Context can be a real bitch.
We live in a society where words are viewed as brutal weapons of mass destruction. Bullying has come under a microscope and has been the subject of analysis as well as documentaries. Politicians are recorded in sound bites during speeches and rallies, their statements either fueling campaigns or becoming counterattacks by opponents. The boom of social networking has given anyone with an internet connection and a working keyboard a place to sound off their opinion, regardless of its worth.
When Dead Space story producer Chuck Beaver gave his opinion on storytelling in video games a week and a half ago, he singled out Gears of War as having “literally the worst writing in games.” Beaver conceded that this wasn’t actually detrimental to the game and that the writing “…seems to have no ill effects.”
Basically, all Beaver was saying is exactly what I felt about playing through the Gears trilogy. I enjoyed the hell out of slaughtering hordes of Locust and Lambent with a multitude of weapons, and there is no argument that the trilogy features the best chainsaw in the history of video games. The campaigns are lengthy, the higher difficulties require old school skill to beat and the multiplayer will keep you coming back to grab every achievement there is to unlock and boast about on Xbox Live.
The story, though? Ugh.
Alien takeovers of a human world are nothing new in gaming, and they are just as often used as a backdrop for a game in which you are given plenty of things to shoot. What makes Gears such a sad sack of storytelling is the characters. Baird’s forced sarcasm, Cole’s whoop-it-up meathead catchphrases and Dom’s tortured search for his family are shoved down our throats as if Epic Games had us strapped to our chairs while screaming “YOU WILL FEEL SOMETHING FOR THESE PEOPLE, GODDAMMIT!” Furthermore, if I was supposed to make a real connection with Marcus Fenix as a main protagonist, then consider me one who didn’t come away with the full Gears experience. I literally had no reaction to Marcus’s loss of his best friend and later his father, and this is coming from a man who openly sobs every time he sees the finale of Metal Gear Solid 3.
Regardless of my personal feelings, the comments by Beaver set the internet on fire. Discussions ran rampant on every side of the camp, with some praising Beaver’s honesty while others called for an apology. What seemed to get ignored along the way was his admission that Dead Space was phoning it in with its own story, although he did make a point to pass the buck. Speaking of Dead Space 2, he said “…we got lost a bit in complicated lore and plot elements that didn’t come through. And don’t even get me started on the final boss sequence that they put in without me in the meeting! That was fun.”
Once again, someone makes a point to speak an opinion, and it comes back to bite them in the ass. Cliff Bleszinski of Epic Games never did respond to the comments, which were later removed from the Electronic Arts official blog where they were first published. Beaver came back and praised the Gears franchise a few days later. I didn’t personally view this as a retraction, as some have labeled it, but I have to imagine someone above him gave an order to put out the flame war he had started.
While Chuck Beaver is finding himself a new place in the spotlight of mudslinging in the video game world, he’s definitely not the first personality to become the center of controversy over an opinion. As long as people have thoughts about their colleagues, there will inevitably be someone who takes offense. Two names come to mind for me when I think of the real pot-stirrers in the industry.
Hidden behind the sunglasses and leather jacket is a man who cares as deeply for his gaming creations as he does for his daughter. This was made known to the world at the 2012 D.I.C.E. Summit, where Tomonobu Itagaki told the world for the fist time that the unfinished Japanese PS2 version of Dead or Alive 2 was published by Tecmo under false pretenses. This sent him into an alcoholic depression where he spent months at home, drinking himself into a stupor and watching Michael Bay’s Armageddon on repeat with his young daughter at his side.
This taught me two things, the first being why the hell Aerosmith was always featured in the DOA franchise since the third game. The second is that there are few people in any public industry, never mind just gaming, who are willing to come forward and lay out their own personal grievances and demons like he did. If you haven’t seen Itagaki’s whole speech, check it out at the bottom of this page.
Of course, Itagaki isn’t above slinging shit, either. When asked to list his five worst fighting games of all time, he chose every single entry in the Tekken franchise at the time. He also lambasted Bayonetta and the game’s director, Hideki Kamiya, who had previously directed Devil May Cry: “If I made a similar game as a game I made in the company I quit, people would say, ‘What an idiot, can’t he make anything else?’ Well, that is more or less the opinion I have for, uh, that Bayo-something game.”
If that was a slight jab, there’s a man in the industry who delivers knockout uppercuts with every successive statement that emerges from his mouth, or as is often the case, fingers.
David Jaffe may have the adult intelligence needed to craft amazing franchises like Twisted Metal and God of War, but his Twitter account makes him sound like the 12-year-old whose mom just left the house for the grocery store and now has free reign to run his mouth over the mic during online multiplayer. Some gems? Oh, he’s got them.
“So FUCKING SICK of artsy fartsy in this industry. Get fucking over yourselves bitches”
“ARTY-FARTY= pretentious, dull, surface bullshit without really understanding the craft of game design or emotion/storytelling.”
“We should make FUCKYOUFRIDAY…like list people you fucking HATE! That would rock! Ok, I’m done J”
I think you get the idea. If I type any more of those, I’m going to regress into Jnco Jeans and a chain wallet.
Without a doubt, the biggest whopper (excuse my language, Jaffe must be rubbing off on me) was his suggestion that the new version of Twisted Metal be used as the electronic equivalent of Spanish Fly. In an interview with GameTrailers, he sold it like this: “It’s a great, great romantic gift. If you have a lady friend and she really wants to know the best game ever, she will give you a fucking blowjob if you play this game…if you let her win Twisted Metal split-screen, she will suck your dick.”
What a romantic.