Deluded illusions of mediocrity, my destiny is to become the ultimate amateur. Critiques no one asked for? I'll be there! Information no one cares about? I'll be there! Bias needing confirmation? I might be there if it's a Thursday afternoon and the traffic is clear.
For you see, Conan the Barbarian was wrong when he uttered what is best in life. The true answer is to play the vidija games, to discuss the vidija games, and to hear the lamentation of the women (while playing the vidija games).
I am frequently rambling in a rather inane manner on my site of web (www.gamertagged.net), so if you are bored and have nothing better to do while waiting for your white collar slave masters to crack the whip and demand you exit the premises, then do me a favor and give my stuff a read.
Because if you don't, I'll go on with life without knowing any better. And how terrible would THAT be?
Most good stories involve conflict. It presents an obstacle to the protagonists that is easy to understand, creates motivation for the characters, and provides a perfect physical manifestation of our hero's internal conflict. The easiest way to represent this conflict is through physical violence.
Why do we want our hero to defeat the villain? Well, the villain is out to harm the innocent for his own selfish gain. Oh, well, okay then. Bad guy is clearly a chungus and Hiro Protagonist is definitely our idealized savior we all strive to be. I'm on board with that!
Of course, there are other forms of conflict as well. In shitty ass romantic comedies, there will usually be some sort of misunderstanding between the Two Fucking Idiots[sup]TM[/sup] that results in conflict. Once that conflict resolves, they can resume being a pair of morons engaging in coitus together. Hurray!
In video games, however, it is rare for conflicts to manifest in a form other than violence. Conflict can be engaging for a player, and the easiest way to present the conflict is through violence. Combine this with how much easier it is to tell a story where the conflict is violence, and you have a medium built off of physically pummeling the opponent into submission.
It is a disturbing thought, especially when you begin to consider how many turtles and sentient fungi Mario manages to kill in a given adventure. Yet violence itself, as used in story-telling, is a mere tool. It is not inherently evil in a fictional setting. We're not drawn to the entertainment because we want to pretend to kill people, we're drawn to it because it is exciting. Having to duck and dodge fireballs, arrows, or bullets while knowing precisely when to toss the grenade, where to fire the hook shot, or when to jump gets the player's mind going. They're always thinking, always observing, and always looking for a new solution to the obstacle before them.
Tetris is a simplified version of all these ideas. What is the conflict? Pieces continue to fall from the sky, and you must get rid of them. How does one do this? By arranging the blocks in an uninterrupted line across the screen. The more rows you have stacked, the more will vanish. This conflict is only made more rich by providing the pavlovian temptation of a score system. How high in level can you get and how high of a score can you achieve? Now the player is striving to arrange those blocks in much more efficient patterns. All the while the blocks fall faster, making the obstacle more difficult to overcome. The player soon must sacrifice the high score chance for simple survival, a small reprieve from the pressure of blocks falling from the sky, buying at least one more additional row.
Tetris, however, has no narrative. While the "end" of the game results in a rocket taking off to the stars (or the White House), it was not the player's goal. The outcome is not representative of the mechanics.
Now let's examine Catherine, a puzzle game that throws a story into the mix. Each night protagonist Vincent has nightmares where he is forced to scale towers of blocks. As time progresses, row after row of blocks fall into the empty abyss below. Vincent must move the blocks so that he can continue to climb, but there are a variety of puzzles that threaten his life.
Vincent must climb the tower to survive, but he must also be careful to avoid all the deadly traps. Now we have a narrative explanation for the mechanics of failure. The inability to solve a puzzle results in a fail state, a fail state represented in the story as the death of our not-quite-plucky protagonist.
Characters can die in Catherine, yet when people say things like "violent video game" I highly doubt it is one of the titles that comes to mind. Why? Well, simple. There's a lot more going on than just the puzzles. Vincent is also going to the bar with his friends every night. He's interacting with fellow patrons. He is drinking more than he probably ought to be. He is also gripped by indecision. Does he want to stay with his girlfriend Katherine and get married? Or does he want to continue living a free, laid-back life with the much less ambitious Catherine?
The mechanics, the climbing of the tower, are meant to be representations of Vincent's internal struggles. The nightmares are forcing him to confront a lot of his inner fears and determine what course of action he should take. While the gameplay mechanics and story seem completely separated at first, the two are actually linked together in symbolic ways.
So while there is a good deal of violence in Catherine, it doesn't come off as violent.
The issue with violence is that a lot of games are gratuitously violent, even when trying to attach meaning. This is a lot of what Spec Ops: The Line was trying to tackle. These Call of Duty games cannot treat war as a serious subject when the violent scenarios they portray are depicted in such a ludicrous, glorified manner. In Spec Ops: The Line, the violence is used to drive the point home. In Call of Duty, the violence is the entire reason for being.
The recently released Bioshock: Infinite also happens to link violence with the narrative, but it seems to have been in a much more subtle manner. Many players and critics have been noting how the game almost feels like it should be an RPG instead, that the violent shooting and melee mechanics just clash with the tone.
I'd argue this is intentional. Booker DeWitt is an outsider. He does not belong in Columbia for many reasons, one of them involving the twist at the end. He is a foreign element in this wonderful, colorful, blissfully ignorant city in the clouds.
His mere presence results in a sky hook to the eye.
It is almost foreshadowing the events to come. Booker's first real interaction with the denizens of Columbia ends in blood and bodies littering the celebration. Over time, his presence gives fuel and fire to a revolution that tears the city apart.
This is all core to who Booker DeWitt is. He's a flawed human being with blood on his hands. It would not wash away in water, and try as he might he cannot find redemption with a gun in his hand. Yet fighting and dying is all he knows. He tries to fight for something righteous, but it all ends in death.
Then there's Elizabeth. Introduced as a Disney Princess (quite literally), this young, idealistic woman follows Booker as a form of savior...and is then appalled when she witnesses him fighting and killing other men. "Monster!" she cries.
Yes, Booker is a monster. Elizabeth, however, is not...yet. And this, I believe, is one of the core themes of Bioshock: Infinite. As the game progresses, Elizabeth becomes more and more accustomed to the violence surrounding her. The clothes on her person change with her, becoming less the young, innocent girl locked in a tower and more a powerful, decisive woman...capable of horrifying things.
The violence is shocking at first, yes. I, too, was stunned at seeing a man get a hook to his eye, or shoving the whirling blades into another man's jugular. It seemed out of place, like it was intended for a much more juvenile game.
Yet the shock and surprise, the discomfort, it's the point. Over time the player adjusts to it as well, just as Elizabeth does, as Booker already has. The shock and surprise is the entire point.
It's just one of many tricks Ken Levine pulls in Infinite. He's a man that likes to take gameplay mechanics and twist them around in a narrative manner. As a result, the violence is given purpose. It is a tool, and it is a tool well used.
We should not jump to the conclusion that violence in video games is inherently bad, or that we have too much of it. While it is true that there are far fewer creative types of game than need be, there are still plenty of games like Harvest Moon, or Animal Crossing, or Cooking Mama. Not all games are violent.
Video Games. They're violent.
Yet if a game does make use of violent mechanics and design, we should not automatically reduce its value. Otherwise games like Catherine, 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors, Phoenix Wright, and yes, even Bioshock: Infinite would not be as valuable to our medium as they are.
Instead of seeing a man take a sky hook to the eye and thinking "That's horrifying, it shouldn't even be there", try considering why it was put there in the first place. The answer you find could be surprisingly enlightening.
I'm not really bothered by Microsoft's press conference. Sure, I've tossed my fair share of snark onto Twitter as anyone else has. That's what it's there for, right? That and retweeting everything George Takei says.
Thing is, I got exactly what I was expecting. In fact, I got more than I could have bargained for. Microsoft has been using the Xbox 360 as a testing ground for all of their upcoming projects, and in the end their new interface was just a beta for the Xbox One (which I shall simply refer to as the XOne, and imagine it capable of transforming into some sort of murderous death drone because that's what a name like XOne brings to mind). All that television talk? The logical next step. ESPN and Sports? Business as usual. Call of Duty DLC lands on Xbox first? Spoilers, Jesus dies.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't care about it, though. I'm an enthusiast. Of course I care. I want a gaming machine to be targeted my way first and foremost. I want Microsoft to care about me, and to cater to my wants and desires.
But I'd also be lying if I said I believed I'm their target demographic anymore. Hell, I'm surprised they're even bothering with E3. I really don't think the show has any sort of mainstream appeal, unless maybe the local news stations are trying to explain why the roads are more clogged than usual to the average commuter.
So who is Microsoft's primary target? I really don't know. I don't think it's mom and dad, because they aren't going to be watching the announcement. I don't think it's your typical tech-head, because they already have a Roku box for half the price (assuming they even use such a device at all instead of just ad-hocing their computer into a media server bursting with pirated media across their entire home). Maybe it's the typical eSport energy drink chugging Family Guy loving "bro-gamer" (even though there are a surprising number of females in this category, so that term isn't quite accurate), but I'm even skeptical of that.
Almost twenty years ago these guys were telling me Mortal Kombat was the bomb in Phantoms and that Final Fantasy VI was crap.
I think Microsoft's target demographic is a nebulous, undefined thing that they just imagine is "the consumer". This is why information on used games and always-on is so ill-defined at the moment. They are targeting everyone but the enthusiasts, because all of those other consumers don't ask questions like "If you have to connect to the Internet once a day, then is it really any different from always-on?" They just read the bullets on the box and say "sounds good!", without truly considering why those bulleted points are specifically written to seem better than the competition.
What really bothers me is that this is the typical attitude towards demographics in general in this industry. Big time business men are targeting the 18-35 white male demographic because they believe that to be the typical consumer.
Okay, the 13-35 white male, because no one is so naive as to believe companies aren't counting on little Timmy's parents buying him the latest Grand Theft Auto despite the M rating.
But let's assume 18-35 is still accurate. Have you ever really thought about that age gap? How absolutely huge it is?
To illustrate what I mean, I was kind of a jack ass when I was eighteen. Sure, there were some things about me that haven't changed. I loved Metroid, I was fascinated by games with great mechanics, and I was a greater fan of single-player and co-op experiences than competitive multiplayer. However, I was also convinced that Japan was a backwards country that was falling behind in the realm of good game design. I played very few Japanese made games at this point, was getting sick of anime, and even said a couple of harsh things that caused permanent harm to what could have been a really awesome friendship.
Ten years later, at the age of 28, I wish the Western gaming industry would learn something from Japan. I wish more Western RPG's would play like Dragon's Dogma instead of Skyrim or Dragon Age. I wish we could have the sheer variety of characters and settings that you see in Japanese games. Hell, playing 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors has me wondering what it would be like if a Japanese developer made a game like Telltale's The Walking Dead.
I'm pretty sure I prayed to God for this game when I was six years old. Meanwhile, Bethesda continues to recycle Morrowind's mocap and A.I.
In other words, what I want to play at the age of 28 is not necessarily the same as what I played at the age of 18.
So why is the gaming industry lumping me into a single demographic category as if I haven't changed at all?
It's astounding to me. The games industry continues to employ marketing teams that have absolutely no clue what they're doing. I mean, that's the only explanation, right? The games industry hasn't truly expanded to mainstream levels, and it probably never will. Games aren't a passive medium. You can't sit down and just enjoy a show of pictures go by like with television and film. It requires input, and it thus requires the user to learn a set of rules, guidelines, and instructions.
That's simply too much work for most mainstream audiences. Video games on their own will never be as popular as those other mediums, because the interactive nature many of us love will never catch on.
Pictured: Apparently, the 18-35 white male demographic
Thus Microsoft is trying to cater to a different audience, cast a net in a different part of the sea. The problem is, does that audience want to pay a minimum of $400 for a device that they have to literally tell to switch to television? Or are they fine with just their television?
If I were Microsoft, I'd be hoping I hired a really, really good marketing team to convince the masses that, yes, they do need to spend $400 on a pointless, bloated, consumer-hating piece of technology.
In the past I've mentioned some of my history as a wannabe games writer. Once upon a time I thought I was good at it, that I could easily beat out other games writers, and that I would surely be some big name writer by time I turn 30.
Well, next month I turn 28 and, while that still leaves two years for one of my many dreams to come true, it's still no closer to being a reality than when I was 21. The only real change is that now I'm spending most of my day sitting in a cubicle, copy-and-pasting predetermined content into a bunch of text fields and calling it "web development".
Okay, that's a lie. I don't even have a cubicle. I have a shelf.
One day upon my Twitter feed I see [s]VentureBeat [/s]GamesBeat link to this little community article. Trevor Osz reflects on how he started gaming, how he got his job at GameStop, and how he was the font of gaming facts and knowledge amongst his friends. Now, he has chosen to venture forth on that narrow yet crowded path. He yearns to be a games writer.
All I could think while reading was, "Why?"
No, really, why? Why do you want to write about games?
This was a realization that I forced myself to confront four years ago, after I graduated from College and was confronted with unemployment. I tried to join a number of game journalism social networks, all populated by wannabes and hopefuls while very few in the industry contributed. In fact, I'd say the top reason I know the name Ben Kuchera is because he was one of the few that would participate. He was brutally honest, and I appreciated that from him.
Yet when I looked upon all of these other wannabe writers, I noticed that a lot of them weren't...well, good. In addition, whenever asked why they wanted to write, they justified their desire with how long they have played games for, or how often.
Just because you like games doesn't mean you should be writing about them. More so, just because "anyone can write", doesn't mean you can write well. It's like the end of that film Ratatouille, where the critic Anton Ego realizes what Gusteau really meant by the title of his book "Anyone Can Cook". It's not necessarily saying that anyone can cook well, but a great, exceptional cook can come from anywhere.
The same is true of writing. It is something everyone is capable of at a base level, but to be an exceptional writer...that is something different.
Though the cold reality is that a lot of professional writers out there aren't necessarily very talented, either. Or perhaps they are intentionally edited down to be very factual and simple, just as most newspapers are written at a low comprehension level so they can appeal to as wide an audience as possible. That's also where games writing becomes even more complicated.
Okay, so let's say you actually do love writing. You've reflected back on your life and realized that you've always been writing, and if video games did not exist you'd just be finding something else to write about. This is the conclusion I came to, as the first thing I ever did with a computer was open Microsoft Word and try writing my own books. This habit still hasn't died, as on occasion I'll try my hand at writing a story. So yes, I want to write.
Now let's focus on video games. How do I want to write about video games? Well, that's the tricky part. In truth, I think the state of games writing is in a flux. I spoke with the late Bill Kunkel once about the industry, and one of the things he had lamented was that game reviews were an entry-level angle of writing. This seemed strange to me, but in some ways it makes sense. Give the new guy the terrible shovel-ware so the top writers can have the "quality" content. Yet you still have the same people writing reviews as you have churning out press releases. Is this right? Is the ability to find a story relevant when it comes to discussing the merits and flaws of a game? Do we want critics, or do we want consumer advice?
Then there are the increasing amounts of op/ed pieces on the Internet, focusing on a writer's thoughts on a subject. Who should be allowed to write these? What authority do these opinions come from?
It is a reality I've had to face. I've come to the realization that there are certain aspects of games writing that I don't want to do. I'm not interested in the "journalism" aspect. I don't care to find out about what sort of DLC packs this game will have, or shmoozing up to a PR representative in hopes for an exclusive set of screenshots. I don't want to write previews, which are not supposed to be critiques but feature and expectation lists. I want to critique a game, and if it is incomplete I want to give my honest feedback.
Oh look, an image that has something to do with video games
I want to be a games critic. I want to build a career akin to Roger Ebert's in film. I want to analyze and dissect what makes these games work.
The problem is, does anyone want this sort of thing? Sure, a few people managed to build a real career out of it. Yahtzee Croshaw is probably our first real recognizable games writer known for nothing more than his critiques, though he had to package them up with a crude sense of humor. Jim Sterling can also be viewed as a critic at this point as well.
Yet what I end up looking to are the many critics on YouTube. Long-form analysis such as Tasteful, Understated Nerd Rage, Errant Signal, or Matthew Matosis. Just as there was a New Wave of British Heavy Metal, perhaps there's a new wave of games criticism coming. I would truly like to be a part of that wave.
But in the end, I'm going to do it by doing what I'd be doing anyway. I'm going to continue writing about games, and I'm going to do my own video series. I've updated it here a few times, but in truth I'm only doing Ramble Pak 64 because I enjoy it. I like writing it, I like capturing the video footage, and I like editing the video together.
I don't like the audio portion of it, but what can you do. At least 3/4ths of the process is enjoyable.
That, my friends, is the secret, though. It's not about getting into an industry or making a career of it. It's about doing what you're doing. Even if you have some shitty 9 to 5 job pummeling the soul out of you day after day, draining you of the energy, making you lethargic to all things, try and find some time to do what you love.
Writing about games should have no greater goal for you than to have fun doing it. While there may always be that dream, and while it's good to at least put forth an effort such as pitching article ideas to various sites, you should not start writing because you decide to be a games journalist or writer. You should become a games journalist or writer because you love writing.
Which brings me back to Trevor Osz and his article on GamesBeat. I cannot help but sigh, both wistfully and exasperatingly.
Man, a lot and yet nothing at all has happened since I last posted here in April. Let me see if I can summarize.
Personal life stuff happened that got me a bit down in the dumps. I discovered some amazing all-female Japanese symphonic metal bands, which kick-started what I like to call "Total Weaboo Mode" in which I started to watch a crap-ton of live-action Japanese film and television. If your interest in Japan extends beyond anime and Japanese role-playing games, then I would recommend checking out the films Shall We Dance? and Departures on Netflix Instant. Note that I specifically mean the original Japanese Shall We Dance? from 1996 or so. In terms of television, you can't go wrong with Densha Otoko, Akihabara@Deep, or Dekichatta Kekkon. Maybe I'll discuss these films/shows in future blogs in greater detail.
Akihabara@Deep is a seriously fun show. Check it out.
On the gaming front, things have been moving slowly. Despite a huge pile of unplayed or incomplete games, I went back and pumped several more hours into Castle Crashers. Ended up leveling an all-melee Peasant character into bad assery and completed all the game's arenas with him. While I recall wondering how that game spent so long in development when I first played, the fact that I could have such an incredible time replaying really stands as a testament to all the effort they put in. At some point, I'll be grabbing a copy of Battleblock Theater.
Other than that, slowly progressing through Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon on the 3DS. It's a great game, but it fails to really have any hooks in me. It's more a game that I really enjoy when I get to playing it, but for some reason I'm never really drawn back to it. This doesn't happen as often as when I was younger, truth told. Now, however, I've started Bioshock Infinite, and I sit here at work typing this up thinking "Man, if only I was back home playing Infinite".
Behold, bad assery is happening
I'll have more to say on that game in the future as well. Short summary: liking it a lot, but there are some ways you can just tell they focus tested the game a little too much with the assumed mainstream crowd. I'll discuss it in more depth on my series RamblePak 64.
Which is where I'll end this brief update. See, one of the other things keeping me busy was my huge and, for me at least, disappointing analysis of Aliens: Colonial Marines. I was so excited for it, but the sheer length and the many flaws with the show's script just has me feeling like it was all a bunch of wasted effort.
Fortunately I also made a much shorter one about Iron Man 3's use of The Mandarin.
I share both with you guys in hopes that you'll find redeeming qualities. Putting these videos together is a lot of hard work, and has only reinforced the knowledge that it takes a lot of effort even to make a shitty product. I hope you'll indulge me and watch at least the Mandarin one (seeing as the Aliens one is so friggin' long), and next time I come around blogging, I'll have something more substantial and exclusive to Destructoid.
When I first came home from PAX East 2011, I described it as a taste of what Heaven must be like. If that was a mere taste, then this year was an entire spoon full.
The previous two years I tried to do and see as much as possible, darting between panels and the Expo Floor trying to miss as little as I could. This year I tried a different approach. I instead chose to focus on the Expo Hall, concerts, board games and social gatherings while ignoring the panels and some other activities.
As a result, I had the best PAX ever. I did not have a chance to meet with any members of the Destructoid community outside of a quick run-in with Hamza and whoever was wearing The Helmet(TM), but I did manage to spend much time with my friends over at GamersWithJobs (I'm sorry, Destructoid, you know I love you, but no one shall have my heart like GamersWithJobs).
Between games of The Wonderful 101, Mercenary Kings, The Last of Us, Remember Me and more, the Curse party where I discovered I like dance music as long as I'm shit-faced enough, and a variety of board and card games I got to try with friends, I also got to experience the concerts. Seeing Those Who Fight and The Protomen with old friends from College and new allies in meat space, head banging together, jumping and throwing the horns, it's a wonderful experience. Some might describe it as spiritual, as a collective group experiences the same chemical-flooded brain haze at the same time, bonding in a hot and sweaty chamber of hard rock and metal.
It is epic.
The GamersWithJobs 3DS Advocates at PAX East
I thought I was fortunate that The Protomen would be playing near my town a week later. Sadly, none of my friends were able to go that night, but I figured "what the Hell, it'll be like reliving PAX all over again". My Post-PAX Depression would be soothed ever so slightly while others continued to wallow in the reality that is the non-PAX world.
What a fool I was to believe that atmosphere would carry over. Throughout the night I approached people that looked fun, interesting, those who felt like they'd know the secret knock, a sort of password that could take the form of Live Long and Prosper, or the Wilhelm Scream, or some other small piece of nerd culture.
"Hey, have you heard the opening act before?" "You get to check out The Protomen at PAX?" "You get to see them play with Powerglove last year?"
I asked all of these questions to a variety of folks, hoping to get some sort of reaction. Some sort of response that would start a friendly conversation. The advantage here was that everyone would be reasonably local! Our friendship, our bond, didn't have to end after the concert, but could continue for weekends after. Theoretically.
In actuality, I was met with short, curt, "no" responses before they physically shifted their bodies in an effort to shut me out. A complete disinterest in speaking with me. After an hour of trying to speak to people, I finally settled onto the main floor, waiting the concert to begin. Alone.
Instantly my mind went to the week before, standing beside friends new and old, banging my head, throwing the horns, singing along (as best as I could hear myself) with the music. Now, I would be left to bang my head and throw the horns alone.
I left the concert and hung out with my other friends. Thirteen dollars spent be damned, I was not going to tarnish my more recent, joyful, exuberant memory of the concert with a lonely one.
PAX isn't about the games. It isn't about the panels. It isn't about the industry members you get to briefly shake hands with. It's about the conversations you get to have.
True, there are some total ass maggots at the Expo, too. As hard as we try we shall never recreate Eden on Earth. I overheard a guy discussing the first two Bioshock games, trying to recall who developed the second. "2K Marin," I pipe up. "A number of previous Irrational developers split off and formed a new studio." The guy shrugs, "Yeah whatevers", and continues to ignore me. Asshole. Other folks were willing to shove people in the Expo Hall, or to stand around obliviously blocking the path of others, or potentially even cut in line.
Yet these folks are not the majority. The majority of folks are willing to take part in a communal joke, tossing about beach balls while waiting for the expo to open up, willing to step up and ask "Hey, what board game is that?", willing to hold your camera to take a random photo, to get into an hour-long conversation about the entire Halo franchise.
Or perhaps the highlight, a discussion with a nineteen year old boy in line for a copy of Luigi's Mansion. Now, my recent interactions with this demographic have left me jaded. I have debated with those that would call Activision a good company, who expect more games to be like Call of Duty, who feel Treyarch did a much better job than Infinity Ward because of minute changes to the multiplayer. Those who dismissed innovative titles because they weren't familiar enough, and could care less for story or single-player campaigns. The sort of demographic that feels like it is ruining this industry, all aged sixteen to twenty-one.
Yet this nineteen year old heard I had a physical cartridge of Earthbound still and his enthusiastic jealousy made me smile. He missed Earthbound when it was new, and only heard of it when playing Super Smash Bros. at the age of six. Yet here he was, wishing they'd release Mother 3 in America, just like an old twenty-seven year old fogey like me.
It really hit home for me what PAX was about. It wasn't just about the games, the panels, or the "community". It's the celebration and passion. All the people that are there not only for the games, but to experience it with others. Willing to say hello to a stranger and strike up a conversation because, hey, why the Hell not?
It is this little slice of Heaven that I don't think I'll be able to recapture outside of an Expo.
Fortunately, TooManyGames and Escapist Expo are just around the corner. Who knows? Maybe I'll finally get a chance to meet some DToiders at those events.
(Sorry for the shoddy quality of this blog. I didn't get a chance to clean it up and just wanted to put something up here. Been feeling a bit of lack-of-contributing-guilt. Hopefully it makes for a decent read anyway).
Amongst the many problems both Aliens: Colonial Marines and Resident Evil 6 run into, remaining tied to some nebulous and evil corporation is the shared crime that I am so sick of being committed.
In terms of Colonial Marines, part of it is because I'm just not as much a fan of Aliens. As in, the second film. Don't get me wrong, I love all three. I watched James Cameron's influential take first like most my age, and I bought the trilogy on Blu-Ray even though I already owned them all on DVD. In truth, I only did as much for the uncensored Wreckage and Rage Alien 3 documentary.
For some reason they kept putting in this crappy fan film written by Joss Whedon, too.
Don't get me wrong, Aliens is good. But James Cameron is no David Fincher or Ridley Scott, who made films that are, to me at least, infinitely more interesting to watch. James Cameron is good when you want an action film that goes above and beyond the call of duty. James is actually trying to say something with how conceited the marines behave, how inept the armchair lieutenant is, and how easily they all get their asses kicked by the xenomorph threat. It's inspired by Vietnam and how we didn't know what we were getting into when we dropped our soldiers into that territory. There's the whole maternal instinct thing going on as well, but that's been analyzed to Hell and back. The thing is, this stuff is only so interesting each time you see it.
Contrast this to the original Alien, or for me, Alien 3. I know, I know, everyone hates Alien 3 because it was ORIGINALLY supposed to have Hicks fighting the xenomorphs on Earth, and instead they killed Hicks AND Newt which made the end of Aliens pointless! Alien 3 as a whole totally sucks now!
...only it doesn't. In fact, I'd argue that an Aliens flick that tries to be bigger and badder than James Cameron's Aliens is bound to be worse and less interesting, or at the very least not as fulfilling. People have these large expectations of these huge epics, but something is always going to have to give. Either you won't have interesting characters, or you won't have as many big, satisfying conflicts as you'd want to see. If you go back and rewatch Aliens, the xenomorphs themselves are hardly in the film at all. The movie is much more interested in Ripley, and the story that is told, while interesting, is only as deep as James Cameron is capable of.
In fact, I suppose I could make a joke about him searching for depth under water or something. He does love water.
You know what you get when you focus on things being bigger and badder? Resident Evil 6. In fact, you get the Resident Evil series as a whole. My favorite two games in the series are REmake and Resident Evil 4, and mostly because they have nothing to do with the rest of the series (aside from Leon S. Kennedy).
I don't know how much REmake added, but it was my very first experience with the franchise. I absolutely loved it. I loved the feel of the mansion. I loved the story behind it. I loved Umbrella's isolated, secret facility dedicated to developing a biological weapon that inevitably goes wrong. It also makes sense that a company doing dirty dealings would try to hide their activities, and it makes sense that an employee might decided to sabotage it and then sell all the materials they could muster on the black market.
On its own, REmake works as well as such a story could work. Unfortunately, things had to keep getting bigger... and bigger... and bigger.
It turns out Umbrella owned half of Raccoon City, or close enough. They have even MORE laboratories under the city and are making strains of a virus that they hadn't even perfected yet. I mean, think about it. This company didn't even sell any of these biological weapons before paying big bucks to stick a lab under a city to make more. What's the payoff? What sort of company would pay so much into something that evidently had incidents when they first built the lab, and ran into another one later?
Then it turns out there was some secret base located in what, Antarctica? I never got to play Code Veronica, but I remember it was yet another location. Then there was evidently research going on in Africa. That's an awful lot of bioweapons to be making for...who? Who exactly was buying all of these bioweapons? They never even showed up until 1998 in Raccoon City.
Now there's a whole Neo-Umbrella, and they're...what? A terrorist group? Wasn't Umbrella supposed to be a pharmaceutical company that also expanded into military technology and a variety of other markets? Weren't they supposed to be one giant company that screwed up big and was dismantled after Raccoon City?
By Resident Evil 2, Umbrella was a stupid company. By Resident Evil 6, they were impossibly moronic and it is amazing they even remained in business as long as they did. Capcom forgot they were creating a company that got into some nefarious business and instead made them some nebulously evil thing without any purpose but to create monsters with no return on investments. Talk about a money sink. I'm sure the board of shareholders would have had a lot of faith in that.
The same could easily happen to Weyland-Yutani, and in terms of the video game universe it already has. In the films, the Alien is a curiosity to the company. It seems like something that could be researched and weaponized. It also seems like this is a future where no one has ever encountered alien life, meaning their goals may not be to weaponize the creature. In the first film Ash expresses fascination with it, stating he "admires its purity". However, they didn't spend a lot of money in terms of trying to get it. Crew was expendable, and I'm certain the plan was for Ash to kill the crew and bring the creature back to the Company. It was a minor footnote in the story as a whole to emphasize the "space truckers" concept. These people were expendable. Their only purpose was to carry materials from one location to the next.
"You have my sympathies."
In Aliens, Weyland-Yutani happened to be Terraforming this world. Was the terraforming intentional? Did they know LV-426 was the planet Ripley and company had explored and intentionally set up a colony there? Perhaps, but a colony could work in terms of long-term profit and could have personnel much more fitting for researching xenomorphs than a crew of space truckers. If a colony on LV-426 was just coincidental, then Burke going down with the Colonial Marines could make sense. He's there to assess whether the terraforming facility can be recovered and to make sure it can. As he states, it has a substantial dollar value attached.
We can still believe Weyland Yutani would have Burke ferry the aliens any way he could. The facehuggers were there. He could have two people impregnated and carried home. Then Weyland Yutani could research the creatures.
This theme is still carried through in Alien 3, where they want to get that damn Alien. "Ripley, think of all we can learn from it!" Evil Bishop exclaims. The assumption is that Weyland Yutani is an evil corporation, but it is more that the ends justify the means. Especially since LV-426 was destroyed. For all they know, this is their last chance at studying this creature, learning about its physiology, its evolution. They're desperate to keep this thing alive, which is why Ripley becomes such a high priority.
Weyland Yutani is a sort of evil you can believe. They clearly have operations beyond just trying to get this Alien, and their efforts to retrieve it are rather minor in comparison.
Until Aliens: Colonial Marines. All of a sudden Weyland Yutani has their own army to send down in addition to scientists, all of which have no problem killing other humans in order to study these dangerous creatures. If Ripley and Newt had been impregnated, or the crew of the Nostromo had been killed by an android, then there would be a handful of people with knowledge of the truth. Only a handful, and you could keep everything else a secret.
This? This is an operation bound to result in conflict. There's no way Weyland-Yutani has that many loyal employees, especially when the Colonial Marines are shooting them up and Xenomorphs are loose all over the place. It makes absolutely no sense.
Weyland Yutani has become Umbrella.
Now, there are a lot more issues with both games than just the stupidity of these corporations, but they both could be improved if writers could just learn to give up certain iconic elements. You don't need Weyland-Yutani to make an Aliens story, and they shouldn't be as largely emphasized as they continue to be. Umbrella should have been done with after Resident Evil 3. Abandon these elements, and create something new with the base necessary elements. Xenomorphs, monsters, and isolation.