Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor
The Terabyte Tenderloin

The Escapist Staff | 25 Nov 2008 08:31
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In response to "Woman, Mother, Space Marine" from The Escapist Forum: Your statement about feeling a maternal attachment to some in-game character reminded me of Bioshock in some ways. Even though that last, annoying escort mission riekd me to no end as I had to keep a brainwashed little girl from becoming splicer fodder, I still felt some mode of attachment to the rescued but still brainwashed Little Sister. Even though no emotional connection was made to establish the Little Sister I was escorting as someone in specific, the co-mingling of maternal and paternal instincts as I froze, bludgeoned and blasted splicers left me feeling vaguely like the end sequence from Aliens. Get away from her, you bitch, indeed!

- UncleAsriel

I really enjoyed the article, but the closing argument for a game whose story is based on the maternal protection instinct is flawed. While the protection of your civilization or species is justification enough for the whole sale slaughter common in video games, a mother's desire to protect her child is not. Perhaps a game that emphasizes danger over violence like Prince of Persia would be a good match for the story, but the average space marine game would not.

There was a game released in 1999 called "Drakan: Order of the Flame" whose driving plot point was a strong (scantily clad) female character trying to rescue her brother. The game play was good and the sub plots were compelling but after the 5th kill I lost all interest in saving my brother and continued the game for the joy of the game play. The "save your brother" plot kept emerging to string the player along but it felt artificial and forced.

I am not saying the protective instinct is not a good instinct to harness for games. Ico being the prime example of a game where it worked, to a degree. I have heard many complaints of "let the stupid girl die she deserves it". However there are more ways of getting it wrong than there are of getting it right. After all most players don't mind charging into battle screaming "for king and country!" but when the battle cry changes to "for little Billy!" a lot of players will start wondering who is this Billy and why should I kill 1000 people and die 100 times for him.

- hamster mk 4


In response to "Pixels and Picket Lines" from The Escapist Forum: I see the industry treading in fear of having a Comics Code Authority rammed down its throat, and walking delicately around the sensibilities that led to the hobbling of the American comics culture for forty years, as the reason games are so apolitical these days. (How crippling yourself is better than having someone else cripple you is left as an exercise for the reader.)

- Anton P. Nym

In my experience, games do a remarkably good job of addressing political issues. The problem is that no one notices because it's just "part of a game" and usually happens though an analogy. To my knowledge no one has made a game about Hurricane Katrina, but the concept of a devastating natural disaster and a government that fails to properly respond shows up quite often (just look at the Enclave in any of the Fallout games)

Games fall into the same trap here as a lot of science fiction: without someone hitting you over the head with an analysis stick and saying "look! here's what this is!" most people will simply not think to draw parallels. And even if they do, there's a very strong cultural prejudice against applying anything remotely geeky to serious political discussion.

As an example, look at the Starcraft campaign: the Terrans are overthrowing a corrupt government by supporting a popular dictator who ends up being just as bad. We play though this in extensive detail from multiple perspectives, and get to experience firsthand (on the losing side, no less) governmental abuse of powers and betrayal of trust. The entire Protoss campaign is about racism and fundamentalism and how they can tear a civilization apart. The Zerg just happen to be the product of genetic engineering undertaken with the best of intentions. And that's just the really obvious stuff - if you want to go digging a bit deeper and actually assume that political commentary is intended you can find a whole lot more.

And yet, because all of this is set in fictional world, nobody ever thinks of Starcraft as a detailed portrayal of corruption and racism. That's why games aren't political, because no serious political debater will draw from a fictional world to make a point.

- far_wanderer


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