Aztez – A Game of Conquest and Brutality

ABDN’s God Of War 2 Review

This incredible GEM just happened to me: please see Action Button Dot Net's God Of War 2 review. The review ends with this:

"It is not entirely right of me to fault Sony Computer Entertainment Santa Monica for making this game. Surely they knew that all of the above was true, and that all of the above would make a successful game. Shame on them for indulging us, but shame on us for wanting it. Shame on us for coming to expect this sort of skullfucking as 'fun'. This isn’t fun. It’s a nervous tick. It’s a bad habit. It’s obsessive compulsive behavior. It’s going through an entire box of q-tips in a day, because rubbing the inside of your ear feels so good the first time that you just can’t stop, and you eventually start to tell yourself that those little clumps of blood on the cotton are just really dark, moist bits of earwax that you’re better off without."

I'm going to be perfectly honest with you here. I have a gigantic box of q-tips in my bathroom specifically so that there are never NOT q-tips in my bathroom. Q-tipping my ears is easily the most cherished part of my morning hygiene ritual. More so than the euphoric wake-up urination, more so than the 30 to 40 minute hot shower which relaxes my muscles from the nightly stress of my signature slurry of psilocybin-level dreams, more so than the shaving I perform to sculpt my face into the face of a better man, and more so than the tooth brushing I undergo to make my mouth socially acceptable. It is that 10 seconds of q-tipping that I love the most. Not only does it feel sooo uniquely good, but it's an investment. You see, when a human female puts her mouth on my ears (in whichever of the many ways there are to do such a thing; they're all wonderful) it feels really fucking good and I've found that if my ears are clean, the female in question is much more likely to continue to do whatever she is doing to my ears with her mouth.

Speaking of sex (because there are certainly no females putting their mouth on my ears at work or at the grocery store), how about sex without making babies?! That shit is pretty great, right? I would say yes and we'd all be hard pressed (ha) to find another human that doesn't agree.

My point is, I don't disagree with a single fucking word in that God Of War 2 review. Not one. But I very much disagree with the grand implication. God Of War 2 (especially number 2 amongst the series) looks incredible, sounds incredible, and FEELS incredible. I bet if you invited it over for dinner it would probably smell incredible, too. And ripping endless hordes of ridiculous creatures to pieces while bouncing from beautiful room to beautiful room is chemically incredible. As a game experience, nay, as an EXPERIENCE, it is painfully and disgustingly shallow. But I would argue that sex, without the intent to procreate, is the exact same thing. Better though, than injuring yourself with excessive q-tipping, or repeatedly doing drugs that don't benefit you, or needlessly doing things that don't provide your life with more meaning! There are some things we do, and SHOULD do more often (without self-destruction) simply because they feel good.

I find Andrew's point fascinating, and if I had to guess I would say he is an upstanding guy-man. But while he does not suffer meaningless videogame experiences (this is probably a reflection of a greater virtue of his) I certainly do because I have no such virtue. I do things first and foremost because they FEEL good, and only begin a search for meaning when I find it necessary. Mind you, I have absolutely no intention of making Aztez meaningless (on any level) I simply find fundamental and quality pleasure a respectable use of time. Much love, Andrew! *clinks mug*

  • Oh! I don’t agree that procreation is to sex as tactical depth is to games!

    I think the biggest relevant difference is that people seldom pretend that having sex with you will create a baby. God of War *does* pretend that it is tactically deep. It’s creepy in doing that!

    A fun comparison is Noby Noby Boy. When he was making both Katamari Damacy and NNB, Keiti Takahashi was like “I want to give the player the most delightful and beautiful frictions I can!”. He hadn’t departed with convention when he made KD though. So he thought “all other games have challenges to make the player feel accomplished – this game needs the feeling of accomplishment too!” So KD has time limits. But then with NNB he’s like – “you know what? Why should I bother challenging the player? I don’t want to, they don’t want me to.” So he makes NNB a perfect sandbox. No pretend-challenges, and no real-challenges.

    The time limits were always kind of stupid. I don’t even think the levels were built with speed in mind. They were at best a way of getting you to take the game a little seriously (i.e. explore the areas to get a lot of stuff), and at worst a way of pretending there was much skill to the game.

    Note that I’m not necessarily against challenges, in fact I love the things. But… ok, so imagine me and a woman are trying for a baby for two years, and then after that she gets bored of me and says “I’m breaking up with you, I’ve never wanted to have a child with you, I’ve been on the pill the entire time”.

    I despise her for her dishonesty. But not as much as I despise the makers of, say, Enslaved.

    PS: it is ABUNDANTLY clear that you are reading a lot of ABDN, because you have an entire paragraph in here about your personal life! Also the whole article made me cackle like a bitch!

    PPS: this article goes hand-in-hand with Tim Rogers reviews.

    • Interestingly enough, it is to me (procreation to sex/tactical depth to games). It’s crude and polarizing but my “meaning receptors” have been blunted extensively as an adult and media experiences are simply boiled down into “enjoyable or not” with the only significant factor being “wasting my time or not” (I can’t afford to suffer time wasters no matter how enjoyable). Again, I am a simpleton at my core.

      And I don’t think God Of War is pretending to be anything it isn’t. I mean maybe it is around others but not to me. I have always perceived it as meaningless sex and we have always had a meaningless sexual relationship. I wonder if I am missing something, or if you are perceiving something that isn’t there? It’s highly likely to be the former; if you are so inclined, tell me where the deception is occurring so I may empathize.

      I have indeed been devouring ABDN! I love it. If my writing style in this article reflects the ABDN group’s in an eerie way, it’s because of my own signature defense mechanism of installing myself in the comfort zone of another social group by mimicking the genuine members. If it worked especially well in this case it’s because I might actually be intelligent and funny. Fingers crossed.

      Thanks for the link! And while that information gave me useful context, I have kind of been intuitively understanding what he has meant when using these terms. Strange.

      I can’t wait to hear what you guys have to say about Aztez once it’s a little more playable.

  • An incident that sticks out in my memory is the last boss from Chains of Olympus. There was one hard part in that fight. It came after a long easy part, and before another long easy part. The hard part was the only thing that ever challenged me. Why were the easy parts there? Answer: to make the whole seem harder.

    When you break through some part of a fight everything becomes tense because you’re thinking “omigod omigod will I make it through to the end?” That’s a powerful feeling. In said boss fight, they cynically draw out the final part in order to sustain that feeling and make it more dramatic than it actually is.

    Fake difficulty in its various forms* is a huge problem for modern action games, and I don’t personally know of a worse perpetrator than God of War.

    QTEs are the most insulting and infantilising convention in all of game design, including microtransactions, and God of War popularized the mother fuckers. QTEs are the death rattle of honesty in game design. This is using the word “honesty” in the sense I use it in my God Hand review.

    “We’re just going to give the fuck up on real challenges, ok? We want to make you inhabit the body of a capable war general. To do that, we’re supposed to have bombastic setpieces, impressive music, crunchy mechanics, and difficult challenges. Kratos is worthy of idolization because he is physically and tactically accomplished, and we’re supposed to bring that across in YOUR accomplishments. But… we don’t want to do that any more. Interesting systems are getting in the way of all the other stuff, so it’s easier for us if we just do the bare minimum with the system… it’s better for us if the whole thing is a barely-interactive QTE…”

    This is not a quote, this is my imitation of the thought process of the degenerate shit eaters** who put QTEs together.

    God of War 2 “looks incredible, sounds incredible, and FEELS incredible”. But it tries to do something else, doesn’t it? It DOES present you with challenges, it’s just that they’re completely tossed-off challenges. It is not at home with its own emptiness, as you are suggesting! It is pretending to be a REAL game, it is pretending, in short, to be God Hand!

    *e.g. repetition, RPG-style fake advancement, graphical conspiracy (i.e. easy bosses are made dramatic through overwrought animations)

    **I use cursewords quite a lot, so they don’t mean much to me any more. I’m quite a nice person, and there are few people on earth I hate, even those who I know are worthy of my hate. But before I settled on “degenerate shit eaters”, I thought about how to describe QTE creators for a minute or so. My jaw quivered, my fingers twitched. I thought about how much I want their children to fall ill and die. I thought about how much I want their fingers to be broken. I thought about how much I want their business to fail and their economy to collapse, for their culture… to… end. I’m not usually like this, and I can be involved in a dialogue about QTEs that is completely calm: but I won’t be calm if I don’t have to be :)

  • OKAY I totally understand what you’re saying now and here’s the funny thing. When I saw my first QTE during a preview trailer for the first God Of War I subconsciously realized “this is really disingenuous and doesn’t look very fun but everyone is on board so I’m probably crazy and I am just going to go with it since this is obviously where we’re headed.” Well it turns out that IS where we were headed and even though it was all getting more and more vacuous over time it was still where everyone wanted to go so at some point I kind of just threw my hands up. I could have been virtuous and pure and given up on the games that were always lying to me, but that means I wouldn’t get to play MOST action games anymore, and that has never been an option.

    My point is, I don’t expect authentic difficulty anymore from mainstream games, and I haven’t since the PS2/GC/Xbox generation. These things you have such a problem with are entirely fair, but I’ve just been swallowing it because I have never been prepared to stop playing enjoyable but dishonest games.

    Well I’m 27 now, my time has become much more precious to me, and a lot of this has changed. But to be fair, it hasn’t changed because I have a problem with the lies, it’s because I have a problem with the feeling that my time is being wasted. Ultimately this connects directly to your issues, but the root cause is slightly different. I’m going to die sometime in the next 70 years and I just want to enjoy my time. It doesn’t need to be honest.

    And therein is where I believe the fundamental philosophical difference is between You/Andrew and myself; I can still enjoy and appreciate a lie very very much. I myself am a liar; I am a brute; I am Cypher.

    So while I have no intention of lying to you with Aztez, I just might end up doing it because I am not as conscious about it as say, you are. However, I fully intend to not waste anyone’s time and I think that will turn out okay since THAT is what I’m conscious about. I believe the end result from either angle will be the same so hopefully you’ll still be able to enjoy what I’m making.

  • Glowyrm

    I agree whole heartedly with the anger that comes from wasted time it’s why I hate driving anywhere, cuz 90% of the time I have to deal with crappy traffic that slows me down from getting where I want to be.

    As for GOW, I don’t feel it wasted my time. Chains of Olympus was definitely a game that anyone could beat, but that wasn’t a design flaw the production studio knew that mattered as far as sales. So what they gave you in a boss fight was more visual candy and a rhythmic fight sequence that wasn’t very punishing. And this is OK with me, because I still felt engaged and involved. Plus I actually beat it as opposed to Ninja Gaiden which I never did :-/