Friday, July 1, 2011

Top 10 List : The Top 10 Wildly Misinterpreted Games

Well, yes, everything can have more than one legitimate interpretation. People can argue on the fact that whether these games are liberal or conservative, religious or atheistic, and a particular character is good or bad. That depends on you. And of course, you should support your interpretation.

Sometimes, these comments are so unrelated to the game, that we have no option but to call them plain wrong. These interpretations defy what can be seen in the game itself.

What they said it's about: The game is a racist and colonialist propaganda, full of black zombies, and a white man saving them.

What it's really about: Nothing, really. Like the rest of the series, the hot hero kills a lot of zombies and nothing more.

America has a really bleak history of racism, and the signs of guilt are still strongly present in their national subconscious. What do you do when you're really ashamed about something in your past? Well, what about acting hysterical about it and finding it in any unrelated book or movie or game ever made? I mean, if you can prove that the Japanese who made Resident Evil 5 are also racist, well, it feels better doesn't it? It's a contagious disease spread everywhere, you shouldn't be particularly ashamed.

The 2007 E3 trailer of the game came under fire for showing a white protagonist killing black enemies in a small African village. N'Gai Croal, a Newsweek editor, began the criticism. He said: "There was a lot of imagery in that trailer that dovetailed with classic racist imagery." Dan Whitehead later elaborated on this point: "[the game] plays so blatantly into the old clich├ęs of the dangerous 'dark continent' and the primitive lust of its inhabitants that you'd swear the game was written in the 1920s" and "there are even more outrageous and outdated images to be found later in the game, stuff that I was honestly surprised to see in 2009." The article also states that the addition of the light-skinned Sheva "compounds the problem rather than easing it."

Just a little question: so far in the series, they have been killing white zombies. Thousands of white zombies have been killed so far. So the series have been racist against... whites? It starts to make less sense now does it? Well, here's the point: a virus spreads, turns everyone into zombies. The developers want some diversity, so they take the game to Africa. Since it's Africa, the majority of zombies are black. As simple as that. No racism, and surely no colonialism, that's simple overreading. And the main hero is white because they wanted a familiar face. All is coincidence. Plus, the new character who accompanies you, Sheva, is black, right? And not Obama black, but genuine black, yes?
What they said it's about: This game shows bullies are cool and encourages kids to be brutal to other kids.

What it's really about: You should stand up against the bullies and preserve your individual integrity.

One common misunderstanding: if something is about something, it doesn't encourage it. Silence of the Lamb doesn't encourage cannibalism, and The Godfather doesn't encourage joining the Mafia. Bully is about bullies in a school, but it doesn't encourage it in anyway.

But people don't get that. Groups such as Bullying Online and Peaceaholics have criticized the game for glorifying or trivializing school bullying. Jack Thompson attempted to ban the game in Florida. In Britain many also tried to ban the game, and those against the game succeeded in Brazil, where the game was banned, because some psychology group had found out the game can be harmful to teenagers and young adults.

Did I mention that all of this anger was aroused before the game was released? No? Because it totally was. See, there's a problem when you don't play something to the end (or not at all) and try to find its message. Because honestly, this game is one of the few games I'd like my young son or daughter to play, and I would be sure that the game teaches him/her an important life lesson. The game is a satire, its logic is exaggerated and its characters are hyperboles. The characters are stereotypical but that doesn't matter since they are comic and not realistic.

Jimmy, the hero of the game, starts the game as a bully. The scenes are comic, and may give rise to such misinterpretations. But soon, he breaks away from the bullies, and the other chapters of the game show his adventures with other groups of students. He's a troubled child in a troubled environment; his teachers are either evil and cruel or incompetent, his classmates are stupid, violent and unruly. If the game wasn't comic its story would be very bitter. But then, Jimmy moves beyond all of these, faces all of the troubles, and gains the respect of the whole school and his classmates. He's mischievous, rude, and arrogant, but all his flaws make him more real. At the end of the day he learns you have to stand up for yourself, and bullying is not the answer.
What they said it's about: Too much Nazi imagery in the game might lead to trivializing or even glorifying Nazism.

What it's really about: Killing Nazis is fun!

Wolfenstein 3D is responsible for popularizing the FPS genre and to a certain extent, this game laid the rules of the genre. The game has also came under heavy criticism. Well there is some heavy Nazi imagery in this 1992 FPS game: Swastika all over the walls, and the anthem of the Nazi Party, Horst-Wessel-Lied, was the theme music. The level architecture is based on Swastikas as well. The critics thought this much Nazi imagery might make the subject less sensitive to kids, and teach them not to hate them enough. The game was banned in Germany, and was edited heavily for the SNES version of North America.

Again, let me ask a question. Does Resident Evil games teach us to hate Zombies less? If I make killing some people fun, does that trivialize their crime? Nope. Again, a case of hysterical overreading. The story of the game is about a Polish born American soldier who wants to kill Nazis. Nazis are the bad guys people, and those who play the game kill them for fun. When we want to make a game which is simply about killing, we'd feel guilty to put most groups in them, and Nazis are one of the few exceptions. The whole thing comes from the fact that Nazis are so universally considered bad guys that they are a safe villain for such a game.
What they said it's about: This game pushes the limits of violence in video games by enabling you to kill small children.

What it's really about: A philosophical look into the moral integrity of the gamer by putting him/her in dire circumstances.

So, the game is about a person trapped in the under-water city of Rapture, where you need a substance called ADAM to become more powerful and survive the horrors of the world. Unfortunately, ADAM is really rare, and there are some small children called Little Sisters who have that substance. If you kill them, you get a lot of it, and your life would be easier. If you let them go, your life would be harder. So what would you do?

This generated a LOT of anger. Someone who strangely works for the developing company itself wrote "[the game is] testing the limits of the ultraviolent gaming genre with a strategy that enables players to kill characters resembling young girls." Jack Thompson again nagged about the game. Many tried to ban the game worldwide, and all were saying the same thing: the video games are really crossing the line now. YOU CAN KILL CHILDREN!

So, what would they prefer? Could we harvest ADAM from drug dealers, really bad guys, Zombies, or Nazis? Yes, we could. It would be more family friendly then. But the problem is, then it would be entirely meaningless. It was no ethical dilemma. There would be no hard decision between survival and morality. The whole point of the game is to make sure the alternative is so hard and immoral which makes it a hard and real experience. The game is deeply effective because of the same reason.
What they said it's about: An anti-war game.

What it's really about: A pretty pro-war game.

These very popular games are all about war, and like an exciting war movie, they're full of explosions, bullets flying, and cool cinematic cut scenes, accompanied with stunning sound effects. Plus, the games are pretty easy and fun to play, and convey the sense that you're in a war zone.

Now, some gamers have found the games to be critical of war. They use as evidence the scenes of destruction, civilian deaths, bombardments, pain and suffering which depicted in the games in graphic detail. There are some peace-loving dialogues written here and there, sometimes the suffering of soldiers are pictured in detail, and sometimes a little Kennedy and Robert McNamara are thrown in. I mean, for their realistic portrayal of deaths and destruction, they have to be anti-war, don't they?

Well, not necessarily. One might see if "war" is being targeted or one side of war. Well, only one side of war. All the pain and destruction and suffering is caused by the enemy, and the forces of the gamer (mostly Americans) never cause any thing bad. They are the heroes. Can you name one scene where an American plane- even accidentally- kills some civilian bystanders in a COD game? These games in fact glorify the war, by saying that our enemies are monsters, we are the heroes who are stopping them, and we're stopping them with war. A one sided glorification can never be anti-war.
What they said it's about: Among the Silent Hill games, this one is less philosophical and psychological, and more scary.

What it's really about: Actually, it's much deeper than any other Silent Hill.

I know that his one would be controversial, because the symbolism of the game is very subtle and, even possibly, subconscious. You may play the game multiple time and not notice them. But the game is much more powerful than the average survival horror, and this is the main reason- there's more to it. We can relate to it on a personal level. Of course, there are some great articles about the game, but the general consensus on the game is that it's not as deep and philosophical as other games.

The main reason behind the misunderstanding is the fact that the game (on surface) tells a very generic, straight forward story. In Silent Hill 2 the symbolism and the deeper meaning of the game was emphasized during the game, and everyone could see that there should be a subliminal story under the scary stuff. The story was confusing, and the ending was clear. Not this game. The game ends happily, (in your first playthrough at least), the characters act normally. More importantly, the second game was a stand-alone game, but the third game is a sequel. All this has caused Silent Hill 3 to be the least artistically analyzed game of the series.

You have to look deeper. Like all the games in the series, the monsters are symbolic, and represent the psychological feelings of the protagonists. In addition to that, like the second game, the notes and documents scattered around the game are meaningful, and you have to read them. You can stop Heather to comment on any object in the game, and these comments help build her character. At the very end, this game is about the troubles of a young teenage girl going through her psychological problems, narrated as a horror game. The symbolism is mysterious, dark, and vague. The game might be about unwanted pregnancy and abortion, or simply about puberty, or both. The game is open to multiple interpretations, but "a simple cliche horror game" isn't one of them.
What they said it's about: You can learn how to play guitar with this game! OR If our children play this game, they'll never learn how to play a real guitar!

What it's really about: You can learn how to push some buttons.

Guitar Hero was a really great series that we all loved. And we all regret that no more sequels will be made. The games were pure fun, addictive, and entertaining. Some people tend to see more in them. For example, some of the gamers have stated (in forums mostly) that this game has helped them with learning the real guitar, they especially stress how they understand the rhythm of songs better. They say playing the game has trained their ear for music.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are some concerned citizens who lay emphasis that our poor children might lose the virtue of playing guitar by playing this game. They say the game creates a false image of guitars in the minds of the young gamers, and plus, they might get false satisfaction from playing this game and see no need to go to a real guitar.

Alright, just as playing FPS games won't make you good or bad at killing people a single bit, playing Guitar Hero has absolutely no effect on how you play your guitar. It's a game. All you have to do is push some buttons with correct timing, and also some times use some special effects. Again, it's a game. Doing the usual arcade thing with great music playing in the background and the presence of your favorite bands and imagining yourself as a guitar player makes it more fun, and that's why they did it. Playing Dance Dance Revolution with neither help nor stop you from either dancing Waltz or overthrowing an evil regime. It's a great idea for a game, and has nothing to do with reality. For the third time, it's a GAME!
What they said it's about: Mindless violence.

What it's really about: Mindless violence, yeah, but it's actually a parody of it.

Let's take a look at Wikipedia: "Going postal, in American English slang, means becoming extremely and uncontrollably angry, often to the point of shooting people to death, usually in a workplace environment." Now, what about making a game solely based on this idea? It's going to be misunderstood by the guardians of the purity of people.

The game lacks a cohesive plot, and seems chaotic and insane. It seems the developers are just trying to be more disturbing and crazier. The game came under fire because of all these things. The critics saw the game as an endless parade of violence and disturbing dialogues and images. They were also disturbed by the fact that you had the ability to kill innocent bystanders, and your success was determined by your kill percentage and not passing the levels. The developers were sued by the U.S. Postal Service and many retailers pulled the game from their shelves.

The truth is, there's a reason behind it all. Like many other works of art criticized unfairly, the developers are not sadistic insane violence-mongers, they are ridiculing such people. The whole game is one huge splendid comic parody on the nature of contemporary media, bureaucracy, and society. The humor is very bitter and dark, but it is there. The whole point of the game is that our lives have become so mundane and boring that we have resorted to mindless violence. The whole society has gone "postal". So this game should be lauded as a work of art, and not condemned as a cheap representation of violence.
What they said it's about: It's the most innovative system ever! The future of gaming!

What it's really about: Nintendo returns to its roots.

The developers themselves are responsible for this one. The hype before releasing the system was focused on how innovative this system is. The first name they came up with for the system was "Revolution", just to show how revolutionary their ideas were. Later they decided to go with a slang for penis, maybe to match it with the shape of the controller. They said you have seen nothing like it, and that's the future of gaming. They claimed that this will open new doors, introduce us to new aspects in gaming.

Of course, all the advertisements were false. Dead false. Nothing Wii offers is new; not the motion capture, not family-friendly games, not the casual or educational or fitness games. They are all ancient artifacts, and that's exactly why Wii has been so successful.

At a time, long ago, the games were (mostly) simply about fun. Look at the dominant genre of the consoles: platformer. The games were simple, but a great experience. If we say video games are at the same time games, technology and art, they were pure games. Nintendo was really good at this. But later, the tone of the industry changed; the games were judged by their other merits; their graphics, their story, their complex gameplay.

Wii, with its outdated graphics, absence of stories, simple gameplay, but at the same time entertaining value, set the clock back to 80s and the early 90s. Wii games are old in nature, but immensely fun. That's the secret behind their resolution. Many missed this pure gaming. I did too. It's very great that all different tastes can be satisfied, now that we have Wii. But please, don't call it a revolution. If anything, call it a restoration.
What they said it's about: A sick game where you can kill the prostitutes and innocent pedestrians.

What it's really about: A socially conscious satire.

Now, has any series come under equal fire? I don't think so. Jack Thompson tried his best to get some poor families of murder victims to hold the series accountable for the death of their loved ones. As a result he was finally disbarred. (This motivational story shows if you try hard enough, it'll only get worse). But there were actually some families who believed the game is responsible for some of the shootings. At least two cases involved teenagers. These words of Thomson still sound logical to many: "There's no doubt in my mind [...] that but for Devin Moore's (a teenager killer) training on this cop killing simulator, he would not have been able to kill three cops in Fayette, Alabama who are now dead and in the ground. We are suing Take-Two, Sony, Wal-Mart, and GameStop for having trained Devin Moore to kill. He had no history of violence. No criminal record." Notice the words "cop-killer simulator". According to Wikipedia "According to The Guinness World Records 2008 and 2009 Gamer's Edition, it is the most controversial video game series in history, with over 4,000 articles published about it, which include accusations of glamorizing violence, corrupting gamers, and connection to real life crimes." It's said the 3d graphics make the violence more realistic, the violence game is considered "heroic". The infamous fact that you can have sex with prostitutes, recover your health and then kill the poor woman to steal your money back didn't help. The racial slurs didn't help either. And then we have the Hot Coffee controversy which I'm not even getting into.

In short, there's a bipartisan agreement that these games are sick and they're training our kids to kill. Yes?

No. Let me give you a tip: when you suddenly see a whole nation determined to destroy something, usually, it's something good. Because there's something that people hate even more than violence and rape: the truth. In movies, it's Taxi Driver. In music, it's Marylin Manson. In games, Grand Theft Auto. The artists have touched a little too sensitive nerve, and the patient is acting insanely.

GTA series are in fact a great social commentary on the real issues we face right now. They include racism, crime, prostitution, poverty, immigration, among other things. They're realistic under a facade of ridiculousness, deeply serious in disguise of a dark humor. The GTA rises issues that are commonly raised in all forms of media- film, book, music, but yet it sounds new and penetrating, and makes the target of the satire uncomfortable. But at the end, such works of art should be respected and not condemned. They are the conscience of our age.
So, here it is, the top 10 games that are misunderstood. Can you think of any other game which is wrongly perceived by the media or the fans?
Originally published on Gamefaqs

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