Next-Gen part 1: Boobs? Or diabolical boobs?

Friday, September 12, 2008
Gamer, you may be curious as to the reason the title of this blog post has the word boobs in it twice. Indeed, you may be furious, if you aren't a gamer at all and ended up here by accident thanks to google.

The reason will become apparent shortly.

Now, let's ask ourselves a question: what in the high hell does "next gen" mean? Think back. If you're old enough, think back to when the SNES came out. Did we hear this catchphrase like we do today? With the launch of the Playstation, Dreamcast, Saturn, Playstation 2, or Xbox? No. Why? Two reasons: When those systems launched, gaming journalism wasn't 1/100th as prolific as it is today. But more than that, next gen was implied in every screen shot in GamePro magazine, on the back of that Genesis case...we knew when something was new. We could tell just by looking at it. I personally remember shitting a brick when I saw the bomb-ass 3D graphics in Starfox. Somewhere, deep in my subconscious, I'm sure I was saying "now that's fucking next-gen!"

Today, things are not so clear. Graphics? Graphics are easy. The tools are there...have we hit a plateau graphically? No, but we're coming up on it. Today, a game has to be more than pretty to garner any sort of attention from the hardcore gamer. In fact, good graphics can hurt a game's credibility if it's apparent graphics were the focus of development--See Lair.

So what, today, is next-gen? We use this word loosely, but what does it really mean? I think we've all got a feeling what it really means, and in this two-part series, I'm going to discuss two game franchises that are truly taking us into the future. With that, please take a good, hard look at the picture below.

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Fellow gamer, let's have an experiment, shall we? Yes? Excellent. Let's set our ground rules first...our 'control' if you will. For the purpose of this exam, let's assume you are a male gamer between the ages of 16 and 28. If you aren't, pretend you are--it isn't very difficult. Next, let's disregard the bit of German at the bottom of that picture.

Now, let the experiment begin: I want you to look at the picture above. I'll wait.

Okay, good. Now, look again. Ask yourself, "What do I see in this picture?" I'll wait while you make a few notations, as I'm sure you are.

All right, good, good. This is going nicely. Now, if you please, take another, final look at the picture. As yourself, "what do I like about this picture? What do I dislike? "

See what we're getting at, here? I want you to be looking at two things--well, three things, specifically--the nurse's breasts, and the nurse's face.

The Silent Hill games have understood next gen since the original Playstation game. The wonderful(ly insane) people who make the games realized something with the very first iteration--something Resident Evil and all the other survival horror games of the time missed--that looking pretty doesn't mean shit if the gamer isn't frightened, and that the gamer will quickly become desensitized to dog-through-the-window scare tactics. Silent Hill put the horror back in survival horror, and they did it by doing only what other developers are just starting to realize now, eleven years later: Next gen isn't the game--it's the person playing the game.

Take the screenshot above. Silent Hill has never been a sex-marketed game. However, one of the primary themes of the Silent Hill franchise has been perversion--of innocence, of beauty, of love. And that's exactly what the above shot is about. It's perverted, but not in the obvious sense of the word: look at yourself, 16-28 male gamer, and tell me that isn't a beautiful set on that nurse...and then tell me her face...or what's left of it...isn't grotesque.

Silent Hill: Homecoming looks to be doing the same thing each previous SH has done--take the emotions and reactions normally reserved for the player character and transmit them straight to the player themselves. The above screenshot sets off instinctual feelings of arousal and revulsion--the game is perverting the player's sense of beauty. It may very well be that the player feels genuine (if not minor) guilt for feeling attraction toward this thing.

Next-Gen, my friends, is us. And fortunately for us, the game industry is beginning to catch on.

Coming in part two of Next-Gen: !