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Epic Games’ and People Can Fly’s 2011 shooter, Bulletstorm, will likely never see a sequel. Twenty years from now when I’m an old man babbling about how videogames used to be when I was young (and things were better, goddammit) the young kids will probably never know that there was ever something called Bulletstorm. They will think me a sad, over the hill geriatric who lives in a world of confused nostalgia where a massive publisher like Electronic Arts would take a chance on a strange, colourful and crude little shooter that was so atypical of the videogame landscape at the time.
It did happen, though. Bulletstorm was created, marketed, released and, in its own modest way, purchased. And in its reality there are many lessons we must take away from its lack of success — from its inability to change the way that first-person shooting games were made and bought in and around the early 2010s.
Read on, savvy industry folks and ensure that you never make the same dreadful mistakes that sank the foul-mouthed shooter that could.
Over time most non-Native North Americans, born in the continent after generations have eroded the lines of their family immigration, come to realize that the place they call home is not really their home at all — that it is in fact land stolen from the people indigenous to it. This, for me at least, was a pretty unsettling revelation. As children, none of us fortunate enough to be born in politically stable nations think much about whether or not our country truly belongs to us. We Canadians sing an anthem that subconsciously reinforce the idea the nation is “our home and native land” and only when we’re a bit older and wiser do we understand just how stomach-churningly ironic such a lyric is.
How do we deal with this?
The bear came closer, obviously angry. Perhaps I shouldn’t have shot it with an arrow. I dismounted and backed away, but my horse was oblivious and stayed directly in the path of the bear. Claws slashed, hooves flew, and there was a terrible cry from above the clouds. A dragon landed in the middle of the scene. I could only stand in shock as my horse, the bear, and the dragon all fought each other.
Thankfully my horse won.
This is an article that I originally wrote late last year, but that fell through the cracks for some reason or another and never saw the light of day. Aside from dated references to the 2011 Spike VGAs, I think it’s still relevant and worth sharing. I’ve made tiny little revisions and expanded on a few points, but left it alone otherwise.
The 2011 Spike Video Game Awards (VGAs) was a ceremony that celebrated pretty much everything awful about videogame culture. The parade of mock teabaggings, awkward celebrity endorsements and gleeful misogyny were all bad enough on their own, but what troubled me most about the VGAs was how all of this was aimed at a supposed subculture of “gamers.”
We, the people who love games, have done this to ourselves.
OK, check this out. Something that shouldn’t be mind-blowing, but, considering the state of recent videogame discourse, maybe (unfortunately) will be to some readers: I’m a straight male and, despite being adverse to self labelling, comfortably identify as a feminist. That proclamation changes nothing about how I’ve always thought and lived.
Should this be a train of thought that should be continued on a videogame criticism site, you may ask? Well, given the apparent inability for the industry to support rational gender and sexuality conversation, it sure seems like it.
The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is a competition in which the biggest, loudest person in the room wins first prize. On the trade floor there is no room for subtlety. Everyone must participate in an ear-splitting, epilepsy inducing game of one-upmanship in a vain attempt to stick out from the general cacophony of the event. In the jungle of E3 every booth is a shrieking baboon, beating its chest and roaring at all the other vicious apes in hopes of becoming the leader of the tribe for the coming months.
E3 is, ultimately, not very good for the industry it supports.
My Twitter feed this week has pretty much transformed into a Double Fine IV drip. Each day has given me a steady supply of information on the studio, first regarding Minecraft developer Markus “Notch” Persson offering to fund a Psychonauts sequel, and second, a Kickstarter campaign designed to let users fund a new, traditional adventure game. While the former development is currently being hashed out in private (or may be dead? I don’t know), the latter has reached a very public conclusion less than a day after its appearance: Double Fine will be making an adventure game again.
All of this begs the question of what kind of place a new entry to the antiquated genre — even one developed by some of the masters of the form — would have in today’s climate?
There’s a healthy amount of debate occurring in games criticism right now about how far the concept of gamification* should be implemented into our daily lives. It’s a rich topic that is as much about human psychology as it is about videogame theory — and one that much smarter people than I have already spent a lot of time intelligently discussing.
I’d rather try to look at it in a different way.
Not very long ago, sex was one of the big taboos in mainstream games. Although hyper-violent titles were slapped with an M rating and sent on their way to be readily devoured by audiences, trying to implement sex was frowned upon in general. This isn’t surprising. The North American entertainment model has always been quicker to accept violent content than sexual material, and videogames, a younger medium, have unfortunately followed suit. But as the main demographic of game players has moved away from kids and teenagers to a wider audience made up of varying age groups, the viability of sex as a game element has grown. This is just fine — except, sex in games still isn’t being handled properly.