Lincoln: the Video Game and Other Bad Ideas
June 19, 2009
I recently finished Goodwin’s awesome Team of Rivals, a multi-faceted biography of Lincoln and the people surrounding him. A lot has been said about the book already, including comments from President Obama. I’ll only add that I think the work could have been improved had it added more on the political dealings surrounding the war strategy and perhaps omitted the somewhat capricious details around Washington social life dealing with parties, soirees, and celebrations.
In the Wikipedia entry to the book, I discovered to my horror that it may be slated to become a movie directed by Spielberg working with–oh, no, not him–the horrendously overrated and verbose Peter Jackson. I strongly believe that the force of a message is very much inseparable from the medium in which it is presented. Books will almost always have the capacity for greater nuance and subtlety than a mass-market, digestible film; in turn, film generally will have greater capacity for said nuance and subtlety than video games. Some things should be left alone in their original medium.
So in the vein of disregarding authenticity, I can only imagine the types of taglines that would fly for Lincoln: the Video Game. Assuming the game tried to depict as much of the subtlety and not just be a military strategy game…
[CUE DEEP-VOICED ANNOUNCER AND IMAGES OF EXPLOSIONS]
ANNOUNCER: From the studios that brought you The Sims and Madden 2009 comes…LINCOLN!
[IMAGE OF LINCOLN SITTING IN A CHAIR THINKING]
ANNOUNCER: Balance the conservative and radical elements of your party…
[IMAGE OF LINCOLN WITH HAND IN THE AIR SURROUNDED BY CROWDS]
ANNOUNCER: Placate the masses with your oratorical skill…
[IMAGE OF SALMON CHASE, PLOTTING AGAINST YOU AS SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY]
ANNOUNCER: Navigate the dangerous waters of political intrigue within your own Cabinet!
I can already picture the crowds of enthusiastic gamers lining up or preordering weeks in advance. For some reason, real history just isn’t as interesting as video games.
Likewise, I sometimes wonder if the makers of games like Syphon Filter, Metal Gear Solid, or other such “espionage” games actually consulted history. Not like they should, lest they create a game like this:
[DEEP-VOICED ANNOUNCER AGAIN, WITH EXPLOSIONS]
ANNOUNCER: From the studios that brought you Lincoln: the Video Game and the stealthy espionage action of Metal Gear Solid comes…Competitive Intelligence: Corporate Espionage Action!
[GAMEPLAY OF YOU SNEAKING AROUND MICROSOFT OR GOOGLE'S CAFETERIA, SNEAKING UP BEHIND A RANDOM GUY GETTING HIS LUNCH, THEN CHOKING HIM AND INTERROGATING HIM TO GET VALUABLE TRADE SECRETS]
ANNOUNCER: You are the top spy of the world’s greater private espionage contractor (PEC). Infiltrate the ranks of the greatest minds in the search industry…and deliver illegal counterintelligence in this dangerous war of escalation in information retrieval.
[GAMEPLAY OF YOU FIGHTING A POWERFUL, CYBERDEMON-LIKE CREATURE]
ANNOUNCER: Evade the corporate park security and cross blades with high-ranking executives like Qi Lu, Marissa Mayer, Satya Nadella, and Hal Varian!
Once again, the realities of actual espionage fall rather short of depictions in successful video games. Always ask questions, but some things should just be left alone and appreciated for what they are.