Back to the Meat Cube

Jason Pargin wrote a great article from E3 this year, in which he laments that the gaming industry has traded real innovation for a flood of gimmicks and sequels.  This year, for example, sees the introduction of Microsoft’s Kinect and Sony’s Move, both of which are being launched with a lot of knockoff Wii-shovelware titles.

Wii Sports, meet Kinect Sports.  Wii Fit, meet Your Shape.  Etcetera, etc.

From my point of view, the biggest woe is that every time a new gaming “advance” is introduced, storytelling tends to take a back seat.  The move to HD and “next gen” gaming made graphics the most important part of the game.  As Mr. Pargin pointed out, gamers posted more than 2,000 complaints on Remedy’s forum about Alan Wake not running in full 720p.

Think about this: three years after Shadow of the Colossus was released – still the go-to game when people want to talk about innovative storytelling in games – we were subjected to the “meat cube.”

An impossible block of meat, removed from all context, existing solely to be shot and bumped into.  And no one asks why.

The developers intended the meat cube to simply be a tech demo, nothing more than a curiosity meant to illustrate how effectively they’ll be able to model gore in forthcoming games.  But from my point of view, the meat cube is the most interesting story object spawned by Gears of War.

The actual games have a pointless and poorly crafted story.  Aliens bad, humans macho and murderous but good.  Kill, kill, kill.

But the meat cube!  Even if we take it literally, without adding any imaginary spice: humans have created a giant cube of meat, larger than could possibly come from any known creature, simply to shoot and bump into.  They have created a special room where they keep this cube, and they send in a heavily armed soldier to shoot at the meat cube.  They do this simply so that an audience may watch the meat cube jiggle and sway.

This is good science fiction.  A culture that creates what is either a scientific horror or wonder just to poke at.  A society so enamored with death that they create a geometry of gore.  The meat is not meant as food, cannot be food; it has no value other than spectacle.

Having served its purpose, the meat cube disappears.  It is ignored, lost, evident only in the jiggling of bits of flesh rent asunder by bullets and chainsaws in an imaginary arena.  The one unique thing to come from Gears of War, and it was at best a joke, at worst a tech demo.

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2 Responses to “Back to the Meat Cube”

  1. Aaron Says:

    Good points. It’s probably best for the industry if they forego the next generation of consoles and just work with the ones currently out for another 5 years. What could they possibly give us that improves on the jaw shattering graphics and interactivity currently enjoyed? If it ain’t broke, you know.

  2. A Clear and Present Future of Gaming « Ancel De Lambert Says:

    […] much substandard crap out as quickly as possible to pander to the average consumer’s need for gore and excitement, flinging gimmicks every which way and never deviating from the script, because that makes […]

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