Move Over Prestige TV, God of War and Other Prestige Games are Taking Over Now

"Prestige" TV shows have been a blessing and a curse across television, and now it's bled into video games too.

Analysis by Caty McCarthy, .

You will hear the ever-harsh Kratos bark "boy" at his son approximately 100,000 times over the course of God of War's adventure. Whether you mainline the story or get lost boating across the islands of the game's hub-like lake, Kratos will always be mean to his son Atreus, and Atreus will put up with it and even snap back sometimes. The atmosphere is darker than the series' past, more somber. Occasionally the environments brighten up, but mostly it's desolate forests and snowy mountains where seemingly only two dwarves, some wayward spirits, and a witch share the land with you. And a constant onslaught of enemies, of course.

If this sounds familiar—this dour tone, this surly father figure, this extreme swerve for a well-established series—it's because we've played this game before. Maybe even dozens of times. And it's only the latest installment of the trend that's fluttered away from the small screen onto an interactive one: the prestige game.

The Prestige

If you Google the phrase "prestige TV," you'll find yourself face to face with dozens of thinkpieces lamenting the television trend. Prestige TV, most succinctly defined, has been the most recent era of television shows that have higher-than-average production values, mature themes, and usually a familiar face or two at its forefront. They typically have asshole anti-heroes at their center. Mad Men, Game of Thrones, and Breaking Bad were early landmarks in the prestige TV era, and the trend has only grown more crowded in the years since. At its best, prestige television challenges convention and propels the medium forward with artful direction and superb writing. At its worst, it's Westworld—a once-campy film remade into a grim and gritty HBO series, offering the appearance of depth without any of the substance.

Video games been trending in a similar direction in recent years. If you look particularly at Sony's recent triple-A offerings, you'll find they have a lot in common. They all chase Naughty Dog's pizazz for self-serious narratives. They're all mighty technical achievements, whether it's accomplished in a sprawling open world or a linear one with setpieces galore. For some odd reason, they almost all have crafting too. Even Microsoft's Gears of War 4 saw a refreshed, more diverse crew at its center and a bitter, older Marcus, though the dour-ness wasn't quite as heavy as, say, a former action hero past his prime re-outfitted as an asshole dad in a rowboat.

In the 2015 article "The Unbearable Darkness of Prestige Television" for The Atlantic, scholar Elizabeth Alsop writes, "This new solemnity could be seen as a sign of status anxiety: a byproduct of both serial television’s desire to disassociate from its soapy origins, and genre programming’s striving for cultural legitimacy." Video games, long weighed down by being associated with child's play things and having the vibrancy to match, are in a similar position. Triple-A games (and prestigious indie games too) are grasping for legitimacy, to be considered wholly as "art," and shedding all the whiffs of immaturity they once had. That is, minus an acceptably dry joke or two.

And often, God of War feels like a checklist for prestige-aligned video games. A gruff, horrible-but-trying-to-be-okay father figure as the star? Check. A mostly muted color palette? Check. Slower, more deliberate combat? Check. A self-serious tone that's a complete 180 from the original series? Check check check. It's an interesting game to contrast with another of Sony's offerings: the upcoming Days Gone. When Days Gone was announced, social media and the press seemed to collectively groan at the idea of another austere zombie narrative like The Last of Us or The Walking Dead.

And yet, when a grimmer Kratos made an appearance in a tonally similar setting, the world lost its shit. The only reason the new God of War was notable was because, well, it was God of War; only now prestige-ified. Kratos was a proper dad again, and it didn't seem like he was destined to murder his kid again and be stained with even more ashes this time. Kratos, and God of War as a series, was "growing up."

"I think Kratos in his original incarnation reflected how we viewed things and the time period," director Cory Barlog told us in an interview before God of War's launch. "The time period had not a lot of anti-hero icons, and it kind of began something in a way. Over time, though, things change. They need to change. I'm not the same person I was 20 years ago. I don't think he should be either." Changing, in this case, means taking God of War more seriously. To make it a prestige game, a game that's worth $60 despite not being a service to play for infinity. The new God of War, consequently, is a carefully crafted experience with a beginning and a firm end. It's a prestige game with mature themes and high-production value, through and through.

A Change of Tone

The prestige game has been a trend for awhile now. Nearly two years ago, Uncharted 4 traded in the campy Indiana Jones-style adventuring for a more sullen Nathan Drake. It was self-indulgently bloated in length, retconning in a long-lost brother to tidy up Drake's character arc for the series. It was a long ways away from the series' roots, and yet, the game was widely praised by critics and players alike: some even called it the best Uncharted game to date. In being a muted, less bombastic sort of action game, it was thus somehow deemed better than its predecessors. The game's follow-up though, last year's Uncharted: Lost Legacy, was a pleasant return to form, showing that it's possible for prestige games to balance both the fun of the old games and the somberness of its later entries.

In God of War, as with Uncharted 4, this tonal shift is readily apparent. Over the course of the game's campaign, the awe-inspiring, massive bosses of the series' past are nearly all gone, with only the occasional set-piece to remind you of what once was. There's a big serpent buddy who pops in to give the sense of scale that you remember from Kratos' mindless hack-and-slash days. Y'know, before he got tired and grumpy after moving to a new mythology. It's a humbler look at the troubled Kratos, with his renewed voice actor Christopher Judge emoting the grumbling and bitter man well. While the game has great candid encounters between Kratos and Atreus—from Kratos being a horrible storyteller and his son roasting him for it along a boat ride, to the two sharing a drink during a rare moment of quiet—the pace of it all is off. It's slow and uneventful with the most thought-provoking moments front-and-back-loaded, even as the combat changes for the better as the game marches onward.

Prestige television, similarly, has started feeling formulaic. For every "prestige" show that breaks the mold, like this year's The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story or last year's The Young Pope, there's a True Detective or Westworld ready to dive into expected territory again. In The AV Club's "Not Prestige, Not Trash: The Rise of Mid-Reputable TV," writer Noel Murray argues that mid-tier shows, such as the whole swath of The CW's library, are proof that prestige television isn't necessarily the end-all, be-all of television. Viewers may be just as pumped for a new episode of Riverdale as they would when then next season of The Crown drops on Netflix—arguably even more so with the former.

History Repeats

Meanwhile, with video games it feels like the history of prestige-minded media is now repeating itself in the triple-A space. In following the familiar formula, big budget games are chasing BAFTAs and Game Awards and eyeing landing on the top of as many Game of the Year lists as possible. And lately, the formula's worked—even if it's a largely conventional one. We feel like we've played these games before, but it doesn't matter because this particular one is shiny and new. For television and movies, we face the same dilemma as we repeatedly watch Emmy-bait HBO shows and political biopics around Oscar season year after year.

This isn't to say that prestige-minded video games are inherently a bad thing. When God of War hits its peaks, it soars. The refreshed vision for God of War works on the mechanical level; combat, while not as mindless as its predecessors, only grows more satisfying as the game progresses. (Even if the biggest foes you're facing are usually just another element of troll or ogre, with not much difference by way of the exhilarating bosses of the series' origins.) When the game wrestles with its own mythology and how it parallels strained parenthood, it's genuinely enthralling. (Even if those moments are few and far in-between.) Kratos struggling with learning how to be a good dad is a journey worth seeing.

And then it's weighed down by the prestige game checkmarks. The bloated game boasts not having a single cutaway during its entire runtime, with a close third-person camera hovering on Kratos with some annoyingly shaky camerawork at times. The "no-cuts" throughline quickly loses its effectiveness because players still have to pull up a menu whenever they desire to equip something new or use up some experience points. Players, too, are shown fantastically detailed environments, but are met frequently with loads of invisible walls. It's as if Gandalf is holding up a staff and saying, "You shall not pass this ledge Kratos," when realistically, Kratos could totally jump down from this ledge and onto the snowy bank below. God of War, like a bewildering plotline in Westworld with no character development, wants you to look at but never tangibly (or emotionally) engage with its intricacies. It is specifically designed in this way, where no finicky player is seemingly allowed to mess with it in turn. It is designed with concrete intent.

There will be dozens more prestige games in the years to come. Days Gone, Shadow of the Tomb Raider (continuing the legacy of the renewed, gritty Lara Croft), The Last of Us: Part 2, and Ghost of Tsushima are all gazing up at the prestige video game tag. I imagine once E3 rolls around, we'll see more of the prestige-like games up developers' sleeves as well. (Who will be a sad dad next?) There's no real telling if God of War might actually be an even better game if it loosened up a bit, shed some of its loot-based bloat, and recaptured some of the sillier essence that made so many players fall in love with the series in the first place (maybe dropping the misogyny though). And it's likely that we'll never know, because prestige, asshole anti-heroes, and those beautiful particle effects are what sells. This is our future, for now.

But anyways, call me when there's another Riverdale for triple-A video games like Until Dawn.

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Comments 53

  • Avatar for Roto13 #1 Roto13 4 months ago
    *wrings hands*
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  • Avatar for TheWildCard #2 TheWildCard 4 months ago
    Good piece Caty. I'm quite interested in getting around to this, but I have thought about how the new GoW is maybe the most clear example of gaming "Oscar bait" to where it hard not to be a little skeptical of the high marks across the board it's been getting, as it's exactly the sort of game that seems built to please reviewers. Not that there's anything wrong with taking inspiration from other successful games, but the pastiche of Last of Us/Diablo/Dark Souls elements seems a little too obvious at a glance. I'm afraid of more and more Sony studio projects feeling like Naughty Dog joints, even though it makes business sense to steer projects to types that get a lot of media coverage. Hope Ghosts of Tsushima is more than just polished AAA action-adventure elements we've seen before.

    Good point about the menus breaking the continuous camera shot angle too.
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  • Avatar for steve-mcsteve #3 steve-mcsteve 4 months ago
    The absolute worst part of Prestige TV is how everything has to be miserable at all times. Every single prestige show I can think of takes its cast of characters (who are always either the absolute best or the absolute worst at their "thing"), divides them in the narrative, and then centers around making each character as miserable as possible at all times.

    -The Crown is about how being royal makes the entire royal family miserable.
    -Breaking Bad is about the best teacher who, due to extreme circumstances, has to sell the best meth, which makes his incredibly talented wife (who is the best at numbers) miserable. Also their son has cerebral palsy.
    -Jessica Jones S1 is about the best private detective with the best super powers going through a season long rape allegory.
    -Big Little Lies is about the best mom living in the best place, but she has the worst husband, who continually beats her.
    -Westworld exclusively features miserable people seeking to escape from their miserable lives into what I am told is a fanciful wonderland, but all I see are miserable conniving employees (who are all brilliant) and miserable robots, which recently faced some really uncomfortable mass extermination imagery.
    -Game of Thrones features a miserable fantasy world where happiness goes to die. Nearly every character faces the prospect of being murdered, or being raped and then murdered. Every moment before that, they're surround by humorless dicks and have to eat garbage food and live in a garbage environment. Everyone across the entire mud soaked wasteland of Westeros is unhappy, and I cannot understand why anyone would want to be a part of it.

    I do think you're right about this is where the "Prestige Game" is headed, and that just does not sound fun to me.Edited 2 times. Last edited April 2018 by steve-mcsteve
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #4 NiceGuyNeon 4 months ago
    Prestige, shmestige, the best games are still Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey. KEEP CHASING THE DOURNESS BECAUSE YOU CAN'T MATCH MY BABIES!
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  • Avatar for NateDizzy #5 NateDizzy 4 months ago
    Since this "prestige" trend is clearly going to continue, I'm hoping it results in us getting a Pixar-esque game where there are cartoony character designs and a vibrant color palette, yet the story still manages to explore very grown up concepts in a funny AND dramatic way. To me, AAA hasn't produced that yet. They're very much smack dab in the middle of their Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns phase. Thankfully, all paradigms shift, so I guess all we have to do is wait.

    Don't get me wrong, I loved TLoU and I'm loving GoW, but those two titles are akin to The Road and Lone Wolf and Cub. Great stories, but dour and super serious AF. Once we get the video game equivalent of The Incredibles then I'll know the AAA sector has really "grown up".Edited April 2018 by NateDizzy
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #6 Kuni-Nino 4 months ago
    Sounds like Caty didn’t like GoW all that much. Y’all smart for keeping her away from the review lol.

    Anyways, this is the first time I’ve ever heard of prestige games and prestige television. Aren’t they just AAA games?
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #7 MetManMas 4 months ago
    I'm not gonna say I loathe prestige gaming because me saying that would be a dirty goddamned lie going by my PS4 indie collection, but I am getting exhausted by like every other AAA game (particularly ones focused on KILL THE THING) going the prestige route. Any serious messages often tend to fall flat when your primary interaction with the game world is murdering shit.

    Yoko Taro understands this, it's why the heroes in his games tend to be sociopaths or people with good intentions who end up doing monstrous shit and also why the world ends up worse off than if you had done nothing at all.

    It's not to say I have no interest in the new God of War (If anything, Regretful Dad Kratos interests me more than the traditional Angsty McMurderface Kratos), but honestly the Sony titles (or "Sony" titles) I'm most interested in this year are the remasters of MediEvil and the Spyro trilogy. You know, comparatively lighthearted mascot games. I know, MediEvil's rated T, but it was still practically a cartoon.

    Also on the subject of games with the feels I learned today that Tacoma's hitting PS4 a few days before my birthday. Really been looking forward to playing this one.
    -@NateDizzy I would love to see a cartoony E10+ (borderline T at worst) game tackle serious themes with a similar level of tactfulness as Pixar does. Edited 3 times. Last edited April 2018 by MetManMas
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #8 donkeyintheforest 4 months ago
    Agreed. Battlestar Galactica was another. While there are great things to be had in many of the shows listed (I loved Mad Men for the sets, clothes, office when they were actually doing work; Breaking Bad, and now Better Call Saul, have some of the best camera placement; Game of Thrones' magic, dragons, and the best fantasy armor), I generally wouldn't recommend them. It just comes to finding a balance between what you love about a show/game, and what you don't.

    Although I've never liked any of the God of War games I've played enough to finish them, I am intrigued by this one because of what I hear about the gameplay. That is something that separates prestige gaming from tv. They can both look beautiful, have dark [annoying] stories, and be the hot thing everybody's talking about (no I am still not interested in The Wire thanks); but for me, gameplay is the main thing I crave in videogames. That can elevate something with no other qualities I care about to a really fun experience.

    I think gameplay is more important to a prestige game than any factor (handsome brooding antiheros, camera work, set design, tragic events, special effects, etc) a prestige show has going for it.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #9 SatelliteOfLove 4 months ago
    Im of the opinion that Dad of War (no it isn't their name for it; that one came out in 2005 and DoW is the Persona to GoW's Megaten), is that like Naughty Dog's output, that they're some of the few AAA games that actually HAVE story with enough quality to be worth that cinematical spectacackle...something AAA games of yesteryear failed to do either because they sucked at it or were just filling a checkbox (as was Gen 7's way).


    I found this much worse with books from the usual high school AP curriculum. Oh boy, it's A SEPERATE PEACE! *barfs*
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  • Avatar for jihon83 #10 jihon83 4 months ago
    It is an interesting and futile pursuit. God of War began in the middle of gaming trying to prove it was "for ADULTS" because you got to rip apart harpies and fuck the shit out of some bitches. Because real men swear, have sex, and murder for effect. Now, the newest one is about making it look like a Greek god viscerally guts a troll, remembers a woman he loved, god dammit, and frets over his child. Because real men swear, kill, and rage regretfully. Oh, and a woman has to die, that is the ice cube floating at the top of a manly glass of scotch.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #11 link6616 4 months ago
    @Kuni-Nino Prestige games isn't really a term, but the point of the piece is to link this idea of prestige tv (which is a thing as the linked articles confirm) and that games are taking from it.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #12 VotesForCows 4 months ago
    I think one thing that's missing from the discussion is the value or purpose of these games (implied in the 'prestige' title). For the platform holder, which is usually Sony, these games are like peacock feathers - they draw attention to the system. Not many companies have the resources for this, and they want to make sure we know it. Which is a totally legit thing to do.
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  • Avatar for docexe #13 docexe 4 months ago
    If we define “Prestige games” as games with very high production values that tell a serious, somber story while attempting to deal with complex/mature themes, I would say the trend isn’t really new. I think it’s possible to trace it back to the prior console generation, and specifically to games like Grand Theft Auto IV, Bioshock and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Those games tried (“try” being the operative word here) to tell more serious and “sophisticated” stories than their predecessors. Sometimes they actually succeeded admirably, but often they also tended to fall flat. Too often, you could see both extremes playing out in the same game.

    That being said however, I don’t have a problem with this kind of games per se, and even would argue some of them do manage to be genuinely mature in their storytelling (games like The Last of Us or Spec Ops: The Line for instance). If anything, the thing that’s bothersome is how so many AAA games with a focus on narrative tend to employ the same somber, dour tone these days. It’s a trap that I believe too many people (not only critics, academics or reviewers, but people in general really) fall into: The mistaken belief that “true/sophisticated/mature” art has to be dark and angsty.

    And well, I have not played the new God of War yet, but watching videos of it, I’m not sure is really any more self-serious than the games of the original trilogy. If anything, it’s not like the old God of War games didn’t take themselves too seriously, but rather that they also tended to be too… well, “juvenile” at times, which tended to balance things out. Also, based on what I have watched so far, I have to say I’m finding Kratos more sympathetic in this installment than in any of the prior games I played. I mean, yes, he is not exactly a good dad (he is actually terrible at times, to be honest), but the fact that he is trying (“trying” being again the operative word here) to be a better man and prevent Atreus from committing the same mistakes, makes him 200% more sympathetic/likeable than the embodiment of rage that, blinded by his thirst for revenge and incapable of facing the consequences of his actions, pretty much murdered the entire cosmos.
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  • Avatar for hiptanaka #14 hiptanaka 4 months ago
    Somber atmosphere. Mostly desolate areas with a few recurring key characters. Wayward spirits. Slower, more deliberate combat. It does sound familiar. It's post-Dark Souls God of War. Even down to some details like the hammer on anvil sound that slowly grows louder as you close in on a blacksmith.

    One thing I like about God of War is how "raw" it feels with the camera hovering right behind Kratos' shoulders as he slowly carries out various tasks, with no background music. (Or puts a heavy axe into an enemy.) Which made me groan even louder when I got to the fight with "the stranger", which felt ripped straight out of a Marvel movie. What happened there?
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #15 MetManMas 4 months ago
    @docexe That's another thing I don't like about prestige gaming, and why I'm also not into prestige television. It's always the same old dreary super depressing shit.

    Like, I would love to see more game developers take a serious stab at say, making a comedy game, you know? And not just some Family Guy grade nonsense that focuses too much on references to far better things, I mean put all that effort that would usually go into a dreary game towards making a title that's actually funny.

    Also, lay off the realism. One of the things I originally found so appealing about gaming (and one that's fallen to the wayside as mascot platforms became an endangered species in the 21st century) is that the medium could be used to make living cartoons.
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  • Avatar for Nuclear-Vomit #16 Nuclear-Vomit 4 months ago
    The Prestige was a great movie... Batman and Wolverine were doing magic tricks.
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  • Avatar for TheRobotman9000 #17 TheRobotman9000 4 months ago
    @Kuni-Nino Is it a crime not to like God of War? Because I'd say it is wholly undeserving the relentless dick sucking it's been getting.
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #18 Flipsider99 4 months ago
    @hiptanaka I agree, that fight with the Stranger instantly reminded me of a pale imitation of a Marvel movie. It was just out of place and strange. Not a very good boss fight either, as it is one of those "cutscene battles" where the actual gameplay is not really the point.

    God of War seems like an okay attempt to revive a series, it's just that it clearly smacks of desperation. It's attempt to take different parts of current games that are popular and force them together into a Frankenstein's monster of an attempted hit, and just reeks of design by committee. Nothing surprising about that, what's surprising is that so many people are buying into the hype. I can only imagine that once the "new-stalgia" wears off, people are going to realize that the Emperor's clothes are a bit shoddy.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #19 Roto13 4 months ago
    As God of War was being shown off in the months before launch, the more it looked like The Last of Us, the less interested I was in it.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #20 Kuni-Nino 4 months ago
    @TheRobotman9000 I think you can hate it. I haven’t played it but it basically looks like another iteration of the Tomb Raider 2013 and Arkham games formula. Some people aren’t into that kind of game. That should be alright but I’ll bet my life savings that those people will fall into the minority.

    I stii don’t really understand where this piece is coming from to be honest. I don’t watch or follow a lot of television and some of the shows listed here I’ve never even heard of.

    Though I see that Caty name dropped The Crown which is the last show I watched. That’s considered prestige tv I assume and it’s nothing like God of War or Game of Thrones or what have you.
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #21 Flipsider99 4 months ago
    @Kuni-Nino Not THAT small of a minority, considering that there was a pretty sizable backlash against Tomb Raider 2013, and a lot of people didn't like the later Arkham games even when they were new. Sometimes "new-stalgia" blinds people to a game's flaws, because they just want to like something. And I think that's the case with this game.
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  • Avatar for catymcc #22 catymcc 4 months ago
    @Kuni-Nino I link to three articles in the context of the piece elaborating on the concept of "prestige tv," as well as the first paragraph under "The Prestige" subhed elaborating on the concept, if that helps. An excerpt: "Prestige TV, most succinctly defined, has been the most recent era of television shows that have higher-than-average production values, mature themes, and usually a familiar face or two at its forefront. They typically have asshole anti-heroes at their center. Mad Men, Game of Thrones, and Breaking Bad were early landmarks in the prestige TV era, and the trend has only grown more crowded in the years since. At its best, prestige television challenges convention and propels the medium forward with artful direction and superb writing. At its worst, it's Westworld—a once-campy film remade into a grim and gritty HBO series, offering the appearance of depth without any of the substance."

    I also didn't dislike GoW, so idk where you got that idea. As I write in the piece, there's quite a bit I liked about it, in addition to stuff that I disliked about it. Criticism is more nuanced than just loving or hating something. (If I reviewed it, I probably would have fallen on the 3-3.5/5 scale.) I'm just baffled by the perfect scores/"game of the generation"-type hype it's getting all around the press, to be honest.
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #23 Flipsider99 4 months ago
    @catymcc That's exactly how I feel about it. Not a bad game by any means, I just don't understand the high praise.
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  • Avatar for SuperShinobi #24 SuperShinobi 4 months ago
    Some of the best ever TV series have been made in the past decade and many critics argue that TV has surpassed the movies. I don't spend that much time watching TV, but I have seen series like Breaking Bad and The Wire and would agree with the critics that praise them.

    Adversity and conflict, the resolution of conflict, hope vs. despair, love and hate, people being flawed as they are, and the human condition are some of the themes that the narrative dramatic genre often involves. And should involve, to be interesting and true - those are not themes to shy away from. So, I see these narrative games of recent years not so much as a trend, but as games finally doing something similar to what movies and theater have been doing for ages. Think about some of the best picture Oscar winners of recent times for example: Argo, Hurt Locker, No Country for Old Men, The Departed, Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Gladiator.

    In gaming, it still feels like a new thing. The PS3/360 generation changed gaming in some ways. I remember playing the original Bioshock and thinking what an awesome story and setting it had, not just for a video game, but just in general. There was storytelling also in games of the past, but it was always with the caveat "yeah great - for a video game".

    So after decades of fun but more or less mindless action games, I think these narrative and artistic games that we're now getting should be celebrated. As long as they manage the balancing of the narrative and the game part.Edited 2 times. Last edited April 2018 by SuperShinobi
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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #25 Monkey-Tamer 4 months ago
    I don't have a problem with it in and of itself, but too much of a good thing . . .
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #26 Kuni-Nino 4 months ago
    @catymcc I haven’t played it but I don’t find GoW’s praise to be all that different from the usual rounds of hyperbole the gaming media likes to revel in. We had the same crap happen last year with Zelda and Horizon. We had the same thing happen many years before with games like Bioshock and Infinite and countless others. It’s part of the hype cycle. Personally I believe it’s all rooted in bias but I don’t know if I want to open the lid on that subject.

    Anyways, my bad if I mischaracterized your feelings on GoW. I’m all for nuanced opinions. I’d rather have those than the endless appraisal that is being attached to this game.
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  • Avatar for hiptanaka #27 hiptanaka 4 months ago
    @Flipsider99 I wouldn’t go that far. Other than that fight, I think it has a pretty coherent identity (so far), even if it clearly draws from various sources. I like the sense of adventure, and the combat system.
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #28 Flipsider99 4 months ago
    @hiptanaka I think it gets too bogged down in it's attempts at a story and characterization, a lot of which fall flat. The combat is okay, but it's really nothing special. And I think it's on the repetitive side. Enemy design is a little boring.
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  • Avatar for ericspratling56 #29 ericspratling56 4 months ago
    The rise of Prestige TV can be largely tied to what's happening in movies: as Hollywood chases bigger profits from international-friendly blockbusters (meaning none of the drama or humor can be subtle enough to elide cultural differences), there's still plenty of room at the multiplex for micro-budgeted indies, but modestly-priced grown-up dramas are disappearing. You want that kind of experience, you mostly go to TV now.

    And it's been good for long-form storytelling, generally. Any problems you can diagnose with Westworld and the like have less to do with them being "prestige" than they do with them just being crappy shows.

    Meanwhile, even as GOW 2018 is enjoyably restrained in comparison to its predecessors (and what wouldn't be, frankly) a HUGE amount of appeal is still tied to its gloriously gruesome, visceral combat. This is absolutely not a game which takes itself TOO seriously.

    Also, and I don't want to ding Caty for supposed hypocrisy on an opinion she might not even share, but it's still odd to read an article like this so soon in the wake of Far Cry 5, which was dinged by so many critics for being "unserious" and "missing an opportunity to say something important." Video games shouldn't be silly and pulpy, but they shouldn't be prestigious and resonant either. (Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that those FC5 criticisms were mostly code for "I wanted this game to be about the simulated killing of hundreds of Trump supporters, and I want to express my disappointment with it not being that in a palatable way.")
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #30 Flipsider99 4 months ago
    @ericspratling56 I don't think it's hypocritical, Far Cry 5 and GoW are both alike and different. As "unserious" as it was, Far Cry 5 still tried to take itself much too seriously when it tried to have a story. It was trying to have it's cake and eat it too: be a silly goofy game with a serious plot about cults. It was schizophrenic.

    On top of that, Far Cry 5 shares a similar problem with GoW: kitchen sink comittee design. Neither game really feels like they have a "vision" for the gameplay. Rather, it's just an amalgamation of other gameplay elements that are popular. They are fun enough to please the masses but ultimately they are both kind of soulless, disposable pieces of entertainment. Though I think GoW is a bit more solidly designed, overall.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #31 Kuni-Nino 4 months ago
    @Flipsider99 Hasn’t kitchen sink design been GoW’s thing since its debut. I remember the reviews of the original and critics compared the caliber of its puzzles to Zelda, its combat to Devil May Cry, and of course everyone praised the visuals.

    Doing a little bit of everything in a gorgeous package is sort of what GoW has always been about. Gameplay-wise anyways.
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  • Avatar for catymcc #32 catymcc 4 months ago
    @ericspratling56 I didn't play Far Cry 5 and don't really have immediate plans to as I didn't enjoy it when I played it at demo events before its release (the AI felt really dumb and the stealth wasn't really good, which is how I primarily played FC3 and FC4 sooo), but the big criticism I saw wasn't that the game wasn't that the game wasn't what you're assuming critics "wanted" it to be like, but that it tried to be a super silly and super serious game at the same time and didn't balance the two tones as well as, say, Wolfenstein 2 (or arguably even past Far Cry entries). Mike even wrote a good article about this problem.
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #33 Flipsider99 4 months ago
    @Kuni-Nino Yeah, you're absolutely right about that. I was never a huge fan of the originals, either. They were competent, but they were derivative of other better character action games.
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  • Avatar for SuperShinobi #34 SuperShinobi 4 months ago

    Games borrow from other games all the time, game design doesn't happen in a vacuum. Even Breath of the Wild borrows heavily from games like Skyrim and Dark Souls. And like GoW, Zelda also had to change its old formula and adapt to the times.

    My copy of the new GoW hasn't arrived yet, but I'm sure the end result of a challenging passion project of many years at Sony Santa Monica has been soulful enough. The attention to detail and care in every aspect of the game's design is evident.
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #35 donkeyintheforest 4 months ago
    "The problem, then, is not that these shows are serious, or even that they’re almost always serious. It’s that they expect the audience to be, too. In other words, the major flaw of True Detective or Game of Thrones is their monotone, the fact that they only ever ask for or permit from viewers a single, worshipful stance. It’s this allergy to camp—to deviant interpretations—that likely makes these shows so ripe for deflation." from thementioned article The Unbearable Darkness of Prestige Television by Alsop

    [Despite being slightly out of date by now considering the two most recent seasons of GoT] This cannot be applied to videogames. If a player wants to change the tone of a videogame they can usually do so instantly. Short of a visual novel or Telltale like game, players can make a character run repeatedly into a wall, jump in place in a silly way, grunt maniacally, or otherwise act contrary to the creators intentions, and in effect, change the tone of the game.

    In no way did I see Uncharted 4 "being a muted, less bombastic sort of action game." I never thought Uncharted 4's Drake was any more dour in tone than previous entries (I did think the game was a bit slow/long at times, but that's another issue). However, this is probably based on the way I played; with no real aim at rushing through the game or taking on the role of playing a serious Drake. I jumped off every waterfall I could find just to watch the hilarious ragdolling (you can explore some pretty glitchy but cool areas if you survive the falls!), I drove the jeep off cliffs, made a mockery of the serious juvenile Drake segment, etc. In other words, I broke up what might be a serious tone with bouts of absurd action. Any cutscenes that suggested other seriousness were undercut by the gameplay.

    This is a great article, that made me think. That said, the constant desire to compare games to non-interactive media (even when critiquing them in relation to other critiques that are meant to subvert common critique/acclaim) sells the medium short. Games that try and reach the "prestige" label by mimicking other mediums may achieve it on surface level, but things like Monster Factory undercut those efforts and reveal that there is more to games than just the software provided to the player. The player must not only bring their prior knowledge and creative understanding to the experience as they do in literature, art, tv, film, etc. but also their skill and subjective desire to participate as well. This sets them apart, and so long as videogames (aka interactive media, aka whatever) and their analysis only aspire to emulate the other mediums, they will be lacking.
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #36 Flipsider99 4 months ago
    @SuperShinobi Well I think the difference is that Breath of the Wild feels like it had a vision behind it's design. It feels like a project that thought was put behind all of it's mechanics, to make sure they all coalesce into a certain experience. It feels different from other open world games, it feels new. It feels like something that itself will be imitated in the future. The new God of War doesn't feel like that. If you want to disagree that's fine, but personally I don't feel any vision from God of War. What I feel is a committee sitting around saying "how can we make this popular. Here's a checklist of currently popular games, let's include this, and this, and also this... that ought to sell." And personally I don't think it does any particular aspect particularly well.
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  • Avatar for SuperShinobi #37 SuperShinobi 4 months ago

    I'd have to disagree with the claim that this would've been designed "by committee" to calculatively ride some currently popular bandwagon. The game seems to have been an arduous passion project for Sony Santa Monica. From a recent US Gamer article:

    "Sony's leadership was resistant, believing that God of War needed to lay dormant after exhausting its momentum with Ascension. Barlog got his way, though, and God of War was greenlit."
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #38 Flipsider99 4 months ago
    @SuperShinobi Well it may say that, but it certainly doesn't feel like a passion project. I mean there's certainly nothing particularly wrong with the game, but there's nothing amazingly "right" with it either. It's not as visceral as Bloodborne, nor does it have the same kind of compelling world design; it doesn't feel as dangerous and immediate as Dark Souls; it doesn't have the same depth as a Platinum action game; the art design is a bit too safe and standard and doesn't have the raw beauty of something like Breath of the Wild; the story falls pretty flat and ultimately doesn't capture the same emotion of something like The Last of Us. It just doesn't excel in any area except the technical specs of it's graphics.

    But hey, no sense in arguing about this in the comments. It's just my opinion that the game is nothing special. It's fine if you feel differently.
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  • Avatar for SuperShinobi #39 SuperShinobi 4 months ago

    It's interesting to hear different opinions, when they come from a place of honesty and are a bit more elaborate like your post, rather than someone just passingly calling a game "overrated" or "crap". GoW has received glowing reviews, but it's no guarantee that everyone will like the game. I doubt it can top something like Bloodborne, but I'll have to play it and see. Mario Odyssey got glowing reviews, but to me it felt like a belated Mario 64 sequel that should've been released 10-15 years ago.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #40 MHWilliams 4 months ago
    @SuperShinobi Flipsider99 means, "It wasn't designed by From Software, so I prefer to think the developers are soulless automatons with no desires or feelings put into the game, despite evidence to the contrary."
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #41 Flipsider99 4 months ago
    @SuperShinobi See I thought Mario Odyssey was genuinely good, but that's just me. I appreciate your point of view, thanks for appreciating mine.
    @MHWilliams Mike, I praised Zelda and The Last of Us in the same post. And while a statement one of the devs made is certainly "evidence", I prefer the evidence of the game itself. Which says something entirely different to me.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #42 MHWilliams 4 months ago
    @Flipsider99 If you can't feel the craft and effort put into the game at its core, that's honestly on you, Flip. There is definitely an easy cash-grab way to have made that game. The released work was not it.

    So when I read: "What I feel is a committee sitting around saying "how can we make this popular. Here's a checklist of currently popular games, let's include this, and this, and also this... that ought to sell." And personally I don't think it does any particular aspect particularly well."

    I disagree vehemently. Edited 2 times. Last edited April 2018 by MHWilliams
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #43 Flipsider99 4 months ago
    @MHWilliams That's totally fine. Feel free to disagree.

    I agree with you about one thing: there is definitely an easy cash-grab way to have made this game. Here's the part I don't understand: exactly what you think that is, if THIS isn't it. Because to me, this is the very picture of exactly what that looks like. It borrows elements from the most popular games of the last few years, and throws in a little Marvel to boot. What else could possibly be safer and more predictable?
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  • Avatar for Relag #44 Relag 4 months ago
    It's the same thing as the age old "A comedy can never win best picture." To be taken seriously as an artist you need to dig deep in some grim atmosphere. Something fun, no matter how well performed or pertinent it is, is never taken as seriously as it deserves to be. It's disappointing but looking at other industries it doesn't look like a practice that will change anytime soon.

    It's not just marketing and press though. Artists seem to feel like they need to remove any sort of levity to get their statement across. I felt that Persona 5 suffered from this. While the darker nature and themes of oppression were done well enough, the developers were so focused on the horrors of society that they lost a lot of the fun that I came to the more recent Persona games for.

    Anyways, thanks for the write-up Caty. Good read.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #45 MHWilliams 4 months ago
    @Flipsider99 If that's really all you see after watching some videos, then yes, I'll go with agree to disagree.

    I believe the cash grab would be to either do God of War again, top to bottom with better graphics, which is the Ascension model. (Hence the reason I only played around an hour of that game. Not actually a huge God of War fan.) The full committee game would be an open-world adventure with destructible weapons, Soulslike combat, and cosmetic loot boxes.

    I've played all of the games mentioned, including Bloodborne, Last of Us, and Breath of the Wild. And God of War, like the others, strikes me as a game with some definite thought put into its combat mechanics and exploration. That's from a play perspective and having spoken with the developers themselves and seen their own explanation as to the thoughts behind their choices.

    I'm not even sure what the Marvel part is? The Stranger having banter for his short screen time? The axe working like Thor's hammer? That's so reductive as to be useless as criticism.

    But, it's a comment, not criticism, so... by all means. You are certainly entitled to your opinion. I leave you to it and this particular comment section.
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  • Avatar for docexe #46 docexe 4 months ago
    @MetManMas For me the issue is mostly the homogenization. After all, I do have liked my share of dark, tragic and somber stories. I just don’t think all narratives should be like that, and I also find it unfair how so often those kind of “super dark/depressing” stories tend to receive more accolades from certain people on the assumption that they are more “mature”/”sophisticated” by default.

    That being said, I do agree with you that we need more comedic and cartoony games in the AAA space.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #47 Kuni-Nino 4 months ago
    @Relag I understand the sentiment but it’s kinda not true for movies at least. Terms of Endearment and American Beauty got Best Picture wins in their respective years. Also, plenty of of comedies get nominated when they’re good like Get Out last year. The ones that have it hard are the Dumb and Dumber’s of the world. And let’s be honest, we know why. It’s cuz those movies are really stupid (even tho they’re hilarious).
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  • Avatar for ViewtifulJC #48 ViewtifulJC 4 months ago
    @Kuni-Nino And that's not even true in the realm of video games. Last year GOTYs were Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. Year before that, Overwatch won the most GOTYs. We get one somber GOTY contender this year in 2018, and people gotta lose their freakin' minds and whine about the "dark'n'gritty" award seeking. Like give me a damn break. Ya'll got some short ass memories.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #49 MetManMas 4 months ago
    @docexe Yes, I definitely agree. There's such a thing as too much of a good thing, and while playing Follow the Leader can occasionally result in a really great game, innovation is king.

    Like, Telltale's first The Walking Dead series was a hit because it tried something new and did it well. But then Telltale Games used that same basic template for every game they've done for the past six years and it's really worn thin. It's not uncommon these days to hear a collective sigh when a new Telltale thing's announced.
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  • Avatar for Johnny-Law #50 Johnny-Law 4 months ago
    @Flipsider99 “considering that there was a pretty sizable backlash against Tomb Raider 2013”

    Huh!? No there wasn’t. I’m sure there are some ppl who didn’t like it out there, but both tomb raider games were and are really well regarded. Dont know where you got that from...
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  • Avatar for Johnny-Law #51 Johnny-Law 4 months ago
    @catymcc lol so another 6/10 like Horizon? Hahah wow
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  • Avatar for Johnny-Law #52 Johnny-Law 4 months ago
    @Flipsider99 “It feels like a project that thought was put behind all of it's mechanics, to make sure they all coalesce into a certain experience.” Lol this is literally an exact discription of what GoW did
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  • Avatar for sean697 #53 sean697 4 months ago
    I didn’t like Riverdale. Also, Riverdale is prestige TV.

    Anyway, this article might as well read AAA game not made by Nintendo. Not that I’d disagree with the contents. But this is where AAA games have been headed for awhile. And I too like a whimsical fun MARIO Odyssey or a good indie game. But I find these type of serious subject games offensive or not worth playing. Especially when you mix it up with other types of games. Maybe if these type of games were most of what you played. (Like say if it was your job and you had to play them.) Then I might be a little upset too.
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