Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I fought in a war

I don't want to shoot at people anymore.

There's a series of Rock, Paper, Shotgun articles I enjoy - Gaming Made Me. In my edition of GMM there would be mention of many a first-person shooter: Doom, Half-Life, GoldenEye, Perfect Dark, Counter-Strike. They all played a major part in my formative gaming years, contributed to my tastes and playstyle and personality. Even now the two Borderlands games have pride of place as the only games in my Steam list to be marked as 'favourite'.

I've been a soldier in eras past, present and future; secret agent, space marine and scientist super hero; mercenary, policeman, criminal; Duke fuckin Nukem and a succession of immortals in arenas. Is it possible that I've played hundreds of shooter protagonists? Can it be true that I've clicked-to-shoot millions of bad guys/bots/monsters/innocent bystanders?

Yeah, probably.

And I just don't want too anymore.

I'm not sure if it's encroaching age and impending fuddy-duddery, and an element of paternal shame kicking in (can't let the boy see me kill so many things!), or even just being generally bored with the boring genericism of mainstream gaming; it even might be all three. I've (very briefly, admittedly) played Call of Duty and Battlefield in their recent incarnations, spent some time in Planetside 2 and had a go at various other FPS and 3PS shooters over the past few years and I just can't be having with them anymore. At least, not the ones that seem to think that realism is their raison d'etre (except when it comes to how much blood the human body contains). 

Borderlands I can play, because it's stylised. Yeah, the vast majority of the targets available are humanoid, but they're caricatures, grotesques. While I'm sure someone spent a lot of time and effort crafting the individual models and art assets within the two games, they don't look like real people. They're not avatoid versions of people I pass in the street, speak to everyday. Uncanny valley aside, the digital representations of  humanity in video games is now getting to the point where we really need to stop and ask ourselves, "Why are we shooting at these real people?"

Yes, movies have real people in them who pretend to be shot and killed. But I'm a passive spectator when I watch something like that happen on a TV or cinema screen; in a game, I'm controlling the protagonist and I'm firing the representation of a gun, and the digital bullets are "killing" a polygonal abstract that is supposed to be a human being.

Fuck that, man. I want to talk to the monsters