Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.
Resident Evil 7 hit shelves this week, and it’s turned out to be a pleasant surprise. In the first part of my Game In Progress review, I called it “a strange, glorious rebirth,” a confident horror game that I believe is as funny as it is terrifying. Down in the comments, several readers expressed interest in picking it up but were held back by their concerns about how scary it could be. Tavernacle had some words of wisdom for them:
If it helps, remember that it’s just a game and the worst case scenario is you may have to replay a room again. I was terrified of Amnesia: The Dark Descent until I died for the first time, got sent back a couple rooms, and realized the only really bad thing that could happen was if I ran out of oil and couldn’t find the next puzzle in the dark.
NakedSnake ran with that thought and tied it back into how horror games are built:
This is an important dimension of an effective horror game. Games that kill you all the time are not horrifying, because death becomes routine. The best horror games keep you on the edge of your seat by always teasing death but rarely actually delivering it. Horror games need to remember that you want to tap into the player’s fear, not their sense of frustration. Conversely, players looking to subvert this fear can rush into death/disaster on a regular basis, thereby diffusing the carefully established sense of tension.
Speaking of tension, the biggest point of discussion around RE7 is how well its first-person perspective works and whether it holds the game back from being a “true” Resident Evil game. First off, I just want to say that I understand how difficult it is to look at videos of RE7’s early hours or even play the demo and comprehend what it could possibly have in common with the pace and structure of an old school Resident Evil game, but as I’ve said in the comments, as you get further into it, this really does emerge as the closest thing to classic Resident Evil since the GameCube remake and Resident Evil 0. SingingBrakeman cribbed some thoughts from another outlet’s review about how the first-person camera ups the tension and evokes classic Resident Evil:
One aspect that another reviewer highlighted was that your ability to turn was slowed down from most first-person games. This is likely helpful to the VR experience, but it had the additional virtue of making the act of turning suspenseful. There was a constant tension for that critic between turning to further explore side passages or rooms, since a threat could materialize in front of them while they were distracted. In this way, it mimicked the intentional obscurity of classic Resident Evil’s static camera angles while still offering the player more control over their view.
Also this week, William Hughes looked back at Wolfenstein: The New Order’s concentration camp level, Camp Belica, and tried to reckon with its attempts at respecting and evoking the horrors of the Holocaust while also delivering a some thrilling video game catharsis. Simon DelMonte shared some thoughts on the principles of tackling this subject matter:
I am not a video gamer and don’t often read game coverage here. I am, however, Jewish and have a deep interest in how the Holocaust is portrayed in pop culture. So the fact that I didn’t feel like screaming, hitting something, or giving the game designers the finger is either a tribute to the designers not screwing things up or to Will’s (usual) writing skill.
I am not at all offended by the game’s attempt to acknowledge the Holocaust. But even if the game failed to achieve much, if someone comes away from playing this and has any expanded understanding of the Holocaust, of the level of hatred Nazis had (and sadly still have) for Jews, it might be good that the game dared to go there. Holocaust denial is and probably always will be with us. Anything that denies the deniers is fine by me. I just hope no one comes away from the game and thinks the Holocaust is as much fiction as giant robots and Kabbalistic cabals.
I loved The New Order dearly, but I definitely found it to be more of an “experience” than a thought-provoker. I mean, from a certain perspective, it made the Nazis right: In its universe, there really was a Jewish conspiracy to develop advanced world-changing technology and keep it away from the goyim. Obviously, the game meant the discovery of the punching Iron Man armor to be an empowering moment, showing the Jewish people to be wise and capable, but it doesn’t hold up to fridge logic.
Barnaby Jonesin, who left a number of great comments throughout the discussion, also had some trouble with this plot point:
I also wasn’t a giant fan of the Jewish mysticism. I know that the supernatural has always been floating around in the series, but I would have much preferred the Da’at Yichud have been more of a resistance movement that was initially comprised of the Jewish intellectuals and scientists Hitler exiled (or killed.)
The idea, if memory serves, was that they were doing the Pi thing and working on complex-but-meaningless machines as a way to use reason and science to commune with god. But, in practice, it came off exactly like DJ JD said: The Nazis cemented their hold on the world when they discovered and weaponized a treasure trove of Da’at Yichud magic, for lack of better word. Had the Da’at Yichud been dabbling in conventional science, developed weapons the Nazis would never have developed on their own (owing to their lack of scientists not influenced by the Thule bullshit or straight-up cybernetic barbarism), and were then overpowered and scattered by Nazis, you’d have a more compelling—and marginally more grounded—situation.
By making it, essentially, Ancient Hebrew Secret, you rob the Da’at Yichud of agency and intelligence. You also miss a chance to really hammer home A) the horrid anti-intellectualism at the core of Nazi politik and ideology, and B) the fact that “Final Solution” was—in addition to the greatest atrocity perpetrated (and passively enabled) by man—also the self-defeating idiocy that doomed the Reich from the start.
Plus, and not to belabor this point too hard, you’d get brave, brilliant Jewish heroes in a story about stomping a mudhole in some Nazi ass.
Elsewhere, Pyrrhus_Crowned was reminded of a game that evoked similar subject matter, but turned to more fantastical metaphors to do it:
I’m reminded of the treatment of the Darcsens in Valkyria Chronicles. That game is set in an alternate Europe during an alternate WWII, but the Darcsens are clearly meant to be read as Jewish. I was surprised how dark the game was willing to go. One of the levels involves your team liberating a concentration camp where the Darcsens were being exterminated en masse.
In terms of moral ambiguity, Valkyria Chronicles was also bold enough to make multiple members of your team anti-Semitic. Even as they’re saving the Darcsens, some members of your squad have the “Darcsen Hater” affliction that makes them perform sub-optimally if they’re forced to interact with Darcsens. Rosie, one of the most popular characters in the game, is openly hostile toward the Darcsen members of your squad.
That’s all for this week, folks. As always, thank you for reading and commenting. We’ll see you all next week!