By Gamer_152 26 Comments
Hey everyone, seeing as I had a few random thoughts from this week bouncing around my noggin I thought I might as well air them now since my main blog posts are still occupied by my pieces on becoming a game designer. I understand the following blog is very sizeable so feel free to skip whatever you’re not interested in.
This week I downloaded the Bulletstorm demo and booted it up, prepared to be very put off by the over-the-top vulgarity of the game, but the thing that surprised me was that I wasn’t. In fact even with its ridiculous use of heavy metal and curse-filled portmanteaus it felt tame compared to the ad campaigns, and there was something almost charming about the way it seemed rather Duke Nukem-like. The gameplay was what really impressed me though, while the narrative content may be somewhat akin to Gears of War, the gameplay felt like far more than just a first-person Gears game. Using the leash and finding different ways to dispatch enemies felt great.
My main worry is that even in the short time that the demo took to complete, by the end it felt like I was running out of inventive ways to kill enemies. The game is meant to have hundreds of ‘skill shots’ (ways to defeat bad duders) in it and is obviously more heavily reliant on elaborate methods of killing than just straight-up weapon accuracy, but there’s only ever going to be a limited number of ways for players to kill at any one time, still, this kind of criticism is largely speculative. I’d say my final verdict on the Bulletstorm demo is that it was surprisingly good and genuinely fun.
I have to say that while I never owned or even had a great urge to own the original PSP, from a technical standpoint Sony’s new handheld looks amazing. The features and technologies they’ve managed to pack this thing with are quite something, I just hope they don’t fall into the same trap they did with the original PSP.
Looking back, the games library of the Nintendo DS could have all too easily been a collection of throw-away titles for the casual games enthusiast, but it wasn’t. Among the games released on the platform there were plenty of titles that “core gamers” really managed to sink their teeth into in a way that I feel they couldn’t with a lot of PSP titles. Games like God of War: Ghost of Sparta and Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection were well-received but they were still essentially cut-down versions of their home console counterparts. It’s been said before but I do feel like with the DS developers were making games that you could pick up and put down easily, but the thing that really discouraged me from getting a PSP was that it felt like developers were making compromised versions of games you could be playing at home on a larger screen.
Sony have made a point of highlighting that they’ve got franchises like Metal Gear Solid, Uncharted, Resistance, Killzone, and Call of Duty on the NGP and while I can understand that they’d want to get some big name franchises confirmed early on, I’m again getting discouraged by the fact that they don’t seem to making strides to bring us games that aren’t rehashed home console games. Perhaps Sony are just trying to produce handhelds for a rather specific market that I’m not part of.
So, some of you may be familiar with the recent Penny Arcade controversy. If you’re not the short version of the story is that PA published a comic that included reference to rape, a considerable number of people got angry and offended by this, Penny Arcade made light of this fact in another comic, and those people continued to be angry and offended. All this happened back in summer 2010 and so I thought the issue would have blown over, however it seems that PA are still getting emails about this even now.
You may have seen the thread about this on the forums and the thing that really annoys me is a lot of the responses I saw in there, and from other places across the internet, were from people who didn’t entirely understand the situation but still branded the anti-PA people as ignorant and essentially told them to fuck off.
While I’m by no means against PA for the most part here, this issue was more complex than people getting offended by a mention of rape. The people opposing PA on this one have had two major problems; firstly they believe people putting rape in a humorous context normalises and desensitises people to the behaviour, and secondly they believe this talk of rape acts as a “trigger”.
Regarding the first issue, just as I believe video games can never truly desensitise a mentally healthy adult to violence, I don’t believe this kind of humour can desensitise a mentally healthy adult to rape. Both rape and serious violence are horrific, terrible things and if there are people in the world looking at real cases of these things and going “Oh well, it’s not such a big deal” then I believe there is something seriously wrong with those people in a way that the entertainment mediums they’ve consumed cannot be held accountable for.
The issue of the “triggers” is a more delicate one because it hits people on a more personal level. It’s been very well-established in psychology that people who have experienced highly traumatic events in their lives can experience severe periods of negative emotional and physical sensations when exposed to things that remind them of the traumatic events, and this can even include panic attacks and flashbacks, these reminders are known as “triggers”. Part of the problem is saying that no one should use rape triggers, but other triggers are fine, is favouritism and hypocrisy, and the only way to still ban rape triggers without this favouritism and hypocrisy would be to ban all triggers. This would mean no talk of or suggestion of anything relating to physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, terrorism, war, traffic accidents, natural disasters and a whole range of other issues, unless they were deemed to be discussed in a very highly serious context.
My heart goes out to the victims of rape and their loved ones, it really does, but what is essentially being called for by a lot of people here is “freedom of speech unless that speech affects me personally”, and this is a kind of thinking which has been fundamental in the unfair censorship of video games themselves. As long as PA is not forcing this kind of potentially offensive content on people they shouldn’t be censored. Unfortunately I do think PA made a bit of a mistake on this one, and that was the t-shirt based on the comic they released. People can decide never to read the PA comic again and run no risk whatsoever of being offended, while simultaneously PA is allowed their free speech, and I believe that’s a perfectly fair agreement, but the t-shirt allowed people to continue the rape joke into real-life environments, a setting where you cannot pick and choose what you do and don’t want to see, and it risked unfairly upsetting people.
In the end I think PA made the right move, they took the t-shirt down from their store because people said that with that shirt around they didn’t feel comfortable coming to PAX. Mike Krahulik also expressed that if people feel conflicted about coming to PAX then they shouldn’t come, which I believe is the best advice he could have given. While I think people being distanced from PAX by the original comics is the unfortunately necessary price of free speech, I’m sad that the shirt (which I think crossed the line into PA releasing something that could upset people in a way people couldn’t control) threatened the atmosphere of PAX, because I feel PAX is a unique haven where games enthusiasts can come and feel safe, accepted, and like they’re part of a real community of friendly people, and I don’t want that to go away.
Duder, It’s Over
Well, I sure feel a lot better for getting that all off my chest. For now I must bid you adieu brave warriors of the internet, as I once again steal off into the night. Good luck, have grav lift.