I respect the perspective and I like Cameron’s writing, but I feel like way too many videogames are deeply pessimistic, just with a shiny veneer of action that amounts to nothing. So many games think that maturity is derived from every inhabitant of the world being either utterly without a redeeming quality, or a decent person ruthlessly torn down by the world. Take Dishonored 2, a game which generally has a truly impressive attention to detail and what the design of the world means. You walk around with Jessamine’s heart and learn secrets of the people around you, and there is practically never a good thing to say about any of them. Beggars bite women who then die from infection, upper class people murder with impunity, almost all of them are cruel to a fault. Most of the rest suffer from tragedy, a man whose only possession is a portrait of his daughter, a woman who sends what she can to the orphanage. The number of even remotely positive things without a twinge of misery attached to them can be counted on one hand.
Yes, Corvo and Emily can go through their quest and achieve their own personal goals, but to what end? Practically everyone in Dunwall is either a monster or suffering. What’s the possible purpose of working to save a world like this anyway? Well done, you once again sit on the throne of a nation decaying from its center with violence, hatred, and cruelty. You have accomplished nothing other than ensuring you are in charge of the human wasteland as opposed to someone else. What could possibly be more pessimistic than that?
I would argue that in a time where more and more games are being groomed for franchise possibilities, that the medium is the most pessimistic it’s ever been and more pessimistic by far than films, books, and TV. Both in overarching story and mechanics, games present their ongoing world as Sisyphean tasks, where your past triumphs make no difference and are wiped away the moment a new chapter begins. Every achievement and skill, no matter how well earned and fought for, is wiped away immediately at the beginning of a new chapter. Samus will lose all of her suit upgrades, Nathan Drake apparently squandered an entire chest full of priceless treasure in months, Kratos will have another pantheon to slaughter, Leon Kennedy will have more shambling corpses to perforate, the list goes on. Any success is fleeting and will be flushed away the moment their next saga starts.