This morning, Roger Ebert of all people featured a very interesting satirical video from The Onion on his blog. It speaks for the video's relevance that I found it through good ol' video game hating Ebert. The video in question is a satirical take on modern video games, and their depiction and perception in the general media and non-gamer population.
The clip itself is titled "Hot New Video Game Consists Solely of Shooting People Point Blank in the Face," featuring the fictional video game "Close Range," which indeed is nothing but shooting people point blank in the face and seeing their heads explode in a gory mess.
Why is this relevant? Because this is the way that games—and more importantly first person shooters—appear to people who do not play videogames. It is a spot-on depiction of the way video games are perceived through the regular media lens. Exploding faces. All the time. Non stop carnage.
What's even more important is the depiction of gamers themselves. It actually reminded me of several instances where I wanted to praise Bioshock to non-gamers and couldn't really get past the point that despite the deep story and intricate art direction and all the incredible world building most of what the player does in the game—at least what it appears to the leyman—is shooting people in the face non stop. Bioshock 2 even opened with a cutscene that had the protagonist ram a giant drill into a guy's face, turning it into a bloody pulp.
And that's just what we appear like to the outside world when defending or praising a game like Bioshock. The gamers in the clip praise Close Range's story and characterization, while all there is—or rather, all that is shown and all that the media geniuses behind The Onion make it appear to be—is shooting people in the face from point blank distance all the time.
I can't honestly tell anyone who isn't into games that Bioshock 2 had incredibly well done deep characterizations and an intricate, well thought-through plot. When they see those first minutes, as soon as the drill hits the face, it's over and no promise of story and character can redeem that.
This is a problem the entire medium has in general. One that I increasingly have as well. Too many games are too close to that satirical take on the medium, and we, the people who play these games, all too often appear like air headed idiots for finding things within these items.
On the one hand, gaming has to change. Not necessarily into something that's more child friendly.
It's about an artistic medium that is increasingly defined by the amount of fine particles of blood on the screen. If we as a whole want to be taken seriously, the games we play will have to change. It's not possible that we will always have to say "well most of the time you shoot people in the face BUT the story and worldbuilding and overall experience are really good."
For me personally it's not even just about the outside perspective. It's also about the games themselves. I've shot so many virtual people's faces in from point blank, that this method of conflict resolution has really, really overstayed it's welcome. It saddens me a bit that even this year's biggest hit for me, Bioshock Infinite, will continue this trend.
I don't really have an idea what we as a whole can do to change that. Boycotting blood soaked games won't do, since we all know they do indeed offer a lot more than just that. Petitioning the media to get a better perspective might be another way. And that's the other thing that has to change. Fox News and the like will of course always focus on children shooting virtual peoples' faces in. But other outlets could have a more promising perspective, less tearing apart minute-to-minute gameplay, which when taken out of context and presented noninteractively can indeed appear horrifying.
Something needs to change in the long term.
[ Image credit: Dead End Thrills ]