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


As a long time God of War fan, I just want to say that I’ve very excited to play the new God of War.

That is all.


This might be where I’m losing the plot, so to speak. To me, TLoU and seemingly the new God of War (I would add Season 1 of The Walking Dead to this list, too, both in Lee’s surrogate fatherhood to Clementine and Kenny/Duck) are among the few mentioned that are actual Dad Games, in that they deal with issues of fatherhood and don’t just use the protagonist’s kid as a character trait or macguffin. “I’ll do anything to save my kid” isn’t character development, it’s a plot device.

But maybe that’s why I don’t see it as the overwhelming abundance that others see. Like, yeah, technically Dead Rising 2 stars a Dad, and it’s even the main driver of the plot, but it’s not about Being a Dad, it’s just a narrative excuse to mess with a boatload of zombies. To me, that isn’t a Dad Game, it’s a Zombie Stuntman Game that happens to have a dad in it.


Ah yeah, I think that is a totally valid distinction to make. I’ve not played D2, and its only hinted at in the original but thought it was worth a mention (man there are a lot of things D2 could refer to now)


Not sure if Patrick is reading this thread, but one specific question I’m really curious about it: did any of the music stick out to you? I was watching one of the preview videos about the soundtrack, and thought “ehhhhh, this is feeling a lot like movie temp music with a vague cultural flavor”.

I know it’s not the same studio, but I think about a game like Horizon Zero Dawn with a complete nothing soundtrack that really makes it hard to form an emotional connection with anything going on. In my view, music is the thing that western AAA games put the least amount of real effort into.


I enjoyed God of War 1 &2 quite a bit as a teen/young adult, (and BOY do they not hold up from a design/narrative perspective today) but I also recall the gore and dumb sex minigames making them feel like guilty pleasures at the time. Having just played through God of War 3 Remastered on PS4 in preparation for this release, (I sort of missed most PS3 releases while I was off in XBox360-land) it’s really striking how the industry’s concept of “spectacle” has shifted with regard to AAA games. GoW3 today feels like bigger/louder/more of the same, when I’m sure on release it felt like a much more significant technical achievement.


I remember playing the first game back in high school and gossiping with all my friends about how awesome the hydra fight and sex minigame were. Then I skipped 2, and picked the series back up with 3. My memory of it isn’t super clear, but I do recall thinking that it had odd pacing and being struck by how tonally ugly it was, even at that nascent stage of self-awareness. It was one of those times I got the distinct feeling I was playing something that wasn’t intended for people like me.


I think it’s important for games criticism to move beyond the usual parameters of evaluating graphics/gameplay/story and look at what we expect from the industry as a whole. The whole ‘Blockbuster AAA Hollywood aping approach’ is not only unsustainable and leads to some horrible working conditions for the majority of people involved in development, it also funnels resources and critical discourse away from more original or niche products that can help to move the industry forward creatively. The more breathless praise heaped at the feet of this kind of bloated colossus, the less room there is for debate on the relative merits of the system that produces such games, and whether that’s the best model we can hope for or aspire to.


I’ll be honest, I don’t think the data support this idea going around of the review monoculture. I realize Metacritic isn’t perfect, but it’s the closest thing to data we have on the subject. Right now God of War is sitting at a 95, which is the highest score of 2018 - by one point over Celeste.

So where are the arguments that there isn’t enough diversity of opinion over Celeste? Or Divinity: Original Sin 2, Undertale, Persona 5, Edith Finch, or Into the Breach, which all scored 90+?

Sure, a blockbuster game is going to get more attention when it gets near-universal praise, but I think that’s actually a sign that the industry is pretty darn healthy: the reason these reviews are getting so much attention is because it’s extremely unusual for a major AAA game along the lines of God of War to get such a unanimously positive reception.

If every AAA game was getting in the 90s, then yeah, I would see the problem, and paradoxically, the GoW reviews wouldn’t be such a big deal. But it’s a big deal precisely because game reviews are not the monoculture they’re perceived as.


You are correct but I’d say the conclusion should be the opposite: the near-universal acclaim all these games received is also part of the problem, the other side of the coin to it, really.


I don’t think review scores answer everything though. It’s also worth taking into consideration how many publications even reviewed Celeste (48 on opencritic) and Into the Breach (37 on opencritic) vs God of War (80 on opencritic). Also who wrote the reviews for each game. Of course most publications have certain reviewers they get for certain types of games, but maybe that’s plays into a type of monoculture of critisism too? Also what these reviews are scaled against? I think the one thing all the games you mentioned have in common is a high level of polish and aesthetic. Yes, those are important aspects of games, but is it possible critisism biases too heavily towards those two aspects?

I agree that it isn’t as easy as looking at scores and saying “only these types of games get 10/10’s, what’s up with that?” because just looking at scores for games doesn’t directly point to that conclusion. But I feel looking into the reasons for the high scores, and the folks being chosen to write these reviews, as well as just the sheer number of reviews for various games introduces the question concerning how mainstream media approaches game critisism.


I’d argue that all those well-reviewed games you mentioned fit already established niches that are regularly covered by what this thread has identified as the cishet white dad contingent of games media.

It’s not like the less blockbustery games you mentioned are listed alongside itch.io games.


Oh buddy, trust me, there’s some complaining about the discourse around this particular game and there should a fuck ton more.


Part of the dadification of games is simply that games have slowly but surely grown into a medium widely accepted enough to sustain a “prestige” style even when that “prestige” subject is wrapped around a pulpy core. And there is no “prestige” subject matter more basic than “what is it like to be a dad?”

You can see a similar thing in movies as filmmakers began making high budget blockbusters that “meant something” as those films became an acceptable venue to tackle “real subjects.” But blockbusters make a lot of money, so white guys are usually in charge, and, would you believe, many of those “real subjects” ended up being “yo, did you know that being a dad can be complicated?”

Spielberg is a particularly funny case of this. His remake of War of the Worlds is about a divorced dad trying to redeem him relationship with his child. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is about Indiana Jones’s difficult relationship with his dad. Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull is about Indiana Jones’s difficult relationship with his son. In Minority Report he changed the main character from being married and childless to being the divorced dad of a kidnapped and probably dead son so that he could have rough dad feelings. In Hook, he turns Peter Pan, a character who is essentially a personification of childhood, into a bad dad who needs to redeem his troubled relationship with his children by fighting pirates.

It’s like most other cases of cishet white male default. It’s not that a particular story can’t be about a father/son relationship, or that a particular game shouldn’t include those same thematic elements. It’s that, as listed above many many games tackle this subject, and yet, nearly every time it’s done even vaguely competently, the game is held up as being full of interesting ideas.


A game like Persona 5 is a prime example of the mentality that individual bad moments should not be considered detrimental to the whole of the experience. You saw this manifest with Arthur Gies’ review of Bayonetta 2 where he docked the game down to “only” a 7 for being uncomfortable with the level of sexual objectification there, and as a result, became a pariah in spaces like GAF/ERA where even mentioning his name leads to collective scorn.

There’s a lot about Persona 5 I love—enough to consider it one of my favorite games—but the nearly unanimous praise shows either an unwillingness to hold games accountable for their cultural irresponsibility, or an outright fear of doing so in risking having your actual life get torn apart by hyperconsumers who desperately need 100% validation behind their product purchase.


Remember when Polygon basically gave it the best handjob in the world for a ton of paragraphs and then left a note on the side saying it was both sexist and homophobic and this had no impact on their final thoughts.

I really wish the idiots complaining about game scores didn’t exist so we could probably call out bad writing like this.