Videogames, in the right hands, can be vehicles for profound storytelling.
In most hands, however, they manage to be as entertaining as a summer blockbuster, full of sound and fury, signifying marketing.
It seems to me that we work less and less with archetypes and more and more with outright cliches. So many genres are thick and stagnant.
Derivation is inevitable - we tell the stories that fascinated us most as children, creating new details where our imagination desires them.
But much of the industry consists of out and out repetition.
Most of the industry consists of repetition.
The glut of WWII shooters have actually made me bored with the idea of killing Nazis.
We are reducing one of the most varied, frenzied and confusing conflicts in history into an oversimplified shooting gallery.
We expect games to skirt moral decisions and then blame them for being amoral.
Doesn't anyone see even a tiny bit of irony in a game that asks you to mow down wave after wave of Nazis without the slightest twinge of horror at your actions? Or any kind of mental effects?
Games don't have to be heavyhanded. But it would help if they were, uh, handed at all.
Too many games are like slasher films. They specialize in objectified violence. They are still exploring their limits in terms of language and gore. They trade in an adolescent's version of sex and drugs. They present a world of either hero, enemy or victim.
This is not bad in and of itself. Scarface presented a movie world that made drugs and violence seem flashy and appealing; But in the end the 'hero' was brought down by his own hubris.
I don't see this idea in most videogames. The cornerstone of tragedy, one of the fundamentals of drama, and it is neglected in interactive entertainment.
I blame the ego. People expect videogames to place them on an upward power curve, to gain in their abilities until they are fully equipped to survive the gameworld. We don't expect to suffer repercussions.
Would Vice City have been the same game had Tommy Vercetti died on the edge of a dock from a police sniper's bullet with the mansion he stole in flames behind him? Would gamers have felt empowered by the violence, or shocked at its eventual (indeed, inevitable) conclusion?
Whom the gods kill, they would first make mad.
But let's not go out and create a bunch of Max Payne retreads. Please.