Still up to my neck in work, but I thought I’d share a good link: an interview with the creators of Postal 2, a classic meta-game of a few years back.
A long, long time ago I wrote about why I like violent video games, why this doesn’t reflect poorly on me or anyone else, and why I don’t roam the streets looking for victims, but I think these guys have a shorter and better retort, which I will quote:
“…the “problem” with POSTAL is that it is too politically correct. What I mean by that is if you play POSTAL 2, what you’ll notice is that none of the missions involve killing anyone. They’re all simple errands like buying milk and cashing your paycheck. And if you look really closely, you’ll see that it’s always possible to complete an errand without killing anyone. You might have to piss in someone’s face and make a getaway while they vomit, but you never HAVE to kill them. We created a reactive environment where the player has some tasks to complete. How the tasks are completed is entirely up to the player. Just like in the real world, weapons exist, but how they are used is left up to the judgment of the individual wielding it. The game does not reward the player for being violent, unless you consider being set upon by police, SWAT teams, military personnel, randomly-armed vigilante bystanders and attack dogs is a “reward”… So the unfortunate situation for us is that what offends people is the concept of a game where you have free will and can choose, if you have that particular bent, to attack innocent bystanders. Apparently in the eyes of some, a game about free will is far more evil than a game bout murdering your way up the crime food chain…”
The unmentioned game is, of course, GTA: San Andreas, which is a fine game in its own right, but not as conceptually rich as the critique of society and violence that Postal 2 managed to pull off. For me, it was a puerile, juvenile, disgusting, and crass experience, but conceptually, it was spot-on and I had a blast. Wikipedia has a decent P2 page for the morbidly curious.
My favorite objective of all the mundane tasks in the game was to get eight signatures on a petition to “make whiny congressmen play violent video games.” This consists of going up to pedestrians with a clipboard and asking for signatures. Sometimes they say yes; other say no politely; others insult and threaten you. If you keep asking the same person, your requests get more and more aggressive – “Look, just sign the petition or I’ll follow you home and kill your dog,” and some devolve naturally into gunplay. It’s especially funny to ask people politely to sign while people that I’d doused in gasoline and set on fire for not signing are still running around and screaming.
What an idea – place the player in frustrating everyday situations, but leave firearms, explosives, and other instruments of mayhem within easy reach. And, of course, as the game progresses, the temptations to snap increase. All in all, a brilliant subversion of the FPS genre, with its crates and health packs and scattered weaponry. I have never even tried to get the “Thank you for playing, Jesus” rating which you recieve at the end of the game if you never killed anyone, though I am a little more mellow than I was several years ago. Perhaps I’ll try the nonviolent approach, which apparently requires the judicious use of a stun-gun and urine.