GSJ9: The most… human

Man, I love this picture. Khan is such a smug old bastard.

Anyway! I have another article from GameSpite Journal 9 up tonight — another of this issue’s many musings on mortality. Because you haven’t seen enough of that lately, right? This one makes the case that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan does a better job of dealing with aging, failing, and redemption than any video game ever has, and why that’s a shame. Please feel free to prove me wrong in the comments, though!

21 thoughts on “GSJ9: The most… human

  1. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Wrath of Khan. Why is Chekhov wearing a cardboard box again?

  2. Bioshock’s morality system was sadly undermined by itself – it could have explored the idea so much more effectively with just a few tweaks I reckon. Mainly by not (for lack of a better term) compensating you for the ‘lost’ adam when saving the little sisters. I think it would have been an interesting way to present the choice – be immoral and have an easier time or be nice but struggle against tougher odds? Hopefully Infinate will have a go with that.

  3. “This one makes the case that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan does a better job of dealing with aging, failing, and redemption than any video game ever has,”

    *cough* Metal Gear Solid 4 *cough*

      • If you could scrape out all the good parts from MGS4 and put them into a self-contained work, you’d have a really powerful 10-hour game instead of a bloated 20-hour carcass. But even then, the gravity of Snake’s tale was badly undermined by the epilogue. Kojima is far more interested in The Saga than in developing good characters… which is a shame, because a lot of his characters have potential for greatness.

      • I agree. There’s so much absolute nonsense and ridiculous moments in the game it really takes away from the rest of what’s happening. It doesn’t help that the mix between gameplay and noninteractive cutscenes is so terribly paced that it ends up also taking away from it. What I don’t understan is how they managed to go from MGS3 which corrected the mistakes of MGS2 and was fantastically paced and well told back to MGS4 which seemed to repeat the same mistakes of 2 but to a much greater degree.

        I think you should have another stab at finishing mother 3, I think it could have a place in this article.

    • Which I spent a paragraph criticizing. Thanks for reading the whole article before posting your aloof, pedantic “correction”!

  4. To get the fact-checking out of the way, Star Trek premiered in 1966, not 1963.

    I haven’t had the opportunity to get more than a couple hours into Metal Gear Solid 4 (not owning a PS3), so I’m disheartened to learn that Snake’s weary mortality is abandoned in favor of (delicious) overacting from Liquid’s arm. Perhaps in another 20 years, Kojima and Suda will get to explore it again in the radio drama Metal Gear Suda-lid.

  5. I thought MGS4 did a pretty damned good job of emphasizing a character dealing with the crippling realities of aging, even if it seemed like that was being overshadowed by techno-babble and melodrama. The effects of aging are all over the game, especially notable in the gameplay where Snake is literally crippled at times because he’s old.

    And while it’s easy to get distracted by a lot of the more ridiculous side plots… the main narrative thrust of MGS4 is that Snake is now old as dirt and everyone repeatedly tells him “you’re too old to be doing this.” And yet he does it all anyways. I mean, by game’s end his compatriots are literally begging him to quit for his own sake, or that he’s earned “rest” and that this shouldn’t have to be his problem anymore. Snake is continually disrespected or underestimated because of his advanced aging, and MGS4 is honestly a pretty stirring argument for senior citizens still having a place and significant value in society.

  6. You know, I keep trying to watch Wrath Of Khan on Netflix, but the sound never works. Curses!

  7. Maybe I’m just being stupid here, but I think games are at their best when they’re _not_ trying to ape Hollywood. I feel the seminal moments in gaming have come when the gameplay is king.

    That’s not saying, however, that I don’t enjoy a good story in a game. I’m not good at coming up with games on the fly that might fit the criteria in this article, but to some degree, something like Final Fantasy VI has some of that hope tempered with the fact that the world has pretty much been destroyed. Enslaved might be another, given the way the game ends, but I won’t spoil that one.

    Anyway, I’m probably completely off-base here. Carry on, ladies and gentlemen. Carry on.

      • Guess I just got wrapped up too much in the comparison to the Hollywood movies. Including the Star Trek ones. Chalk it up to lack of sleep or something.

        Maybe if I re-read the article, I’ll interpret things a bit differently. I felt like real push of the article was to achieve meaningful story-telling, ironically illustrated through a Hollywood movie, as opposed to the creatively-broken industry we see now.

        So maybe devs should be trying to imitate Hollywood. It’s just that they’re imitating the _wrong_ Hollywood.

        I’ll stop talking now, before I end up with another incoherent mass of sentences.

  8. Closest I can think is games that emphasize legacy — Suikoden’s tragic, bittersweet passing of the torch for Teo to his son, Dragon Quest 5’s 3 generations and unexpected shifting of the “Legendary Hero” role to the hero’s son.

    (Suikoden also had Gremio die in a way that looked an awful lot like Spock’s death. On down to a resurrection later, if you played it right.)

    Suikoden 2’s got a pervasive world-weariness to it, as well; the hero’s a young man but — depending on your path, of course — the game still implies that he’s living in a world that’s become too complicated for him and just wants to get away. Which in fact you can actually do in two of the endings.

    As far as examinations of sloppy morality, that’s central to The Witcher. I just hit a gut-wrenching bit in Witcher 2 where you have the option of killing a villain who’s a legitimate bastard — but knowing that in doing so you’d be playing right into an enemy’s hands. Actions and (often unintended) consequences are key too; the game actually plays out significantly differently depending on your choices (not just the same events with a different coat of paint like in the first game, or, say, Mass Effect’s major ending decision point writing a check that the sequel couldn’t cash).

  9. I still maintain that MGS2 is one of the only (the only?) game to really hit the post modern navel gazing relevance topic right on the head. It was the sequel that everyone wanted but few realized they got. It was a statement on gaming, expansions of gaming, audience interaction and reaction, everything….

  10. Very nice article Mr. Parish. It’s pieces like this that make me wish that game journalism could finally be confident enough to break off into The New Republic territory.

  11. Fantastic article. I wonder however, if your main point is whether the insightful stories you yearn for have a useful place in contemporary gaming.

    Games like Ico and Braid, Bioshock and to a lesser extent (as mentioned by the poster above) MGS2, have narratives that transcend their basic gaming experience.

    Ico is more than a puzzle platformer, Braid is about more than an update of the NES Mario Bros formula and Bioshock and MGS2 are more than straight up action games – they attempt to engage the player at a metta level that changes the dynamics of their interaction within the medium. i.e. they make the player a part of the narrative.

    When we want to show off to our non-gaming friends how poignant, beautiful, thought-provoking or emotional games can be, we don’t grab a copy of Mass Effect or Uncharted,because these are inevitably compared to their non-gaming counterparts and found lacking, no matter how engaging we, as gamers, find them to be.

    So I wonder if your central complaint is:

    1) Games that DO follow the hollywood formula should be able to express the same emotional range as the well written movies
    they attempt to emulate


    2) Developers should abandon their attempts at ‘hollywoodizing’ videogames altogether and focus instead on using the tools and qualities that are unique to the gaming medium to express themselves.

    I think the right answer is actually a balance of both. For me, games like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus have the potential to herald a new frontier of story driven gaming that are substantially different than the moving pictures medium. However, I would still love for Mass Effect 3 to have a story with similar emotional impact to Star Trek II!

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