The aesthete

Am I a shallow person when it comes to games? I have a hard time getting into a lot of games simply because of their aesthetics. I don’t mean their graphics, per se, but their overall look. The design style. There are entire genres I find unbearably dull, not just in games but in film and literature as well: Westerns; sports; zombies, vampires, and other generic horror; medieval settings; Colonial America; and plenty of others. I see works cast in these settings and my brain instantly flips to “disinterested.” Red Dead Redemption is supposed to be really great, but it’s set in the Old West — and just about the time I’d psyched myself into giving it a try, they introduced the zombie DLC package, which was like having my sense of interest tag-teamed.

Well, that about wraps it up for human creativity.

Not to say that good things can’t come from these genres. Dead Rising should strike me as stupid and boring, but by virtue of its unique structure and quirky play mechanics, it manages to set itself apart from stacks of me-too horror titles. Medieval fantasy is pretty dull, but Assassin’s Creed managed to catch my interest by switching the setting from medieval Europe to the medieval Middle East and Renaissance Europe. And I might even give Cowboys Vs. Aliens a shot if for no other reason than to see James Bond team up with Indiana Jones.

Anyway, I realize this is all kind of superficial reasoning, but I guess I’m just easily bored. Does anyone else out there have certain genres that just make their eyes glaze over? Please say yes. I need to feel a little better about myself.

37 thoughts on “The aesthete

  1. See that big crazy diatribe I just submitted for the next GSQ? Yeah. As far as movies go though, WE HAVE ENOUGH ZOMBIE MOVIES NOW. I KNOW YOU LIKE THEM, AND WANT TO MAKE THEIR OWN, BUT YOU HAVE NOTHING NEW TO SAY ON THE SUBJECT. STOP.

  2. Racing games. Not like fantasy or sci-fi games like Mario Kart or F-Zero, either. I mean straight up car porn like Forza or Gran Turismo. You just can’t pay me to care.

    • Agreed on that one. that’s not entirely a ‘setting’, per se, but man, those things are really dull to me.

      I’m pretty worn out on all the things Parish mentioned, but I would also like to add: post-apocalyptic. In pretty much any scenario, even when it has different flavors (the 50s of Fallout, WWII of Resistance, etc.), or just typical brain-dead fare like Gears of War. In the same way, the ending of Etrian Odyssey made me roll my eyes.

      Western themes bore me too, though I did enjoy RRD, and I kind of welcomed it in Wild Arms. On the other hand, it completely turned me off to what should have been a solid, if flawed, game in Borderlands.

      But I have no problems with vampires! They’ve just been grossly worn out the past few years. I’m sick of vampire romance and drama, but a good vampire video game would be kinda neat and, surprisingly, hasn’t really happened.

      Zombies? Completely baffled as to their popularity. Only time I enjoyed them as a subject, in any medium, was the fun Dead Nation.

      The worst: combining these inane settings/aesthetics/subjects. Like Western zombies, or Western aliens, etc.

  3. Does anyone else out there have certain genres that just make their eyes glaze over?

    Yes, there are. Speaking just about games, there are such genres I glaze over, although once a year or so I do get reasonably interested to play a game from glazed genres.

    • I feel the same about genres. I’m pretty sick of shooters, and their new-ish dominance of consoles, and I usually can’t tell them apart. But then I find myself addicted to a game like MAG, which, while well-constructed, is as bland as they come.

  4. Zombies and vampires, definitely, but mostly zombies. I still can’t help but steer clear of Left 4 Dead, The Walking Dead and Zombieland even though all of my friends tell me they’re great. It’s not my fault! It’s just that many of my friends who tell me they’re great seem to love a lot of things simply because zombies are involved. They have developed complex plans in the event of a zombie outbreak. I tell them, “That’s great. I don’t feel up to watching the Walking Dead with you tonight. But I will come to you if I need help preparing for a fictional disaster.”

    I love westerns, though. The fact that a person exists who can see a thing that is a western and be repulsed, that confuses me. So, to answer your question, yes, I completely understand. Except for the part that involves westerns.

    • I’m not going to be the one defending zombies; they are too often a sign of creative bankruptcy.

      As with any well-tread genre, though, they leave the opening for self-aware works that comment on the genre tropes (Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), or that lend a reality and gravitas to a patently absurd genre (World War Z).

      But yeah, for the most part falling back on “nerds like zombies/ninjas/pirates/cowboys/monkeys/…” leads to lazy designs in any medium.

  5. Colonial America? That seems like an oddly specific genre to avoid. How often does that even come up and how does one develop a distaste for it?

    Anyway, avoiding genres is dumb, except for horror movies because I am a big scaredy cat.

  6. For me it’s the look of the characters more than the setting. Going all the way back to Sonic the Hedgehog, any cartoon or anime character with a sarcastic smirk is loathsome to me. I tried to play Dragon Quest Monsters Joker but I just kept thinking “Am I really stuck playing as this guy?” Didn’t last twenty minutes.

  7. Of course there are genres I couldn´t care less about. Any title or film about war instantly loses my interest, no matter which war it´s about. It might have to do something with the way I was raised, but I never saw soldiers as heroic or a role model to aspire to.

    Same goes for most things concerning sports, in cinemas, I avoid slasher-movies like the plague.

    Concerning your inhibitions about western films: you should give some of the italian ones try – if you find John Ford and his american colleagues boring, Sergio Leone or Sergio Corbucci might be right up your alley. Start with Django or the Dollar-films… great, great stuff with brilliant soundtracks.

  8. The military shooter that has captivated the game industry of late is a genre that I could not care less about. I get that Call of Duty is really popular, but does that mean everyone has to make their own Call of Duty? Judging by E3 coverage, the answer is “Yes, and if you don’t like here are children’s games for you, sissy”

  9. The petite twelve year old in frilly dresses genre tends to make my eyes glaze over.

    • I am generally not much of a fan of that one either, but if someone would use it as an FPS setting I’d surely make an exception.

  10. Very much yes. In fact, all the very same ones you mentioned with the exceptions of zombies, vampires, and especially medieval, which is my usual favorite.

    Any of the others you listed are enough to turn me off instantly. However, I don’t think of them aesthetic styles as much as themes.

    • Somehow, I never got tired of WWII setting. Sure, it’s been done to death, and I am sick of gung-ho war movies – or any war movie, really – and I while I think it’s strange how little we question the nature of these war games, I really enjoyed CoD: World At War. From a series and genre I pretty much don’t like, no less.

      But that also has to do with my great distaste for modern warfare, in any medium.

      W@W did a terrible thing, though. It added zombies. Sigh…

  11. my love for crappy horror movies means that zombies tend to make games more appealing. So as much as Red Dead Redemption looked super boring to me, when they came out with the Undead version I was like “oh, really? Cool.” And when I decided that Guitar Hero-etc was done to death (no pun intended), I was then instantly interested to hear that Rock Of The Dead was a thing.

    As far as Assassins Creed goes it went something like this: “Oh Kristen Bell did a voice? Woah, let me look up some screens of THIS gam– oh… yeah… looks boring.”

  12. I have problems with a lot of the settings/genres you mention as well. But it’s not like I find those things inherently boring – they’ve just been cliched, played out, and generally distorted into something unappealing and unattractive.

    RDR is entertaining because it isn’t the Old West, it’s actually the New West (early 20th Century) and the main character has to reconcile that he’s quickly becoming an antiquated relic in a changing world.

    I loathe the typical Medieval settings, mostly because they’re focused on the nobility, or romanticize things that shouldn’t be romanticized (saving the princess and what not), or are a downright distortion of history. But it’s always interesting and refreshing to encounter media that give a more faithful, historical account of the period as a complicated and continually evolving era rather than the blase stagnation and boring stereotypes that you would normally encounter.

  13. I wonder if the popularity of Zombie games is due to the ease with which programmers can create their AI? I mean, how hard is it to create a zombie AI? :D

  14. I’m on a real First Person Dungeon Crawler kick lately, and am discovering I have a harder time enjoying generic Western character designs than generic anime designs. I’m not sure what to make of this. Is something wrong with my brain?

  15. i’d say i do this for 90% of games. occasionally i’ll end up playing one of them and realize i really like it. so i guess i’m missing out sometimes, but overall i’m fine with it. there’s already more games than i have time to play, so why not only play the ones i’m REALLY interested in

  16. I think everyone’s got at least one, either through natural disinclination or overexposure. Horror, specifically zombies, are a top one right now – it feels like the formula for success in the past five years has had “Just Add Zombies” permanently engraved into it.

    My natural disinclination seems to baffle most people, though: I just can’t care about stories that revolve around crime families/the Mafia. The Godfather? The Sopranos? Boardwalk Empire? Grand Theft Auto? Just. Can’t. Do it.

  17. It’s kinda sad that I can’t stand JRPGs anymore. I used to play them all the time, but now I can no longer endure the ever-so-freaky design, the cliché-ridden characters and the generic, predictable storylines.


  18. If a developer can’t come up with an interesting setting then don’t expect them to come up with any interesting play mechanics.

    Don’t expect too much from Red Dead Redemption either. I’m enjoying it a whole lot more than GTA4 but there’s very little mission variety other than A to B and shoot stuff getting there.

  19. I believe I have the most sweeping aesthetic dismissal yet, in that I can’t get into any game that has realistic graphics. That wipes out a shitload of genres and settings I think.

    This means I only like stylized games, but at the same time I have strong stylistic preferences, so things like Tales and Etrian Odyssey characters look gross to me, but Little King’s Story and Kaneko Megaten are much more up my alley.

    You’d think I’d only be able to play like 2 games a year, but I bought 30 games last year in a number of different genres so I feel like it still works out pretty well for me.

  20. hard sci fi, either modern or far future, puts me right to bed. and most military stuff too.

    on the other hand, i’ve never found a western i didnt love.

  21. While not genres as far as setting, there are gameplay styles that I just can’t get past. Racing and RTS’. I find both unbearably dull and uninteresting. I’ll play Mario Kart with friends or family, and I do enjoy F-Zero and other high speed racing games to a certain extent, when you hit things like Forza and Gran Turismo, my brain shuts off. Might be just because of my complete lack of interest in cars, though. As for RTS’, the micro(and even macro) management combined with real time, I have a hard time getting into. I love Tactics games, FFT, Tactics Ogre, etc, due to the deep thought and time they give you for strategy, but I’m just not cut out for on the fly commanding little units. That said, I still love a good FPS that requires quick strategical skills, go figure.

  22. Sports (except golf), contemporary or “realistic” settings whether war, gangland, raising pets, or whatever, and anything with an angry/constipated-looking young male on the cover.

  23. I am surprised that Mr. Parish doesn’t like Westerns (not that he should!), simply because it was his writing that caused me to realize that I love Metroid games for the same reason I love Westerns: the solitude (his word, not mine).

  24. I can’t really think of a genre that I find completely dull. I don’t have a lot of experience with Westerns, but I’m sure I’d like a good one if I saw it. As long as it’s good, I’m there.

  25. Racing, sports, marines, WWII (though I liked Call of Duty 2), zombies, Colonial America or Civil War, fighters, abstract puzzle games, generic fantasy, most Westerns (thought the first screens for RDR immediately caught my eye), simulation… But yeah, combining two genres/styles/settings/cliches is definitely the worst. Stinks of gimmickry and lack of identity/new ideas.

  26. Games that seem to pander towards the teenage male set (guns and muscles and violent “realism”) hold no interest for me. This covers GTA and the post-apocalyptic/military-realism shooters. Give me crazy action and twitch gameplay over realism any day.

    Games that pander to anime tastes can be similarly banal. I kinda preferred Mega Man and Castlevania and such not being so obviously influenced by anime style art. There was a time when I found the cutesy characters in Puyo Puyo and Twinkle Star Sprites endearing, but in the cold light of context and experience they’ve become window dressing that tends to undermine the actual game.

    Notch another one for the realistic car-driving games where you can’t go really fast or destroy your vehicle properly.

  27. I’m bored of most of the genres people already mentioned (Shooters and Zombies specifically). The one nice thing about it is I am saving a lot of money by ignoring them, but I digress.

    I also think I might be bored by Western-style RPGs or maybe just Bioware in specific, since I’ve tried a couple of their RPGs and I always got bored after 15 minutes. Meanwhile I’ve only played an hour of the original Fallout, and do want to get back to it but it’s hard adjusting to the mechanics.

  28. I liked Undead Nightmare more than RDR. A funny b-movie sandbox Old West > an overrated Rockstar 3rd person shooter.

  29. I would say the horror genre in general is one I’m sick of. I usually get bored waiting for the death of the stupid chick running around in the woods by herself.

    I kind of dig westerns, for some reason… nobody else in my family or group of friends does. And if you’re interested in a western/sci-fi hybrid, I would HIGHLY recommend checking out the old TV show “The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.”. It’s another one of those fantastically written series with a charming cast that was cancelled WAY before its time.

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