December 26, 2008

THE VALUE OF OTHER CULTURES LIES IN OUR USE OF THEM:

Even Escapist Fare Can’t Escape Some Real-World Questions (SETH SCHIESEL, 12/25/08, NY Times)

Prince of Persia, the new game from Ubisoft that is meant to revamp the franchise that is now two decades old, is certainly light entertainment. It is gorgeous to behold, with a hand-painted visual style demonstrating that as high-definition graphics grow more advanced, they come to look less electronic, more organic rather than more digital.

On a purely biomechanical level — the delicate composition of finger movements with which a player interacts with a game — Prince of Persia is also a triumph. It is perhaps 2008’s archetypal platforming game, built around jumping, climbing, leaping, running along walls and even attaining the illusion of flight in moments of balletic grace. Rather than force the player to master a dense menu of complicated commands, Prince of Persia makes a formidable palette of acrobatics available with the press of only a button or two.

Simply as a game, as a visually engaging and manually satisfying 15-hour collection of environmental puzzles (How do I get to that ledge up there?) and battles with foes — the prince and his companion, a princess, must restore life to a world that’s been desiccated by evil — this is the best installment in the series since 2003’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

And yet I have never been fully comfortable approaching the Prince of Persia games simply as a diversion, and it has been difficult over the years for me to let the series off the hook for invoking a specific real-world culture so cavalierly. What are we to make of a “Prince of Persia” who talks and behaves like a 17-year-old American mall rat? A “Prince of Persia” with blue eyes, fully Anglicized facial features and what looks like a tan he picked up on spring break? Is it taking a video game too seriously to shrink in distaste from such characterizations?


Yes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 26, 2008 8:07 AM
blog comments powered by Disqus
« THE ONLY JUSTIFICATION FOR SEAFOOD: | Main | THE ONE TRUE SOCIAL-ISM: »