Xbox Games and Metaphor

Microsoft’s name game with game names…

‘Tis that season already. The season of megamarketing. Christmas.

Before Santa’s sled – even before Rudolf, the Red Nosed Reindeer – goeth Mom and Pop to shop for computer games for the Xbox. And before they go, they’ll see the countless commercials for the new-release games. I know the Observer has. We spot them packed neatly in the commercials during South Park, The Simpsons, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. (I don’t watch much TV outside these four shows since CNN took away my NewsNight With Aaron Brown).

So I went to the Microsoft website and checked the list of current and unreleased Xbox games. I may have had the letter “X” banished, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone yet, and The Observatory never uses a lens cap, even for the most unsightly phenomena of language.

Here’s the list of games Microsoft offers (or will offer) for the Xbox, with the most obvious metaphors in bold:

Gears of War
Kameo: Elements of Power
Perfect Dark Zero
Project Gotham Racing 3
Conker: Live & Reloaded (“Reloaded” is a hot computer metaphor, thanks to The Matrix.)
Forza Motorsport
Jade Empire
Blinx 2: Masters of Time & Space
Halo 2
RalliSport Challenge 2
Project Gotham Racing 2
Xbox Music Mixer (Here’s that “mixer” thing again!)
Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge
Grabbed by the Ghoulies
Voodoo Vince
Midtown Madness 3
Brute Force
Phantasy Star Online
Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus
Kung Fu Chaos
Shenmue II
Blinx: The Time Sweeper
Blood Wake
Quantum Redshift
RalliSport Challenge
Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee
Project Gotham Racing
Azurik: Rise of Perathia
Fuzion Frenzy

(Note the reference to “fusion”.)

You may notice that out of the 37 games named above, eleven are drenched in metaphor that is either half-alive, or downright kicking and screaming with popularity. That’s almost a third of the game titles.

While out driving today, the entire staff of The Observatory squeezed into my Saturn and listened to an old radio broadcast featuring Jack Benny, George Burns and Gracie Allen. As usual, there was a plug during the show. When describing the value of his prized violin, a Stradivarius, Jack Benny uses the blunt and bloodied metaphor “The Stradivarius is the Maxwell House of violins”. In those days (and returning to these days), the commercial (in this case for sponsor Maxwell House Coffee)was embedded into the script of the show, requiring more fanciful bridges than today’s fade-to-black-bound cubicles.

It was the obvious scripted effort of this plug some half century ago that prompted me to point out the more casual occurrence in these game titles today. It is not to say that we’ve become a kinder, subtler nation. Only to point out the contrast between a guided-in metaphor and a crammed-in metaphor.

Though the life-force of metaphor never ends, moving forward through history aboard the lips and quills of society, the very manner of its use – an undetectably gentle segue or the crowd-gathering toilet paper on our shoe – seems prone to wandering. Maybe the very manner of metaphor usage at any given time holds secrets about the attitudes of the time. The coffee plug aired late in World War Two, during the Burns & Allen show. Maybe subtleties are lost in battle…

Leave a Reply