In his 1988 HBO special What Am I Doing in New Jersey?, George Carlin recited a list of people he could do without, which included such carbon-based irritants as “guys in their 50s named Skip,” and “anyone who mentions Jesus more than 300 times in a two-minute conversation.” It wasn’t as timeless or as well-known as his other famous list, but it struck a particularly resonant chord with me because I’m about as much of a people person in life as George was in his act — yeah, I’ve got a few lists of my own, and chances are you’re on one of them, but that’s another post entirely.
After reviewing Carlin’s list of humanity’s most marginally acceptable specimens, I discovered that I had a slew of similar lists making the rounds in my head, ranging in subjects from “Laundry Detergents I Can Do Without,” to “Vegetables I Can Do Without,” to “Supreme Court Justices I Can Do Without.” However, for the sake of brevity and focus, I’ve decided to limit today’s rant to gaming-related topics. This list is by no means comprehensive, but it’s a good start towards making the world a better place, taking a stand, paying forward, and being the whatchamacallit that you want to whatever.
Company of Zeroes — At first I was going to do an entire article about game publishers that could disappear from the surface of the planet tomorrow and leave the joint better for it. Then I realized that there are hundreds — if not thousands — of regular Bobs and Bettys who are employed by these companies, and just as every man’s death diminishes me, so it is with every man’s unemployment; sooner or later the surfeit of recently discharged studio directors and texture artists would lead to a tax hike to fund their unemployment benefits, and who needs that? I decided to take a narrower approach.
When I say that Electronic Arts could disappear tomorrow, and that the cosmic void left in its passing could be easily filled by a dyspeptic garden slug and a moustache comb, rest assured that I do not take others’ employment lightly. For a moment let’s just assume that everyone left in the lurch by EA’s ethereal demise found other jobs, better jobs, jobs in which they’re treated humanely and receive handsome, paradigm-shifting benefit packages that include good pay, medical, dental, and — god forbid — days off.
Now that the Roberts and Elizabeths of EA are safely out of the way (which still leaves plenty of Dicks), it’s okay to admit that I wouldn’t lose a single wink of sleep over Electronic Arts’ doors slamming shut with a resounding clangor. (Please, if you wink while you sleep, get that shit looked at, ’cause…eww.) Electronic Arts is a good example of what happens to “art” when it’s created with one eye on the wallet, and two eyes on the employees to make sure they don’t leave before 10:00 p.m.
EA doesn’t make games, they create franchises, the process for which can be summed up succinctly: find any title that sells even moderately well (1-2 million copies), make a sequel, then proceed to pound it the fuck into the ground until the words Dead Space and Army of Two are no longer legible on the box. The single multi-game exception in their library is the Mass Effect series, which EA didn’t create; they acquired it when they bought BioWare in 2008. Case rested.
Third-party controllers — I’ve used a handful of decent third-party controllers, but the majority of them are crap. In the sixth generation of consoles, the words Mad Catz and Pelican were synonymous with “save money now, throw it away later,” as no company could make a button that didn’t stick after two weeks or a rumble motor that didn’t stop rumbling after a month. Things have gotten slightly better with this generation, but even Razer — known for making top-notch PC peripherals — can’t seem to make a controller that lasts longer than a pack of Doublemint. I’ve wrestled with three of the aforementioned Razer controllers, and while they’re very well designed, the build quality and durability are horrible. Even if you’re on a tight budget, always go with first-party peripherals when available; you’ll actually save money in the long run.
Mash Effect — I know I’ve bitched about this before, but having to pound on a button to perform a single action is usually a good indication that I’m going to stop playing a game long before I reach the end. The short of it is that my thumb only has so many presses in it before it realizes that it’s doing an inordinate amount of the work, while my brain — in the protracted span of cumulative button mashing — realizes that it’s not doing enough, and begins to search for other things that it might enjoy. Like knitting. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Microsoft — Long before the Xbox One debacle and Microsoft’s subsequent capitulation on used games restrictions and the daily check-in online requirement, I’d begun to sour on the whole Xbox experience. Between long boot times and the constant bombardment of advertising on the Xbox 360, I naturally gravitated towards more user-friendly platforms, like the PlayStation 3 and the Wii U; pretty soon I realized that it had been almost three weeks since I’d turned on my 360. I frequently go just as long between gaming sessions on my PC, and now I’m looking at the next generation Xbox and issuing a hale and hearty meh. It’s good that they caved, but the things that make them them are still around. I’ll pass, thanks.
Cutscenes — Yeah, they have their place in storytelling, I suppose, but that place isn’t when I’m walking across the Chamber of Kaal to find the Magical Whatsit for the high council of Gibnaark before the evil Skaag minions arrive and kick my aass. Cutscenes — if you must include them, and I bid you mustn’t — should only be used at a natural break in the action, a point at which I might actually want to stop playing for a while as ream upon ream of poorly written dialog and frame after frame of Levitra-stiff acting assault my tender head holes. I just finished playing Mass Effect 3, which was well-written, but it certainly wasn’t the animation that brought the characters to life; it was the voice work by Jennifer Hale, Mark Meer, Keith David, Seth Green, and Lance Henriksen, among many others. I think the animation in Mass Effect 3 was as good as it possibly could have been, but that’s irrelevant; it’ll never be good enough to make me want to relinquish control of a supposedly interactive experience, turning me for minutes at a time into no more than a passive passenger on someone else’s journey.
In writing this I discovered that there’s no shortage of stuff that I can do without, so watch for this list to expand in the near future.