Here’s a fun little trailer for League of Legends Season One:
I don’t play WoW. Apparently, this is a spin-off from it, and the Trailer is marketing for the game. Which is cool.
If one peruses the LoL website, you can check out the multiple characters, and it’s pretty staggering: artistically, it’s like you took comic books, Mortal Combat, pro “wrestling”, steam punk elements, Harry Potter, Frank Frazetta, Pokemon, D&D, pin-up models, cute anime characters, and Capcom into an blender, and this is what you’d get. It’s like a unified theory of role-playing, power-wish-fulfillment, and avatar-powered escapism. And it’s pretty grand.
These MMORPG games are an artistic borg- “What? Superheros? Sure. We’ll take ’em. A He-Man-type comic Orko sprite-thing? Yep. Magic chick in an improbable bustier? Yes, please. Sauron-huge guy with proportionally ridiculous armor? Uh-huh. Werewolves? Well, WHY the f*@k NOT?!?” And I’m not even capping on the sensibility; there’s something amazingly, geeksomely democratic about the whole thing.
Watching the two teams of super-hero archetypes in fantasy-sheep’s clothing Avengers Assemble! into two fighting forces for “the Final Battle” would make Jack Kirby proud. You’ve got your huge bruiser-type, your hot-chick-who-can-best-any-man, your thief/mage, your magician, your small-yet-mighty lil’ guys- it’s the Superfriends vs. the Legion of Doom, WoW-style. When I saw it, I was like, “Of course it was heading in this direction: take the proven super-hero soap-opera, skin it with fantasy elements, add some FIGHTING…” and there you go.
When I saw BioShock a couple of years ago, I was really taken by how it combined Myst-like storytelling, remarkable cinematic design (both character and sets), with Doom and Silent Hill-like scary atmospherics and action. Intense. I think at this point, it’s beyond safe to say that the true visionaries are working in games, not movies.
Taking chances in the box, not worrying whether someone’s nephew (who got the studio job because of staggering nepotism) will greenlight a project if he can get his client/good friend on board. Game production is punk rock, in the box (the computer, rather “artistic box”), with an unlimited budget for effects, costumes, and sets.
What of story?
The real question seems to me (and I know that this is beside the point in relation to LoL, really), why are they fighting? “Well, ’cause this team is EVIL, and this team is GOOD. And the battle will be EPIC!” Yeah. Alright. I guess. I guess I just want… more story.
And that’s really the remarkable challenge of games- can you insert a cohesive, true-to-character linear story inside a “battle engine” that doesn’t feel like a glorified (and I mean GLORIFIED- especially when 3-D immersive tech takes us INTO the games) Choose Your Own Adventure. Is the solution hundreds of “if/then” story-lines? The plot becomes expodentially more complicated with each series of choices. Is there a tipping point, a “narrative uncanny valley” so-to-speak, in which we’re close to a true “free will” narrative, or at least one that satisfies the gamer with “enough choices” without the damn thing taking over his/her life?
Not that that’s a concern for hard-core gamers, really.
(I think you see that with WoW somewhat- the sheer novelty of having human interaction via avatars makes the game (theoretically- I don’t play it myself, so I’m off-the-cuff here) seem much deeper than it actually is, because interactions are human-powered and as surprising as humans can be.)
In the end, I’m talking about two different things, really- human-driven MMORPG’s, and narrative-driven, “programmer/director/auteur-controlled” infinite narratives (I use infinite in a loose, “slightly more than humans need to keep constant novelty and amusement/fascination” way). I’m more interested in the auteur-model, really- what would a writer like Neil Gaiman do with a game company that came to them and said, “We want to work with you on a game. We want your next project, your next “Graveyard Book” to be immersive, narratively complex to the nth degree, and Dave McKean-beautiful. A playable Mirrormask with multiple, multiple paths and outcomes, a Dragon’s Lair for the next generation.”
I think this is the next step. And while it may lead us down the path 0f Alan Moore-like “Time is a centipede with infinite paths you could’ve and did take in other lives” complexity, it’s still endlessly more thrilling than “Superhero gets powers. Superhero fights super-villain. Super-hero gets girl and happy ending” and we’re all depressed as hell because we’ve done this spectator dance a thousand times before. And, I hope at this point, some of us are insulted as hell, and refuse to shell out another 14 bucks for goddamn matinee.
That being said, I enjoyed the hell out of Predators last week.