Why So Serious? An Appreciation for Saints Row
Dean Stephenson | On 09, Jul 2013
Following E3, there has been plenty of buzz for Saints Row IV. And why shouldn’t there be? The game looks like a lot of fun! However, I probably won’t be purchasing it. As entertaining as it seems to be, I am hesitant to play this game due to its sexual content.
Relax. I’m not here to lecture you about playing games with mature content; I’ve played plenty of them myself. Max Payne 3 was my personal Game of the Year last year, and it had some content I wasn’t comfortable with. Thankfully, most of it was contained within a skippable cutscene. No, I actually have something positive to say about Saints Row, despite my concerns about jumping into the series.
I appreciate the success of the Saints Row franchise.
Why? Because I want to see more games that don’t take themselves so seriously. This year, we’ve seen some remarkable games. Tomb Raider, Bioshock Infinite, and The Last of Us are all Game of the Year contenders. Outside of their GOTY quality, what do these games have in common? They’re super “cereal.”
I like serious stuff as much as any adult. Most of the retail games I’ve been playing lately are very serious. With the overwhelming critical success of games like Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us, I often fear for the future of funny and lighthearted games. I know that sounds dramatic, and though it’s not an actual “fear”, it is certainly a concern that has crossed my mind a few times. Recent events in the video game industry have only served to validate this concern.
For example, while discussing Fuse on their podcast, Game Informer said Insomniac did some focus testing after they released the pre-rendered trailer for Overstrike, and many people thought the game was for kids. “This looks like something my 12 year old brother would play.” It’s too bad because the game reminded me of Team Fortress 2, which may seem like a game for kids at a glance, but is actually quite mature. TF2 reminds me of what Looney Tunes would be like if it had been created for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.
I enjoy serious experiences, but I also have a great appreciation for humor. I really like Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, but I’m also entertained by goofy stuff like The Regular Show. I’m a fan of Gladiator, but I also love Nacho Libre. I’m obsessed with Batman, but I also can’t get enough of Axe Cop. I hope goofy and silly games continue to find an audience, and I also hope they’re not limited to downloadable titles like Battleblock Theater and Guacamelee. Video games aren’t cheap to make, and I can’t help but wonder if comedy games are harder to pitch to publishers.
Fortunately, with the success of franchises like Saints Row and Borderlands, I don’t think they’re going away anytime soon. Along with that, I hope to see some games inspired by the zaniness of Saints Row. Can an over-the-top, goofy game sell well without the sexual content? I’d like to think so, but I might be in the minority.
What about you? Do you like funny and lighthearted games? Would you like to see more of them? With changes like Overstrike becoming Fuse and Dead Rising 3 looking more serious than the previous games, do you ever wonder if comedy is struggling to be an important part of the video game medium?