Killing Context is King

I played a little of Red Orchestra 2 yesterday, going rather against character generally and certainly against my recent dislike of shooters of all stripes. So anyway, R_O2_ is definitely a shooter – I established that much, and I shot a lot of Russians with my Nazi rifle while doing so. Shoot, shoot, shoot.

One useful thing, though, is that Red Orchestra helped me to get at least a little insight into the problems I’ve been having with shooters. The pattern of the game is that you see a kind of “cut-scene” which is a rather well done collage along with some narration about the situation with the war and Stalingrad and this and that. After that you’re told you need to clear around some territory by killing a bunch of Russians. And after that you hear some more narration and then get some more Russians to kill. And after that… well.

This sequence of fairly detached narration followed by Life As A Gun is a big part of what bugs me about a lot of the shooting games – it’s just so jarring. As if someone sat you down in one room, told you kill the people in the next room, and then sent you through the door. It just doesn’t feel like much of a reason, and surely if we need reasons for anything, it should be for killing people, right? Instead, it seems fairly clear that the effective reason you should kill people in these games is simply because that’s the lone interactive possibility you have. The classic “because I can” of gamerdom.

In short, it’s frustrating that all the interactivity is lavished on the killing itself (muzzle-flash, blood spray, ragdolling bodies) and often none at all on establishing any kind of context for the killing. Which is problematic since that would make the killing meaningful rather than mechanical, I’d imagine. This is hardly a novel complaint, but Red Orchestra 2‘s extreme form of “go kill!” and disregard for context really honed the point for me.

Gimme a reason.

11 October 2011
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