'God of War' Triumphs Because It Confronts Its Own Bloody Legacy


#41

agreed with both of you, but i think that this lack of imagination (let alone diversity of experience) is something we should be fiercely critical of and actually take the time to pull apart when evaluating a piece of media. if these were made by small teams or independent designers i’d be willing to be much more charitable - “well, it’s very tied to their own experiences and what speaks to them, which is limited by their own lives” - but when it’s a billion dollar project then too many potentially interesting and creative voices have been effectively silenced by being economically shackled to a frankly boring narrative for me to let it ride.

let me put it this way: if you took the billions which went into God Of War and instead paid all the workers in those production houses pursue their own projects, would you get something better? more interesting? i almost guarantee you would.

i know speaking speculatively in that way is always a little bit of a high bar, a dreamy dead-end way of thinking, but shit, i want to shoot high and do better, and i believe boring-ass dad games which money-sink away resources from potentially more interesting things should be actively criticised for doing that. it should play into our evaluation of them, always! if you’re taking up that much creative oxygen, you have an obligation to Do something with it!


#42

also for me its like… people keep talking about this being a sign of games Growing Up and i could write about a thousand words about why thats bullshit but the main thing for me is like… materially its the same shit as always?

i feel like a few years ago we had the “dadification” conversation, ad infinitum, and its exhausting that we’re still having to have it, because “i am doing violence to SAVE BABES” becoming “i am doing violence to SAVE MY FAMILY” is not actually a big change in terms of what it reinforces abt heteropatriarchy


#43

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to it, since I’m biased towards character action games, but it’s absolutely not healthy for the medium to always have glowing critical consensus towards games that are built towards the narrow set of expectations common in AAA-tier development.

You don’t see other mediums give prestige for achieving basic competency in mechanical and narrative design (as well as pushing technical boundaries forward, which is an unhealthy cycle on its own).


#44

So I’ve been thinking on what exactly bothers me about this, why should I care what the critical consensus around a game is? I think what it comes down to is that critique controls and influences the way we think about and discuss games. If we want games to move forward as a medium, we also need to move forward in how we discuss them. So often, it feels that the vast majority of mainstream reviewers and critics are always a step behind when it comes to how games have been discussed on the margins of critical discourse. Think about how long it took for game reviews to pass simple consumerist evaluation (and it still hasn’t in many ways), and how much longer it has taken for reviews to mention when there are aspects of games that might be “problematic.” Without a more diverse group of people being involved in the critical discussion of a game, it’s going to be difficult to really advance how we discuss the medium.

For the record, I am not saying that it’s a problem if a critic enjoyed this game, or that their review/critique of the game isn’t valid. I am likely to play God of War myself as there are aspects of it that really excite me, and who knows, maybe I’ll really dig the story too. But all of these reviews really confirmed to me that we lack a diversity of perspective in games criticism, and I think if we want a larger amount of interesting games discussed in the mainstream, we need more perspectives pushed to the forefront.


#45

it reminds me so incredibly clearly of the first wave of bioshock infinite reviews (sorry to keep returning to that bad game but its Very Relevant) which were all like “the game works when you boot it! there are several features! a story exists!” and then like, two weeks later the first wave of Actual Criticism appeared and everyone realised it was bad, actually.

we can bat back and forth on the Consumer Advice purpose of reviews versus the Actual Criticism purpose and i don’t think it’s a tremendously exciting debate to have - you just end up making reviewers feel irked because they clearly can’t win - but sometimes it feels like games are rated on “having a story” versus “not having a story”, rather than the content of that story and what it means, especially in the context of all the stories which the existence of this game potentially deprives us of.


#46

I feel like being in Games Discourse is seeing the exact same “maybe games can be art” conversation resurfacing every time a major studio releases the new cinematic hotness


#47

So, I also had the impression that The Dad Game has taken over games and looking back over my trophies and achievements, since The Last of Us, this would seem to be number… one? One and a half, with The Witcher 3? One and three-quarters, with W3 and AC: Origins? Maybe Bioshock Infinite, even though you don’t know it’s actually a dad game until the end?

I was actually really surprised when I went back through my list. Like I said, I also had the impression that this narrative had become ubiquitous, but even counting all the games I mentioned, that’s like one game every two years.

Am I missing something obvious? I feel like I must be.


#48

Red Dead, Dead Rising 2, Bioshock 2, Splinter Cell: Conviction, Resistance 3, GTAV, Fallout 4 (also a mum game but that story is kinda written for the male character’s backstory) are a bunch of others. Not to mention the Logan’s, the Maggie’s, the Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s and the A Quiet Place’s of the world that have made bearded sad dads a form of cinematic storytelling shorthand.

The Last of Us is definitely the game that cemented the trope, yet I’m not sure that it deserves the derision it gets for that. The Last of Us has a very dim view of the type of masculinity Joel portrays. He’s a shit foster parent who can’t communicate with anyone around him, models awful behaviours, and lets Ellie get under his skin when she’s doing the opposite of being an awful teenager: opening up about her feelings to him on a regular basis and trying to connect with him.

That game ends with Ellie accepting that Joel has lied to her and generally been a terrible person, which spoke to me as someone who has had to accept that my parents aren’t great people while still keeping them in my life.

To my mind, the last of us is the only one of these that has anything meaningful or interesting to say about fathers and our conception of fatherly masculinity (it thinks they’re terrible and pernicious respectively) so I don’t get why it’s branded as the archetypal dad game.


#49

There is a lot of “I am sick of this game getting praised” in this thread. How can you be sick of a game you have not played getting praised?


#50

I suspect because most of the praise centres around it being a “radical departure” from its previous iterations, while not being that radical or perhaps even much of a departure at all, within the wider context of video game culture. A lot of ire is also not so much specifically about this game, and more about the trends of AAA games and how games critique engages with them.

Even so, it is both absolutely reasonable to be aware of what a game is without playing it, and dislike it and people’s reactions to it.


#51

Its a game that isn’t even out tho.


#52

I can understand the compulsion to go the opposite way of the ridiculous angry gamer crowd who vigorously attack people for expressing any sort of mixed feelings or caution about the game, but yeah I don’t feel great about any sort of stance already heavily criticizing what this is before anyone’s really played it. We literally do not know what happens in it.

Most of the journalists I’ve heard talk about the game in the wake of the reviews arriving seemed like they were absolutely dying to talk in more detail about a bunch of super cool, unexpected stuff that goes down over the course of it so I’d like to give it a fair shake. There is a good chance it is some bland heavy handed shit about how “whoa ripping dudes in half every 14 seconds is actually unethical man, being a dad is hard, I must find redemption by being nice to my son a couple times” but I’m hoping it has more to offer. Just can’t know for sure yet.


#53

It’s fine to have a “wait and see approach”, and I personally intend on getting GoW when it comes out because it looks interesting, at least from a combat perspective. However, I don’t think it’s hard to see why people have their gripes with the game and with the profile of reviewer that’s been most visible in giving it hyperbolic praise. A little empathy goes a long way.


#54

im a born hater, is why.

for real tho, we’re in a discussion thread and we’re discussing our views on a thing. unless you were hoping for 30 posts saying “wow nice review patrick” then i’m not entirely sure what you want here.


#55

For everyone who wants to see a review from a non-cis, white, dad, there’s a group of very smart, diverse writers who are going to review for you to keep an eye on

[Sorry if this isn’t appropriate to post, mods, please let me know. I’m not soliciting contributions for these folks, just wanted to highlight a good thing.


#56

Can I just play a game where Kratos is dead and the player is Atreus trying to figure out what it means to be a God of War who abhors violence whilst dealing with the repercussions of Kratos’ legacy?


#57

I think you aren’t really giving the discussion enough credit? It’s not “I’m sick of this game getting praised!” moreso than “the unanimous critical praise of the game points to a lack of diversity of voices in games critisicm and perhaps reveals a singular bias in how many critics determine quality.”

As I mentioned above, there’s nothing wrong with a person enjoying God of War (and I’m going to get it and likely enjoy aspects of it too) and the critisicm they provide isn’t invalid in any way. But much of the praise seems to be coming from the same critical perspective, and that I feel is worth discussing.

Ninja Edit: phrasing was unintentionally rude, apologies


#58

So I realized that, somehow, I’ve never actually played any of the games in the series. I started playing the remaster of 1 last night … and it sure it’s a PS2-era game, complete with weirdly confusing level design choices, and a fixed camera that gets you killed the moment a bunch of large monsters swarm you and block the camera. It’s also interesting in that the levels are both designed so you have to hit/kill civilians during fights (they literally run between you and the monsters), and it rewards you in the form of health. It works as a weird sort of commentary on how Kratos might actually view people, but I doubt it was intended?

I don’t have anything to really add to the discussion of the current game, except for a stray question that keeps popping up in my mind. I’m very, very curious to see exactly what the relationship between Kratos and Atreus actually is – specifically in regards to Atreus potentially having to be his replacement conscience now that his wife is gone. Putting the responsibility of holding back a berserker god-killer on a 10-year old is actually kind of fucked up, and I’m wondering if the writing will lean into that or ignore it.


#59

Belatedly, but aren’t Dishonored / 2 also dad games? (and @keydemographics if you want to keep a list!)


#60

Speaking of Dishonored 2, we should probably start noting when games on the list are also daughter games (also true of tLoU). The Tomb Raider games have kinda always been that (just even more so with the current reboot story, which doesn’t differ that much from the last reboot trilogy) if we want an exemplar.