I think the problem there is you run smack dab into spec ops: the line syndrome. The accusation rings hollow if the player is only given buttons that enact violence.
Not to mention that the trailers haven’t done anything to make you want to NOT kill all of the enemies, even if there was a way for you to avoid it. I feel like if last of us 2 manages to say anything about violence it’ll be a general “violence is bad”, and whatever it is will be undermined by it being an action shooter where combat violence is the main selling point.
I guess not for me. Whether or not I had a choice in Spec Ops wasn’t the point for me-- the point was simply that I had taken violence for granted in my games. The message for me was never hurt by the lack of agency in that regard, though it did preclude any kind of interesting second play through once I knew the trick. Again, your milage may very but it totally worked for me.
I’m not so sure. I read it as less of a focus on the first part, “look what you just did”, and more the stinger is the second part, “you feel this is normal, enjoyable”.
Sure, many games about violence only provide violent verbs (so this isn’t that sort of stealth game that’s always somewhat violent but offers a choice in play style between lethal and non-lethal, confrontation and avoidance) and that violence is designed to engage and be fun. But you can still meaningfully engage with that topic without reducing it to the false choice (where the only actual alternative is to stop playing).
Edit: my reading of the first game was that violence was meant to be functional to start with (especially playing as a stealth game so sneak & melee rather than really being about guns) with clear “bad guys” and justifications at the open, a lot of “monsters” dehumanisation (a genre trait) in the middle (including the teaching of violence to a new generation in the Ellie part, showing the conclusion of that indoctrination), and then the thematic conclusion was when Joel snaps and just unloads on what has so far been painted as the “good guys”.
Not to say the second game has to go down this route (or will even pull it off) but I’m expecting this to be an arc that starts out very much with ultra-violence being mundane and justified by pointing to the violence of the other. This trailer, I feel, very much pushes that contrast of how everyone who Ellie knows is humanised but will immediately flip to genocidal rage at a moment and reinforces an in-group dynamic (with narrative justification given by the zombies but the actual text painting the other people out there as effectively “no different” in their complete dehumanisation).
Just to stick up for Spec Ops a little bit; it would’ve completely undermined the game to give the player agency within the story. The entire point is that you do have agency - you can turn it off. Nobody is “making” you play it. Your complicity is in the mere fact of playing.
I won’t deny that it was pretty clunky about it, but if this thread is any indication, it’s a message that has been received loud and clear.
I’ve never really bought that argument because I think most people who buy a game for $50 us dollars (or however much spec ops launched for) are going to see it through and get their money’s worth, so that game trying to gotcha players for… playing the game they paid for has always seemed a little silly to me.
I think games like undertale where you’ve got the option to be bad, but the game actively punishes you for doing so (or will punish you in the end) are far better at conveying the kinds of ideas spec ops was pushing at, but that’s just my take.
I think the difference between Spec-Ops and other “Suprise! You were murdering people and murder is bad” games is while it doesn’t give you the option like Undertale, Spec-Ops is a game about being in the military and following orders. Bioshock pulls the same thing but it doesn’t have as much weight IMO when you are killing people in a world that is doing narrative backflips to get you to need to murder them. You don’t need to invent a civilization you’re trapped in where everyone is geeked out on superpower murder drugs to justify being forced to kill when your justification is just “You’re in the military. You know what the military is, right?”
On TLOU2: Cheering at brutality is not a purely bad thing, in fact (I’m about to do the compare-games-to-movies thing but bear with me) how brutality can be easily perceived as catharsis was recently used to great effect by Jordan Peele in Get Out. Peele took violence that’s overtly systemic, framed and filmed gruellingly and oppressively (with consideration to not turning it into racial oppression porn), and contrasted that with relatively quick, freeing brutality with a tinge of plausible absurdity, which worked towards having whole theaters of white randos cheering at a whole traditional white family being brutally slaughtered by a black man. The point is that it considered the representation of violence it had to have, and exactly where and how it pointed that violence.
Violence isn’t just endemic to one thing or the other, one narrative or the other. Violence is power, and power is endemic to the lives we all lead. It will always be a question of whom and what is having violence–overt, subtle, coded, physical, systemic, epistemic, sociological, psychological, etc.-- perpetrated upon themselves, and whom is benefiting from that violence. The reason TLOU’s violence rings hollow and gross is that it’s vibrantly reflecting modern circular white-centric nihilism to the aggressive cheers of a predominantly white audience, it’s kowtowing to audiences that are kowtowed to every minute of every day, to privileged people that sometimes just want to project as miserable and guilty (and as a result, thoughtful) so they can sidestep the confrontation of their many glad complicities. “Look, we wrote decent queer couple’s romantic interaction and animated a lesbian kiss between two white girls very well, we’re progressive now please wallow in glorious misery and please forget that we wrote out all the blacks, won awards for white savior digital blackface in our other series, and shat on traumatized sexual assault victims once in our employ not even that long ago.”
It’s not that Sony’s conference demos were simply very violent, it’s that it was a virulent display of airy woke whiteness, right down to Sucker Punch deciding to graduate from appropriating and shitting on First Nations peoples to appropriating and othering Japanese history as if it’s another fantasy game world for you to gawk at.
A group completely controlled by Sony KK of Tokyo, Japan are stealing and distorting the culture of their owners (who have complete control of the project and could shut it down or change any detail on a whim because that’s the publisher-internal developer relationship)?
A bit like the discussion around The Great Wall (here with different details of exactly how it doesn’t apply), this may be one of the very few times that it’s not actually US imperialism at play.
rude, but I concede the point.
I actually really like Bioshock’s take on this, and I think it’s the best part of the original game. Whether intentional or not, the “would you kindly” reveal is kind of a commentary on the entire medium. Up until that moment, you’ve been laying waste to Rapture and everyone in it because that’s just what you do. At no point do you even question why you’re gunning people down or should you gun people down, it’s a game where a gun is put into your hand so the only path forward is clear. By pulling the curtain back, it reveals the façade of the whole thing both in story, and in reality. You the character and you the player never had a choice. You the player blindly followed along with what you were told to do through years of conditioning and practice. You killed who you were told to kill faithfully and without question all because a disembodied voice told you to.
Now the game goes on to completely ruin that by making you proceed forward killing everyone and everything after the fact instead of leaving you with the gut punch and rolling credits, but up until that moment it’s a moment that you can’t recreate in anything else.
I had a similarly cynical reaction to TLOU2 as many of y’all, but my (queer) girlfriend who largely only plays pokemon, splatoon, and dark souls and is not as plugged into the Hype Cycle as me (and thinks most AAA games are dumb as hell) was extremely impressed by the trailer, is very excited to “play as a desperate, brutal knife lesbian” and thought the cut from kiss to throat-cutting worked really well aesthetically. And like, if you look at TLOU2 as a horror game, which it is, then I sorta agree with her! The stuff about Naughty Dog’s issues with mishandling of harassment allegations is super valid and gross, and maybe the violence in the game will just end up being pointless gratuitous nihilism, but taken in isolation that game looks like an exceptionally well-produced and intense horror game. It has my girlfriend excited to play a horror game, something she has never expressed much interest in playing herself before, all because of the wlw representation. As someone who dearly loves horror games I’ll count that as a win. It would be nice if a more thoughtful and kind game from a less troublesome studio were the one with big mainstream gay representation but currently those kinds of games don’t get the sort of budget something like this gets. Hopefully TLOU2 will be a first step toward that happening.
As for the other games, Ghost of Tsushima is insanely gorgeous, it gets at the way that Late-period Kurosawa films used dramatic color and staging. The English voice actor for at least the protagonist is a Japanese-american, but it’ll also have a full Japanese voice track option. I’m still wary they’ll fuck it up in the way they apparently fucked up infamous second son (I never played that) but so far it seems like it could be cool. That flute guy was pretty wack though.
Death Stranding I sincerely hope it just ends up being Hideo Kojima’s Cross Country Hiking Postman Horror Simulator 2019. I have my issues with Kojima but I’ve also had a great time playing his games in the past. I’m glad a game this unusual is getting such a huge budget.
REmake 2 looks fantastic, and Control is intriguing and I’m glad Remedy is free from their Microsoft contract. Spiderman looks like it could be fun. Ni-Oh 2 is welcome since Sekiro is only kind of a soulslike so I’m glad Team Ninja is carrying on that particular action-rpg torch. I don’t know how many of these games I’ll actually play but I’m glad they’re being made.
I think Spec Ops would have neatly undercut the vast majority of the criticism it gets if, after the first engagement, it was possible to turn around and walk out of the city back through the sandstorm, which were your actual orders given to you in the intro.
What if Death Stranding is actually just Silent Hills?
Like it won’t be, but what if???
I think for me, the person I was at the time I played Spec Ops, I would have not even considered the option to turn around. I think that indictment was quite formative in how I thought about the medium, so that’s probably why I have never faulted it for having no exit option.
That being said, you’re probably right that having some sort of in-game exit option would have made its message even stronger.
God if only. At least give me a game with Junji Ito on monster design!!
I imagine that Kojima would want to reuse some of the ideas he and Del Toro didn’t get to use in Silent Hills, at least the stuff that he thinks he could get away with without Konami trying to sue. The possible mechanic of holding your breath to hide from unseen monsters strikes me as something that would be right at home in a SH game.
This is something I really admire the Far Cry team for: you can do as you’re asked, and the game never happens. Pagan Min says, hey, wait here. You do, you do what you came to do, and leave. Ending. Same for Far Cry 5: he warns you that arresting him will lead to bad times, and you can just walk out and leave. Ending.
Oh no, the str8s are back on the bull’ (attached pic).
I saw this today and also thought of Austin’s evergreen tweet.
Too bad I was at work or I woulda passed out.
Anyone remember that Simpsons where the large pig roast Homer is making somehow gets fired across the sky of Springfield, and as it encounters more and more gross stuff (dragged through a puddle, I think shoots through a garbage bin, etc) Homer keeps nervously, frantically screaming, “It’s still good! It’s still good!” in a desperate attempt to will his words into reality?
I keep imagining a bunch of shitty MRA homophobes watching that trailer and sputtering, “She’s still not gay, she’s still not gay, it’s fine, she’s still not gay!”