'Call of Cthulhu' Is the Rare Bad Game That's Probably Still Worth Playing


#1

Cthulou. Cthullthu. Cuthulu. I've never been able to get it right. Growing up, I was a Stephen King kid. Pet Sematary. The Dark Tower. 1408. The Stand. Later, thanks to Hellraiser, I'd become a Clive Barker fanboy. I knew of H.P. Lovecraft because his influence was tough to miss and yet, my ignorance knew no bounds. It was only years later I would discover, for example, one of my favorite horror series, Re-Animator, was based on Lovecraft. (Same thing with From Beyond, which features some of my favorite practical effects ever put on film.) By the time I became curious about Lovecraft's work on my own terms, my search for recommendations landed me on essays about the often-ignored racism and classism in Lovecraft's work. I had better uses of my time.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/wj9vmq/call-of-cthulhu-is-the-rare-bad-game-thats-probably-still-worth-playing

#2

Openly dissing Lifeforce. Reported.


#3

Super nitpick, the spacing in the “score” card is pretty inconsistent. For instance there’s a larger space between “Times Lovecraft’s” than between “Racism is Acknowledged”


#4

I’d just like to point out that although Bloodborne doesn’t inherit Lovecraft’s racism, it has a low-key horror of women’s bodies and a real nasty attitude towards sex workers. It wouldn’t be properly Lovecraftian without some bigotry mixed in there I guess.


#5

Really enjoyed this piece. One minor quibble I think it should be “prayed” in this sentence: “I praised at the altar of R’lyeh.”

I have never really understood the desire to transfer Lovecraft’s actual work to a video game. Like, if you have read Lovecraft, I would think, you would slowly realize that the stories are not well adapted to the video game standard of your gun being the only way you interact with an environment. Or, if you can move beyond that, Lovecraft’s characters and narrators are always failures and it is their undoing that serves as the climax of the story; this sort of failure isn’t really suitable for a video game (but works rather well in role playing and table top games). Then there is the whole problem that most of the horror in Lovecraft’s stories isn’t physical, it’s the impossibility of something. How does a video game represent a mountain of flesh stumbling or non-euclidean geometry or really the fact that what is unsettling in a Lovecraft story is you, the reader, are reading an account by a person that simply defies comprehension? Eternal Darkness is a very good game that should be considered cosmic horror in Lovecraft’s vein and I think the majority of its success has to do with understanding the artistic and philosophical underpinnings of Lovecraft’s work instead of going for tentacles and known entities. It works and can be called “Lovecraftian” specifically because it does not try to wholly embrace Lovecraft.

I hope that paragraph is coherent and adequately conveys my feelings on the matter. Lovecraft is a subject near and dear to my heart while simultaneously being a figure I deeply loath aspects of (and definitely dislike most of his active fandom).


#6

I might have overlooked some subtext to the discussion that complicates matters, but I’m not quite sure that I’d position Bloodborne’s depiction as ‘bigotry’?

This might be better as its own thread, but while women’s bodies are central to Bloodborne’s story, it never struck me as necessarily exploitative? I can see the case that some of its imagery might appear more shock than substance, but the game is clearly advancing a particular type of body horror.

I can see where you’re coming from on the second point a little more. While it positions Arianna as sympathetic, in contrast to Adella, I can see folks pointing to Arianna’s self-deriding dialogue and saying “mmmm, not great”, so I can see why it might be whorephobic in its full execution.

I hadn’t encountered these perspectives before, so definitely here if you have any further resources for reading more about it. Bloodborne’s depiction of it feels different than Lovecraft, whose stories often textually and subtextually are deeply racist (besides, y’know, his cat), but I may simply not have perspective on them.


#7

Bigotry is probably too strong a word for what Bloodborne has going on. I played it again this year and found myself uncomfortable with the game’s own discomfort with menstruation, pregnancy, and miscarriage. They’re themes that are absolutely central to Bloodborne, I agree, but it didn’t feel like the game had a position on those themes beyond “the women shall bear the children of the old ones and that’s fucked up, or something”. I think the DLC fleshed those themes out in the final act though, so maybe it’s a moot point.

On the second point though, I do think the game treats Arianna unfairly because of her work. The description on her shoes reads “innocent and cute, in contrast with its owner” despite the fact that her demeanour is completely the opposite in person. Combine that with how she puts herself down and where her quest line goes and it becomes quite off-putting.

I don’t have any sources to back up my position, although I think I saw Dia Lacina expressing similar views on the game’s attitude towards women on twitter a while back. The Bonfireside Chat guys also didn’t love the way Arianna was treated with respect to her profession and character either.


#8

Sorry to be that guy but I think it’s worth pointing out that it’s a full $60 game on console. It was 10% off if you preordered, at least on PS4, but now that’s over and it’s back to good ol’ $59.99. So… it’s a B-game on PC but not on console, I guess?


#9

if you can’t get a handle on the name “Lara” i don’t know how you ever imagine to put “Cthulhu” through your lips in a proper fashion

godspeed klepek


#10

Stephen King: For the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this… The Tale of the Preternaturally Wise Black Person Full of Sage Angelic Advice
HP Lovecraft: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
King: Howard, I haven’t started the story
Lovecraft: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Lovecraft: For the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this… The Tale of the Dusky Foreigner
King: …
Barker: …
Poe: …
Lovecraft: I mean indescribable eldritch abomination
Poe: describe it
Lovecraft: [sweats] uh it looked uh spooky uh like an italian

H.P. Lovecraft: Submitted for the approval of the Midnight society, I call this The Tale of the Non-Euclidian Geometry
King: ok what does that mean exactly
Barker: i’ve been wondering about that too
Lovecraft: what do you mean
Poe: you do bring this geometry up a lot, howard

Lovecraft: So this eldritch abomination is so eldritch that you can’t even look at it
Lovecraft: it’s indescribable, just horror beyond imagining
Lovecraft: your brain can’t even comprehend it
Lovecraft: but also it looks like a squid

Lovecraft: This story is also about a giant squid from space
Lovecraft: with lots of tentacles, just like a million tentacles
Poe: whats with you and the tentacles
Lovecraft: [sweats] i just
Lovecraft: i just think they’re interesting, that’s all

(https://twitter.com/bitterkarella/status/1030658703093952518)


#11

I originally just intended to post one of the Lovecraft ones from that thread, but I couldn’t decide between them, because they’re all perfect.


#13

I appreciate you mentioning this because you can separate the good authors from the ones that just blindly worship Lovecraft by their use of “non-Euclidian” as like a generic word some vague “this is profanely weird” meaning.

Like, holy shit Lovecraft was just stone cold TERRIFIED of circles almost as much as he was of people who aren’t white.

Yawn.

Anyway it’s a perfectly valid thing to bring it up in any horror that involves a supernatural other where that “other” is a way of life or a population.

I like “Lovecraftian” horror quite a bit in that I like this sort of fiction that makes the universe feel absolutely massive compared to its protagonists, stuff like Alien or Prince of Darkness and so on. But to that end I didn’t even have any interest in this game just because it was like, wow, finally, ANOTHER Lovecraft game where someone has to investigate an island where everyone’s weird.

Something that sets Bloodborne (and even FromSoftware’s King’s Field games and Demon’s Souls) apart from that that I do think a lot of writing about Lovecraft and how his work gets contorted into video game form is that difference in the humanoid population. In all of those games you’re pointedly going through spaces that have long gone to shit and are basically shattered for good - most of the characters you interact with regularly aren’t the perpetrators of said going to shit, but rather the victims of it. You get a more complete picture of what’s going on compared to the previous official Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth and Wasted Lands and so on, which for all their attempts at world building are still games where you and a few other “normal” people have to load up on some guns and kick ass.

That doesn’t mean you can’t make a great violent action game that has some influence from Lovecraft on its sleeve, obviously plenty of people have and plenty of people will. But if you’re gonna make a slow pace game about walking around and investigating a space and it’s as official a Lovecraft game as a Lovecraft game can be, it’s definitely going to feel empty if an entire aspect of Lovecraft’s person that had a huge effect on his work is just sort of set aside.

That’s what really makes something like this a B game though. It’s a “Lovecraftian Stuff” game despite being the real deal legally.

And that’s fine, but it’s idiotic to act like that’s something that shouldn’t be acknowledged.


#15

I recommended this to Danielle on Twitter, but I really like this video about adapting Lovecraft:

He goes into Lovecraft’s racism in this too. It also has a queer angle!

CW: Some gore from horror films, use of gay slurs.


#16

@GoldenJoel Thank you for linking this!

Agreed. I don’t think you making a post that “actually makes sense” is something anyone has to worry about ever happening.


#18

Feeling pretty stupid for responding to this BUT Lovecraft never wrote a book so calling him a “book author” is wrong. He wrote short stories and two novellas. His racism permeates a lot of his most iconic stories to say nothing of some of the truly atrocious stuff he wrote in letters (and that poem), so, yes, it is very relevant.

It is very easy to “like” Lovecraft and interact with his work while simultaneously engaging with the awfulness of his personality and stories.


#19

Removed from low-effort troll posts from this thread. Apologies if this makes for slightly disjointed reading for folks catching up on the thread – I think NeoRasa’s points are salient enough to stay up.


#20

My favorite trivia from Lovecraft’s letters is that despite the way his writing would go he WALKED OUT of Dracula. His favorite movies were big spectacle things and stuff with ghastly makeup effects like Phantom of the Opera/etc.

Also that his daily diet for most of his adult life was French fries and a cube of cheese. :laughing:


#21

His diet is brutally depressing but I guess that’s what happens when you are living in poverty and, in his words, “near the bread line.”

It’s been years since I read his writings about the movies and theaters. He does have a really kind of charming account of going to see Lord Dunsany when he was doing a lecture/reading tour. Lovecraft in so many ways was the prototype of fandom. It really would have been interesting to see if he would have continued to mature and how his writing and philosophies would have adjusted in the 40s and 50s and with the proper emergence of science fiction.