But pointing out what can be improved is the biggest briar patch in the First World. What makes Stephen Colbert so adept at exposing the inadequacies of this country using observation and humor? Toeing the line between satire and going native seems like the most difficult dance in new media. This plugs in directly to the idea of “identity” in the modern era; the fact that all things are possible, but betraying a facet of your personality that doesn't jibe with the sarcasm in which your act is saturated is a seam, and that is where you lose people.
Can a game expose these themes as well as video? I’m showing my age, but the hyper-masculinity of Duke Nukem seems like it’s the last overt example of this kind of witty reparte’. I don’t want to recreate David Chandler’s entire article, so I’ll just say that satire is like pornography: you know it when you see it. I’ve never played GTAV so I can’t speak on it’s level of comedy and how much of it’s tongue is or is not planted in it’s cheek, but I think the graphical style and dialogue does not bespeak realism. Again, this is my impression from having NOT played the game, but been inundated by it’s incredible marketing campaign, but active and passive.
Which brings up the most vital part of how video games can incorporate comedic themes. A strong marketing campaign means that the developer (pie in the sky, I know) can control the narrative. Communicating through press releases and beta tester impressions combined with streetteam-level viral marketing (I’m so upset I just typed that, but it is a real thing) can craft a video game’s first impact better than any groundswell of gameplayer opinion.
And that, my friends, is what makes me so disappointed. As a small shop with so few employees, I can’t afford the time to pay a marketing team to massage public sentiment, and I damn sure don’t have the time to devote myself. I will do every interview, every feature, and provide one thousand promo codes before I will write some canned press release to send to Kotaku and Joystiq. It seems so greasy to do that. It’s true, I do copy and paste some forum posts letting folks know about my games, but that is not a direct email marketing blast that clogs inboxes and makes people hate the developer from whom they stem.
I really like the idea of satire in video games. I feel like they have some serious power and a strong toehold to tell stories and, to tie everything up in a pretty little bow, show the glaring inconsistencies in the United States. Kill lists, control of the food supply and restrictions on residential property for energy companies are serious issues to which most people do not pay much attention. Hopefully, indie devs will continue to blaze the trail and tell stories that mean something.