While sociologists like Jane McGonigal and Tom Chatfield tout the benefits gaming provides to society, and society itself has embraced gaming culture (to at times dubious results), social commentator and overall awful human being Kay S. Hymowitz has other ideas.
Now, while Kay S. Hymowitz's real argument is even more appalling than the snippet I blatantly stole from the Wall Street Journal, (mainly having to do with women being seen as equals in the workplace and in society and the horrible, horrible effects this has had on traditional gender roles in America), her wanton and unprovoked attack upon gaming culture cannot go ignored.
(...wait maybe it can. I mean, I've almost got Chun-Li's L,M,H aerial launcher into a Spinning Bird Kick mastered-- No, I must be strong! Also, it's already 11pm on a Friday night! What the fuck, Mark?)
... As I was saying, this unprovoked attack against the pastime I love cannot and will not be ignored.
So sure, gaming can be embarrassing. Its advertising almost always targets the lowest common denominator, its biggest sellers are a pair of children's games developed 25 and 15 years ago, and its portrayal of women is at its best childish and borderline demeaning...
....okay, maybe Kay S. Hymowitz has a point. That said, are any of us really willing to go back to the gender politics of the Mad Men-era, where the only acceptable male activities were mowing the lawn, changing the oil in your sensible sedan and having lights-off missionary sex for the sole purpose of procreation?
I think not.
See, I think gaming's main problem is that of image. It's the sort of industry where Spongebob Squarepants: Truth or Square is sold alongside Red Dead Redemption, where the financial success of Kinectimals can decide the financial future of the studio that developed Perfect Dark, where something as emotionally powerful as Shadow of the Colossus can be relegated to a bit of pub night trivia.
What I'm saying is, Kay S. Hymowitz has a point, but it's not the (awful, horrible, regressive) point she's trying to make. Gaming has an image problem, and it's primarily our own fault. To illustrate this, I'm going to bring back (hopefully as a permanent or semi-permanent thing) the Wallet Abuse Arbitrary Review Scale For Games I'll Probably Never Play.
This week the stern visage of someone who may or may not represent Kay S. Hymowitz (but stolen from the WSJ article anyway) will dole out harsh yet titillating judgement against each of this last week's games, based on their perceived Manchild Quotient.
Developer: People Can Fly / Epic Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
A lot of people say Bulletstorm is childish and regressive; I'm of the opinion that People Can Fly set out to create a game so ridiculously over the top that the gamer has no choice but to acknowledge the insanity inherent. It's sort of like Idiocracy in that if you don't recognize the absurdity then you're quite likely part of the problem. It's sort of like what Serious Sam could have been had Croteam been given a budget larger than twenty dollars and a case of premium vodka.
We're talking about the sort of game that uses the term "dick tits". We're talking about the sort of game that tracks shots to the neck separately from shots to the head. We're talking about the sort of game that allows you to shoot a guy in the groin and then, as he's writhing around in pain, kick him in the skull into a computer terminal for bonus points.
Also. The game has bonus points. You need to play this video game.
That said, I'm not sure if it's the sort of game you need to pay sixty US American Dollars for. It's sort of like Vanquish in that it ends too soon and there's no real replay value outside of hunting for collectables. Furthermore, it's unclear if it's good enough of an experience as a videogame-- as opposed of the insanity Bulletstorm presents of revelling in being a videogame-- to to play through it immediately a second or third time. Basically, it gets everything wrong in replayablity that Dead Space 2 got right.
Multiplayer is present of course, but it's hard to imagine if the Black Ops set will be interested enough to form an online community lasting longer than 12 days. There is a weird sort of tangential value to Bulletstorm in that if you buy it at Target you can get the Gears of War Triple Pack for five dollars. Or twenty dollars off Gran Turismo 5 if you should happen to own a PlayStation 3 and/or hate yourself.
Harsh Governess Kay S. Hymowitz says: Self-aware and irreverent? This potty mouthed insolence is typical of game developers; I will not stand for such insolence from my lessers!
de Blob 2
Developer: Blue Tounge Games
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii
Allow me to go meta for a moment-- I always felt it odd that Nintendo wasn't the company responsible for Katamari Damacy. It seemed to be one of the more telling aspects of Gamecube-era Nintendo's problems-- that this fun, colorful, simple-to-understand game didn't spring forth from the company that brought us Mario. Nintendo has largely got its mojo back with the Wii and later-era DS stuff, but it always seemed to me that Katamari should have come from the house of Miyamoto and not the company responsible for Tekken.
So getting back to de Blob 2-- How the hell is this a THQ game?
It's simplistic, it's charming, it's colorful, it revels in being nothing more than easy-to-grasp fun, and somehow it came out of an internal THQ studio instead of Japan. How did that happen?
de Blob 2 is the rare feel good story for the HD era The original game was a Wii-exclusive game that didn't exactly set the retail industry afire but THQ had faith in Blue Tongue's vision and decided to bring over to a wider audience with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
Sadly de Blob 2 isn't fairing nearly as well as it's predecessor with the critics, and I'm not sure what to make of that. It's possible that de Blob 1 enjoyed a bit of a critical halo due to being one of the rare quality third party offerings on the Wii; it's also possible that the reviewers are knocking the sequel for not making many improvements over the first game. That's a shame, as a large part of the reason THQ was willing to take a chance on this franchise was the critical reaction the first game received. There may also be something of a Wii ghetto effect in play-- it's possible that reviewers simply expect more of HD games, even if the gameplay is fundamentally superb.
(Also I'm mildly disappointed that there isn't a de Blob HD mode where you have to turn the colored-in town from the first game brown and grey. Oh, well)
Harsh Governess Kay S. Hymowitz says: Simplistic fun and fundamentally sound gameplay? I have no idea what any of that means, but this use of the word "fun" is troubling. This is clearly a cartoon of some sort, and I know just the punishment for boys who refuse to give up their cartoons, and don't get me started on your constant references to "Wii".
Platforms: Dreamcast, Xbox 360
Oh man! A Dreamcast collection for the 360! Finally, the philistines of the modern HD gaming era who've never been exposed to quality Sega gaming can understand why so many of us fell in love with Sega back when Sega still made hardware.
Also Sega's compilation team has been startlingly competent as of late; what with Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection proving to be an essential component of any respectable 360 library, so I was quite excited to hear about this disc some months back. Sure, there's only four games, but just imagine the sort of games Sega could introduce to people from its Dreamcast first-party catalog!
Surely Shenmue would be on there; not nearly enough people remember Shenmue and it cost Sega an enormous amount of money to produce. It'd make an enormous amount of sense to try making some money off that franchise again. Sega Rally 2 would be a smart choice, as it's easily the best racing game Sega ever produced for that era of arcade hardware. This would also be an excellent time to remind everyone about Virtual Fighter, what with Capcom leading us into a fighting game renaissance, so VF4 would be a no-brainer. And it'd be a sin not to put Jet Grind Radio on this disc-- or maybe even House of the Dead or Virtual On 2! There's just so many classic Dreamcast games Sega produced that there's literally no way on earth Sega could possibly fuck this up! Let's see what Sega has lined up for us--
Okay well that's... Well it's played out and there's already a perfectly functional version on XBLA but I guess they're going for mass market appeal. I can't blame them for that, especially if they're going for something obscure like Jet Grind Radio or Shenmue later on. Alright, game number 2--
That's an interesting selection; we've never actually seen Part 2 in North America, so it's hard to understand how this helps further any existing Sega franchises, but at least it's a novelty. I really can't judge Space Channel 5's worth in any way; as a straight American male I've never had an urge to indulge in the series. But it does seem odd that Sega chose to introduce the masses to this series now that no one cares about rhythm games anymore.
Halfway through and the selection is fine, if disappointing; I mean, one mass-market darling and one historical oddity makes sense if they're going to round out the set with Jet Grind Radio later on; let's see what's nex--
Alright Sega stop fucking around. We don't even have a fishing rod attachment for the 360 why would you bother--
Harsh Governess Kay S. Hymowitz says: The presence of a rubber-clad animated sex doll is troubling, but as this collection of trivialities at least exposes young men trapped in a perpetual adolescence to the acceptable adult male diversion of fishing. I have no problem with this disc.
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Harsh Governess Kay S. Hymowitz says: WAIT RIGHT THERE!
Harsh Governess Kay S. Hymowitz says I KNEW IT! A GODDAMNED SONIC GAME!
JUDGEMENT: EROTIC SONIC COSPLAY
Harsh Governess Kay S. Hymowitz says: You may carry on.
Platforms: PlayStation 3
There's this neat dichotomy to Killzone 3 and Bulletstorm. Whereas Killzone 3 is probably the superior pure videogame; it's so drab and dour and self-serious that you really don't want to spend much time with it at all. Where Killzone 3 reads like a collection of poetry written into a spiral-bound notebook by a seventeen year old emo kid, Bulletstorm is that exact same notebook found and played out by SNL writers.
Sony has been strangely silent on Killzone 3. You'd think Killzone and Resistance would be the Halo/Gears of the PS3 library, but advertising for Killzone 3 in the mass media has been largely absent. I dunno if Sony just realizes that there's no way Killzone 3 can gain any traction this month, but if that were the case you'd think Sony would simply not release the stupid thing between Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Dragon Age 2.
Killzone 3 is sitting in the mid 80's at Metacritic and the reviews seem wildly uneven. Whereas Destructoid says Killzone 3 represents the most well-rounded package in the entire PS3 library-- whatever the hell that means-- Joystiq outright calls it a "miserable experience." Giant Bomb gave it 4/5, but nowadays that's pretty much what they give everything that's enjoyable but not outright unplayable.
Harsh Governess Kay S. Hymowitz says: Yet another regressive teenage fantasy attempting to dress itself in fascist imagery in an attempt at respectablity. Fortunately we have entire cities dedicated to just such perversion!
JUDGEMENT: AMSTERDAM LEATHER CLUB
Developer: Games Republic
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
I badly wanted this game to be at least playable. Knights Contract's main gameplay conceit-- a literally immortal main character who can be torn limb from bloody limb but never quite killed-- sounds amazing, especially when you hear that your character can pull himself back in whole by jamming on the action button. But apparently we're dealing with a God of War clone that's also an escort mission that's riddled with poor design and worse AI, and that's a shame.
Also maybe it's time we stopped giving Games Republic the benefit of the doubt and just admit they're not terribly good at producing videogames. I mean, I really want to play Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom if I ever have the time, but perhaps there's a reason Namco is only asking forty dollars for it.
Harsh Governess Kay S. Hymowitz says: This game would appear to feature a man in constant unending torment to a dim-witted, servile female whom must follow him around at all times.
I have no problem with this game.
HARSH GOVERNESS APPROVED!
Platforms: Nintendo DS
A Chrono Trigger-syle time-travelling JRPG made by the people responsible for Persona 3 is pretty much the most amazing thing I can think of that doesn't involve ice cream or sex with librarian chicks or sex with librarian chicks with ice cream.
Radiant Historia continues this weird streak where the only things still coming out on the DS are a string of quality super-niche Atlus titles that will probably be sold five years from now for two hundred dollars each. At this point, we can only assume that Atlus is doing this on purpose and has a stockpile of DS JRPGs with which they hope to stave off bankruptcy after Catherine destroys their North America operations.
Harsh Governess Kay S. Hymowitz says: I will not be fooled by this game's respectable demeanor or tasteful art style. Even I know that this game hails from the male masturbatory fantasy factory known as Japan, and anyone who plays Radiant Historia is clearly engaging in mere manchild escapism.
JUDGEMENT: TYPICALLY AWFUL JAPANESE THING
Ys Chronicles I&II
Platforms: PlayStation Portable
WILL WHOEVER KEEPS BUYING THIS FUCKING GAME PLEASE KNOCK IT OFF
Harsh Governess Kay S. Hymowitz says: NO ONE GETS TO JUDGE MY LOVE FOR FALCOM. STOP LOOKING AT ME. GO AWAY.
Apparently Squeenix were totally serious when they released all that GUN LOCO footage a while back
SHADOW HARVEST sounds like a death metal band from Iowa
THE SCOURGE PROJECT seriously though devs need to stop letting their 14 year old nephews name this shit c'mon