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Leigh Davidson avatar 9:53 AM on 07.28.2013  (server time)
Ending The Citizen Kane of Video Games Debate (And Failing)

Iím going to go out on a limb here and say that I donít think most people who have a heavy investment in video games have even seen Citizen Kane.† I havenít seen Citizen Kane, so maybe Iím just projecting myself onto the gaming communityÖ but I have a sneaking suspicion that not many have actually seen it.
So how did we get to this place where Citizen Kane became such an important part of game culture?† Who cares about there being a Citizen Kane of Video Games?† I bet most of you donít even give a shit about that film.

The Citizen Kane of Citizen Kane.

But let us give it the benefit of the doubt.† Letís see what this Citizen Kane is all about and see why itís important.† Now, like I said earlier, I have not seen Citizen Kane, but I have read a few things about it; Iíve also had Media Studies students talk at me about it, so Iím informed enough to talk about it in a way that isnít complete bullshit, but itís definitely me winging it.† Though Iíd say Iím more informed than most that demand the Citizen Kane of Video Games.

So what did Citizen Kane do for cinema?† Itís mostly understood that it took the format of cinema and used its quirks for dramatic effect.† It wasnít just a filmed performance: lighting was used to obscure the faces of those performing and scenes were shot in abstract ways to assist telling the filmís story and characterising the, well, characters.† So Citizen Kane was one of the earlier and high profile films to use cinematic techniques to make you feel things and communicate ideas.

This is all cool and interesting and all, but games have pretty much always done this from the very beginning.

The thing with cinema is that it is a recording of an organic and Ďrealí thing, and then cinematic and editing techniques were then invented and applied afterwards.† And more techniques were discovered with time and experimentation.
But games were just techniques from the start.† You have artificial visuals and making a player feel a certain way has to be achieved by using these game techniques.† Letís take Donkey Kong: one thing it does it gives you a hammer to make you feel stronger, but when you get the hammer a different, faster song starts to play and your man flails it around quickly, destroying all the deadly barrels.† And you know it isnít going to last forever, probably because you see another hammer further up the stage, so tension is increased.

Donkey Kong, The Citizen Kane of Video Games?

This is one of the earliest games using gameplay techniques to get some emotion out of you.
So if games already kind of do what Citizen Kane does why are we - or whoever it is that bring this subject up - still not getting over this subject?

Is it Citizen Kaneís story?† I suppose we donít have many games about the rise and fall of a man; a story about having power and then losing it.† Itís a common story; itís one we see all the time in life and itís fairly well explored one in all mediums, though not so much in games.† I suppose the very nature of having a fall at the end doesnít suite games very well.† We want to win in a game, or at least be safe in the knowledge that we can win.† Perhaps video games will never be a good vehicle for that kind of story.
But heís another but; but, we have those Civilization games people like, and when things go wrong in those due to the decisions youíve made then you can get that experience.† Iíve had it while playing the multiplayer mode of Command & Conquer: Red Alert (while on my own against AI *sad face*) when everything just crumbled in front of me due to me not acting as I should have.

So, do people really want Citizen Kaneís story in a game?† I donít think so.† Itís a story frequently told and while it hasnít been told in games the result of one that did would just make it an interesting curio of a game, rather than, ironically, the mighty and actual: Citizen Kane of Video Games.

What is it?† What is it about this damn film that is so important to us?† Seriously?† Who the hell coined the phrase?† Who let the words ĎCitizen Kane of Video Gamesí bounce along their tongue and escape their mouth like a fat man in a hurry?† Why did they coin it?† To sound smart and cultured without having to actually think?

What does it even really mean?

Civilization, The Citizen Kane of Video Games. †Fact. †Just look at it.

Maybe Iím over-thinking it.† I saw a documentary about Woody Allen the other day which was just about him and his attitude to his work and his thought process and all that kind of stuff, and it got to the film Annie Hall.† It was a mature film that was a bit cleverer than and not as silly as his earlier stuff; more about drama and characters, and while watching I thought that it was a bit like Naughty Dog.† I thought that maybe The Last of Us is the Annie Hall of Video Games.† Why not, right?

So letís just put it to rest, simplify it and say Civilization is the Citizen Kane of Video Games.† Done.† Iíve not seen/played either of them.† Seems fitting.

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