Fahren(“Poo” – Ed)

By Kieron Gillen on September 16th, 2007 at 1:35 pm.

I’ve been sitting this on a while, but figure that with Sunday being RPS’ slow day, today’s the day. If you’re part of the pan-format gaming internet, you’ll aware that last month there was a bit of a furore over the Resident Evil 5 trailer with some wondering whether a video filled with sinister black folk being gunned down by a square-jawed white fella might be a little – y’know – racist. Without going it to deeply – while Res4 turned up on the PC, in a gutted state, it’s not exactly our territory – the basic schism is between gamers who think that when viewed in the context of the Resident Evil games, the trailer is clearly fine and anyone who thinks otherwise is dumb, and those who are looking at the trailer as a cultural object in and of itself. Resident Evil’s history simply doesn’t matter, really.

But that’s not what I’m posting about. Following the debates, I wandered into the more activist portions of the gaming blogosphere for the first time in ages and found this critical dissection of Fahrenheit (aka The Indigo Prophecy) from the end of the last year, which I hadn’t seen linked anywhere else. In two parts, the first about the eventual lead and the second about the eventual supporting cast.

“Playing through bad video games is hardly a novel experience for me. In this respect, Indigo Prophecy shined; it’s the first time I’ve played a game that is so badly written that it ends up being a tale of white male supremacy. While all of the characters were no doubt written the way they were to try and tell a story of real people doing amazing things, it ended up being a story of a lone straight white man singlehandedly saving the world pretty much by virtue of the fact that he’s a straight white man.”

I’d argue Pat Miller – who’s done some interesting stuff for the Escapist, randomly – hits quite a few off notes (I’m not convinced that his reading of Carla as latino is right. As a commentator says, I thought she was Italian). Not that it really matters – the problem isn’t really her presentation as a woman of colour rather than her presentation as a woman. Putting that side, much of what he talks about is entirely correct. There’s some core issues which undermine a lot of Fahrenheit, (Which I liked on its release). My main worry is… well, how I missed it. Or rather, I noticed it, but didn’t process it. When watching films, I notoriously pick up on this stuff. To choose an ageing pop-culture example, being rendered so angry by Blade 2′s lazy plotting (initial scene: Lady fights blade to stand-still. Final scene: Woman is dragged over place screaming for help) I channeled my disgust into the basis for a new comic pitch. Or, more recently, blinking at 28 Weeks Later which seems to argue that you have to obey genocidal orders from your governments or the terrorists will win. So why didn’t Fahrenheit press buttons?

There’s an accusation that gamers give too much leeway to developers when they attempt to present any story. It’s the singing dog. We’re so amazed the dog is singing at that we’re not even thinking about whether it’s in tune or not. In the case of the often formally brilliant narrative tricks of Fahrenheit, I suspect I may have just been clapping at a dog trick. I suspect I’ll have to replay the thing to really find out.

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19 Comments »

  1. Richard says:

    initial scene: Lady fights blade to stand-still. Final scene: Woman is dragged over place screaming for help.

    It’s what I like to call Heroine Decay.

    You may remember, I ranted a lot about how annoyed I was with the Carla thing after reviewing Fahrenheit. Not least the ending, where she gets left in the car while Lucas goes to fight a guy whose entire schtick is taking over his body for evil purposes.

  2. Kieron Gillen says:

    I do remember actually and you were right. I think too many people (inc. me) may have been distracted by the ludicrousness of fighting the internet to realise the more subtle problems.

    KG

  3. Richard says:

    Yeah, I gave up on the story at around the point where you have to try and rescue a kidnapped girlfriend from the top of a rollercoaster in an abandoned theme-park. Scooby Doo, where are you?

  4. The_B says:

    But it was The Internet man!

    THE INTERNET!

    Although now I think the story would have made a lot more sense if you replaced The Internet with Peggle.

  5. Masked Dave says:

    I thought 28 Weeks Later’s sole political point was that the American’s can’t control shit.

  6. Dan says:

    Tyler’s personal funk soundtrack made me wince all the way through.

    I’m not surprised that Farenheit fell into the usual cliches given that Cage was appaently intent on copying movies. Most thrillers, crime or action movies could be picked apart just as easily, particularly with regards to the pointless instant-romance plus nookie.

    I think Miller’s comments are mostly valid but overstated to the point of baiting though, unless you want to point your finger at 2/3 of movies as being tales of white-male supremacy.

    Fahrenheit was an odd game. The first-third of the game had me enthralled, but it seemed like the rest of it was rushed while the whole development team was hopped-up on caffeine and sugar. The final portion of the game was as mad as a bag of snakes.

    I think any attempt at developing story in videogames should be cut a little slack, but on the other when I hear people saying that [insert Japanese RPG here] has great characters and story I want to gouge out their eyes with shrimp forks. I get more irate at people praising mediocritity than developers perpetuating racist or mysoginistic tones that we still struggle to wipe from other mediums.

  7. Kieron Gillen says:

    Dan: I agree, generally speaking. In Fahrenheit it’s interesting in that you *are* these other characters at several points in the story. In fact, Carla is a joint-lead for the first half of the game. She *isn’t* the secondary character… but she ends up as one.

    KG

  8. Andrew Mayer says:

    I’ve got to agree with Dan as well.

    If the game has a consistent theme for it’s failures it’s that it never lived up to the level of expectation set up in the first half.

    Clearly they had something better in mind, and just couldn’t pull it off.

    I do think that it’s sexual stereotypes were way more blatant than the racial ones. The ham-handed soft-core porno moments were almost shocking when they came along. “Really game? That’s where you’re going with this? Really?”

  9. Theory says:

    I’m not overly impressed. In both articles there’s only circumstantial evidence that the game is racist, except perhaps for the bit about the priest and the child (which is even dodgier now I write it down like that!), and unless I’m very much mistaken why Lucas succeeds “solely by virtue of being a straight white male” is never explained.

    His sexism points are far stronger, but given how clearly rushed the last third of the game was I’m willing to give QD a break, myself.

  10. Richard says:

    Clearly they had something better in mind, and just couldn’t pull it off.

    I disagree. I think they designed the amazing restaurant sequence, and then belatedly realised that they hadn’t got any idea where they were going with it.

    The whole first half is full of individually cool, but pointless, sequences like that, almost all of which just dead-end (the bookstore, Carla’s failure to find out anything about the Big Conspiracy in either the Asylum or the police station, Lucas’ increasingly bizarre visions).

    Much like The X-Files, as soon as it came to the ‘put-up or shut up’ bit, it all just collapsed because you hadn’t actually been investigating anything.

  11. Richard says:

    Incidentally:

    Instead, Kane manages to best an immortal Mayan sorceror (notably a man of color!) at a contest of combat skill despite said sorceror presumably having had thousands of years of experience using the same kind of powers. Watch out for white men, Indigo Prophecy tells us, for even an emo bumbler like Lucas can win with little effort.

    That’s more ridiculous than anything in Fahrenheit’s story. It reminds me of this atrocious article’s take on Deus Ex and a few others:

    after playing through the game twice, my subconscious decided that women must be weaker than men, incapable of performing physically demanding tasks unless equipped with cybernetic enhancements. Why else would they all have menial jobs, depending on men for their very survival? Deus Ex convinced me that they women were weaker, and couldn’t do the things men could do. At least, that’s what my subconscious got from the game.

    Absolutely! At least, if you discount Anna (which she does), and Maggie, who’s a key member of the baddies’ inner circle, the DuClares, Tiffany, Jordan Shea…

    There’s enough to shake your head at in Fahrenheit, not least Tyler’s whakka-cha-wakka funk apartment, without having to stretch so far your arms fall off.

  12. Kieron Gillen says:

    To be fair momentarily, the number of games where the only female character you meet is “Prostitute” would grate on me.

    KG

  13. Richard says:

    And it annoys me. But I tend to save the annoyance for the games that actually do that kind of thing, rather than the ones which are at worst unbalanced.

  14. Nihohit says:

    I’m really glad that these “I’ve got an idea and i’ll stretch and ignore reality to prove it” articles discussing computer games are rare.
    Several important points were ignored, like the fact that the only Latins with a name like Valenti appear in R:TW, not here. What about the dead protagonist? Isn’t the Internet a symbol of WASPiness?
    Yes, IP was a rancid attempt at both gameplay and plot, but the fact that the game failed as a game doesn’t make it EVIL.

  15. Tim says:

    At last! At least people are talking about this sort of things now. Which we can now call “the singing dog effect”.

    That’s the exact effect I noticed in the reaction to the RE5 stuff. People were defending their singing dog.

  16. chinook says:

    And thus began the downfall of “gaming journalism”, descending into feminist-pandering and discussions of non-existent misogynistic conspiracies, instead of evaluating games based on their merits.

    “When I’ve played and reviewed the game, I didn’t notice any issues, but now that I’ve read this biased article, I’ve started to see it all!” Well who would’ve thunk.

    This reminds me of those articles saying that Bioshock Infinite is racist and sexist and eats babies for breakfast.

    IP was unbalanced and seemingly rushed, plot was cheesy and somewhat shallow, but all the gender-related BS is made out of the thin air. I know this is an old article, but it really got to me because I’d expect this kind of thing on kotaku or ign, not glorious RPS. I thought only stupid people could be white-knighting, but Kieron proved me wrong, oh well. I still admire KG’s work, when it’s actually relevant, that is.

    • Dominic White says:

      And yet, six years later, you persist on reading this site that you clearly hate. I mean, if you can’t stand any of the writers, or most of what they’re covering, then… what do you call it? Masochism? Maybe you’re holding a torch for the foretold day when everyone here stops caring and/or trying to make a difference?

      Alternatively: Sod off already.

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