In the Brainholes: ‘Django,’ Games That Hate You


It’s Friday. Here’s what’s been going on:

Django Unchained. I rather liked it, having seen it twice. I’m something of an up-and-down Tarantino fan, depending on the project, the gore level, whether I’m 14 at the time of viewing (Pulp Fiction is as good as I remember, right?), but Django I enjoyed — maybe because seeing smiling smug-ass racists get attacked by a million suicidal squib packets’ time has come.

What’s interesting about this to me is that I really dislike Inglourious Basterds, which is, really, pretty much the same movie in a lot of meaningful respects. I’ve been thinking about it, and two reasons come to mind: 1. I’ve been offing imaginary Nazis and making them pay for their colossal douchebaggery since I was about 10 years old, thanks to video games. So for me, there’s little additional catharsis in seeing characters giving the Nazis what they have coming to them, necessarily, without greater context. Seeing a character get comeuppance is one thing, but bashing soldiers without any antecedents is something else. 2. Directly related to 1: Most of the Nazis in Basterds who suffer for what they’ve (probably) done are just soldiers, and watching it, I wondered how many of them had just volunteered for service or worse, were conscripts. It’s not Auschwitz guards being targeted, it’s Private Fritz Rando. It’s a minor detail, but it hampered my enjoyment of the movie.

In Django, however, everybody who gets theirs definitely deserves it, except for a few instances of innocents catching crossfire or dying tragically. For all the other issues with the movie, the black-and-white morality is that good guys win and bad guys lose. Painfully. In the groin a few times. It’s easier for me to get to the deeper parts of the movie with that barrier removed, but that’s just to compare both movies to one another.

Games hate you for some reason. Among the games in 2012 noted to be the most influential among the writers and contemporaries I’m interested in the field were Spec Ops: The Line and Far Cry 3. And I think it’s notable and more than a little telling that both games portray a message that’s distinctly negative about the player.

Spec Ops has you shoot a bunch of guys — you literally can do nothing else — and then basically and repeatedly calls you a monster. Apparently, in order to avoid being judged by a piece of entertainment, I should have thrown my computer out the window. Far Cry 3 wants to ask you why you like shooting guys and skinning animals and driving off cliffs and hangliding and having magic powers and being the white savior to native people and blowing stuff up, and then it pretty much calls you a human joke man-child when you finish it. Both games have been hailed by at least a few people for their messages.

Gamers tend to be something of a self-loathing lot, but I’m surprised that such a shallow message would get such widespread acclaim. Spec Ops duct tapes a gun in your hand and throws truckloads of guys at you and they all try to kill you. You can’t progress until you kill seriously everyone. And then the game asks you why you’re such a violent jerk who enjoys killing. Far Cry 3 does something similar, but undermines its whole message by throwing the same faceless pirate clown clone at you over and over again. It more or less undermines whatever comment you want to make about me and culture at large when the construct of your comment forces the behavior you want to rail against. Or something.

That’s about it for today. Hoping to have a new horror script done before too long. Watching some Alien for inspiration in the meantime.

    Published by Phil

    He's like, you know, the guy.

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