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Author Topic: Extra Credits: Propaganda Games & Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong  (Read 9670 times)

Renegade

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I tripped across an interesting site about games. They publish some pretty interesting stuff, and some very thoughtful things.

http://extra-credits.net/

Here's one example:



And one about Cthulhu (and still thoughtful):



It's very much "meta" in that the underlying concepts are examined in a depth that you've probably never really seen before (applied to games), or have only seen superficially.
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Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

Edvard

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Re: Extra Credits: Propaganda Games & Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2014, 08:16:18 PM »
Quote
Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong

Nailed. It.

Deozaan

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Re: Extra Credits: Propaganda Games & Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2014, 09:58:18 PM »
I think it should be titled "How Games Do Cthulhu Wrong" because it doesn't really explain why they keep doing Cthulhu wrong by embodying him/it into something you can attack and defeat. It just explains that they do keep doing that.

But yeah, Extra Credits is great. Lots of useful insight into game design and similar things.


Edvard

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Re: Extra Credits: Propaganda Games & Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2014, 01:30:57 PM »
it doesn't really explain why they keep doing Cthulhu wrong

I sort of agree, but they kinda did in their examples.  Apparently, it's WAAAY easier to design a game around a "boss", and what bigger boss can you ever offer than an insane elder god?  And what's the point of a boss if it isn't defeatable?  That's the catch, and where they get it wrong.  Cthulhu is more of a concept than a thing, and it's obviously easier to design a game around things rather than concepts.  More popular, at least.  Not that the game designers are lazy, but it seems to me the creative process required for designing around conceptual content requires a different kind of genius.

That said, I think games like Amnesia got it more right by making the game winnable, but without the ubiquitous "overcome bad guys by force" element.  You were meant to hide and run away from the creatures (they were indestructible anyway), and the ever-encroaching insanity as you searched for a !@#$%& box of matches was an even worse enemy.

mouser

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Re: Extra Credits: Propaganda Games & Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2014, 06:27:04 PM »
I'm probably going to make a fool of myself here, since I am not an expert on Cthulhu stuff, but watching that video did *not* ring completely true to me.

In fact, my impression was that he got the key, fundamental point wrong.

His focus on the specialness of Cthulhu was that "Cthulhu represents our fear of the possibility of our own human smallness.. Cthuhlu presents us with the revelation of forces that are so much larger than us that they're beyond our control... The fear in Cthulhu is not that it's powerful, it's that it's powerful on a scale that we can't even comprehend."

Again, I may be speaking out of my ass here, but that is *not* they key element from my perspective.

They key element as I understood it was the idea of something so horrific and alien and scary that your mind could not process it, and it drove you mad with fear.

Now some of his conclusions are still valid -- but I do think that there is some importance in reconciling whether the key aspect of Cthulhu that needs to be captured in games is whether the player is up against forces so large and vast and uncontrollable that the player can never escape/win/etc.  Or if the key aspect to be captured is that the player is constantly fighting against going insane because learning about Cthulhu will beyond their ability to process without going insane.

I'm not saying that the Cthulhu stories don't feature vast forces so large that they are beyond our control.. I'm just saying that I don't read that as the key, core element.  Madness seems the key to me.

« Last Edit: July 20, 2014, 12:58:27 AM by mouser »

Edvard

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Re: Extra Credits: Propaganda Games & Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2014, 03:09:15 AM »
Quote
I'm not saying that the Cthulhu stories don't feature vast forces so large that they are beyond our control.. I'm just saying that I don't read that as the key, core element.  Madness seems the key to me.

Well... I don't think your opinions are so different from the video's author, really.  I mean, it's not so broad a jump from here to there, is it?  The natural result of facing the situations he described would be utter insanity in the face of them, no?  That IS the crux of many stories by Mr. Lovecraft. 
They often start out somewhat benignly in that the main character has come across some peculiar phenomenon and will explore further.  Then as a result of his (many times dangerous and/or foolhardy) investigations, discovers forces beyond his control or comprehension that brutally exposes his own smallness in the face of the vastness of what he observes.  This, in turn, drives him stark raving mad and/or drives him to pen an entry in a letter or diary warning the rest of us not to tread the path he forged.

You've actually got a pretty good grasp of the argument, as madness IS the inevitable end, and I think you'd agree with the author's opinion that any game based on the Cthulhu mythos would be better served by NOT making defeatable bosses out of unnameable horrors.  I mean really...

Renegade

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Re: Extra Credits: Propaganda Games & Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2014, 09:04:10 PM »
I suppose everyone will have their own take on Cthulhu and Lovecraft, but what I see as the bedrock is "hopelessness".

Everything else springs from that. There is no hope. Now... what horrors and insanity will grow in that fertile bed of despair?

Discovery and learning are merely the beginnings of the downward spiral into insanity where at the bottom, there is nothing but an abyss of despair in which any flickering idea of salvation is quickly extinguished.

But, that's just my own take on it.
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tomos

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Re: Extra Credits: Propaganda Games & Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong
« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2014, 12:46:58 PM »
His focus on the specialness of Cthulhu was that "Cthulhu represents our fear of the possibility of our own human smallness.. Cthuhlu presents us with the revelation of forces that are so much larger than us that they're beyond our control... The fear in Cthulhu is not that it's powerful, it's that it's powerful on a scale that we can't even comprehend."

[^] that is *not* they key element from my perspective.

The key element as I understood it was the idea of something so horrific and alien and scary that your mind could not process it, and it drove you mad with fear.

Leaving out the going mad aspect, it seems to me that the two above could be reduced to the same underlying ideas: fear of the unknown, and of our inability to control it.

as a result of his (many times dangerous and/or foolhardy) investigations, discovers forces beyond his control or comprehension that brutally exposes his own smallness in the face of the vastness of what he observes.  This, in turn, drives him stark raving mad and/or drives him to pen an entry in a letter or diary warning the rest of us not to tread the path he forged.

You've actually got a pretty good grasp of the argument, as madness IS the inevitable end, and I think you'd agree with the author's opinion that any game based on the Cthulhu mythos would be better served by NOT making defeatable bosses out of unnameable horrors.  I mean really...

Yes, "making defeatable bosses out of unnameable horrors" sounds like a fail, but reassuring us about the unnameable horrors seems like an okay idea to me (if maybe impossible in a game). FWIW, I guess I'm saying the idea that madness is the inevetibale end is Lovecraft's belief - and doesnt have to be our's, or the game makers'.

Going back to the fear of the unknown: it's interesting that in most fairy tales, the unknown is mostly presented very casually - and the main protaganist gets help left, right, and centre on their journey into it (the unknown). The evil characters usually represent some behaviour known, or something vaguely known (for the listener), like the wolf in little red riding hood (who represents getting sexual at too young an age).
Tom

Edvard

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Re: Extra Credits: Propaganda Games & Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong
« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2014, 01:50:19 AM »
FWIW, I guess I'm saying the idea that madness is the inevetibale end is Lovecraft's belief - and doesnt have to be our's, or the game makers'.

Well sure, I'll agree to that, but don't call it a Cthulhu game if you do, that's all I'm saying.  I'm not opposed to "Making defeatable bosses out of unnameable horrors" per se; it is probably fine for any game that requires it.  But if you want to stay true to the Cthulhu mythos at all, you really shouldn't do that, because that's simply not what it's about.

From the man himself:
Quote
Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large. To me there is nothing but puerility in a tale in which the human form—and the local human passions and conditions and standards—are depicted as native to other worlds or other universes. To achieve the essence of real externality, whether of time or space or dimension, one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, have any existence at all. Only the human scenes and characters must have human qualities. These must be handled with unsparing realism, (not catch-penny romanticism) but when we cross the line to the boundless and hideous unknown—the shadow-haunted Outside—we must remember to leave our humanity and terrestrialism at the threshold.

— H. P. Lovecraft, in a note to the editor of Weird Tales, on resubmission of "The Call of Cthulhu".
http://en.wikipedia...._P._Lovecraft#Themes

Wow, I'm getting WAAAAY too passionate about this subject...  :( :-[

Stoic Joker

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Re: Extra Credits: Propaganda Games & Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong
« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2014, 06:59:36 AM »
While it's an interesting philosophical debate on the sanctity of a mythological "force" ... I gotta go with tomos on this. It's a game. It's supposed to by fun. There's plenty of time and opportunity IRL to deeply grasp just how badly life can incredibly and pointlessly suck ... It doesn't need to be feathered in for entertainment value.

This is why the original Grimm's fairy tails - which really were - got touched up a bit and given happy endings. Because cautionary tales don't have to be aphoristic and horrifying.

40hz

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Re: Extra Credits: Propaganda Games & Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong
« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2014, 09:28:54 AM »
I'm a big Lovecraft fan - but I'll +1 w/Stoic and tomos. These are games we're talking about. They don't really need to toe the line on Lovecraftian themes or nihilism to be good games.

However, if you're truly a Lovecraft fan, the only possible game involving Cthulhu would be preventing his minions or some misguided researchers from setting in motion a chain of events that will bring on the advent of what the Necronomicon calls the Strange Aeons where the Old Ones shall return to once again dominate and rule our dimension - "and even death may die."*

In short, you can't fight Cthulhu. Cthulhu is the failure state. If Cthulhu appears, the game is over.

The best possible win would be to simply survive - ideally with your sanity intact - till the game clock runs out. With Cthulhu, there is NO possible win - there's only stalling off your own inevitable failure. Your goal isn't to win the game. It's to not lose it. And that would not be the most satisfying outcome for the average gamer.

FWIW I've played some very good Lovecraft-themed games with heavy duty HP fans over the years. While these games were often extremely intense and very enjoyable to play, the "don't lose" end goal tended to leave all of us with a certain sense of frustration and futility by the end of the game. With Lovecraft, there's no real "feel good" ending possible. So unless you're a diehard fan like we are, that probably wouldn't have been considered a 'fun' evening for most people. Not that that's a bad thing for Lovecraft fans. That act of putting up a bold but ultimately pointless front in the face of utter hopelessness and cosmic dread is what makes Lovecraft so entertaining. At least for those of us mutants who have been bitten by the Cthulhu bug.

---------------------------------------------------
*Note: losing to Cthulhu is a particularly nasty fate since Cthulhu is (among other things) an "eater of souls." Your very being becomes trapped like a fly in amber. Those "killed" by Cthulhu don't "die" in the usual sense. Your consciousness gets absorbed into the mind/person of Cthulhu, where it will get to explore the ceaseless and infinite number of ways you can suffer death and pain in Cthulhu's psychotic imagination.

Like Leviathan's Labyrinth in Clive Barker's Hellraiser stories (which Barker has said were heavily influenced by some of Lovecraft's themes and ideas) Cthulhu is the living embodiment of what we would consider to be hell in the most classic and literal sense. "Enter Ye into the place prepared for you from everlasting unto everlasting. Now Ye shall truly never die."

Such is the fate of those consumed by the eater of souls.

Wow! Bummer huh? Talk about something that could ruin your whole day... ;D

cth.png

« Last Edit: July 22, 2014, 10:34:38 AM by 40hz »

superboyac

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Re: Extra Credits: Propaganda Games & Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong
« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2014, 10:49:51 AM »
I'm a big Lovecraft fan - but I'll +1 w/Stoic and tomos. These are games we're talking about. They don't really need to toe the line on Lovecraftian themes or nihilism to be good games.

However, if you're truly a Lovecraft fan, the only possible game involving Cthulhu would be preventing his minions or some misguided researchers from setting in motion a chain of events that will bring on the advent of what the Necronomicon calls the Strange Aeons where the Old Ones shall return to once again dominate and rule our dimension - "and even death may die."*

In short, you can't fight Cthulhu. Cthulhu is the failure state. If Cthulhu appears, the game is over.

The best possible win would be to simply survive - ideally with your sanity intact - till the game clock runs out. With Cthulhu, there is NO possible win - there's only stalling off your own inevitable failure. Your goal isn't to win the game. It's to not lose it. And that would not be the most satisfying outcome for the average gamer.

FWIW I've played some very good Lovecraft-themed games with heavy duty HP fans over the years. While these games were often extremely intense and very enjoyable to play, the "don't lose" end goal tended to leave all of us with a certain sense of frustration and futility by the end of the game. With Lovecraft, there's no real "feel good" ending possible. So unless you're a diehard fan like we are, that probably wouldn't have been considered a 'fun' evening for most people. Not that that's a bad thing for Lovecraft fans. That act of putting up a bold but ultimately pointless front in the face of utter hopelessness and cosmic dread is what makes Lovecraft so entertaining. At least for those of us mutants who have been bitten by the Cthulhu bug.

---------------------------------------------------
*Note: losing to Cthulhu is a particularly nasty fate since Cthulhu is (among other things) an "eater of souls." Your very being becomes trapped like a fly in amber. Those "killed" by Cthulhu don't "die" in the usual sense. Your consciousness gets absorbed into the mind/person of Cthulhu, where it will get to explore the ceaseless and infinite number of ways you can suffer death and pain in Cthulhu's psychotic imagination.

Like Leviathan's Labyrinth in Clive Barker's Hellraiser stories (which Barker has said were heavily influenced by some of Lovecraft's themes and ideas) Cthulhu is the living embodiment of what we would consider to be hell in the most classic and literal sense. "Enter Ye into the place prepared for you from everlasting unto everlasting. Now Ye shall truly never die."

Such is the fate of those consumed by the eater of souls.

Wow! Bummer huh? Talk about something that could ruin your whole day... ;D
 (see attachment in previous post)

>:D :beerchug:

tomos

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Re: Extra Credits: Propaganda Games & Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong
« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2014, 03:59:24 PM »
In short, you can't fight Cthulhu. Cthulhu is the failure state. If Cthulhu appears, the game is over.

that's a killer then... I cant argue with that ;D

I guess my slant then is just that I dont subscribe to the idea of Cthulhu. I'm sure it does exist. I've been in bad shape at times in my life - but never like that, thankfully.
You could have fun in a game messing around with those ideas though :-\ but I suspect it would still upset the Cthulhu fans :P
Tom

40hz

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Re: Extra Credits: Propaganda Games & Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong
« Reply #13 on: July 22, 2014, 04:28:53 PM »
You could have fun in a game messing around with those ideas though :-\ but I suspect it would still upset the Cthulhu fans :P

Might as well upset them then - although the jokes and parodies fly fast and furious whenever Cthulhu fans gather, from my experience. About the only people that just sit there being offended or taking things seriously are some of those goth/artsy types you see hanging out in small groups in the corner - usually holding intense half-whispered conversations among themselves - while doing their best to look very knowing any time the Necronomicon gets mentioned... :-\

The real truth is that unless you do get creative and mess around with those ideas, virtually every Cthulhu Mythos story boils down to a sight variation of this classic animation:



There! Now you don't have to read the stories or try to find a good film adaptation any more. :Thmbsup: 8) :Thmbsup: ;D
« Last Edit: July 22, 2014, 04:34:26 PM by 40hz »

superboyac

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Re: Extra Credits: Propaganda Games & Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong
« Reply #14 on: July 22, 2014, 04:44:48 PM »
 :D
keep it up guys!

Deozaan

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Re: Extra Credits: Propaganda Games & Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong
« Reply #15 on: July 26, 2014, 01:53:10 PM »
This is slightly off-topic, but still about the Extra Credits series:

You also gotta love their "surfer dude, far out, bodacious, Keanu Reeves-esque game reviewer" series James Recommends:



wraith808

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Re: Extra Credits: Propaganda Games & Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong
« Reply #16 on: September 02, 2014, 02:54:49 PM »
In short, you can't fight Cthulhu. Cthulhu is the failure state. If Cthulhu appears, the game is over.

This.  Definitely this.  In my Call of Cthulhu games, the scenarios were around the plot of dealing with the unknowable- never about dealing with the aftermath when they are knowable because they are here.  Game over if that happens.

app103

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Re: Extra Credits: Propaganda Games & Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong
« Reply #17 on: September 02, 2014, 06:00:37 PM »
This is why the original Grimm's fairy tails - which really were - got touched up a bit and given happy endings. Because cautionary tales don't have to be aphoristic and horrifying.

As a child, I actually liked those horrifying stories and one of my prized possessions was an antique fairy tale book, given to me by my grandmother. That's right, no cleaned up G-rated stuff for me. I left that Disneyfied junk for my over-sensitive little sister.

In my favorite version of Cinderella, the ugly stepsisters cut off their heels and tried to cram their bloody foot into the shoe.

Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother was eaten by the wolf and didn't run out of the house to go get the woodsman.

In my favorite version of the Little Mermaid, she's a young child, infatuated with an adult that won't give her the time of day (for obvious reasons), and she chooses to die at the end, rather than kill him.

Not a love struck teen going after someone her own age (or only slightly older), who at the end gets and marries the prince and lives happily ever after.

You are supposed to cry at the end of this story, not do a happy dance.

I hate sanitized versions of fairy tales. It's worse than music with the foul language beeped out.

Deozaan

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Re: Extra Credits: Propaganda Games & Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong
« Reply #18 on: September 02, 2014, 10:53:51 PM »
As a child, I actually liked those horrifying stories and one of my prized possessions was an antique fairy tale book, given to me by my grandmother. That's right, no cleaned up G-rated stuff for me. I left that Disneyfied junk for my over-sensitive little sister.

[...]

You are supposed to cry at the end of this story, not do a happy dance.

I hate sanitized versions of fairy tales. It's worse than music with the foul language beeped out.

Something tells me you'd like:

http://rejectedprincesses.com/


app103

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Re: Extra Credits: Propaganda Games & Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong
« Reply #19 on: September 03, 2014, 03:44:55 AM »