Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Guns Should Be Banned From Video Games

Every image here is from a different game.

Let's start this off with a little story, one that I promise has a point and is going somewhere. My first year of film school, whenever we had to make a film for class, we only had one constraint: no guns. We could make a movie about anything we could imagine and anything we could afford to put on screen, but we were not allowed to put guns in our films. Why? Because if you give an 18-19 year old male a camera and tell him to make a movie, 90% of the time he will make a movie about a bunch of dudes shooting at a bunch of other dudes. Just look at Youtube; there is a whole genre of Youtube shorts about dudes shooting each other in warehouses;no story, no plot, just guys and prop guns. These guys have absurd amounts of fancy equipment and special effect talent, and all they can think to make is a Die Hard homage/ripoff. Take away their guns, however, and you force them to come up with films that don't involve people shooting each other. Suddenly they are forced to be creative, and out of this forced creativity amazing things can happen. Most of them never go back to the people shooting other people genre, because there is so much else to explore with film. Those that do go back will often do so in a way that's new and refreshing. It is for this same exact reason that I think the video game industry needs to ban guns for a little while.

I should say that, despite my open dislike for the Call of Duty franchise, I have enjoyed the crap out of games where you run around shooting at other dudes. Some of my favorite games of all time heavily involve shooting other dudes. I'm not anti-violence either; video games are a place where you can do things that you (hopefully) can't or wouldn't do in real life. Also, this isn't a violation of the 1st Amendment, because I'm not the government. The fact is, I'm bored of shooting dudes. I've done it a hundred million times, and despite the advances in computing power and whatnot, it is always exactly the same. You put the little crosshairs over the guy you want dead, then you press a button and he dies. Sometimes you have to press the button more than once. "But," you say aloud at your computer, "there are all sorts of different types of guns. Surely that must add variety!" Unfortunately, you are wrong, you silly strawman. There are only five types of guns, and every single gun in every single video game ever falls into one of these categories.

  • Pistols: These guns are small, and fit in one hand. They fire one bullet at a time, and don't do much damage. These will be the first gun you are given in a game.
  • Machine Guns: These guns are larger, and usually require two hands. They fire a whole bunch of bullets in quick succession.
  • Shotguns: These guns do a whole bunch of damage, but only at close range. They also take a frustratingly long amount of time to reload.
  • Sniper Rifles: For shooting things that are very far away. Usually kills in one shot. Much less effective at close range.
  • Rocket Launchers: Shoots bullets that explode, doing a whole bunch of damage. Holds very little ammo and takes a long time to reload. This is the most fun gun to play with in any game, and is therefore the most rare.

Look at the Covenant guns from Halo. These are weapons that were presumably engineered by alien races that evolved light years away from humanity, but for some reason they all fit neatly into each one of these human-defined categories. On the flip side, you have the Portal gun and the Gravity gun, neither of which fall into any category neatly, and aren't really guns at all. Unlike the Covenant guns, they introduce a new gameplay mechanic that actually changes gameplay (I love how Valve games have become the go-to for examples of good things in video games).

The root of the problem is that video games have become reliant on an unchanging gameplay mechanic instead of exploring new and different ideas. There have been so many times where a game will introduce something interesting, like being able to control your enemies, only to fall back on standard cover-based shooting for most of the game. Look at the E3 trailer for Watch Dogs (seriously, look at it, it looks awesome). It starts out interesting, introducing the gameplay mechanic of hacking powers, which seem like they could radically change the gameplay into something new and interesting. Then, at the end of the trailer, you make that awesome pile-up happen, and BAM: we're back to running around, hiding behind cover, and shooting dudes. Obviously, this is just a trailer, and hopefully Watch Dogs will have more "sneaky hacking" and less "shooting dudes," but you have to wonder, what if the game had no shooting bits at all? What if the only way to complete your objectives was to figure out clever ways of hacking stuff?

Now, imagine other games with their guns taken out. Let's say that for Uncharted 4, Nathan Drake becomes a buddhist to atone for all the people he's killed. You still get to stumble around collapsing buildings searching for ancient treasure, but now you have to figure out creative non-lethal ways of dispatching enemies. Or imagine Mindjack with all the shooting bits taken out, so now the only way of getting rid of enemies is by mind-controlling other enemies. Or a Bioshock game where you can only use plasmids. Or maybe, just maybe, a game that isn't based around killing other dudes. Maybe then you could take that game and show it to your mom/girlfriend/Roger Ebert and say, "See? These are actually pretty cool," and they'd finally understand that games can be about so much more than just killin' dudes.

This game is 17 years old. Think about that for a second.

1 comment:

  1. I like how your examples of "people who need to be shown how videogames can be more than shooting at dudes" are two females and Roger Ebert.