For at least two decades, the average gamer has labored under the yoke of an oppressively highfalutin artistic culture. As is the case with any powerful avant-garde regime, the haughty intellects—I call them the gamerati—who perpetuate this culture tend towards elitism, creating purposefully difficult and unfun art that is hostile to a public unfamiliar with its obscure standards, honed over years at the most exclusive universities. Indeed, the history of video games, from its beginning in the laboratories of MIT through its maturation from such already highbrow platform games as Boogerman and Conker's Bad Fur Day into such remote exercises in auteurism as Wargasm, Killzone, and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, can be read as one extended act of artistic snobbery.
I say: Enough. I say: It is high time someone wrested game design from these obscurantists and made, for a change, some good, dumb, fun!
Praise be to the gods of good, dumb, fun, then, that the Illinois game studio Volition has heard the cries of a game proletariat tragically underserved with easy pleasures. Their new game, Saints Row 4 is, according to reviews, finally a videogame that puts fun above all else!
Unapologetic, no-holds-barred, stick-it-in-your-craw attitude—a colossal middle finger to clean, proper, and respectful game design in the name of unadulterated fun in the purest sense of the word.
Take that, respectful game design! Stop preventing fun! Stick it in your craw if you don't like it!
Many of the gameplay, storytelling, and stylistic choices initially don't seem to make a lot of sense, until you realize that they all come back to one core goal: having fun.
Wait, wait, wait. Wait. This doesn't make sense. But what if… OH my god.
It's too busy being awesome for you to ever get bored. Seriously, buy this f*cking game.
I was on the fence about buying this title, but that "fucking" led me to believe that Saints Row 4 takes absolutely no breaks from being awesome.
It's an unlikely kind of triumph: what began as little more than a poor man's GTA has evolved into a kind of anything-goes sandbox action game, but it's hard to pick out a defining characteristic beyond the fact that it lets you do stupid stuff.
Yes, the unlikeliest kind of triumph: At long last, a game that lets you do stupid stuff!
I was laughing out loud with actual noises emanating from my mouth within the first ten minutes of Saints Row IV.
Any game that makes you laugh with actual noises must be fun.
It's rare to play a game that is so intent on pleasing the player. All the bullshit has been stripped away, leaving only the good bits. The story is pure nonsense, and it takes about 30 minutes to become the President…
Get out of here bullshit! You got stripped away! This game wants to please us, the people! We deserve it.
Saints Row IV respectfully asks, "What makes games fun?" And then it throws you off a tower and hands you a black hole gun on the way down, because it can't be bothered to waste time answering the question. Neither should you. Saints Row IV is the answer.
Don't waste time not playing this game.
It's possible someone who doesn't buy into the Saints Row universe with such enthusiasm will find Saints Row IV exhausting and boring. Might we suggest those people attend a local museum, where the paintings of flowers might be more to their taste.
Enjoy your museum, virgins.
I've spent the past week playing this thing, and like the men said, everything about this game is fun. From the moment you start Saints Row IV, it's fun. First, you play as the President, which is fun, and you've renamed your residence "The White Crib", which is fun because that's like what Xzibit would name the White House or something. And then your closest advisor is the actor Keith David, playing himself, which is fun because it's sort of what's that word, oh yeah meta but you don't have to think about it and it's really funny. And then like the first choice the game gives you is whether to cure world hunger or cancer which is funny because it's a joke and also it's making fun of games that give you binary choices, so it's also smart. Smart and funny. Then aliens invade—fun—and the alien ruler has a British accent which is fun. Okay and then the aliens put you in a Matrix-like simulation which is fun because then the world has no consequences, which is fun, and you can have all sorts of superpowers, which are fun, we agree. Then the game mostly becomes about destroying things in the simulation while dressed up in fun outfits, like drag or a 1970s detective, always fun, while zooming, a fun verb, and very early in the game you get something called a Dubstep gun which is fun because Dubstep is cool but also a joke and so it's like a cool funny joke. The fun never stops and frankly it's been hard to rip myself away from the never-ending fun to sit here and write this. My synapses cry for more fun but I'll just hand my synapses a black hole gun and throw them off a building.
Ultimately, Saints Row IV is like all the best stuff. If you never take a break from what makes it awesome, you end up with the best results. In music, that's Dragonforce. In film, that's Scary Movie 4. In fashion, Ed Hardy. In food, that's the Burger King burger with 1,000 slices of cheese.
Games need to learn from Saints Row 4. They shouldn't have pacing or contrast. Everyone loves that giraffe scene in The Last of Us but what about those boring previous 6 hours? That entire game should have just been giraffe scenes. Games should, from the startup screen until the closing credits, constantly ingratiate themselves to the player, winking, playing air guitar, humping stuff, high-fiving, up high, down low, too slow. They should basically suffocate you with fun.
I truly hope more games have the bravery and conviction of Saints Row IV, to try to give gamers what they've wanted for so long and have spent billions of dollars hoping for, but never received: fun. It's time to take gaming back from the wine and cheese and Dave Eggers crowd and give it to the people. My only worry is that we aren't worthy. I'm not sure even we deserve fun like this.
Joe Bernstein is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Bernstein reports on and writes about the gaming industry and web culture.
Contact Joseph Bernstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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