Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Videeoooo gaaeeeems

Sad to say, I'm not enjoying Bioshock Infinite as much as I expected to. I'm trying to figure out why that is... partially, no doubt, that I've stubbornly set the difficulty its highest setting and I'm dismayed by how ineffective the weapons and spells ("vigors") are. Thats an easy fix, but it pains me to set it to medium; I'm a pro, dammit. Part of what's frustrating is that you can see when you hit the enemies, a hole and a red mark appears on their sprite. But even if that mark is in their /eye/, they'll keep attacking just as hard until their little health meter runs out.

I remember the days when I was satisfied by games, like Quake, where such things were not considerations. Just keep the cursor on the bad guy with the button held down, eventually he'll keel over and die! Its the story of increasing expectations: build more realism into a game and the player starts expecting the rest of it to behave more realistically. Which is seldom what they actually /want/, I suspect. What they (I) want is to be able to ignore realism in convenient ways and not have their skepticism intrude into the fantasy.

The political overtones of the game are amusing at first, but they grow tiresome. We see this worship of the American founding fathers, attitudes of racial and social superiority, and what used to be called "manifest destiny" (currently "American Exceptionalism"); the writers seem to be aiming to inspire contempt for this "Columbian" culture and suggesting with sort of a wink and a nudge that maybe it isn't too far off from current American culture. Thats all fine, as far as it goes, its a sentiment that I largely agree with. But frankly, contempt does not a fun game make.

The "Vox Populi" resistance movement was almost an interesting element, untill it wasn't. I think it boils down to inept handling of a few key plot elements. Granted, its sort of the tradition in rail-shooter games (and, I suppose, games in general) that the character be given some task they MUST complete in order to advance; some secondary goal that enables the main goal to be accomplished. Thats fine; I'd just stipulate that the goals should make sense in the context.
Here the goal is escaping, and the chosen method of escape is an airship. Sensible enough, though a parachute probably would work just as well. Unless this floating city floats exclusively over the sea (which it would be helpful for my suspension of disbelief to establish). So we steal this airship only to have it immediately stolen back from us by Columia's resident freedom fighters, the Vox Populi (hurray for latin! I bet that means "voice of the people!") all resplendant with their red banners and red body paint. Before ejecting us from our erstwhile own airship, they tell us they'll give it back if we can supply them with a revolution's worth of weapons. And we agree. We act like its a moral imperitive to do this, like its a cosmic fact that "giving weapons to violent revolutionaries -> airships", and that laying hands on an armory is an acheivable goal. 
This might be a resonable proposition, had we not just previously stolen the airship from somone else, or if there weren't tons of other flying do-dads in the city, or if we weren't so clearly capapble of just taking whatever we wanted through main force, or if it weren't true that the Vox Populi's main problem is /a lack of guns/. The way /I'd/ like to react to somone throwing me off my airship and demanding tribute for it is rather the opposite of helping out their cause. But, I suppose we were supposed to sympathize with the resistance because the dominant culture is so awful. Columbians hate black and irish people! Not "black irish," which is a thing, but both black people and Irish people. It is amusing to note that this is probably a historically realistic form of bigotrty for certain portions of the American population in the time period (which is the 19-teens, I should mention).

But I digress. The resisitance (inevitably) betrays you, for reasons that only make sense in a parallel universe sort-of-way. The resistance leader, who turns out to be a psychotic murderer (surprise!), is disconcerted by our having come back from the dead (apparently we were somehow a revolutionary hero-martyr in the other universe), and orders her soldiers to use the weapons we've just armed them with to kill us. Poetic justice? I guess. Seems like a hasty descision though; really looking that ole' gift horse in the mouth with, like... a speculum.

Why are there so many stories that warn against fucking with the past? They're like morality tales, but warning about scenarios that are not presently (and probably never will be) an issue. Who in history has been so scarred by past-altering that they spawned a literary genera that warns against it? Actually this probably ties in with warnings about prophecies; which goes back to, as far as I'm aware, Oedepis. I suppose "don't listen to asshole fortune tellers" is a fair lesson to impart.

Anyway, it might be said that what I'm complaining about amounts to this: this video game is not a book, or not written up to the standards of I'd expect to see in a major book.  So why don't I just go and read a book? Thats actually exactly what I did, I went and read Rant, which was waaaay more entertaining. But why did I enjoy Farcry 3 so much more, despite the fact that it, too, is not a book? I may just have been in a more facilitative state of inebriation, but I do think it has more to do with the qualities of the game, which I've already nattered on about.

No comments: