A good menu can set the tone for the rest of the game to come, or when done poorly, it can be a nuisance that players try to skip as fast as possible every time that they boot up a game. I’ve written twice before about some innovative menus, and since then, I’ve played three more games that I feel deserve special mention for how they handle this normally bland part of a game.
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On May 20 of 2010, Pablo Picasso’s painting, Le Pigeon aux Petits Pois (The Pigeon with the Peas)—along with a handful of other paintings—was stolen from the Paris Museum of Modern art. The work of art, now destroyed, no longer exists. For visual art and even literature, there is usually a “real” master copy that came directly from the artist. An inch by inch replication of a work of art can only be a copy, even if it is indistinguishable from the original. The original is sacred; anything like it is a cheap imitation that can never substitute the real thing. At least this is the thinking behind traditional understandings of artistic production.
A part of art has always been the experience of witnessing a piece for the first, brief time. Making a pilgrimage to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa or the final stop on a band’s reunion tour is a part of the almost religious experience of art. The location, the crowds of people, the journey to see the piece are a part of the artistic ritual, and for Picasso’s Pigeeon, it’s an experience that can never be had again. With the painting destroyed, the ritual can never be carried out again.
Even though we’re in the thick of new release season, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about a ten-year-old game. Of course, Ico isn’t just any old game, and its recent HD remastering provides ample justification for replaying it. This time around, the critical distance and sharpened visuals gave me a fresh perspective on the game. After experiencing Ico again, its confidence in the player, stark environments, and mysterious story struck me as decisions that were as brave as they are artistic.
Last year it was 2s. This year it’s 3s.
Battlefield 3, Gears of War 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Saints Row: The Third, Uncharted 3 . . . And then, of course, there’s just a lot of other franchise entries, like Batman: Arkham City or, say, Need for Speed: The Run.
Sexuality in games is a contentious topic. Few see video games as open or mature enough to express ideas and create experiences concerning sexuality for players to explore. It’s also rarely pleasant to talk about the topic, usually any arguments settle on the accusation of games as serving as wish fulfillment for heterosexual men and the more vocal of said demographic replying with a “So what?” What’s often overlooked is the possibility of the sexualization of men, as if it’s not an option.
My title is misleading; games don’t usually sexualize men. As frequently suggested when discussing the Male Gaze theory in film studies and neatly tied into relevancy for our purposes by Kate Cox in “The Gamer’s Gaze,” men are not sexualized in most media (“The Gamer Gaze, part 1”, Your Critic is in Another Castle, 20 June 2011). Because there is a large presence of the heterosexual man’s identity in the development process and in gaming’s audience, the perceived “neutral” vision of game design takes on the influence of the socially appropriate interests specific to straight men. The lack of men’s sexualization is a product of the average straight guy’s impulse to avoid appearing or feeling gay. Men have a fig leaf of sorts when it comes to camera work and character design, while women get more attention and exposure. What sexual bits we do see are “safe” for heterosexual men to view without feeling like they’re watching something “gay,” such as muscular arms or exposed torsos. A common counter-argument concerns the issue of men’s impossible body image in games, which is definitely important, but mostly a different discussion to tackle. The aesthetic of muscles denote strength, agency, and power for the assumed male player to relate to, while emphasis on T&A when viewing women only serves as fan-service. Both rely on problematic ideals, but there is still a power relation present in theis representation that favors men.