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The Onion has been dead on with videogames (just as it is with everything else) since the fake news rag published the seminal: Videogame characters denounce randomly placed swinging blades
Their article about the Liberty City PD released right after GTA4’s release in 2008 was as sharp and witty of videogame satire ever produced.
I’ll hold off on recapping the articles, namely because if you don’t read the Onion: 1. you’re welcome; you can thank me for introducing it to you later. 2. You’re a nob if you don’t like it.
While they may release a parody article for God of War’s final chapter, I can think of no sentiment they produce, no fake byline, or opinion/commentary that captures GOW 3 than this piece they published a month ago.
The article is titled “If Only I’d Listened to Virtually Anyone,” and I cannot fathom any work, be it satiric, fictional, non fictional, even the canon of Shakespeare that is more apt for the plight of Kratos. He’s an outspoken, hard headed, sadistic, bloodthirsty asshole who will stop at nothing to achieve his goal. Everyone in the game— and from what I have gathered from reviews, forums, and friends—told Kratos to go the opposite direction of the path he takes in the game. Hephaestus pleads with our ash-covered anti-hero not to:
And, oh yeah, if the player decides to engage in the minigame with Aphrodite, Hephaestus asks if Kratos cuckolded him, Kratos responds with a non-committal…but you know the answer is yes: “Ask her yourself.” As pricks go, Kratos is of the top shelf variety. He’s the kind of shitheaded agro douche who I thought extinct after their last sighting as the bad guy in every 1980’s comedy.
Vincent (our site’s editor) and I have often talked about the narrative qualities of videogames on Digital High, the site’s podcast. We lament the fact that 98% of the time, the game has your avatar in the middle of good vs. evil scenario, where he/she (and let’s not kid ourselves 95% of the time it’s a he; even the latest Mario got rid of the princess for another Toad as a playable character) is the lone force who can stop the bad guy from taking over the world. Yeah, this is wonderfully fun and feeds into the Joseph Campbell hero of a thousand faces which every generation absorbs and recreates. Come videogames, I’m of the sentiment that this is an entirely masturbatory experience that turns the aspects of videogames that could be positive (preparation for battles, team building, trust, all Art of War / Tony Robbins stuff) into wish fulfillment, which, because it rewards small effort with huge results, is wholly a negative outcome.
In one of our brainstorming sessions, he or I joked that it would be interesting if a game presented the avatar as the bad guy; albeit the player was duped into thinking he was good. This wouldn’t be the case of the player taking the negative, renegade actions, like a Dark Jedi; this would be a setup where the gamer plays as a low level cog man, and all of his actions wind up preventing Luke Skywalker from blowing up the Death Star. Take the lack of true impetus that Bioshock came up with and add a sinister twist, and one would break new ground in videogame narrative—or at least mock the conventions off what seems to be an all to flimsy foundation.
So, if one follows my crazy alternative videogame plot hypothesis to its article related conclusion… God of War 3 feels like that game where the player’s path climaxes with the gamer being the direct cause the end of everything good; albeit unintentionally. Come the end of the game, nothing in the God of War universe is better. Humans, titans, and Gods alike are all worse off and the world, is literally in ruins (I use literally because Greece, as of 2010, has a collection of these ruins, and these myths are part of our literal history… oh fuck it, you make your own pun). At the end of this game, I felt directly responsible for enabling Kratos on his quest of blood lust; he was a worse person/demigod because of my actions. Simply put, what good came from this narrative?
The whole impetus of Kratos’s tale was three fucking games ago. That’s like mentioning that Voldemort killed Harry Potter’s parents in Book One and not bringing it up until the final battle in Deadly Hallows —even though the whole saga stars Voldie as the bad guy. There is no reminder of the reason of why Kratos is on his quest. Instead of a character fleshed out with character details and a history, the games protagonist is a self deemed “victim” who yells at everyone. Because of this it is Kratos comes off as unsympathetic and unlikable; which is never what one wants in a hero or anti-hero.
Something as simply as Zeus popping in during the midsection of the game and stealing one of Kratos’s weapons or reducing the player’s health bar, would have helped immensely. We would actually have a reason as a player to dislike and strive to topple the king of the gods. With out this, it’s merely Kratos’s loud, shouted opinion that Zeus sucks ass and needs to be killed. If this wasn’t a videogame and/or I didn’t see Kratos perform superhuman feats of agility, I’d wonder if he was sober, because I’ve heard a lot of sloshed idiots at bars sound like this when they are trying to pick fights.
GOW3 is incredibly “gamey” already, but this lack of motive really forefronts this is nothing more than a violence and puzzle machine, which kind of kills the atmosphere. The first 2 GOW’s were spectacularly immersive and they drew so much of this from the details of the story. Kratos went places because he needed a weapon, a box, to find an outcast… it is basic storytelling! In GOW3, it’s merely a world where Kratos moves from place to place so he can get to point B, which is revenge. Yes, that notion of point A to point B could be said of all books, movies, and games… but it’s a legitimate complaint when the basic backbone of story is so transparently bare.
If the full events of Kratos’s were to be converted into a modern tale, it would not be a Kill Bill style revenge epic. It would come off like a news story about a crazed father who lost his wife due to problems with the insurance companies, put a vendetta on the head of Kaiser Permanente, and then proceeded to kill every employee who ever worked at the company, even the janitors and receptionists.
To be fair, I am entirely ignoring the dopey, Meta ending 20 minutes of GOW3 where the creators try to paste a remorseful/happy ending on a orgy of revenge and bloodletting. It sucked; so I reserve the right to ignore any morality it attempted to post on the game.
The gameplay is awesome, and the presentation is transcendent in moments. The game has sections of grandeur (the fight with Cronos) that exemplify the unique possibilities that video games have over any other medium. Kratos’s dick persona is the square peg that prevents the whole package from fitting together.