Bitter Without Continues

The future is now! – aka “Press Y to break neck.”

This week, during a random stroll through the adventures of “click on this Youtube video, find another, somehow wind up somewhere completely different,” I was reminded of something I hadn’t seen, and had in the back of my auxiliary memory for years and years.

And that was AT&Ts “You will” advertising campaign all the way back from when I was a kid, in the year of our lord 1993. Where grown men thought wearing Zubaz pants out in public was a great idea.



If you had an awkward uncle in 1993, you've probably seen these.

If you had an awkward uncle in 1993, you’ve probably seen these.


The idea behind this ad was to present what seemed like “amazingly science fiction ideas” (at the time) and show them off in a 30-second commercial, which I learned was narrated by Tom Selleck (yes. That Tom Selleck.), and directed by David Fincher(yes. That David Fincher), under the idea that “One Day, you will.”


It’s easier if I just post the video and let you guys watch for yourself to further explain my enthusiasm.


Take your time. I’ve got thirty seconds. Enjoy the surreal 90’s hopeful for tomorrow sound accompaniment, because it’s been in my head for a couple of days now.


HOLY SHIT, right? I mean, there’s a lot of unconventional ‘IN THE FUTURE WORLD OF TOMORROW” videos out there (I know. I’ve watched a lot of them), that demonstrate all kinds of far-flung, goofy ideas of things that COULD be, and won’t, mostly because of concerns like “…why?” and “…that’d be crazy expensive…and also, WHY?”


But the thing that had me reeling from the You Will video is the amount of accurate (for the most part. I don’t know anybody personally who’s had to use a fax machine since the better part of last decade) predictions that came from it, and the fact that, in 2013, most of these are technologies that have become so intertwined with our regular lives, that they’ve become commonplace and virtually unremarkable.


Science fiction hopeful has become the mundanity of today. The future is now, and all that.


As a kid, it was probably all the 900 times I must have seen Back to the Future II that called to my curiosity of how we would be as a society, from a cultural and technological standpoint by comparison to the here and now. How different and weird things would be, and how it would change our lives, and how much will have improved.


I can answer the following statements with almost certain conviction.


*It is a hell of a lot easier to buy pizza.

*It is a hell of a lot easier to play any coveted video game from that era on things that aren’t consoles they were originally intended for.

* We have an infinite reach on any information we could ever desire, and most of us spend it looking up porn, bitching about everything on social networks, and watching videos of people getting hit in the balls on youtube.

*Video Games haven’t progressed in the slightest.


That got your attention. But hear me out.


Technology has jumped leaps and bounds from the ROMcart days of the 80s-90s, making the transitional media to CD-Rom, and then upping the stakes to Dual-Layer DVDs, Blu-Ray disks and beyond. The hardware required to run these games, even at a perfunctory level, still is an awe-inspiring improvement over that generations ago.

Every console you can buy is also a multimedia oriented mega-machine, focused on not just giving you ONE source of entertainment, but several, almost to the point where I feel like the term video game console almost gets muddied up. (I know people who don’t even bother to turn on their 360s for anything other than Netflix, for instance.)


That being said, why does the game industry feel like it’s regressed?

Why does it feel like every MUST OWN title is an M-rated Murder Simulator?


Here are the major differences I can think of in playing a video game from 1993 to 2013.


  1. My games are way prettier and look more realistic.
  2. My games will now yell the word “Fuck” and all of it’s permutations and uses at me in casual dialogue cutscenes.
  3. People feel that giving you lives and continues in games was apparently too hard, and now simply sitting and waiting in a corner for a few seconds, taking a deep breath, etc, is enough to heal all wounds/gunshots/knifehits/whatever. And even if you die, you can infinitely respawn. Meaning that games have no arbitrary challenge, as much as “play until you get through the meat grinder.”
  4. My games seem to feel that I have no problem with outright murder of people, in a full embrace of “BE the brooding anti-hero/former soldier and hero betrayed by the world/escaped secret project seeking revenge.” type excuses.


Last week was devoted to playing and beating Bioshock Infinite. And as always, the 2K team presented an amazing and beautiful world (fun to visit, not fun to live there) in which, I once again reprised the role of a nebulous right hand, brandishing a weapon, and used all my pent up rage and pronged death saw arm to murder my way through human antagonists in each environment, until I reach the conclusion, which had a lengthy cutscene, meant to hit more at the side of establishing humanity with “my right hand that seems to be always brandishing a weapon.”, as it catches it breath from shooting approximately 6,000 guys, and learns the true meaning of Christmas, or whatever.

There’s a lot of things I felt the game did right, but at it’s core, falls into the trap I feel the gaming industry is running into a wall with.

Yeah. It's basically this.

Yeah. It’s basically this.

Every AAA title that comes out is basically Doom.

No wait. You can look around. It's basically this.

No wait. You can look around. It’s basically this.


Correction. Quake, since you can look up and down, now.

At it’s core, no matter how clever it may (or may-not) attempt to be, incorporating story elements slightly different, or perhaps a likable NPC that follows you around during your relentless, shooting gallery of ethical abandon, it presents you the simple chore of this.

You’re in a maze, right?. You can advance, but obstacles are in your way. (let’s say, Demons. Or Strogg.) and you can’t pass them unless you have the right tools (let’s say, man portable rocket launcher. Maybe you need to hit a button or two, too.) Once you do this, you get the cheese. (also, the end of the level, if no cheese is readily available.) Continue until conclusion.


That’s it. I have accurately surmised the gameplay elements of nearly every “MUST play” title that’s been doled out to PC (and then eventually console players) for as long as I can remember. Except that, in order to keep things fresh, studios have to up the stakes and make things “edgy.”, and therefor “more SERIOUS BUSINESS.” by upping the shock value.


It’s not just hordes of tropes – aliens that are hell bent on killing Earthlings – anymore. It’s people. People that we now have the conventional technology to make look, react and feel real.


I hate to pull the “Bandwagon vs. CoD” card, here. But i’m going to post the scene (that the guy recording graciously replayed the exact moment that I had an issue with when I played it.) from Modern Warfare 2 that actually (surprising, even to myself) made me quit playing.


The guy you’re rappelling down to stab? Yeah. He’s what a few missions ago would have been declared friendly forces. And yes. You’re watching the LIFE go out of his eyes when you STAB him in the freaking chest with a knife.


It’s not an optional thing. This isn’t the notorious “Scene” you could skip earlier in the game, in which you, under the auspices of trying to infiltrate a terrorist group, shoot down innocent people inside a russian airport. This is mandatory for gameplay.


Someone directed this scene, presumably with the intention of telling you, as the protagonist (?), that you are a seriously hardcore bastard, and that what you’re doing isn’t anything different than slicing off a piece of cake for a birthday party.


And what I got was the uncomfortable feeling of questioning just what it was I was really doing in this game.


This wasn’t ‘handling’ faceless hordes of bad guys running out from the right in infinite succession as I blast them with my SPREAD rifle, a-la Contra. This was something different. And even inside of context, it felt genuinely wrong.


And what’s worse is that I think a lot of games since then have tried to raise the bar from that point. When technology rushes for the uncanny valley, and competing publishers strive to sell the bigger, badder product in one of the most lucrative times to be in the industry– at what point do the players suffer from exposure to a most serious “It’s kill or be killed” mentality?


I’m not trying to propose this as a ‘there needs to be no video games like this.”, “pro-parental awareness against video game filth agenda” (I don’t have kids) or anything like that. I’m just saying that the Major AAA-game releasing industry has two-fold problem.


  1. Repetition in gameplay types to the point where you have no less than 30 games that play nearly the same way (either playing a gun hand, or from a view SLIGHTLY behind the gunhand), with the advent of solitary gimmicks that change the way you achieve that goal.
  2. Increasing the amount of overbearing profanity and luridly detailed killing doesn’t make your game any more intelligent. It may make use of technology that wasn’t there a couple years ago, but it’s just window dressing on a stale idea. And what’s worse is that the idea is so stale, that including gameplay options, such as “Hold Y to break neck” seems like a standard inclusion into your title.


In 1993, I wanted my games to jump out at me through an array of holographic projectors, and yet, still be fun, immersive, and interactive experiences.

In 2013, all I find myself doing Is taking a step back and playing Contra, because of how strangely light-hearted it makes me feel.

I guess it’s the flavor of shooting the hell out of everything that you see that is the factor, here.


Excuse me, I’ve got easy ass pizza to order and videos of dudes getting hit in the balls to watch.