A lighthearted look at selected news stories from the week gone by; the odd parts, the important parts, the hilarious parts. Mostly the hilarious parts.
Things are about to get deadly serious. Part of me views this as a betrayal of everything this feature stands for, but then another part says every now and again it wouldn’t hurt to look at something from a more poker-faced perspective. Skip this first section if serious doesn’t sound like fun, there’s plenty of Duke Nukem to nullify any feelings of disappointment later on.
Michel Ancel on Videogames and Violence: Are we all closet Nazis?
The words “violence in videogames” are my cue to shut down, to stop listening, to get the fuck out. It is a subject as dreary as talk about games winning mainstream acceptance or how violent videogames turn otherwise angelic ankle biters into raging sadists. But it’s not everyday that someone from inside the industry goes on the attack and even less frequently is that somebody as prolific as Ubisoft’s Michel Ancel – the man responsible for both the Rayman and Beyond Good & Evil franchises. Unlike dumbass Alan Titchmarsh, Ancel is interesting so here we are talking about violence in games.
Speaking to Eurogamer at this year’s E3, Ancel talked up the problems associated with violent videogames before suggesting that the industry took a leaf from Hollywood’s book when it comes to storytelling, prompting the question: where have you been for the past 20 years Ancel? Anyway extracts from his cavil are below with responses and the full story ran by Eurogamer is here.
“Yeah, I think violence is not the problem, the problem is when it’s not done… if you look for example at Saving Private Ryan, the Spielberg movie. It’s violent but there is really dramatic and artistic storytelling behind it.”
That Ancel’s go-to model for championing artistic and mature storytelling in the film industry should be Saving Private Ryan speaks volumes. I wouldn’t want to call the man clueless but here’s a film who’s counterparts in the videogame industry are very much the Call of Duty’s and Medal of Honor’s he’s pointing the finger at. Saving Private Ryan is certainly dramatic, but artistic storytelling? Please. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to consider Ryan propaganda, so to hold it up as something games should be aspiring to is madness. In what world is this anything other than gratuitous? The romanticisation of death and the glossing over of the act of taking a man’s life is patent in just about every war game and most war films, but to criticise the games and then fall back on Saving Private Ryan is hypocrisy.
Ancel goes on to make another quite staggering claim:
“The thing I hate the most is when you see people doing bad things and the player can say, ‘okay I have the right to kill them in horrible ways because they are horrible’. If you kill Nazis with the same methods as the Nazis themselves then you are Nazis too, no?”
Assuming then that Saving Private Ryan’s not-even-slightly-fetishised sniper Pvt. Jackson is a Nazi for murdering the German sniper with his trusty scoped rifle, where does this theory end? Is the policeman who shoots the murderer to be considered equal to the murderer? The man who stabs his attacker in self defence the same as the dude from psycho? Of course not. Motive for killing is everything and it’s stunning that Ancel has confused an entire political ideology with a method for killing.
“I like the way the movie industry is able to have storytelling, to talk about violence, sex and everything like that with real talent. Today, I think we have a lot of things to learn from that.”
Here’s where I agree with some of what Ancel is saying, I like that the movie industry is able to talk about violence, sex and the like with “real talent” (whatever that means, I’ll go with subtlety and skill) and that it does so with a greater degree of prudence than most videogames have managed thus far. But the movie industry doesn’t have to concern itself with interactivity, it doesn’t have to concern itself with being entertaining for upward of 8 hours. Storytelling in games is tough, and hell, sometimes gratuitous murder is a whole load of fun.
On top of that Hollywood has also produced some excessively violent films without ever bothering to justify that violence: the Saw franchise, Hostel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and films of that ilk are designed from the ground up to shock and violence is their tool to do so. But who gives a damn? There’s room for all flavours of art in my world.
“I really don’t understand the message behind those games. With Beyond Good & Evil we wanted to push it in new directions. You know, Jade is a journalist – her weapon is a camera.”
Yeah and a great big fucking stick she uses to whack people upside the head with.
The crux of Ancel’s argument I agree with, the videogame industry would do well to be a little more tactful with violence at times (I sure as hell don’t want Bulletstorm reminding me that the guy whose penis I just rammed upped his left nostril has a doe-eyed and pregnant wife waiting idly with the Sunday dinner served at home). But the thing is videogames already do look to Hollywood for inspiration. Call of Duty and Medal of Honor are both inspired relentlessly by Saving Private Ryan, both mechanically and from a story perspective. Heavy Rain and L.A. Noire draw heavily from crime films. Grand Theft Auto is very filmic but also acutely violent and on top of that facilitates players who want nothing more than to turn some poor virtual lady’s head into raspberry jelly.
I spent far too much time as a child playing Rayman to have anything but respect for Michael Ancel and I agree with his argument to an extent, it’s just buried beneath some frankly ludicrous statements. Excuse me while I read up on my Naziism doctrines, I killed a guy in World at War earlier this week.
I Came Here to Chew Bubblegum and Kick ass, but I Swallowed my Bubblegum and Everybody Laughed at me
Things were starting to get a little bit too serious for a moment there. Don’t panic, here to lighten the mood is the painfully irrelevant Duke Nukem. Hooray! He’s like losing your virginity, you wait 15 years only to discover that it’s disappointing, hurts a bit and is pretty messy.
Having exploded into the world to the sound of tumbleweed and unenthusiastic critics – the console version of the game currently sitting pretty on a metacritic of 50 – things only got worse for the doddering mass of muscle, obsolete one liners and chagrin.
That didn’t prevent Gearbox chief Randy “review scores don’t matter ” Pitchford from taking to Twitter to proclaim that: “with sales data, it seems like *customers* love Duke”, mistaking 14 years of hyperbole and expectation with a universal seal of approval.
Emerging from the wake of Pitchford’s misguided comments, Nukem voice talent Jon “two Jon’s are better than one” St Jon also rocked up on the internet to discuss critical response to Duke’s latest adventure. ”I have no comments regarding bad reviews by clueless critics,” he declared to TheJoyPads.co.uk, mere moments before commenting on the very same clueless critics:
“They seem to want to compare Duke Nukem Forever to Call Of Duty and other FPS’s and they are missing the point. My thoughts about Duke Nukem Forever: It freakin ROCKS! Lots of action, lots of fun, sexy, funny, irreverent… It’s everything I hoped it would be.”
Yeah who’d have thought, gamers comparing a first person to Call of Duty and other FPS’s in the year 2011. FUCKERS. And someone misspelt irrelevant. A-hur-hur.
Despite the game rocketing to the top of the UK charts on its first week free from what must have been one cramped womb, Take Two stock fell by 4%.
But hey, it gets even better. Some silly billy over at The Redner Group – 2K Games’ late PR company – posted a response to the less than savoury critics to, yeah you guessed it, Twitter:
“Too many went too far with their reviews…we are reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn’t based on today’s venom”
The message being: fuck your opinions, either love our dubious game or don’t get a copy of Duke Nukem: Forever and Ever due out 2092.
As Arstechnica delicately explained, this is far from being an exceptional practice. What is exceptional however, is that someone would take to Twitter to publicly declare that those not lavishing praise on Duke would be struck off the 2k/Redner Christmas card list.
Of course, 2K wasted no time in distancing themselves from the steaming pile of faeces that was the Redner Group and declared that Redner were no longer in charge of 2K’s PR. But wait, the mystery goes deeper still!
The following day Eurogamer’s head-honcho Tom Bramwell meanders onto Twitter to declare sympathy for the Redner Group, believing that they were only really doing their job. Why’s that? Because blacklisting media outlets based on reviews isn’t just standard practice for Redner and for the industry in general, it’s standard practice for 2K who, a mere fortnight prior to making Redner walk the 2K plank out into open water, blacklisted Eurogamer based on not a review, not even a preview, hell, not even a news article or opinion piece. No, Eurogamer was blacklisted by 2K themselves based on comments made on a Podcast Eurogamer claim has only one listener. Now they know who.
For all the vitriol and spite involved you’d be forgiven for assuming that Duke Nukem had been greatly wronged. But a Metacritic score of 50 is about 35 points more than the game deserves. Duke Nukem is a fucking calamity, it would have been a calamity in 2004, in 2000, in 1996 and in 1993. Even Henry the 8th would have thought it was shit.
Rumours of new Xbox 360 Buried Beneath Further Rumours of Timesplitters 4. OMG.
News spread earlier in the week that the successor to the Xbox 360 had landed on the desk of Crytek and, more importantly, that the company were working on Timesplitters 4 (Timesplitters 2 being pretty much the greatest fps ever, you can see why this would be big news).
The rumours stemmed from an article on VideoGamer and word was that Microsoft would unveil the new console at E3 next year with a holiday 2013 release seemingly the goal. With little confirmed regarding the power of the Wii U and Sony still peddling the ten year lifecycle mantra, it would make some sense for Microsoft to nip in between the two with a shiny new console.
Both Microsoft and Crytek gave the customary “no comment” spiel although EA chipped in to say: “100 percent not true”. Maybe EA are jealous Microsoft haven’t approached them with a cool new toy.
You can view all previous Yesterday’s News Today features by clicking on the features bar at the top of this page and navigating to the aptly titled “Yesterday’s News Today” menu.