A basic premise of literary analysis is that whatever becomes truly popular in a given society reveals much about the underlying moral values of that society. This is how we can discern so much about the Ancient Near East (ANE); we read their literature and gather clues about their philosophical assumptions regarding reality and what they felt was good and right.
On the other hand, it’s notably obvious that a great deal of artistic output is meant to influence. It’s an attempt to inculcate values the artist wishes their world held. There’s a great deal of entertainment output that cynically reflects attempts to give the audience what it already wants. Then again, sometimes that mass-produced crap masks an ulterior motive. It’s aimed at taking advantage of the lowest common denominator to subtly condition the audience to various ends.
We know this because too often the folks behind entertainment have openly admitted such designs. Their flashes of honesty give us clues for when other producers aren’t so honest. Some of you may know that I don’t like playing video games, but that I do like to watch others play them. I especially like well crafted games that offer grand landscapes, the so-called “open world” games where the player isn’t herded along specific paths. The artists behind open world games invest an awful lot of time and creative energy in producing believable worlds that call you to explore. Such games answer a very human call to adventure.
But if there’s any part of the video game industry that suffers, it’s the scripting and storytelling that is often most disappointing. It seems as if the game business suffers a common malady, in that the producers are forced to choose between good visuals and play, or good story lines, but cannot offer both.
Recently, I watched a game walkthrough that I found deeply disturbing: Far Cry 5. The open world part was inspiring. Granted, some of the game play was entirely too chaotic with random attacks that were simply too much for enjoyable play, but that’s a matter of taste for a lot of players. What was most disturbing was the shocking nihilism in the underlying story.
It’s a very ugly sucker punch in that respect. You are drawn into playing based on traditional gamer values of finding a worthy cause for which to sneak, snipe and attack the bad guys. But at the end of the game, you lose for embracing that. There are three possible endings. The first is simply don’t play — don’t arrest the chief villain, just let him go on about his evil ways and you’ll get the “good” ending.
If you engage the story at all, you must lose. In fact, you should have been forewarned at several points in the game where you are captured and tormented in ways that make absolutely no sense at all. Your gaming skills mean nothing at all, and the game itself betrays you senselessly. But in the final showdown, you lose no matter which of two options you choose.
If you don’t take the bad guy down, you still have to face the results of mind-manipulating conditioning where you end up murdering your associates (though it’s only hinted at). If you to take him down, you’ll be told he was right all along and the story ends in the nuclear holocaust he predicted, with the player forced to spend the rest of their lives locked in a bunker with the evil monster.
Meanwhile, the rest of the game play is marred by some of the most outrageous SJW snowflaking. There are no real social conservatives in the game; almost everyone is an extreme caricature of conservative rural American values. The bad guy is actually the good guy, because he’s not racist or sexist, nor any of the other characteristic evil traits trumpeted by the social left. Best of all is that he is wholly anti-mainstream. Thus, all the things you are encouraged to fight in the game are reduced to a matter of taste. The game is not at all subtle by turning things upside down, mocking any hint of conservative social values. The bad guy brainwashes his minions, sometimes using drugs. He tortures and manipulates; he steals and kills at will and seeks most of all to make people miserable by any means possible if they don’t submit. But in the end, he was right — or so the game wants you to believe.
Meanwhile, the game was introduced with great marketing fanfare in which the promoters soberly insisted it offers a new level of serious moral high ground. The whole thing was a head-game from the start. This is not cool and edgy; it’s a bewildering attack on everything that gamers hold sacred. You get the feeling that, if the producers could, they would have bombed religious buildings and dumped mind-altering substances in the public water supply, but couldn’t afford it, so they confined the action to a game that would surely piss-off all but the most idiotic players. Oh, and the SJW snowflakes would, of course, love it, too.
I’m not defending Western morals, either conservative or liberal. It’s crazy to me how both sides of this false divide don’t realize they come from the same moral morass, that they are two essential halves of the same failed value system. But when something like a game attacks this viciously one side or the other, it shows just how far Western culture has come into its final death throes. The nuclear holocaust at the end of the game is symbolic of how willing one side is to destroy everything to keep the other side from even existing. People don’t matter, only some impossible social orthodoxy.
(For random gamers who stumble across this post: I will permit countering opinions, but I only if I deem them on-topic. Try to grasp the context of this blog and don’t waste time with pointless noise. I admit up front that I’m not a gamer, and this is not a gamer blog.)