Sunday, April 18, 2010

Videogame artists need your support!! *buys ten copies of Eternity's Child*

So, Double Fine came out with Brutal Legend last year! Though I had to switch the soundtrack to smooth saxophone rhythms in order to play it without getting a horrible pounding headache, I think we can all agree that it was new, interesting, artistically inspired, cleverly written, and ultimately beautiful! You couldn't describe it in a single sentence, though, unless you decided to fudge a few facts: "Jack Black kicks metal ass in a rock-inspired open world" doesn't begin to describe the Pikmin/Sacrifice-ish proto-RTS enhancements they added onto what was initially sold as a God-of-War-style action-slasher game, and ultimately, it was a wash. People defended it to the death, though, citing the genius of Tim Schafer, creator of the stylistically perfect Psychonauts, and how he had done the game industry no wrongs up to that point -- and he really hadn't, but this came with an unintended side-effect. Schafer has unwittingly created for himself a cult of personality, mostly through amazing blog posts and wonderful adventure games; games where the focus is on the writing. Brutal Legend attempted to nudge the focus over to the game underneath the writing, far more than Psychonauts did; as a result, a lot of people -- myself included -- were totally baffled and disappointed. Tim's writing was good, but it wasn't enough to make me want to play a game I didn't sign up for.

eddie riggs in mouse-cursor mode! yech.

Believe it or not, this tragic story has a moral! People, don't buy games just because of the personalities behind them! Games can be artistic masterpieces, but they're also consumer products that you're expected to interact with -- and that interaction can be difficult to get a sense of until you see videos or play the thing itself. Wait until the overall "picture" of any given game is complete enough to see if it's fun, first! If it isn't, you can still feel free to attempt to sway market forces in the direction of an artist, personality, or game development wunderkind, but ultimately, your money is sending the message that you're willing to consume anything a certain person-of-games is willing to throw out onto a disc. This is bad business from a consumer standpoint; it hardly ever works; it only results in bitter disappointment!

hey these 'headbangers' have cromagnon heads and fat necks! that's funny for more than two seconds, right?

Maybe this is a side-effect of an instinctive behavior of Internet people to dramatize something they're passionate about? Regardless, here are some words to live by: Videogames aren't "causes" that need to be "supported". Brutal Legend sold at least a million copies worldwide, according to dodgy site VGChartz. That means it probably turned a profit (especially considering most of its development costs were likely already paid for by Activision), but even if it had failed, it wouldn't have been a death knell for the concept of "good writing" or "decent storytelling" in video games. Plenty of video games are written well -- the Persona series, the Telltale adventures, Banjo-Kazooie, Borderlands, and Prince of Persia are all brilliant examples of games that have excellent and clever dialogue, a few of them have a narrative structure that trumps anything Brutal Legend was capable of, all but one of those games/franchises have seen moderate success, and most of them are way sexier, too! You shouldn't feel obligated to buy a game you feel weird about, just because Internet people tell you it's "important" -- unless, of course, that person is me!

And if a game you're looking for focuses all its promotional media on the non-game aspects of it, wait for a review before you buy it! I've learned my lesson; have you?