Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Too Human: Gods and Guns

OK, so I've been doing these follow-up posts for games since the Assassin's Creed review and I think it's a good way to get into wider issue that impact, or are touched upon by gaming. At the same time, however, I don't want to force the issue, and I did feel my Halo post was a little laboured, so I'm changing the set=up slightly to include more general Sci-Fi issues and clich├ęs that may come up as well as more serious social/religious themes that games may present, so here's my attempt at perhaps a more balanced approach.

Guns, honestly?

A cool feature of Too Human is also one of it's greatest weaknesses as a piece of Sci-Fi with integrity. That feature is to give the player and characters guns. It's initially quite cool to go around as Baldur, the norse god weilding your laser cannon or dual pistols. But then, you start to think about it and you have to ask - why? Aside from the fact it's instantly recognizable, makes familiar gameplay and that guns feature in pretty much every game ever made - does it really belong here? The rest of it fits so perfectly, the Gods are cybernetically enhanced, the world tree is a super-computer, the goblins and elves are robots - yes, this a technological past, but it meshes so well with the myth that you can believe that the story was twisted as society became more primitive.

Where to guns fit in, surely there's be some reference to 'firesticks' or something similar in the old tales, but no the Gods and their enemies do battle with swords, axes and hammers, not repeaters. The human armies are also equipped with these weapons, which further deadens the illusion. But it's so close to what I think it believable, the berserkers carry axes, the swords are technologically advanced and can shoot energy, the dark elves even carry high powered bows. All this can be accounted for as ancient weaponry or magic.

Do I blame Too Human for their decision? No. Guns feature far too commonly in games, comics and TV because we see them as the epitomy of technology and we are too lazy to imagine something more advanced or different. There was a good opportunity to try here, but unfortunately they didn't take it.

On a lighter note - the gun gameplay was pretty darn cool and the targeting system worked well, especially when shooting specific limbs off trolls and things, so it wasn't bad at all in gameplay terms it must be said!!

So, what's the deal with Thor?

Thor is ever-present in popular media it seems. When you need to bang in a mythical character into your game, comic book or TV series, Thor is the go-to guy. Thor has been a popular figure, with Marvel comics creating their version where the hammer Mjolnir imbues power to it's ordinary user - there's even a movie adaptation on it's way soon. Even new original comic series The End League feature's their version of Thor in the opening issues and Mjolnir as a central plot point.

Now I can hardly have a go at Too Human for including Thor, the game is of course about Norse mythology and I think they do a good job of interpreting and characterising the God in the game - so don't think this is all complaints!! I'm rather addressing the God's prevalence in other media, though his prevalance in the game must be noted. Why is it, when we want a mysterious hero, a leader, a figure of power we so often go for Thor?

One of my friends is obsessed with Thor, if he could choose to be a hero, he would be Thor - but why? Because Thor is raw energy, a being who can clobber his way through anything wielding a magic hammer. Sounds cool doesn't it? But is that what we really need? Which of the world's problems could really be solved by shooting lightning from a hammer wielded by a God who speaks in monosyllables? Thor exists for battle, and so needs for there to be a battle for him to be any use - to have him around and on your side requires for you to face battle all your life, something which the Norse held to and romantics might believe. But how many of us face battles, and how many of those who do sit and pray for a better warrior? No. The hero we need is one who can touch our lives in all circumstances, and who will ultimately bring an end to all war by wielding ultimate power over all armies and rulers.

Well I hope that's of interest at least, anything I'm not clear on please leave a comment.

1 comment:

bram.clabby said...

I know this is an old blog post of yours, but you end with a good point. Everything in our favorite media is fight-based. Movies, TV shows, comic books, video games, it's all centered around fighting - and considering the physical damage and death tolls, only fate or superpowers keeps the main characters from dying like everyone else. Not all of it is, but a lot of it is. But what else COULD we make our media about?
Interpersonal relationships? We all love them, whether or not people are shot or punched through walls. I suppose even then, interpersonal relationships get set against a more-interesting backdrop of violence. Lemme know what else you think games could be about.