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Thread: Spec Ops - Not Crossing the Line
03-01-2013, 12:28 PM #21
As for the main argument, I think Spec Ops mostly succeeds at what it attempts - which, to me, is to show the excesses of war and adolescent power-fantasies. I've pointed out before that the story is somewhat clumsy and forced, and that it's a bit depressing that even despite that it has generated so much attention - it just goes to show how starved we are when it comes to gaming narratives.
That being said, I don't really agree with the argument that if *I* had made choices instead of Walker the game would have made a more lasting impact. I think it succeeds at what it tries to be - you see Walker's story, and you reflect on that based on your previous experiences with other games and war-related media. You don't need to feel you are Raskolnikov to enjoy/reflect on Crime and Punishment, and I think the same applies here. I think your argument relies on the premise that games can offer "deeper" immersion than books/movies/etc., but that is highly questionable (I would say games can offer a different kind of immersion, but it will always be limited, just like with books/movies/etc.).
And yes, do play it on easy - if only to make the adolescent power-fantasy even more absurd, which enhances the game.
03-01-2013, 12:49 PM #22
Did you shoot the prisoners, the snipers or the ropes? Why?
Did you beat the guy at the end of the zip rope to death right away? Why?
Did you shoot into the air or at the civvies after you found your squad mate hung up and dead? Why?
Did you go home or did you "welcome" the search and rescue squads to Dubai?
Yes, the story continues on after all these actions and you always end up at the same ending, but you're the one that decided to do it. You're meant to think back and ask why.
I'll answer it myself. All the while I played I was playing as I thought Walker would react based on my observation of his surroundings. Everyone else might have seen it differently, which imo is part of the "beauty" of the game.
1 - I tried to shoot the snipers out. I took the two on the right and my squad the two on the left. It didn't work, but I did it because I felt thats what my character would try to do.
2 - I beat the man to death almost right away without registering anything other than "He's not dead yet and if he's not dead yet that means he might get up and try kill me".
3 - I shot the guy immediately in front of me. I looked in his face and shot his head clean off. It was obvious to me that at this point Walker had snapped.
4 - I went home. After thinking about pulling the trigger on them I felt that Walker had broken to a point and would have to spend the rest of his days living with that. Out of respect for his squad and the men he murdered on the way to try be a hero he decided that was his faith.
03-01-2013, 01:11 PM #23
You'll struggle to find a bigger advocate of narrative in games than me. I have no problem what so ever with reading, watching or any other uninovlved device within games so long as there is plenty to play still and that the experience and narrative of playing follows the experience and narrative of what's going on in the cutscenes or text or dialogue what have you. The Witcher 2 is the par excellence example of this. Intensive cutscenes, intensive dialogue, intensive texts to read if you want, and intensive gameplay, all of which conspire to tell a bigger story than just a film or book could. They compliment each other, the laws in one don't violate the other, you never see Geralt do something you can't yourself replicate or which does not fit with the conventions established in the variety of different narrative devices.
If on the other hand you have a game which allows you to play out cliches while the cutscenes and dialogue suggest there's something bigger than that going on, unless it'd done very very well in parody then to me it's just a story pasted into the game and as such has totally missed the strength of the medium. Gaming narrative should tell you everything you need to know in all of it's aspects. If any of those differ from each other-i.e man is finite, horror of war, death is terrible, in a game in which you don't need to worry about dying-the narrative fails in gaming terms. The points made can still be good ones, but the purpose of using an interactive medium to tell them has been lost somewhere.
That's how Spec Ops came across to me to be honest. It's a good story, but it's larlgey dissacociated from how it plays. It's a good game sure but it dosen't come close to being as clever as it thinks it is in my mind.
03-01-2013, 03:26 PM #24
You're not wrong, but you don't quite get the point the game's trying to make.
It's basically turning the "Lone Ranger saves the day" trope on its head - instead of making things better and saving everyone by stubbornly refusing to do what he should do, Walker makes things worse.
The game isn't at all about player choices, it's about how the choices Walker makes are terrible. It doesn't matter at all what you choose to do - in the end no matter your choice, it's Walker's choices that determine the outcomes (pushing into the city instead of following his orders to wait outside it, not calling his superiors and reporting the 33rd going rouge the moment they begin shooting at him, using the phosphorous mortar, etc).
No matter the players' choices the outcome is negative because the protagonist is the stereotypical "I want to be the guy" and in the real world that kind of attitude can lead to stupid decisions at best, and downright dangerous ones to both you and other people at worst (which the game fully demonstrates).
The game's goal is to mercilessly jab at bravado - Walker's and yours while playing these kind of games. The loading screens begin asking, "Do you feel like a hero yet?" It wants you to see just how stupid Walker is, where his own little "I'm off to save the world!" fantasy ends up taking him and consider what would really happen if games like Call of Battlefield had even the slightest grounding in reality.Virtual Pilot 3D™ NEVER NOT SCAM!
03-01-2013, 03:38 PM #25
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But we all know that already. You don't need to make a game for it, and you don't need to praise such a game for it. We all know that these games are silly twaddle, but we also know that they're entertaining twaddle. It's like how vigilantes are always really cool characters in fiction, but in practice you'd never want to have one around and you'd never want to be one.
I'm not against the idea of a game where the protagonist makes a mess of things (although I tend to be against dislikeable protagonists), but I'm not going to reward someone with praise for just doing it either.Irrelevant on further examination of the rest of the thread.
03-01-2013, 04:18 PM #26
Also, it seems to think it's making a point about violence in videogames, that's the big spiel, but as the conversation above shows it does nothing of the sort really. What it does comment on is the hero saving the day trope, and not very well. What it has to say on violence and war, it says no better and much worse than many of the millions of other commentaries on war, colonialism, violence, guns etc in a variety of media, games included.
I admire any authors intentions to do more than “just be a game”, even the mad starey eyed over earnestness of Far Cry 3’s writer. It’s good that they want to use the medium to talk about big issues. The problem is they do so in a way which suggests the medium is a limitation in this-“*more* than just a game”- rather than a superb device for it. They layer a moralising story onto a game, which isn’t remotely the same thing. The brilliance of good narrative in games is that you can see how the designer has looked at the message they want to convey and then clearly worked on how saying it through games is the best way to do so, rather than “Hey I’ve got a book/film idea here let’s turn it into a game”.
Last edited by sonson; 03-01-2013 at 04:24 PM.
03-01-2013, 05:23 PM #27
Spec Ops is the first game I've ever seen that turns the trope on its head while being completely serious about it. Games have subverted it before, but always for the sake of humor.
Those are the points of Spec Ops: subverting your every expectation of video games by first presenting your virtual self and friends as perfectly respectable, do-gooders who you discover are really just as awful as the nameless, faceless alien hordes you'd shoot in most other games. And just maybe making you think for a second why you're really pointing and shooting a virtual gun at things for.Virtual Pilot 3D™ NEVER NOT SCAM!
03-01-2013, 06:15 PM #28
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Why should I feel an emotional burden for someone else's bad decisions? I've got enough of my own to worry over, thanks.
I would suggest that the game reflects on the 'Hero or Power Fantasy' of the various adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and so on that have been perpetrated in our names and advocated by people that represent us in some sense.
Perhaps Spec Ops seems more useful to me because I'm someone who likes to believe that at least one or two of those adventures really did do some good, and because I do feel some sort of responsibility for the actions of my government. I know many people don't subscribe to the latter and I don't think they're being particularly unreasonable.
I watched Culloden (1964) shortly after playing Spec Ops and that made me feel that I was shouldering some sort of shared burden for similar reasons. I didn't feel responsible for the events depicted, but I did recognise how the depiction had relevance to things that I have at least limited responsibility for.
03-01-2013, 06:30 PM #29
Hmm. I think Spec Ops was basically a game set the day after Modern Warfare went through town and showed the player the results that the CoD games don't care to show.Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory since 1982.
03-01-2013, 06:41 PM #30
From this thread, I see three main trends in the people who bashed/"didn't get" Spec Ops
1. Inability to "look at the big picture" in almost a "meta" kind of way. Yes, you had no real choice while playing the game. What you were doing was picking the choices set before you by the game. But Walker picked from the choices set before him by the voices in his head. Same with the ability to walk away.
2. A refusal to believe that tropes are not bad. Yeah, aspects of it have been done before (it is Fight Club meets Heart of Darkness set to the backdrop of Modern Warfare). But so what? Tropes are tools.
3. A lack of familiarity/love for a good deconstruction. At its core, Spec Ops was a deconstruction of the modern military manshoot genre. In many ways, I compare it to Unforgiven (just a lot less good). Unforgiven is an entire movie of Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman deconstructing the entire Western genres, capped off by about 5 minutes of Clint Eastwood reconstructing everything in the blink of an eye. And showing just what kind of an inhuman monster it would take to be a Gunslinging Western Hero. Of course, Unforgiven was also a beautiful love story and Clint Eastwood's best work, so yeah.
But it still is interesting to read the rationales to excuse the player from any blame for the events of the game. Mainly because you can EASILY envision Walker saying those exact words as he talks to his hallucinations while holding a gun up to his head. And I think that makes it even more interesting on a meta level.
03-01-2013, 07:04 PM #31
As far as other games go though, Cannon Fodder is the go to example, but I remember the first time I encountered a machine gun nest in COH, the way that it decimated my squad which had six times as many members, the way a random tractor in a field was the only thing that stood in between one guy staying alive and the rest of his squad dying.
This is because life in strategy games is cheap and is not an asymmetrical set of affairs either, both AI and player chuck troops into the meat grinder and both are as pulpy and suspecitble to being consumed by it as each other. I have rarely played a strategy game in which preservation of life in as far as is possible isn't prized, and I usually feel bad if there's a massacre. Compelling little fleshy mortals to death on my behalf is a far bigger moral challenge and commentary on war than the virtual fly swatting which comprises most FPS games, where you play a mighty giant swatting at little irritants to progress.
Any game in which people dying is not a big deal on both sides has missed the horror of war from the outset i.e that it is not a weapon to be wielded but a a force that consumes everything it touches.
Same applies for the consequences of a war game. Strategy games often both show and make you feel the consequences of your actions. They focus on a loss of life which is mechanically as well as aesthetically relevant. FPS games don't, because they can't as things stand. How can a demigod empathise with one shot killed goons? Again, you can talk and show about the horrors of war, but not as well as a film or book. If you can't feel the consequences, there's no point in making a game to get your point across, because you're missing out on the medium's strength.
In regards to the other stuff I'm probably not the best person to comment on it as any game which involves any violence at all has always had me consider the feelings of the victim at that point. Without question. From the frogs I punched in Alex Kid to the samurai who died in their thousands for me in Shogun to bandits I killed in Metro 2033. Usually I happily plough on though because it's irrelevant. The violence is a tool for interaction, it isn't actual violence or a mediation thereon. And Spec Ops really is no different in this. In Spec Ops I'm as powerful as my Saints Row Boss only the civilians make a sadder noise when they die, the story focuses on the horrors of war rather than dildos and gangster exccess, and the experience isn't nearly as good or as fun or as relevant to said plot. There is no reason for me to care beyond the story, in which case, tell a story, don't make it a game.
Last edited by sonson; 03-01-2013 at 07:07 PM.
03-01-2013, 07:17 PM #32
They focus on a loss of life which is mechanically as well as aesthetically relevant.
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Which I suppose is almost an attack on games. I think there's certainly a tension in the medium.
03-01-2013, 07:29 PM #33
We need a roguelike fps/tps that's like die by the sword or sumthin. Your wounds never heal, pro tip: don't get shot. Game could be like 5 hours long and the one who finishes it is the king. And that would be more intelligent criticism of the medium than Spec Ops.
03-01-2013, 07:37 PM #34
03-01-2013, 11:11 PM #35
You're not really even supposed to empathize with Walker or his squad in Spec Ops. You're supposed to be disgusted by them and the things they do. The graphic violence is there to make the consequences of their actions seem more real.
And who says a game can't portray the consequences of a man trying to be an action hero and make you feel? Why would a book be better at it? It's just words on paper. Why would a movie be better at it? It's just moving pictures and sound.
Any medium can do it, it's just games have only recently now started to be used to do it.
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03-01-2013, 11:14 PM #36
03-01-2013, 11:43 PM #37
04-01-2013, 07:26 AM #38
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04-01-2013, 09:59 AM #39
Interesting reading on it here: http://tinysubversions.com/2012/11/r...#comment-11841
It's actually a review of a close reading of the game but the author of the review touches on what the problems are around it. There's a respone from the author of the book as well.
04-01-2013, 02:32 PM #40
It's not a commentary on how unrealistic modern war shooter games are, it's a commentary on the bravado "Let's be a hero!" attitude and how it would actually work out.Virtual Pilot 3D™ NEVER NOT SCAM!