You have a big angry bloke who seriously needs to get over something, generally a lady friend. They take it out on non-human creatures with a weapon that incorporates a chain so that it can have a decent reach. It has quick light attacks and slow heavy attacks, as well as combos involving the two, air combos and the ability to grab and instakill the enemy with the circle button if you're just completely bored with tossing the guy around. You gather souls from enemies and use them to upgrade your combos and magic spells you learn along the way, and collect things that eventually make your health and magic bars bigger. Then at the end of it you kill whoever the local equivalent of Satan is.
Many games mix and match some or most of these elements but the three that do every single one of them are God of War, Dante's Inferno and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. The level of similarity is quite haunting, although I'm hesitant to blame the game's creators when the only reason shitty cultural trends exist is because there are enough people who keep buying the damn things to make the numbers add up.
With that in mind, and I hope you'll forgive me while I indulge a little pop psychology, but I wonder if the popularity of the God of War model says anything about us as a people and the prevailing attitudes of the times. The main characters are always superhumanly physically strong with massively destructive attacks, and it's not too much of a stretch to suppose that the power level of our favorite fantasy personas is inversely proportional to how weak and powerless we perceive ourselves as. But these protagonists are always extremely broody and depressed and suffer terrible torments (what is Dante's Inferno if not an eight-hour self-loathing session), because for people with unhealthy habits and a desire to avoid responsibility, people who display physical fitness are suspicious and provoke resentment and therefore should be punished, just like those bullying jocks who'll be laughing on the other sides of their faces once my spiked chain gauntlets arrive.
I also think it's interesting that all three of these games involve the main characters pursuing extremely personal agendas, but end up saving the world from Satan regardless. The message seems to be an inherently selfish one: that you can basically do nothing but indulge yourself and everything will turn out wonderfully for everyone. It brings to mind that "trickle down" theory that completely fucked over the American economy.
The fact that the personal agenda almost always involves getting your woman back clearly reflects misogyny, which in itself is a symptom of a fear or lack of understanding of women. And now I've reminded myself of Dante's Inferno's Lust section, with the seductive demonesses who attack you with their big spiky prolapsed vaginas. When you think about it, Dante's Inferno is basically the story of a man with the mind of an emo teenage boy taking up self-harm in response to a messy break-up, going so far as to picture the new boyfriend as literally Satan.
So, if God of War is popular, it's because lots of people today are emo, selfish, self-hating, physically weak, sexist, responsibility-avoiding whiners who sympathize with Republican economic policies. You might say I'm reading too much into these things, but you have to admit it's definitely true that liking Resident Evil 5 makes you a racist.
Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games and writes the back page column for PC Gamer, who are too important to mention us. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.