What if we lived in an alternate universe where the production and direction of video games was overseen not by a cabal of short-sighted, money-hungry cretins in suits, but was instead the domain of history’s most creative and all-around worthwhile human beings? What if the production of great, memorable games was no longer an accident, but was a regular occurrence easily replicated through common sense and creative insight? What if we could get rid of all the people who come along and ruin great franchises (like the guys who ran Silent Hill into the ground, or the Terminator movies, or whoever ruined every single Legacy of Kain game after the first one) and replace them with creative, remarkable individuals like the surrealist Salvador Dali (who wasn’t afraid to merge modern themes with old-school talent), or the Hellenic warrior-poet Homer, or the man who devoted his genius to the art of death and taught the world to live in fear because he had no other way to express his talent – J. Robert Oppenheimer, the inventor of the atomic bomb?
It would be a world in which gamers would no longer repeat the often-heard phrase, “I could do better than that.” As we count down the hypothetical list of Top Ten Games Made by Historical Figures, this week we have games SIX and FIVE. The former is a controversial title directed by none other than The True Son of God, and the latter is a sandbox action game created by Anton Szandor Lavey, founder of the Church of Satan and the “bad boy” of organized religion.
The True Son of God
An excerpt from DualShocker’s interview with one of the producers of Logos (name withheld):
“We wanted to make a game so controversial that just by hearing about it people would start screaming uncontrollably, and would have difficulty writing their congressmen because their hands would be shaking so bad.
“The industry had run out of controversial subject matter. Controversy had become cliche. We knew we had to take things to the next level. We heard about one company who kidnapped someone and held them for years and told them they wouldn’t let them go until they’d made a video game. It took the victim years to learn how to code and eventually make a game, and the final product did pretty well as far as download-only games go. Everyone involved went to prison, too, so all the news about the trials was like free advertising. So we wanted to kind of go in that direction.
“So we hired the One True Son of God to direct our next project.”
DualShockers: Why was the name of the messiah who headed development of Logos never revealed?
X: We kept his identity a secret so as not to upset the balance of the world’s religions [one of which he started through his non-gaming activities]. There are limits of decency when it comes to marketable forms of controversy. Besides, we want to make great games, not engulf the world in religious warfare.
DS: How was it working with him?
X: Scary. Just f**king scary. Graven images of him really don’t do him justice. But he spoke of video games as one who had authority, so we followed his lead. And he was really excited about making this racing game he’d been thinking about for a while.
DS: How did the public take it?
X: Oh, everything was great at first. Great hype. Substantial hype. Everyone thought this guy was going to be Neo, he was going to wake us up to the truth. We thought – and it kind of seemed this way for a while – that he was going to be this unending source of new memes. He would make the world a place of wit, a utopia of in-jokes… you know, like being inside a cultural Singularity, with him directing the entertainment. Things were moving fast, and man, if you ever went to sleep for a full eight hours, you’d wake up in a completely new world. Meme-wise, I mean. Like everything that happened the day before, which we thought was cool, was quickly photoshopped in an even more refreshing manner, and made both laughable and amazing. Ah. But we were wrong!
DS: How were you wrong?
X: In terms of this big truth he was going to show us, we figured out pretty quick that all he wanted to do was make everyone feel bad and hurt our feelings by calling us all liars. The first hint of it we got was when someone asked him about the “perfect” video game. They wanted to know how you’d go about making it. And he said to them, “The perfect video game is within.” (Eyes widen in mock shock.) Did it piss everyone off? Better believe it! He was implying that video games, like any art form, are entirely subjective. It was a slap in the face to the “objective numerical scoring” community.
X (continued): Then things got… weird. During lunch one day, he decides to snub the code monkeys and the graphic designers, and he sits with the PR [public relations] people. We asked him what was up, and he says, “I did not come for the geeks and the nerds, but for the technologically illiterate.” That got out, and before you know it, all the nerds turned against him.
DS: And how was the game?
X: It was a racing game. It was alright.
DS: Just alright?
X (There is a long pause of at least four minutes. It is obvious the producer is under great duress.): If a racing game could be described as a survival horror game, then that’s what Logos was. It had the same sense of unease. The feeling of scarcity. There was always this nagging feeling that you were never quite going in the right direction.
The Rule of Law
Anton Szandor LaVey
Not to be outdone by “establishment” religions and sales figures generated by Logos, Anton Lavey, creator of the world’s most hated religion, produced a game built around the philosophy of the social movement known as the Church of Satan.
The narrative that drives the open-world sandbox game is as follows: In the near future, crime is out of control due to scarcity and a weak economy, elected officials steal money and start wars with shocking regularity, and the common man’s philosophy of “forgive and forget” does nothing to stem the corruption. “Keep working,” says the CEO of the Vatican, “and things will surely get better.”
A coup is staged. Las Vegas, the “City of Sin,” is taken over by a cabal of wealthy elitists and a private army of well-dressed commando goons. As the former mayor’s body is fished out of a garbage dump, the city’s new self-titled Black Prince announces that all police should find new employment, that all churches will be subject to taxation, and that all dullards and half-wits should leave the city while they still can.
Enter the player character, a black-clad, automatic rifle-wielding knight in the service of the Lex Talionis, the police force of the ruling class. It is the player’s job to ruthlessly enforce the city’s new laws in the most economically feasible way possible. This means expensive stays in prison are replaced with beatings and public humiliation, theft is repaid by economy-boosting forced labor, and crowd-pleasing public executions are held for murderers. The military-police of the Lex Talionis tend to concentrate on enforcing only a few key laws in order to protect the happiness and wealth of the individual citizen, rather than get bent out of shape trying to enforce a large number of incredibly complicated laws.
In the Devil’s City, the illusion of equality in society is stripped away. The player and his comrades are expected to respect the rich and the talented, but to treat everyone else – especially the needy – like scum. Lex Talionis came under harsh scrutiny from critics especially because of its treatment of the homeless. “Probably the most depraved part of the game,” said one critic, “is the mission in which the player is expected to ‘clear out’ homeless people from an area, at the request of some rich person, using pretty much any means deemed necessary.” Only a few critics admitted this part of the game was “incredibly fun” and “spiritually cleansing”.
But critics did praise the “karma” system of Lex Talionis. “Rather than have the player choose between kissing someone’s ass to receive good-guy-points, or spitting a string of expletives in some NPC’s face in order to gain bad-guy-points,” noted one rabid fan, “Lex Talionis simply rewards the player for treating the weak with disdain and for currying the favor of the powerful, which is pretty much how things are done anyway, so you can’t fault it for not being realistic.”
The game’s cutscenes are filled with unflinchingly honest social commentary. During an election, one politician admits that he will steal as much money as he can but adds that he wouldn’t steal as much as his opponent, meanwhile the opposing politician swears that he is not interested in stealing money, but only wants power over others. He hands out copies of his IQ test results (which are admittedly impressive) in order to win votes. When a third politician runs a campaign based on helping the needy and somehow lowering taxes while increasing government programs, he is laughed out of the race as a buffoon and a snake oil-selling charlatan.
Some noteworthy missions include…
HEADBANGER’S BALLS: Charles Monroe, front man for legendary death metal band Depressing Funeral, plans to hold an amazing concert followed by a round of public executions in your fair city. Reverend Lovesick, mad with power and desperate to ruin everyone’s fun, makes an asinine prediction that the world will end if the concert is held. The apocalyptic prediction brings out the crazies, and the band is harassed by ticking time bomb do-gooders babbling lines from the holy books of popular religion (as psychopaths tend to do). You and a few hand-picked commandoes must escort the band in their convoy of limousines, blasting anyone who gets in the way. The concert has also been heavily infiltrated; with metal blasting in the background, your crew of goons will have to gun down the crazies, spraying fans with blood and turning mosh pits into something like spinning garbage compactors full of raw hamburger. To make matters worse, some hydrocephalic idiot with a learning disability thought it would “toughen up” the band’s image if they got the Hell’s Angels to act as security. You will have to deal with these drunken louts the same way the Lex Talionis deals with all violent cretins: By caving in their skulls and looking good while doing it.
BLACKEST OF THE BLACK: In a completely predictable turn of events, history’s cruelest and most bottom-line oriented organization – the C.I.A. – infiltrates the legalized recreational drug production facilities of the Devil’s City and uses them to fund their own private wars and black budget operations. It will be up to the player to infiltrate the masters of infiltration, and to evade kidnap and torture long enough to pit one against the other until finally everyone becomes so confused as to who is working for who that the enemies of Hell end up waterboarding one another with nothing to show for it.
VENUS RISING: In a sci-fi twist, a group of humanoid aliens claiming to be diplomats crash their ship in the desert. They will soon die without assistance. The problem? Politicians, scientists, and soldiers from the outside world are moving to intercept them. They plan to greet the aliens warmly, with open arms, then invite more of the aliens for one big intergalactic group hug – which, according to your boss the Black Prince, is about the best way to show an alien species they are dealing with a race of weaklings who deserve to be conquered. It will be the player’s job to sneak behind enemy lines, intercept the crashed space craft before anyone else, then brutalize the aliens so badly that they would rather die than return to earth. Of course, any guilt felt by the player is soon squashed when the aliens, under duress, admit they were scouting the earth to see how easily it could be conquered.
The final third of the game is about the battle to fend off invading soldiers from the outside world. Much like a modern-day 300, the elite badasses of the Lex Talionis must fight for what they believe in (which just so happens to be “evil”) against overwhelming forces who fight because they will go to prison if they do not (also known as the “good guys”). In the end, the Devil’s City stands poised to lead the world into a terrifying new age. A world in which thieves, murderers, and rapists are viciously beaten in public, but drug enthusiasts, jay walkers, businessmen who don’t have this-or-that license up to code, blasphemers, and sexually promiscuous consenting adults are allowed to walk free.
It was, as one critic noted, “… a chilling image of a world gone mad.”
Click the banner below to read our previous installment of Top Ten Games Made by Historical Figures: TEN and NINE: Jung and Vlad the Impaler.
Click the banner below to read our previous installment of Top Ten Games Made by Historical Figures: EIGHT and SEVEN: Founding Fathers of America and Dr. John C. Lilly, professional mad scientist.