Jun. 18th, 2014

seriousfic: (Secret of the Kells)

So recently EA offered their old game Battlefield 3 up for free on their Steam rip-off service, and since pretty much the only way I'm going to get my games anywhere other than Steam, Amazon, or GOG is to be bribed to do it, I downloaded it. It's about what you'd expect from a military shooter--if you liked Call of Duty, it's pretty much the same thing. This is nothing new in entertainment of course; I can fully admit that a lot of comedies, superhero movies, zombie movies, slasher movies, are so alike that you really have to be a fan of the genre to appreciate the differences; otherwise, the only difference between Halloween 6 and Friday the 13th 6 is what mask the stuntman is wearing. I mean, ever since Bridesmaid, Melissa McCarthy has pretty much played the same character. She has her own subgenre of movies. They could've called The Heat 'When Megan Met Sandra Bullock.'

And I don't think people mind military shooters too much, so much as they mind the overwhelming prevalence of the genre in AAA-titles (and how many of the protags are white guys with stubble. I bet if the next Modern Warfare had a black woman running around carrying an AA-12, suddenly buying it would be giving a high-five to Joe Biden). But why are these games so prevalent? Some have said that it's a Nolan-y desire on the part of gamers to be taken seriously, but it's not like silly games like Portal, Saints' Row, Resident Evil, or Metal Gear Solid have had trouble finding an audience.

And as I was thinking up this review, I thought of one of the things I hated about this game--the melee attack doesn't seem to work for shit. Bad guys can knife me and kill me deader than a C-list superhero in a crossover, but if you're shooting down five terrorists, you run out of ammo on the fifth one, so you have to split-second run over there and knife him in the face before he shoots you--that doesn't work. And I love doing that! That's some action hero shit right there!

That got me thinking--these military shooters are pretty much action movies that give you more bang for the buck. There's been a lot of talk about how video games are supplanting movies, because a two-hour movie with snacks and friends is super-expensive--comparatively, sixty bucks (usually less) for a game, you can play about eight hours on single-player and just about forever on multiplayer. So these games are less really games then they are action movies you play through--scripted events, cutscenes, A-list voice talent. And these games are not trying to realistically depict combat; you fight through Iran while it's having an earthquake, you jump onto a helicopter as it's taking off, you jump onto a subway train to stop an over-the-top villain from blowing up New York with a nuke.

So I think that's why these military shooters are so prevalent. They're competing with action movies and they're doing something Hollywood really doesn't do anymore--hoo-rah Team America war movies where John Wayne smashes up the Axis of Evil.

I hope you won't think I'm some kind of Fox News correspond if I say that Hollywood is largely to the left of the political spectrum. They do make hoo-rah Team America war movies, but they're exclusively about evil aliens that, in the real world, can't be offended and can't be construed as supporting the War on Terror/Republicans (Battle: L.A., the Transformers movies, Battleship, Man of Steel). Just look at Captain America in the MCU. First movie, he patriotically bashes Nazis. Avengers, he patriotically bashes aliens. Winter Soldier, time to take on some terrorists--boom, there's a plot about the corrupt military-industrial complex, just like in Iron Man... and Iron Man 2... and Iron Man 3.

Now I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. I'm sure a lot of you like the thought of Hollywood being (or trying to be) more thoughtful in their cinematic depiction of war. But that desire on the part of the audience to see Americans killing terrorists hasn't gone away, anymore than it did when Hollywood made movies about Americans killing Nazis or Americans killing the Reds. And if you want that kind of story these days, you either have to buy a book by Tom Clancy or play a video game. And why would the video game industry compete with Hollywood at the evil aliens racket when they have a lucrative field all to themselves?

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