Friday, 2 October 2009

Collateral damage

We all know of the brilliant film cliché, where the hero has blown up half of a city to get back an item that was hopefully more valuable than the damage caused, but what can be said about the gaming equivalent?

If anything, gaming protagonists tend to be even bigger tosspots than the movie action stars that treat other people's cars like stepping stones and explosion magnets. Where as the seemingly random destruction from a movie hero is usually part of some worthwhile goal, gamers tend to destroy things for the sheer hell of it.

Case in point, Resident Evil 4 and 5. You spot a mysterious looking box in the corner of someone else’s house and so naturally, being the good guy and all, you decide that there might be something inside worth taking. Opening the box is far too complex however, so therefore it must be smashed to bits with a knife or gunshot. So, you are not only stealing from the property that doesn’t belong to you, but you are also vandalising it somewhat too.

Was this really necessary? Admittedly the houses you come across in these games tend to be abandoned, and that subtlety and polite manners in apocalyptic zombie situations go out of the window a tiny bit. Having said this though, is smashing open a box which would require a fair bit of arm strength or a 9mm slug really easier than utilising the universal hinge method?

There is also the case of the random explosive barrels left over after a gun fight. No matter what game, what level, how practical, or the amount of ammo you have left, it is gamers’ instinct to shoot anything left over that would create a nice bang. Why is this? Do you not know how valuable something that explodes when nudged probably is? In the times when the planet is running out of oil, our natural resources are dying and we need every drop of fuel we can get, why do you think it is a just cause to blow it up? You bastard (or bitch, I’m not sexist). Think of how many virtual tanks and helicopters could be run from the many virtual barrels you have used to scorch the virtual sky.

Of course it would probably help if virtual oil could be used to power things other than virtual vehicles but it is still setting a bad example. Seeing how the mainstream media likes to portray gaming, it amazes me that they have not thought that gamers destroying virtual fuel resources probably means they definitely will blow up a petrol station at some point.

Something that animal lovers might like to think about is how many virtual animals are killed just because they make a funny noise and fall over quite comically when they die. I still remember scaring a running zebra into a parked car in Far Cry 2, and how it kind of ragdolled like a bag of soft oranges being thrown at a wall. Also chasing the chickens in Zelda until they get angry and attack you is surely inspiration for the next level of cock fighting. Man versus chicken, fight!

All kidding aside though, what is it that makes us destroy random things in games? If it is coded to fall apart or explode it is probably music to a game developer’s ears to hear that we all like to trigger exploding animations just because they look cool. I suppose it is quite fun to be able to sort of summon explosions in the distance, or make things fall down even if it does make the heroic protagonist look like he has a dangerous mental disorder. All I know is, I probably won’t stop blowing things up just because I can. I’d like to see more of it in fact. Make more things fall apart and explode for no apparent reason great gaming world! No more static scenery!


Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff, Anthony. I guess I would say, to your last question at least, that it's up to the game world and narrative to make us feel like we're screwing around if we're doing those things. But it's kind of hard-wired into us, because those are the two areas games have been lacking in for the last two decades (both are obviously improving). I'd say Batman: Arkham Asylum was the last game that made me not want to dick around - too much.

Anthony said...

Hehe, it kind of reminds me of something that Charlie Brooker said in Gameswipe. When he was playing Oblivion (I think, an RPG anyway) and where there was a dialogue scene he was just jumping around the room. I find myself doing stuff like that, and if I can, breaking things like windows, almost as a way to pass time.

I think the last game I played where I didn't want to break stuff was Fallout 3, and that was mainly because if you did break something, it usually belonged to someone else and they got angry giving me negative karma and sometimes even an unexpected death.