthly anthology magazine which could contain those stories, excerpts from already-published graphic novels, reprints, and original short comics; or, periodically online on either the company’s website or through devices like the iPad. In both cases, the collected edition would be published a short time after the serial story is completed. This way, characters can be kept in circulation, creators who desire to do so will still get a chance to work with those characters, and comic shops will still have things they can sell.

Rewrite the publishing polices to allow for the publishing of more creator-owned series. While they may not be able to control or financially benefit from those properties, the chance of getting a wider variety of stories published would allow them to pursue new demographics and venues, increasing their reach.

Of course, the chance of any ideas like these being pursued any time soon is slim. For both companies, comics publishing is just something they do on the side. Both have licensing to bring in the money, and now both have large corporations backing them. Despite the ruckus they might raise whenever a new big direction in their comics is coming up, they don’t seem to be that interested in how many people actually read them.

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Posted by Matt on February 25, 2010

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before, but Tim Burton’s Alice in Tim Burton Land looks really annoying. Like, I can’t even stand looking at any of the marketing because it looks so awfully Tim Burton that it just bugs the hell out of me.

Remember when a Tim Burton movie was something quirky and different? That was back when it was (a) new, and (b) usually attached to something other than ‘TIM BURTON MAKES A TIM BURTON MOVIE’. Did one of his movies bomb so bad he went into shellshock or something? Is he afraid of branching out? Or does he just love money?

It really doesn’t matter what the answer is. We’ve lost another talent to the abyss, and that’s what hurts the most.

********************

Speaking of similar things, my latest big Internet ‘research’ voyage was into the realm of Frank Baum’s Oz series. They seem like my kind of thing, filled with high-concepts that put my own attempts to shame. The Wizard of Oz is only the beginning: read up on this stuff yourself and have your mind BLOWN.

Also, look at this.

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Some REAL TOK

Posted by Matt on November 10, 2009

The main problem with the GAMES ARE ART movement are the games themselves. It’s really hard for them to be something ‘more’, I guess, as long as they still have to be game, which more or less undermines anything else it might be trying to do. Many of the suggestions to take games to the next level just sound like turning them into choose-your-own-adventure books or the impossible dreams of people who still think the Star Trek holodeck is viable. (Of course, I don’t have this problem because I don’t care if games are considered ‘art’, and if they are considered art it should be for their design as a game, not for any sort of narrative effects).

Take for the example, the new Modern Warfare game that has been in the news a lot lately.

Just to clarify, I have absolutely no interest in it. I have paid attention to the stories about it because it involves quite a few shifty design decisions, mostly on the meta level. Since I have been watching big companies like Activision get lambasted for their idiotic business decisions with morbid curiosity, this game would ultimately come to my attention.

In one level, and I know this is technically a spoiler but look at me give a shit, you play as a terrorist (or an American agent posing as a terrorist, I’m not entirely clear. Keep both possibilities in mind, because while they produce a similar effect, the context is very important) who guns down fleeing, innocent people at an airport until the timer ends the level. Keep in the mind, that something like this wasn’t too much of a surprise, considering that the first Modern Warfare game had a level where your character stumbles around dying in the fallout of a nuclear strike. The developer of the game, Infinity Ward, is intentionally trying to throw in shocking things like that in order to get people to think about the game in some way.

Unfortunately, this time, it doesn’t seem to work. The point was to get home that the bad guys are BAD GUYS and that terrorism is bad m’kay. Of course, putting you in the shoes of the terrorists doesn’t get the point across; it beats you over the head with the point until you are comatose. It’s unnecessary to go to that length to make that kind of statement. It’s not even a particularly compelling idea. They were going for a similar shock factor, but didn’t really think that one through.

And, quite honestly, how many gamers are going to consider that point? Mainstream FPS’ are an especially difficult genre to get a point across in, because they are almost all steeped in the GAME. That’s why they have multiplayer modes. You can’t say that you want to be artistic when the majority of the game is spent playing as an illogical supersoldier shooting at ciphers to get to the next level and eventually the end credits, or as an illogical supersoldier shooting at other illogical supersoldiers for team points. They could say they were trying to be subversive, but any subversiveness is completely drowned out by everything else following the rules of a game.

I’m sure a lot of game developers want to be able to make the salient if overwrought point that (as that Canadian TV icon Ed the Sock once put it) war is bad and people die. The problem with that is that if anyone actually realized that point during the game, what would they do after that? Do the developers expect them to continue shooting fake people, with their heads slung low in solemn realization that they are taking part in a fake activity that in real life is bad? At the very least, Shadow of the Colossus, that game so favored by pompous game philosophes as an example of SUBVERSIVE ART, has the player come to the game’s not so terribly original moral switcheroo (you are a bad person for killing those bosses!) later on, so at least you aren’t going to forget the lesson as you play through more game.

That’s the problem people have to get around. As a game, as something you have to actually participate in, rather than take in (as in film, literature, music, etc.), any point you want to make is constantly be undermined. You can’t make a point about war, really, in a game designed to turn the idea of war into a game. Is it possible for someone to make a game that makes a point about war if they based it entirely around that point? I guess it is possible. You’d have to remove things like multiplayer, or real goals, so it’d basically end up being a ‘real’ simulation of the act…or a carnival ride.

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