TALKING WTH MY WIFE
Jenny, on the topic of menstruation: “Why does everyone say “On her period”? Like it’s a horse? ….. Well, maybe it’s a BIG RED HORSE that gallops all around and you have NO CONTROL over where it goes! It’s just galloping all over kicking people in the face and wrecking joints!”
YAY! VIDEO GAME TALK!
By the time you read this, Gears of War 3 will be out. I probably haven’t purchased a copy yet. But the active ingredient in that sentence is the “YET”, so rest assured that the sound you hear amongst the grinding of chainsaw teeth against putrescent alien flesh is me weeping in frustration.
I really love Gears, but it’s a very schizophrenic experience for me. I’ve been fascinated by the game since I first saw the TV ad for the initial installment.
Fucking WOW, right? There’s a promise of a game there that’s not only action packed, but tense, involving, and angsty. (It’s the promise of a game experience that Bioshock actually lives up to, oddly enough.) But it’s never quite realized by Gears. The aesthetic is there, and some of the existential despair, but it’s also codified within the body of a shooter game, which means it’s also going to be a lurking hive of the inherently stupid.
Unlike most games of this type, which seem to basically be a delivery mode for online play and the savage derision of the prepubescent, Gears actually has a single player mode that engages me. I’m committed to the story, in a way that I could never muster with a Call of Duty game. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to gun down aliens, instead of Nazis. My internal brain circuitry is better configured to dealing with a problem of invading subterranean grotesques than it is with actual genocidal monsters of flesh and blood. It’s also because the heroes of the story - despite being gigantic, monosyllabic, lurking bundles of testosterone and bullets - are oddly sort of likeable. There is no poetry in hacking a Locust to chunks with your Lancer, but there is a sort of gleefully maniacal joy that our heroes take from the act. As my grandmother used to say, “It’s hard to argue with anyone who looks that happy.”
My issue with Gears is basically internal. Regardless of the game I am playing, and its ostensible category, I treat all gaming experiences as RPG experiences. I don’t have heart palpitations while playing Dead Space because of their masterful use of darkness and claustrophobic spaces, I do so because I do not want to have my flesh flayed from my body by oozing space zombies. I don’t know how YOU play Pac-Man, but I know things about his backstory and motivations that would shock you.
I blame some of this on my cousin Kevin. During our formative video game years, as young Atari enthusiasts, he would sit next to me as we played Missile Command and identify which of our family members were in each bunker, adding a fantastic layer of real-life stress and survivor guilt to what should have been a simple fucking game about shooting your glowing dot at the other glowing dot.
So now take my fragile psychic projections, and strap them onto Marcus Fenix. Gears of War mixes a robust cover system with a protagonist who is constantly yelling exhortations to grind his enemies into paste. Try to parse that for a minute. You are given the tools to move gingerly from cover to cover, avoiding conflict until the last possible moment, and you are armed with a machinegun taped to a chainsaw. I can’t keep up. I’m hiding behind rocks and chunks of beautifully rendered wall, thinking, logically, that it is a smarter place to stand than in front of bullets. And while I am doing this, Mr. Fenix is telling the Locust hordes about how he’s going to murder their mothers and rape their fathers. I feel like he’s judging me. He’s never yelled “MOVE ME INTO MELEE RANGE, QUEERBAIT!” But I feel like it’s implied.
Penny Arcade, as always, sums it up better than I ever could.
My lovely wife, the insanely talented Jenny Langin, has her first published comic book story coming out very soon, in GrayHaven Comics’ Gathering Volume 5: Love Letters. Please check it out, and then tune back into the Gathering for Volume 6, where I have a scary story with art by Mr. Chris Page.
Hopefully some big comic book related news from me coming soon. Watch this space.
Hugs and kisses,