So I did this article about why despite the fact that research shows exponentially more people self-identify as "dog people" rather than "cat people", cats are virtually the unofficial mascot of internet culture. Even weirder, I assert the cat phenomenon originated in the most aberrant and un-cute of places. Read it, will you?
It relies on the idea that culture's like a living organism; like a cell culture, maybe, like a species, or like a volatile compound. It compensates for inertia, it evolves around environmental events, against homogeny and in response to its own weaknesses. Weird to think of 'cat pictures on the internet' as potential evidence for this concept, but I think it is.
Do you think game culture is evolving? Maybe "game culture" hasn't really been "a thing" for long enough, but when I look at the way creators represent themselves in mainstream games and the way the consumer culture reacts, I just never see anything changing. Of course, the interesting changes, statements and reactions, are happening at the fringe.
There are things happening in indie culture and in those that consume it that are commentary on or responses to (or against) the mainstream. But in all other entertainment media, you can look at trends in even the lowest-common-denominator works and see that they reflect their times.
Film genres evolve as ways for people to represent and express the way they feel about the things that are happening in their world or in their society. Each period of music history has a sound that correlates to the unique circumstances of that era. Do games do this?
I find myself weirdly depressed reading Richard Clark's Gamasutra analysis today about Bulletstorm. He, like many people (including myself, in general) is impatient with adolescent violence. The game's lead designer himself responds in the heated and thought-provoking comments discussion to say he's an adult catering to other adults; that having fun being immature is not the same thing as catering to teenage boys.
Some commenters seem annoyed that gloriously, silly-stupid violent games like Bulletstorm keep on getting made despite the fact that the primary negative stereotype about games and gamers is that they are silly, stupid and violent. That stereotype doesn't just make us look weird in front of our friends and families, it results in ignorant government and legal trouble.
Yet others ask an equally-valid question: Is Bulletstorm supposed to feel responsible for "elevating the medium"? Does it need to feel guilty if people think it's "bringing it down?" It's just one product, one idea in a sea of many.
I had no problem with the silly-stupid sexuality in Bayonetta because I thought it was refreshingly different camp stylization, so I'm probably not in a position to complain about the visual and auditory stupidity of Bulletstorm.
I bet I'd even have fun playing Bulletstorm. I'm a hundred percent behind the idea of a statement that modern shooters, with their bald heads, sullen frowns, "gritty" landscapes and lobotomized attempts at creating "emotion" through hackish and often offensive storytelling, take themselves way too seriously, try way too hard to be "adult." I love that the designers see Bulletstorm as a protest of that tradition.
After all, people complained about Bayonetta, I rolled my eyes and thought, "stop taking yourselves so seriously; not every video game needs to be a Good Example." I felt that letting Bayonetta be weird and naked if she wants to be was a more positive statement than telling me if I wanted to respect myself as a woman I was only allowed to play as a turtlenecked androgyne.
I saw nothing destructive, and I was disappointed that people feeling alienated by Bayonetta prevented them from seeing what a fun, stylish freak of a game she was in.
And I still feel that way -- and maybe more others would too, if exploitive shit wasn't the rule, not the exception. I don't really fault people for disagreeing with me and for being unable to smile much at Bay-bay-bay's naked hair wolves. We've been looking at CGI boob physics for too long to be anything less than cynical and bored.
That's probably why some of the Gamasutra commenters are uncomfortable about Bulletstorm. I could sit here and say "but Bulletstorm doesn't look stylish, it just looks gross and childish," but plenty of people felt that way about Bayonetta and I saw that as just a matter of taste; that mine was simply different from theirs.
So I see both sides, I guess. Most of all, I'm just bummed that this is a conversation we keep having, that big fancy new games are either so samey-same as to cause no ripple when they sink down quietly in the fast-moving river of this industry -- or controversial in the same old way, over and over again.
What's more boring -- an endless parade of man-child bloodbath games, or endless circular conversations about them?