I write a lot about video games. This is because I see life as a complex interplay between sex, death, video games, and bacon, and I could never do justice to bacon with something as paltry as the written word.
But I'm not just a lazy slob who's content to sit in front of a TV for eight hours doing thumb workouts,1 I'm a lazy slob who seeks to justify his apathy by bullshitting through social commentary relating to the things that take up all the time I could be using to help the poor or contribute to the economy.
So without further ado, here's what's wrong with three of my favorite games.
Bethesda made a small contribution to the refreshing tide of "fuck you" that forward-thinking companies having been sending to the wailing homophobes by allowing gay marriage in Skyrim. Entertaining as it would have been to marry a giant warrior and have him stay home and cook, I went with one of the two hot women in the game, since making people more attractive than plague victims is not among Bethesda's strong suits.
"Wait," you're thinking, "stay home and cook? Is that what you assumed your wife would do? You sexist bastard." While in real life I certainly hope that if I get married my wife will cook, since I can cook exactly five things, I did not expect my Skyrim wife to cook, much less stay home, because I married this young woman:
Apart from the war paint and sadly standard approximation of "armor" forced on most women in video games, she's a fucking werewolf. I had to became a werewolf—by drinking her blood, mind you—just to get her attention. And even when she's not a seven-foot-tall, unstoppable death-bitch,2 she's an overpowered hunter with arrows that appear to turn blood into sawdust on impact. When I went on missions with her prior to the marriage, I had problems leveling up because every time I picked a fight with somebody, they would drop dead with a shaft protruding from their eye socket before I'd drawn my sword.
Naturally, I couldn't wait to marry her, because every undersexed boy who watched Payback as a teenager spent the rest of his life secretly looking for a mate capable of kicking his ass. And when I finally did, what did my new terminator wife proceed to do?
She went straight to my house and opened a trinket store, which must be managed by someone else, since as far as I can tell, she just sits in the kitchen all day waiting for me to get home so she can give me home-cooked meals. Not in a grudging, "I can't believe you tricked me into this, I don't know why I'm not sucking out your bone marrow" way, but in a way that suggests that me asking for a meal—one she had already cooked so it could be ready on the off chance I came home for a break from slaughtering monsters—was the best thing that ever happened in her whole goddamn life. It's even more confusing when you realize there's no way to be physically affectionate, so it's a sexless marriage.
I don't care what a woman with social and legal freedom decides to do with her life. But in a game where my primary aim is to kill dragons and absorb their souls, my suspension of disbelief crumbled when a woman who spent her first thirty years killing people for money in a mercenary guild—and eating the occasional passerby in a werewolf blood-rage—decided that a 1950s style marriage to a gay man was the life for her. It's like Catwoman deciding to she really just wanted to be an AVON rep, and all the burglary was just acting out.
World of Warcraft: The More Things Change, the More Things Stay the Same
Many a Warcraft addict has lamented a totally pointless change in the game that hurt their edge in the player vs. player battleground. I've never actually gotten near the top of the heap in World of Warcraft, so I can't speak for this level of personal betrayal.
No, my problem is that in a world populated by six million epic heroes, you would expect things to change. Judging by the dialogue of the programmed characters I interact with, my poorly controlled female warlock3 is the best thing since Chris Brown was crucified by his testicles.4 I know they've said the same thing to every other gold-hungry mercenary that's rolled through with a demon pet or a nice sword, and I know the problem just re-spawns ten minutes after I've supposedly fixed it, but I understand the need to recycle these story lines. I can to pretend the various pointless missions are part of a larger game that I'll never actually see, since I've never gotten a character to the level where I can affect things meaningfully. The big leagues make a difference, right?
Nope. There have been a few world-changing events in World of Warcraft, and all of them have suspiciously coincided with major updates to the game. In other words, when marketing comes up with a new idea and whips the developers into a sufficient froth to produce code, the world changes.
We the players? Well, one side of the divided peeps in the world of World of Warcraft once discovered they could lure one of the slightly larger demons into enemy territory.
Specifically, into the supposedly safe haven for characters on the other side. The demon fucked the city so hard that the only existing videos are from the perspective of ghosts. That's right. After a two-second cycle of denial, anger, bargaining, oh shit, splat, the vast majority of players decided they would rather stay dead, so the evidence for this event is through the eyes of everyone who gave up and watched the supreme ass-whooping that continued to be whooped upon the asses of their allies.
Genius? Teamwork? Diabolical AWESOME? Yes. The reward? A reboot. The "good guys" in this case couldn't answer a giant, out-of-context demon, so the Warcraft admins rebooted the servers and changed the rules to prevent future awesomeness.
I don't play World of Warcraft with the notion that I'm contributing to anything that will get me freebies in the afterlife of your choice, but I did kind of hold onto the notion that if you get a whole bunch of people together, through iLeadership, and do something that frustrates the combined efforts of the entire, thousands-strong enemy team, you should be rewarded with more than a reboot and a rule change. You should get to change the world, not be reminded that you never will.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Creepy
A lot of people gave MGS4 crap for having a inordinate number of cut scenes, and this is fair. If played competently, the game takes about 40 hours to get through, and if you skip all the cut scenes, it takes maybe 12.
Personally, I enjoy this feature, because I use to smoke a lot of pot while playing Final Fantasy 7, which takes 100+ hours to complete no matter how you play it, and by hour 70, you're mostly playing just to get to a cut scene so you can call your roommate over to split a J and take in the CGI.5 I have fond—though hazy—memories of kicking back and seeing godlike beings draw seven-foot swords and have fights that were much, much more exciting than the monotonous drop-down menu combat that consumed most of my life during the winter of '99. So long, pretty cut scenes with awkward dialogue hits a soft spot in my heart.6
The problem is with the Beauty and the Beast special forces unit.
Some history: a bunch of American Apparel models were nabbed by some equal opportunity bad guys and stuffed into giant death machines that can kill anything except the tired and dying old man controlled by the player.
When you kill one of these beautiful women, the first thing that happens is her death machine falls off and she rambles through some psychotic sounding nonsense. Next, she tries to kill you again by walking very slowly and trying to give you a hug. Oh, and she also has 50,000 volts of electric lovin' stored somewhere in her skintight jumpsuits, so you don't want this hug.
After you kill her the second time, one of your buddies pops in on the radio and tells you her back story. Prior to their modeling careers, each of these women suffered some horrific childhood, which of course is all you need to turn an innocent girl into a psychopathic murderer.
Why do we have to listen to this story? So our ethically ambiguous friend can tell us it's a good thing we killed her, because we cleansed her soul.
Back up a sec, right? There's always this subtle suggestion worked into the speeches—no, wait, it's these lines:
"Fighting you cleansed her mind."
"You managed to cleanse Raven of her rage."
"Snake, fighting with you made Wolf finally accept what she'd done. She was cleansed by you."
"You freed Mantis from that dark nightmare."
I can accept killing hundreds and hundreds of soldiers and cyborgs in the name of whatever for the good of the yadda yadda, but when you tell me I'm cleansing teenage girls by turning them inside out with heavy machine gun fire, I start to feel less heroic, and more like, you know, a Nazi. You need a seriously fucked up ideology with warped and confused concepts of sex and death to make the argument that the protagonist's actions here are existentially and proactively moral. To be fair, this is probably the closest thing to nookie the protagonist will ever get, since his response to all situations is to point a gun at them.
I got to the end of this game with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was a fun game. On the other hand, I felt like I'd been brain-raped by a snuff film.
1 "Twiddling your thumbs" will mean something entirely different yet exactly the same to the next generation.
2 Oh snap.
3 You say it's weird. I say it's funny when other digital people hit on it.
4 Oh, that hasn't happened yet? Well, best thing since bacon, I guess.
5 "But have you watched it… on WEED?"
6 Or more accurately, a soft spot in my brain where the infrastructure is rotted out due to drugs and video games.