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Time Bomb

posted on September 3rd, 2007 by christian

Time Magazine on the third of the Halos. As popular as the games are, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone in the manistream press splooge quite like this over them. Actually, let’s slow down there – this may actually be a good thing. For once, a game other than Mario is on the cover a major magazine, Time magazine of them all. That’s a pretty good step for our hobby. Yes, the author gets very deep and melodramatic about the game’s Gregorian Chants and phrases such as The Pillar or Autumn, things that I find more pretentious than actually tasteful. But again – its better than calling us a bunch of kids right?

No. This is not a good thing, in fact I think this hurts gamers. A few reasons why.

– The author compares Halo to such things as Austen, Wagner and fucking Piranesi. That’s ridiculous, but again, I’ll choke it down. But he mentions all of these things in the same paragraph in which Cortana is depicted as “a sexy hologram”. This just seems like a bad case of having one’s signals crossed. True, its not a bad description of Cortana, but it makes the rest of the paragraph seem almost joking. Were I not familiar with the games I don’t know how seriously I would take this stuff.

– The article considers Halo and its ilk to be “shoot ’em ups”. It would be very nerd-ragey for me to get mad at not using the phrase “first person shooter”, or for not realizing that ‘schmups are their own, very different genre. But shoot ’em up? That’s the kind of language they used back when Doom was all the rage. The author and his intended audience are completely behind the times when it comes to this industry. It reads like all this progress is a complete shock to them. If this is what they think of Halo, what would they say of many other games? If you need any proof of how little highbrow culture has given a shit about gaming, look no further.

– We could all think of plenty of examples of games deeper than Halo. I’m still going to bring one example up – Marathon. The Marathon games are much deeper story wise than Halo, by a long shot. Oh, and they were also made by Bungie. We won’t ever hear about them from Time however, because they are too damn old. Because of so very many reasons, some of the greats of gaming past will always be overlooked. And that just isn’t cool.

I’m going to pull my own fanboy card here – make a cover story about Bioshock or even System Shock. An interview with Ken Levine from an industry outsider would probably be something Time readers would actually be interested in. It could do wonders for impressing people on the potential of gaming. But while Bioshock will sell, it won’t Halo sell, and so something like this Time article has as much potential to be a gateway for nongamers to look into as it does to continue the big circle jerk that is our industry as people continue to ripoff Halo. It may also just make a lot of folks laugh.

What do you think?

10 Comments

  1. Tyson said on September 4, 2007:

    Halo was also on the cover of Wired this month.

    I chuck FPS and shoot’em ups in the same pile as well. There is very little difference between Wolfenstein 3D and Halo and I am pretty sure I am the only person that thinks this way.

    You have a guy, be it a POW or Master Chief.

    He has a lot of guns.

    He kills varying enemies to complete the level.

    Is Halo a better game than Wolf 3D, you bet. The graphics kick ass, the story is more engaging, and there are nuances to the game play that Wolf 3D lacked. But they are still pretty much the same game.

    Mark my words, in seven or eight years when Halo has hopefully died off and been replaced by the next best thing, you are still going to see games that use the by then 25 year old play mechanics that have been around since Wolf 3D.

  2. christian said on September 4, 2007:

    Tyson makes a good point that refutes what I have said in a way – ultimately a game like Halo isn’t that far removed from Wolf3d, though this means that combining “shoot ’em up” with “deep, artsy game” is even more embarassing.

  3. jay said on September 4, 2007:

    I don’t know how I feel about main stream coverage. It is easy to represent us in a negative light without even trying. This reminds me of when people who agree with me politically say stupid things. Not that I have much of a problem with Michael Moore, but I’m tired of defending myself as a liberal because of things he has said.

    Similarly, when Time compares a game to classical genius I may now have to do the clean up work – explaining to parents and friends who don’t game that they were exaggerating hugely. Clarify that while Halo 3 is not amazing art there are other games that approach art and would really make even the non-gamer think. And so forth.

  4. Stefan said on September 5, 2007:

    I agree on the first point…telling people that halo 3 is the Shakespeare of the video game world might attract some extra attention, but it will come from people expecting something more, and when they do not see it they will walk away assuming that video games simply do not have that kind of plot, story, or artistic direction. I’m not sure if this actually hurts gaming so much as not helping it much, but that’s a matter of relative degrees.

    On the other two points, while I could also think of better games than halo, and I generally like put the label shoot-em-up on an entirely different genre, I’m not really sure how those cause any significant harm. Time is, after all, a popular news magazine. Its job is not to point out the best games of the 1980’s and 1990’s, but to talk about what is coming out now, and what is having the most impact on the largest number of its viewers. Bioshock may be a far more artistic game, but I’m fairly sure Halo 3 is going to blow it out of the water in terms of sales. I’m not arguing that it is better or more artistic because it will sell more, but I am arguing that it is more newsworthy for exactly that reason.

    As far as the term shoot-em-up goes, we all think of it in terms of the video game genre, but it wasn’t invented the arcades. If you google it (and filter out all the cruft surrounding this year’s movie of the same name) you can find it being applied to movies, TV-shows, etc. It’s generally used to describe an action-packed which features a lot of gunplay, which is probably going to be a good description of Halo 3. In the broader, less technical sense, the term fits, and it probably gets the idea across to someone who hasn’t played many video games far better than “first person shooter”.

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