Raiden was a man and other thoughtful observations
Raiden was a man, and other thoughtful observations
It’s been a long, bumpy, but ultimately fun road. From the first time I ever played Space Invaders at my grandfather’s house to this year’s E3, gaming has, in some form or another, been a part of my life. For the past two years I have had an incredible time working in the field of video game journalism, combining my love for games with my passion for writing. However, as with all things in life, my time with games has come to an end. As some of you may have noticed, I have left my position as Managing Editor at PSX Extreme.com. There were a lot of factors involved in my decision to leave video games and journalism, but the biggest by far was my inability to come to grips with the irony of being both a critic and a fan of games. My father always told me that no one wants to grow up to be a cynic, but that is exactly what I have become in regards to games. In my final editorial, I thought I would examine some of the observations I have made during my tenure that have caused the problem that currently plagues me.
Observation #1- Raiden was a man
Right now you’re probably thinking, “Bravo, Captain Obvious,” but hold on just one damn second, will ya! Raiden was a man. You can’t just take Hideo Kojima’s word for it; after all, Kojima-san is the master of the unexpected. The first time I played Sons of Liberty and met the enigmatic character known as Raiden/Jack (remember, Jack could always be short for Jackie- there is no law prohibiting lesbians from being secret agents), I thought to myself, “well, Raiden kind of sounds like a man, but he looks like a girl, and he carries his gun like it’s a purse”. It only got worse the first time I had Raiden hold-up a guard. The way he yelled “Freeze!”…. I kept expecting Raiden to add the words “Or I’ll scream!” or something. It was all just too…. feminine, don’t you think? I mean, Chun-Li of Street Fighter is more masculine than Raiden, and she has breasts, for crying out loud! It wasn’t until President Johnson copped a feel in Shell 2 that I could finally rest at ease knowing Raiden was actually a man.
The problem this created was that I realized the inherent problem with characters in video games. I mean, if I ever saw a guy walking down the street in a purple jumpsuit with dog collars on his arms and hair that resembled a porcupine (I am, of course, talking about Cloud Strife), I would probably beat him with a lead weighted sap simply out of principle. Too many characters are simply far too weird to relate to. I understand the fact that fantasy and escapism is part of the allure of gaming, but it’s just too much. Books and movies also share the idea of escapism, and some would argue to a much larger extent. However, they don’t seem nearly as steeped in utterly ridiculous character design and presentation. Part of taking on a character in a video game is that you can relate to them, that you can identify with them. I’m sorry, but I just can’t relate to characters that make Dennis Rodman appear normal. My favorite video game character of all time is Solid Snake- a man who sneaks around in shadows in skintight polyurethane (which shows off his disturbing love of thong underwear) and wears a bandana wrapped around a mullet. Now, when I conjure up a vision of Snake, I swear I can see him front row at a Georgia Satellites concert singing along to “Keep your hands to Yourself!” Sad, indeed.
Granted, not every genre suffers from this problem. Tactical shooters such as America’s Army, for instance, are incredibly believable when it comes to characters- until you realize that most of the guys you’re playing with, in reality, are old men with beer bellies and dissatisfied wives. Oh, by the way, not to spoil the plot of Metal Gear Solid 3, but Raiden won’t be back. Rumor is he killed himself in shame after finding out that Leonardo DiCaprio is more of a man than he is.
Observation #2- All your base are belong to ME!
For years, Japan dominated the video game industry. It really wasn’t until the mid 1990’s or so that American developers and publishers really started getting in on the action. Even today, Japan still dominates the market, in spite of Electronic Arts being the biggest game publisher in the world. The problem? How do you know what you’re really playing? No matter what the medium, whether it’s books, movies or music, any time something is translated from one culture/language to another it loses its original intent. If you are fluent in more than one language, try reading the same book in two languages, and you will see exactly what I mean. This problem with translation, when it comes to games, is sometimes obvious, especially when it comes to text based games. We’ve all seen silly lines such as “You cannot stop me with paramecium alone”, “Your fists of evil are about to meet my steel wall of niceness,” and of course “All your base are belong to us!”. How can we trust the translation? How do we know we’re playing what we were meant to play?
It only gets worse with spoken dialogue, because we have no way of knowing when there has been a mistranslation. Japanese dialect and English dialect are so very, very different. There is a certain structure to Japanese language that is not present in Modern English. The Japanese language is far more flexible when it comes to expressing a person’s social class, maturity, education, etc. Therefore, in most translations a lot of the subtlety is lost; and you never even knew it, did you?
Observation #3- Silly rabbit, Nintendo is for kids!
Yes, we’ve heard it time and again- Nintendo is only for little kids. While the Nintendo loyal will vehemently defend the overwhelming maturity of the Nintendo library, the immutable fact is that Nintendo is for kids, and so are Sony and Microsoft, for that matter. The reason for this is that this industry is unwilling to grow up. Oh, sure, there are bloody games out there with plenty of mature, sophisticated content that is aimed towards older audiences such as myself; that cannot be denied. I am talking more about this industry’s recalcitrance when it comes to owning up to the irony of their own medium.
Developers have known for quite some time that they are treading thin ice. They want to bring us adult content similar to that found in some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters, but they are doing so in a medium of entertainment that is largely seen as being solely for children. Part of this common conception of games is that for a long time, games were targeted almost exclusively towards children. However, while the content and target audience of games has matured, the industry has not. Even in the face of dangerous legislation and court rulings that could cripple the video game industry, the IDSA (the representative organization of gaming) has refused to compromise one bit. Instead of working with government to mutual benefit (such as agreeing to regulation of ESRB ratings), the IDSA instead attempts to defy common sense with its piss poor defense of gaming. I’ll never forgive the IDSA for it’s miserable defense of games last April, when Judge Stephen Limbaugh ruled that games are not to be considered free speech. This should have been a slam dunk decision in favor of the industry, yet the IDSA couldn’t even be bothered to put up an adequate defense of their position, and subsequently lost (for more on this issue, please see our Special Feature- Sons of Liberty: A Gamer’s Right).
The simple fact is that this industry is immature and irresponsible. Being the representative of the fastest growing entertainment medium in the world, the IDSA has a great chance to get the word out: games aren’t just for kids. That they don’t is beyond me. Until the IDSA, or someone better suited, helps this industry grow up, every game you lay your hands on is the epitome of immaturity.
Observation #4- I am a complete idiot
Everything I have said up to this point is true; the problem is that I didn’t need to know it was. I should have been content to enjoy games as an occasional, delightful escape from reality. However, for reasons I still cannot fathom, I chose a career path that I knew, at least on a subconscious level, would ultimately lay bare the naked underbelly of this industry. In doing so I have destroyed my love of games, and fatally crippled my passion for writing. Perhaps I am simply too cynical for my own good. Perhaps this just wasn’t the career for me. Either way, I realize now the stupidity of my actions, and how dramatically they have changed my life for the worse.
During my tenure in this industry, I have always tried to enlighten my readers, to help give them a better understanding of the games they love so much. However, after two years, I have come to realize there is only one true thing you need to know- ignorance is bliss. It’s one thing to talk about games with your friends or on a forum, but trust me, you don’t want to know too much. It really won’t help you enjoy your games any more, and it will definitely hurt your overall view of them. If you need further proof, you haven’t been paying attention.In parting, I would just like to say that, while I leave this industry on somewhat of a low note, there are many things about games that have ultimately enriched my life. The people I have met along the way, especially Val and Arnold Katayev (Founder and Co-Founder/EIC of PSX Extreme.com) as well as the entire PSX Extreme.com staff, have truly made me a better person in many aspects. They’ve made me laugh and they’ve made my cry. Sometimes they made me wish I owned a gun. In the end, though, I am a better person for having known them. Of course, my biggest thanks goes to you, the reader. Without you, I would never have had this job, and I wouldn’t have met so many cool and interesting people, like the weirdoes that populate our forums. Just remember one thing; father knows best: no one wants to grow up to be a cynic.
6/20/2003 Ryan Hartmann