Eye of the Beholder
“Dragon Age 2″ came out this week, and it’s great. Smart people say so. It was made by a studio with an impeccable reputation for deft, almost delicate gamecraft. It features a rich story, high adventure, bloodbath combat, deep character leveling, and a bevy of side-quests on top of an already-meaty normal campaign. It is, almost without question, an incredibly good game. The problem is, there isn’t the slightest chance I’m going to purchase it.
The very idea of “Dragon Age 2″ produces, in my mind, a lurching sense of ennui. Sigh, yeah let’s go save some idiot from a dragon with the same permutation of fire/ice/mind control/wind powers that I’ve used a dozen times before. What’s that, you say? I choose between a rogue, a warrior or a mage? How novel. How new and salacious. Wake me up when this crap is over.
I know that’s unfair, and yet I think my blathering, incoherent distaste is a positive sign (for once). It suggests that video games are growing up. Like music and literature before us, the art is expanding so rapidly that it’s beginning to diversify and compartmentalize. This means three things: higher quality, higher variety, and more disagreement. Taste begins to factor in. A game may be good, but that doesn’t mean I like it.
This has happened to me many times. In most cases, I know what threw me off, and it’s normally an arbitrary but disturbingly stubborn objection. Oh I know what you’re asking, Dear Reader: what are some examples? Well I refuse to tell you…unless you hit the jump.
You know I can’t refuse you when you hit the jump, Dear Reader. I get down for that sort of thing. Go on. Hit that jump. Yes, just like that.
Good Games I Hate
-Rogue Squadron. Playing any game in that series is like punishment from God for me. It hurts my soul. Mind you, the Gamecube version is a ravishingly beautiful rendering of the “Star Wars” universe, both versions feature tight controls and spot-on game design, and I was even a huge fan of the “X Wing” and “Tie Fighter” titles back in the day. So what went wrong here? I honestly have no idea. Somehow, every second I put into these things felt like a chore.
-Jade Empire. This one went wrong before the first save point. The game eschewed full-blown character genesis for a little cadre of preset jerk-offs, and I just never got over it. What, did we lose a war or something? When I come to a Bioware game, I expect to spend three hours nudging cheekbones around, and if I don’t get it than I never sink myself full-bore into the story.
-Beyond Good and Evil. Let me tell you a story about Andrew Allen. Once upon a time, there was a boy named Andrew Allen, and he hated smugly self-confident “whimsical” art styles, along with any game that has them. If you don’t take your world seriously, neither do I. I mean green lipstick is hot, yes, but I don’t see an option to make whatever-her-name-is do a sexy dance for me, so I’m just as well off trolling the internet for some pervert’s Photoshop fantasies. And I hate that pig. I just hate him. I think I have a problem with pigs in general.
-Elder Scrolls. Is that what you call a sword swinging animation? Because it looks like a house cat with Down Syndrome is humping my rapier. I said good day, sir.
-Bully. It turns out showing up for class in a video game is every bit as much a drag as it is in real life. And you can’t set me loose in a Lamborghini I stole right out of the dealership with an AK-47, and then expect me to be contented with a skateboard and a slingshot.
-Guitar Hero. I play real guitar, not this creaking Fischer Price piece of junk.
-God of War. You’ve probably heard me mention this before. I’ve tolerated stepping into the shoes of some pretty massive boneheads in my time (hello Marcus Fenix), but Kratos is the saddest excuse for a compelling protagonist this side of Olympus. He’s an amoral monster who expects me to guide his hand in the torture and murder of innocent Greeks, to say nothing of the rape of everything on two legs. No. Absolutely not. I won’t beat the campaign on principle. I buy the game just to leave Kratos standing in place, looking at the wall. It makes me feel good to know he isn’t getting what he wants.