Thursday 1 October 2009

Simulacra and Simulation

I just unlocked Kurt Cobain as a playable character in Guitar Hero 5, so my band now consists of me on guitar, Shirley Manson on vocals (for maximum incongruity, there being all of about 3 songs with a female vocalist), Matt Bellamy on drums (he’s Muse’s drummer, after all) and Kurt Cobain on bass (I’m hoping this shields me from the full wrath of Courtney Love, if he’s only playing along with Bon Jovi rather than singing). In Grand Theft Auto IV I’ve popped into the comedy club a few times to see a digitised Ricky Gervais (or to rapidly skip past a digitised Katt Williams), whole rosters of professional athletes come to virtual life in various EA Sports games, and Charlie Brooker’s Gameswipe had a segment on 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, in which you control the titular mercenary, elite assassin, professional martial artist and sometime rapper on a pretty typical day, laying down a rhyme or two between slaughtering militants by the bucketload.

As a genre, I can’t help but feel CRPGs are missing out with their lack of digitised celebrities. We’ve had the voices of Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean, amongst others, but full motion capture would step things up to the next level. In the forthcoming Star Trek Online, Eddie Izzard would obviously be the perfect bridge crew (“I think this might just be a box with ‘widdly wee’ written on it”; “Set phasers to ‘oven left on at home‘, men!”), as well as the ultimate Sith (“I could kill you with a tray!“) in The Old Republic. In the System Shock games the humans tend to be, with the exception of the protagonist, dead, wiped out by robotic beings; who better for the ultimate opponents in System Shock 3 than the Flight of the Conchords (under the guidance of SHODAN, of course). The exploits of Mr Cent suggest that in future espionage titles like The Agency or Alpha Protocol, if the player needs to call in hard-hitting backup then military special forces or a police SWAT team are frankly second rate when compared to musical entertainers, so I’d suggest players are given a choice of The Sugababes, Westlife or Miley Cyrus to provide fire support.

The one company making notable strides in this area are, of course, Blizzard. After going to all the trouble of digitising Ozzy Osborne it would be a great shame if he wasn’t an actual NPC in Cataclysm, along with William Shatner and Mr T. I’d definitely resubscribe to be in a party with those three.

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