And on which note... let's talk about the TV show Westworld.
Did you watch it? It was alright. The entire world saw the big twist coming a mile away - but I'd expect nothing less from Jonathan Nolan, writer of The Prestige... a movie that is only enjoyable providing you don't guess the twist five minutes in, which I - and presumably many others - did.
But hey - I don't want to talk about Westworld.
"Hooray! Finally, he's going to discuss video games!"
No, I want to discuss a review I read of Westworld.
So, I read this review of the Westworld finale, in which the writer repeatedly stated what "you" don't want to see in a TV show. You know: rather than what he didn't want to see in a TV show. He was generalising and not owning his opinions.
We all do this of course. We rarely own up to what "we" need. I get it. It's hard to be so nakedly transparent about our personal needs, when most of us are raised to believe that our needs are secondary to those of society, and everyone else around us. Which, in the latter instance, is at least subjectively true for everyone else.
Seriously though: read an interview with anyone famous. They'll be asked a question, like "What does it feel like to play a gig at Wembley Stadium?" and the response will be along the lines of "Well, when you get to be famous, the thing you find is that you often... blah blah..."
No, dear. We didn't get to be famous. You got to be famous, and your experience is entirely subjective to you as an individual, and that's why you're being interviewed. Stop generalising, and talk to us about your experience of being a famous person, because nobody else can experience it the exact same way. It might help to rephrase your answer along these lines: "Well, when I became famous, the thing I found..."
And that's what this Westworld finale review was like: "What you need to do when making a 10-part TV series is..."
Don't get me wrong: I actually agreed with a lot of the review. But two (three) things stood out for me.
- The overuse of "you" over "I", obv.
- The fact that none of the things the guy was going on about really bothered me until I read his review, thus underscoring the need of reviewers to dredge up as many opinions as possible, and peel those opinions apart, rather than just going "Yeah, I liked it" or "Nah, didn't really like it."
- In failing to own up to his own opinions - and either attributing them to everyone, or describing them in terms of a sort of universal law, it made the writer seem unfathomably arrogant, like he thought he was a god... that he thought he was better than the show's creators, and that his opinions were somehow worth more than those of his readers.
I suppose, having had a few weeks off of reviewing things on here, it got me thinking - once again - about the way reviews are perceived, about the people who read reviews, and the people who put stock in them.
Admittedly, this is no time to start bashing the press... but maybe if more writers were a little more open about their subjectivitiy, the media might seem a little less aloof and elitist in the eyes of, y'know, crazy people who think the press is inherently corrupt.
I dunno. Just a thought.
So. Video games then.
Dishonored 2. I liked Dishonored a lot. Dishonored 2 I found inexplicably boring.
For all the hours I played on it - and yes, I did get past the creative insanity of the Clockwork Mansion - that boredom didn't really go away. I just felt like I'd done it all before, and it felt old-fashioned. And not in a nice, nostalgic way, but in a "why dis faff?" way.
Not only were the visuals - though beautifully stylised, and often just flat-out beautiful - slightly last-gen, the gameplay felt as if it was too. Its baseline of stealth-o-sneak-o - with its achingly dumb guards, who felt less of a real threat than a video game annoyance - somehow felt to me artificial and cold.
Some of these issues might've been diluted for me had there been a story that I cared about even remotely. Alas, even with its branching narrative choices - early on you get to choose between playing as the bloke from Dishonored or his daughter, and then whether or not to play through it with magic powers (why wouldn't you? "Oh, I'll have the cheeseburger, please - but could you leave out the burger part") - I failed to engage with it.
All the portent, from characters who don't give us a reason to even like them, let alone care about them - aren't we past that now? I can't help but feel that the industry should be more sophisticated in the writing of its character by now. Plus there are lashings here of my absolute bugbear in videogame world-building: audio and text logs. Please... please make them stop. That isn't how you tell a story.
LOOK AT THIS
So, look... here's the thing. I liked Dishonored. I didn't hate Dishonored 2. It feels different to a lot of what's out there right now. There are moments of sheer genius... and there are lots of dull stretches of just sitting around in crannies waiting for some blokes to wander past so you can move forwards.
My natural ADD doesn't always lend itself to stealth games. At least, not unless I'm sufficiently interested in other things around me - but for whatever reason, Dishonored 2's dull, dull, characters, and dull, dull, story, failed to grab me. Wait. No. In light of what I wrote up at the top, I should change that to this: "I found the characters and story dull-dull..."
Man. This reviewing is hard.
"Oh but you don't have to sneak around, stupid. You can go in all guns blazing, or use your magic skills."
Pfft. Yeah, maybe. But the game very clearly favours a stealthy approach: making noise of any kind brings all hell down upon you, and combat simply isn't what Dishonored 2 does best. What does it do best, in my subjective opinion?
Making me feel a bit bored.
What can I say? Lots of reviewers clearly don't share my boredom. You might share their subjective enjoyment.
SUMMARY: A dull sequel to a game I really liked.
SCORE: Some things out of yeah.