Saturday, April 17, 2010

Richard K. Morgan Doesn't Play Well With Others

I mean, play Gears Of War; those characters, you can’t imagine them doing anything besides running around shooting monsters.

This is certainly not the first time Morgan’s stirred up some controversy, but everything’s really coming together now. Morgan’s previous target was Tolkien, though I think that he made a few fair points (and, say what you will about the quality of the novel, The Steel Remains did address those points). This time around, it’s even harder to avoid thinking that Morgan’s just doing his best to rile people up.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the people reporting on this couldn’t possibly have slanted their articles more. I’m primarily referring to is this, which has really mastered the art of taking things out of context. Yes, Morgan did say:

Halo is full of these bullshit archetypal characters and there's no real emotional effect.

but it wasn’t an unprovoked assault. In fact, the question he was asked was:

Do you think getting that greater depth of character is made more difficult by the faceless nature of Nanosuit 2? Master Chief syndrome, you might call it.

It’s a question about deep characters in videogames and specifically asks whether Morgan thinks he can overcome what the interviewer thought was the problem with Halo’s characters. It would be a bit odd for Morgan to not discuss Halo’s storytelling merits at that point, would it not be? Morgan is saying that he doesn’t anticipate a problem, because he doesn’t think that was what was wrong with Halo. Not seeing the malice here, sorry.

The defense in the comments of both that article and the one here is frequently just as off base. What is being accomplished by spouting games like Mass Effect (which may not be the best choice to contend charges of archetypical writing)? Morgan is not saying that no games have good stories; he is a fan of Bioshock, for one. Other comments say that gameplay is more important than long cut scenes, though Morgan’s already answered that:

…a 20-minute cut-scene is embarrassing.

It seems like very, very few people commenting have actually read the whole interview. Either that or their minds simply shut down after the Halo comment, and they started looking for stuff to hate:

What is wrong with comic books BTW? Do writers who deal with a character like the Joker automatically suck as writers because it is "bullshit, man... that's comic book?" Tell that to Allan Moore, Frank Miller and Grant Morrison. Or Warren Ellis. Or Neil Gaiman. Or Brian Michael Bendis. Or Mark Millar.

I know, Morgan must really hate comic books.

Morgan is not saying that story triumphs over gameplay; he held up Bioshock as an example, a game with the best integration of the two concepts that I’ve ever played, not Heavy Rain. Morgan isn’t even insulting the games, just their stories, which makes comments like:

Halo games were always supposed to be light on story, heavy on environment: big weapons, awesome vehicles, wide-ranging and artistic tech, epic landscapes. That, to me, is Halo.

utterly pointless. No one is attacking smashing someone in the face with a speeding Ghost; they’re just saying that there isn’t all that much behind Halo’s story. And I can’t disagree with him there. Ignore the books for the moment; the discussion’s about the video game Halo. Are people really trying to tell me that Sergeant Johnson, characterized by being tough and chewing a cigar, is a deep character? Really?

Like last time, I can’t shake the feeling that Morgan’s setting out to infuriate as many people as he possibly can, but, also like last time, I can’t really deny any of his points. Unfortunately, the odds of my computer being able to run Crysis 2 are laughable, so I suppose I’ll never get to see if he lives up to his own hype.


Morgan himself has come back to comment on the misrepresentation of his opinions:

...the gaming press has taken a series of freely expressed opinions from me, borrowed selectively for negative content, created misleading titles around said comments and so bolted together an image of me as some arrogant interloper who thinks my writing is superior to anybody else’s working in games.This process reached a head yesterday when Koku Gamer started openly misrepresenting my views on the game Uncharted 2 by substituting the views of another, entirely different person working at Crytek and claiming his opinions were mine. The good news is that the view they’ve claimed I expressed is so diametrically opposed to other well-reported comments I made about Uncharted 2 (in short, that it was superb), that Koku are just going to end up looking like the fuck-wit lying assholes they clearly are.

I guess that's the problem with twisting everything someone says; when you go too far, they can prove you're wrong and throw the whole thing in your face. Thumbs up for journalistic integrity?


  1. I'm surprised anyone would think Master Chief is a deep character outside of the books. The guy is, as you mentioned, faceless, and he has only a couple of lines in the games - likely for the same reason that Mario, Link from Zelda, and other such characters don't talk. It helps the gamer "get into" the game.

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