You Have to Earn Your Apocalypse

You Have to Earn Your Apocalypse

Critical Intel takes a deep dive on what it means to be apocalyptic, and why so much of contemporary gaming uses the idea of an apocalypse wrong.

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Robert Rath:

Infinity Ward lay it on fast and think

I'm not one to nitpick, it's just that caught me off guard. Hehe! Was it meant to be 'thick'?
Interesting article. I really must play The Last of us.

Bravo Mr. Rath, Bravo; wonderful article.

I have a feeling though that we will be waiting a long time before the majority of video game stories can have the same impact as a movie or book. The writing for most games are just too thick and self-insert to really do much. We have had our Twilight, Transformers and Bodice rippers but when are we going to hit that point in gaming where the greats start appearing on the level of Huxley's Brave New World, Orwell's 1984, Asimov's short stories. I feel that consumers like us should be asking of that.

On topic, I do agree that games are a bit heavyhanded. It is hard to make a world where the system is broken beyond belief but the people are worth saving due to folly or virtue. It requires one part world weaver and one part character writer and we really have to step up our game

Excellent article. I agree completely with the idea that a story needs to 'earn' its apocalypse. Far too often we're thrown into doomsday scenarios in movies, video games, books, etc. without being given a reason why we should care. Bland characters having their lives messed up really doesn't cut it.

Also I'm glad to hear that it sounds like Advanced Warfare has a decent story for its campaign. Ghosts made me sad and not in the good emotional kind of way. More like the'oh geez someone wrote this and expected me to both care and take it seriously' kind of way.

Not really sure if the ending of Advanced Warfare was an "Apocalypse", it really more reeked of "And so the battle against Atlus Corperation rages on...And we'll leave it at that, See you next year for part 2 ;)"

Either that or it was a hint to play the Multiplayer which I'd imagine would be set after the events of the single-player.

Blinkmage:
Also I'm glad to hear that it sounds like Advanced Warfare has a decent story for its campaign. Ghosts made me sad and not in the good emotional kind of way. More like the'oh geez someone wrote this and expected me to both care and take it seriously' kind of way.

Yeah, I mean, I'll admit, it was a bit more interesting then usual and at times, I found myself rooting for Irons as they did manage to do a bit of a neat twist on the whole "Evil CEO" thing when he points out to the whole UN that they are all hired him to do their job for them and he's done it better then everyone else.

That's why I hated the Prison level, all that build up, the slight sensation that the mad-man might be "Right", all thrown out the window so they could get their "Shock-Gasm" going with Death Camps ¬_¬
Besides, in Black Ops 2 and even in Ghosts, the baddies were more interesting characters then the ones you were playing as, Hell, Raul Menendez is a pretty fucking awesome character with proper motivations and it's hard to really side with the US in Ghosts when they make it really clear that they ROYALLY fucked up making a satellite based superweapon.

I mean, you have a orbiting kill sat over the heads of everyone else in the world, that's the biggest "Fuck You" to the rest of the world and seeing how they were sending task forces into South America to kill Federation leaders that reminded me a lot of their operations in the 80s, No wonder the Federation hijacked it.

Diablo1099:

Blinkmage:
Also I'm glad to hear that it sounds like Advanced Warfare has a decent story for its campaign. Ghosts made me sad and not in the good emotional kind of way. More like the'oh geez someone wrote this and expected me to both care and take it seriously' kind of way.

Yeah, I mean, I'll admit, it was a bit more interesting then usual and at times, I found myself rooting for Irons as they did manage to do a bit of a neat twist on the whole "Evil CEO" thing when he points out to the whole UN that they are all hired him to do their job for them and he's done it better then everyone else.

That's why I hated the Prison level, all that build up, the slight sensation that the mad-man might be "Right", all thrown out the window so they could get their "Shock-Gasm" going with Death Camps ¬_¬
Besides, in Black Ops 2 and even in Ghosts, the baddies were more interesting characters then the ones you were playing as, Hell, Raul Menendez is a pretty fucking awesome character with proper motivations and it's hard to really side with the US in Ghosts when they make it really clear that they ROYALLY fucked up making a satellite based superweapon.

I mean, you have a orbiting kill sat over the heads of everyone else in the world, that's the biggest "Fuck You" to the rest of the world and seeing how they were sending task forces into South America to kill Federation leaders that reminded me a lot of their operations in the 80s, No wonder the Federation hijacked it.

That's what we get for outsourcing weapons development to Megatron.

OT: You shot your point in the foot with The Last of Us's ending basically saying Joel screwed the world by his choice with Ellie. Besides, none of that would have happened if not for the fungus. And since it's based on a real parasitic fungus that affects insects (so far), let me say what I forgot to in one of your last columns covering the subject; BURN IT! BURN THEM ALL!!! KILL THEM WITH FIIIIIIIIIIIRRRRRRRRREEE!!!!!!

Darth_Payn:

OT: You shot your point in the foot with The Last of Us's ending basically saying Joel screwed the world by his choice with Ellie. Besides, none of that would have happened if not for the fungus. And since it's based on a real parasitic fungus that affects insects (so far), let me say what I forgot to in one of your last columns covering the subject; BURN IT! BURN THEM ALL!!! KILL THEM WITH FIIIIIIIIIIIRRRRRRRRREEE!!!!!!

Thing is the Fireflies never really had a chance anyway. Let's face it, they were more interested in what the cure could do for their idea of a restored democracy than just straight immunizing people. There's no guarantee Ellie's immunity was even transferable, or the scientists they had could figure it out. Their first response was to rip her brain out for gods sake, they didn't have a clue what they were doing.

Diablo1099:

That's why I hated the Prison level, all that build up, the slight sensation that the mad-man might be "Right", all thrown out the window so they could get their "Shock-Gasm" going with Death Camps ¬_¬
Besides, in Black Ops 2 and even in Ghosts, the baddies were more interesting characters then the ones you were playing as, Hell, Raul Menendez is a pretty fucking awesome character with proper motivations and it's hard to really side with the US in Ghosts when they make it really clear that they ROYALLY fucked up making a satellite based superweapon.

I thought the Prison level was a good level myself. It showed what happens to someone with that much power when they lose track of what they set out to do. Irons set out to make the world a better place. And let's be honest. He did. The problem came though when he forgot that he wanted to make the world a better place for everyone who agreed with him. He started taking shortcuts (allowing that attack to happen) because the world wasn't moving fast enough for him. It became about him and his vision, instead of the world. And when that happens--especially when you don't have a higher power to answer to--things go very very badly. We saw just how far he'd fallen in his final moments. Hanging from a ledge and begging for his life, threatening to kill you if you didn't help him. Raul from Black Ops II is more than willing to die for his cause because he still believed in his cause, not himself. Irons lost that.
Or at least that's my take on it.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading this article. It made me look at one of my favorite games in a new light, and it explained yet another reason why Ghosts was just so bad in so many ways. Advanced Warfare was much better, but I feel like it was missing the 'pop' that so many games before it had. Still, this article made me appreciate it a bit more.

Quite a good article. Though, when one talks about apocalypse in video games, Fallout should be on everybody's lips.

The US from that game (we don't know much about the rest, though what we know isn't pretty either) was fucked up. It deserved to die, the way the corporations, the government, everyone had lost any humanity. Testing radioactive drinks on the public and sending fruit baskets as a compensation to the families of the first batch of customers? That was standard procedure. The government made biological weapons that, after the End, caused the beginning of a second apocalypse. Everything deserved to burn.

But in the middle of all this were human beings. The same human beings who would become Raiders. The same human beings who would be the Enclave. The same human beings who would sacrifice all they have to get a small chance of rebuilding some part of a decent civilization somewhere in the desert. The same human beings who would explore the ruins of the past to build upon an idealistic dream of a society that never existed outside their own vision.

The apocalypse doesn't change that very truth, and this is why we feel that the Fallout world deserves one more shot at survival as long as there is still one good man or woman in the Wastelands. Because... Humanity. Humanity never changes.

Diablo1099:

Besides, in Black Ops 2 and even in Ghosts, the baddies were more interesting characters then the ones you were playing as, Hell, Raul Menendez is a pretty fucking awesome character with proper motivations and it's hard to really side with the US in Ghosts when they make it really clear that they ROYALLY fucked up making a satellite based superweapon.

I mean, you have a orbiting kill sat over the heads of everyone else in the world, that's the biggest "Fuck You" to the rest of the world and seeing how they were sending task forces into South America to kill Federation leaders that reminded me a lot of their operations in the 80s, No wonder the Federation hijacked it.

I didn't play Ghosts, but I really liked BLOPS II(and almost passed it by). On the surface, the plots sound similar, but from what I understand, they differ because in BLOPS II, the game outright admits that Menendez has many really, really good reasons to hate the US, and a lot of the 3rd world, who are starving while watching the US build Luxury resorts in the middle of the ocean(protected by killer robots), have little reason not to follow him. Menendez was one of the few CoD villians to actually have a character(and a character arc to boot). And if he gets his way at the end, he proves his point by blowing up the US's killer drone fleet and then immolates himself so he can be with his sister(after taking care of woods).

OTOH, Ghosts is apparently blind this kind of thing and instead goes with "How dare those Latin Americans hate us and use our Doomsday weapons against us! Let's take them back and nuke them! It's good when we do it because we're 'MURICA!"

Hell, Even MW2 knew what was doing with the whole "Angry Russians invade America" arc, because the entire point in the game was "The cycle of revenge" and the entire thing was just one big tragedy that was spiraling more and more out of control. Which MW3 sadly tossed out in favor of....Rescue the Princess....er, Russian President's Daughter.

Dalisclock:

I didn't play Ghosts, but I really liked BLOPS II(and almost passed it by). On the surface, the plots sound similar, but from what I understand, they differ because in BLOPS II, the game outright admits that Menendez has many really, really good reasons to hate the US, and a lot of the 3rd world, who are starving while watching the US build Luxury resorts in the middle of the ocean(protected by killer robots), have little reason not to follow him. Menendez was one of the few CoD villians to actually have a character(and a character arc to boot). And if he gets his way at the end, he proves his point by blowing up the US's killer drone fleet and then immolates himself so he can be with his sister(after taking care of woods).

OTOH, Ghosts is apparently blind this kind of thing and instead goes with "How dare those Latin Americans hate us and use our Doomsday weapons against us! Let's take them back and nuke them! It's good when we do it because we're 'MURICA!"

Hell, Even MW2 knew what was doing with the whole "Angry Russians invade America" arc, because the entire point in the game was "The cycle of revenge" and the entire thing was just one big tragedy that was spiraling more and more out of control. Which MW3 sadly tossed out in favor of....Rescue the Princess....er, Russian President's Daughter.

Ghosts biggest problem was that it was trying to jump straight to Modern Warfare 2's plot, without the setup of a prequel to earn that sense of spiraling disaster. Like you said, its all the cycle of revenge, but Ghosts never had the decency to depict the sheer ego of putting fucking killer satellites named after a God over everyone's head.

Good article. I agree that an "earned" apocalypse is far more satisfying when executed correctly however, while Robert did touch on scientific and Lovecraftian apocalypse (where the apocalypse is not within human control in any way) I feel it can actually be undermined by trying to also have society "earn" this sort of alien destruction that is supposed to evoke the helplessness of any powers of humanity in the face of an incomprehensible threat.
I think the mass effect suffered from this when the galactic society *cough*council*cough* would fall into self-centered internal struggle and ignore the imminent near unstoppable threat of the reapers (supported by countless historically identical apocalypses) to an almost comical degree.
In the end it felt like an oncoming apocalypse that was "earned" by the squabbling of various political regimes even in the times of most dire need, rather than due to the truly unknowable alien horror the reapers were initially presented as.
although I don't think this was the wrong decision outside the overall cycle of extinction storyline it did add a lot to the stories of individual cultures and individuals.

Not necessarily a reflection on the article itself, but more on the idea of an "apocalypse."
If one wants to talk about "true" apocalypses, one would be talking about something a lot different than world-in-flames, post nuclear war, messed up earth. Our word "apocalypse" actually comes from a Greek word, ἀποκάλυψις, (apocálypsis), which, in essence, means "uncovering," or "revelation." Its use in English parlance stems from a genre of books written mostly between 200 BCE - 200 CE (that could be wrong). The Biblical book "Revelation" is called that because of the line "Ἀποκαλυψις Ἰεσοῦ Χριστοῦ" which translates to "A revelation of Jesus Christ." The scenes of destruction and judgment in Revelation and many other apocalyptic texts inspired the now common parlance term. However, there is a lot more to apocalyptic literature. It's a narrative style of writing, and was used as a means of communicating encouragement. It was most often used by ancient Jewish or early Christian authors to show that God was more powerful than whatever present empire was oppressing them, which is why most of them were written during the reign of the Greek and Roman Empires.
Common characteristics of Apocalyptic literature are judgment/destruction, dualisms (light v. dark, good v. evil, spiritual v. earthly), some sort of "heavenly trip" often guided by an angelic figure, a visionary/mystic experience, and an eschatological (end times) viewpoint.

For examples of apocalyptic writings, see: Revelation, Daniel, Enoch, Shepherd of Hermas.

 

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