#10: Killer7 (PS2, Wii)
There is no god, and we are his prophets, says an old man in The Road. Among all the games on this list this is the one least similar to the works of McCarthy. The look and the atmosphere is radically different. The mental aspect of the game is in sharp contrast with a writer whose characters only live on the outside (that's why they lend themselves so well to cinematic adaptations). But there is one similarity. A crucial one at that. And that's their view on violence.
Killer7 has turned out to be an oddball in the career of Soda Goichi. His other works from No More Heroes to Chainsaw Lollipop have dealt with a cartoonish highly exaggerated violence like those in the works of Tarantino. But in K7 he is gratuitous and he seems to use this as a leverage to criticize the wildness of human race. The violence is cheap and yet it defines every character and it is eternal. It's more a philosophical statement.
Blood Meridian is very violent. Many people stop reading it. The others all confess being shocked. It reads like a nightmare. The first violent scene is a description of infant corpses sewn together and hung on a wall. And yes, it gets worse.
Both works seem to suggest that humanity is trapped in a vicious cycle of war. The wheel of the windmill of history is moved by a river of blood. And the omnipotent figure - whether the Judge or Herman Smith - is an immoral killer. And just like USA and Japan are trapped in an eternal war, just as Smith and his enemy have to fight forever, the kid is the narrator of not only the wild west but also the whole history.
#9: Hitman series
I have added this game series to this list simply because Agent 47 reminds me of Anton Chigurh and the Judge. There will be two entries later on this list which will focus on games with McCarthian villain but this is a character who is the protagonist of the games but he is similar to them. So much that I imagined the Judge like Agent 47 as I read the book. He does describe him as physically strong and hairless after all.
Chigurh and more than him the Judge are so powerful and invincible that every reader wonders if they are not immortal or supernatural, like some kind of devil. The same can be said about 47 who has been through so many close brushes with death and he has brought down so many gigantic enemies that one wonders. All three are assassins and all three are overqualified in their procession. All three are amoral and seem to hold no value for human life. It's impossible, but I would really love it if McCarthy wrote a Hitman script in a parallel universe - his take on this character would be awesome.
Ultimately though, 47 is not McCarthian because he is supposed to be sympathetic and he does kind things too and his enemies are worse than him. You are supposed to root for him and you do. But if you happen to root for the Judge - I mean wanting him to succeed and not finding him a creation of genius - please consult a psychotherapist.
My dear friend Alice Kojiro (you might know her as Motherkojiro) has a famous saying she repeatedly says when she is riling against one of the cliches of modern gaming and that is the dominance of the colors grey and brown in video games which strive to be realistic: "when I look out of my window brown and grey are not the only colors I see!" She laments. She's clearly not living in a McCarthy novel then. Because of his prose one can see his world and there is a strong visual aspect to his novel, like a scenery poem. But that picture is almost always only in one color though, and that is mostly the brown and orange of the desert, the grey of ashes after an apocalypse or the red of the sunset. It's so important he even named a novel after it (Blood Meridian). Alice is right that these colors are not realistic but they are sure as hell depressing. And this is the sense McCarthy wants to get across; loneliness, and the sense of a barren lifeless land. You must feel lost and the world must be greater than you and cruel.
Shadow of the Collosus is the same. The world is brown and grey and depressing. Yet it is also beautiful. It is sublime. Edmund Burke says picturesque is a beautiful scene you like to see like a garden but a sublime scene is one which moves you to awe but it its also filled with horror. As the hero of the game you wander the lonely land. The game forces you to travel long empty distances between the monsters just to show you how smaller you are than world you are walking through which is inhabited by creatures which are hostile to you but they are giants and gods. This is a world in which you are always an unwelcome intruder and you can't stop and make a home. You have to move on and meet your destiny.
And your destiny is to move on. The land is the one which stays. Brown, grey, sad. But sublime. Its beauty as lethal as the giant gods roaming in it.
This is another world which is extremely McCarthian. Black! No color! Everything is a mere shadow and the world is a cruel unforgiving place which doesn't have a single flower or a single leaf of grass and not even a ray of sunshine. But can you really look at the world and not be overcome by its unexplainable beauty? Do I know why LIMBO is beautiful? Hell no. But can I feel it? With tears in my eyes. Because even loneliness, abandonment, and going alone against a hostile world can be a sublime experience. So when someone says video games are not art show LIMBO to them.
And ultimately the world of LIMBO is more similar to McCarthy's than SOC or any other game. Because of his prose his world is never simply lonely and hostile, it's also beautiful and moving in a way you can't express unless you have experienced it, like a girl whose face looks pale and gloomy and at the same time very beautiful. And you are a little nameless child. That's all that you are. And nameless children are a specialty of McCarthy.
Insignificance is a thing if beauty.
Loneliness, isn't that what we all feel when roaming the spectacular world of Vagrant Story? Don't we all feel stranded, one man against the world? Loneliness and wandering is a common theme between most McCarthy novels. It might be Moss on the run, Billy and Boyd in the south, the man and his son in a barren wasteland, the kid in the wild west, or John Grady Dole. All these protagonists travel in a world hostile to them. All of them are running away from something, all of them facing something dangerous. All of them doomed, not coming to a happy ending. In the intro I focused on McCarthian antagonist - which is more fascinating. But this is his protagonist: imagine a lone wanderer escaping from a misfortune who will only meet more on the way.
And this is Ashley Riot. Alone, exploring catacombs which are filled with nothing but enemies and trouble, in a violent world and city is engulfed in civil war, in pursuit of an enemy but only to face troubles. If you have not play the game you might feel that his can describe any RPG. That's not true. In other games what emphasized is adventure. In Vagrant Story the sense of loss and loneliness is emphasized, especially from the first CD onward. And also helplessness. And there's no happy ending for Ashley too. Only more loss.
Ashley Riot is a hero straight out of McCarthy pages.
Only The Nameless One is even more of a McCarhtian hero. He doesn't even have a name! This reminds us of the kid and the father and son who remain nameless. This is done possibly to give them an everyman feel. The kid (whose name is not capitalized in the book by the way, and that matters) seems to be the not so innocent eyes of a nation and a generation, or maybe even the whole humanity going through the torments enacted by the cruel god or demon that is the Judge (his name is capitalized). The kid is not one particular person but a modern everyman. The same can be said about the man and his child, although the son is really innocent. The Nameless One is the same, he seems to be an immortal creature trapped in an existential crisis, getting born again and again just to suffer again. Like McCarthy heroes he is alone, and like them he mainly faces suffering, like them he roams a barren land with no real future, and like some of them he represents humankind and everyman.
But the similarities are even more. All McCarthy heroes are trapped in an cosmic crisis. You never think the novel is merely about a man running away from an assassin or some soldiers going around killing Native Americans. Their struggle includes gods, humans, the very meaning of life. It's biblical. MCCarthy is writing a bible. And so did his favorite author, Herman Melville, who wrote something much more than a sailor hunting a wail. This game is also philosophical, cosmic, and biblical, so it's very similar to his world.
As I have said multiple times before in this list one of the most interesting things about McCarthy is his horrifying yet fascinating portrayals of evil people. In this entry and the next I will deal with two games with McCarthian villains. Now they both are Final Fantasy games and since FF is too mainstream I'm sure this will break the heart of your inner hipster. But bear with me. It's not my fault that these games have some of the most interesting villains.
One such villain is Ultimecia from Final Fantasy VIII. Now none of the McCarthy villains have been female, his world is violently masculine. And none of his villains are so clearly supernatural, but I believe Ultimecia is still a good example of the kind of the villain McCarthy creates because of her unique characteristics. She seems to posses the godlike characteristics we associate with McCarthian villains. Her real motives and her time is ambiguous, we only know that she is from generations in the future, and her goal is to compress all time and space to become "a living god", although one would argue that she already is god if she can do that. She is extremely mysterious, she possesses the bodies of other sorceresses and she seems to be an abstract concept rather than a person.
It's not symbolism. It's something much more powerful. It's not a character who signifies something, it's about a character who embodies something, it is that concept in flesh and blood. And when that concept is something universal and all-powerful the villain becomes something impossible to overcome, something more than human, something terrifying and fascinating. Ultimecia is time, Time is the most universal thing, so she seems to represent the whole universe; and this makes FFVIII a very philosophical game. The Judge is war, Anton Chigurh is chance, the law of probability. They are not men but the entire nature. This type of villain is mainly McCarthian. Other people than McCarthy has done it greatly too, like Christopher Nolan's interpretation of the Joker in The Dark Knight. Speaking of evil clowns........
In a way Kefka Palazzo is the closest villain to the world of McCarthy. He is too flamboyant and maniacal - you would never hear such a laughter in McCarthy's deep south - but apart from that he seems to be everything Anton Chigurh and The Judge were. He shares that weird combination of carnality and divinity, he seems to walk the same blurry line between man and god. I can't think of any other game series which incorporates the same dichotomy into the villain and by that making him into something more than just human and representative of something more. If you remember drop by and tell me about it.
A seeming puppet of emperor's methods, he actually has his own plans, and he is known for his witty one-liners and eloquence, which he uses to shadow a rather reprehensible view of life. You cannot help loving him for his sheer extremism, his aesthetic skills, and his unusual mentality, even for his philosophical courage to take such a view, and yet you really wish no one would end up really agreeing with him. He is the most mindless radical misanthrope possible, reveling in his own cruelty and holding no value whatsoever for human life. He deeply hates everything and he is only happy when chaos blooms and havoc is wrecked. He finds no value in things like love or hope. He also dresses up like a clown. So he's your neighborhood goth boy but he means that s*** genuinely.
And that is basically what I find fascinating about McCarthy villains too. The Judge has a reprehensible view on war and the nature of it, as he considers it the only real thing in life. Chigurh has the same view about chance. Both of them have their own kind of "morality" I guess. Chigurh is extremely "principled" and he never breaks his own "rules". And both of them lack any real compassion or any indication that they care for human life.
McCarthy writes something like western. His works are quite bleak. Not normal bleak. No sane person can really endure reading through his works without feeling extremely down. They are violent, but not oh look there's lots of blood violent. Like, children and people die in gruesome way violent. So they are the blackest works of art possible.
You can play Fallout: New Vegas in a way to make it similar to a McCarthy novel. Join the Ceasar's legion. Or be a very evil person. Aim for the least happy ending. Make sure that everyone ends up miserable and sad. Play the game like a psychopath. In this scenario, there are many similarities between the two works. Both are western. Both are modern westerns like the border trilogy. Both have that bleak brown-red atmosphere mentioned earlier. Both have interesting villains - Robert House and Caesar here. House makes some jab at that philosophical creature especially at the end and Caesar has that "evil but sincere philosophy" vibe. They both deal with bleaker aspects of life such as poverty. And the post-apocalyptic feel is always present in McCarthy, even when it's not directly the subject of the novel.
Fallout as a series is not suitable though. One hears "post-apocalyptic" and one instantly thinks of Fallout.... but these series withe the exception of New Vegas are not bleak enough to be McCarthian.
And you think of western and Red Dead Redemption pops into your mind. Not an accident! This game is really the most similar game to McCarthy's world. It's a very bleak and sad western. Its world feels similar to McCarthy's world, it's the same south with the same beauty and cruelty. The protagonist, John Marston, is a McCarthian protagonist. Although he recruits many allies he remains essentially lonely. (John Grady and Rawles were allies too!) Like Moss and John Grady he discovers how cruel the world is and he is on a quest with a sad ending. Like the man in The Road he is a great father really preoccupied with the safety of his son, nothing is of more importance to him. Like them the relationship is moving and sad.
Edgar Ross is a very interesting villain, professional and cruel, a pillar of society, and he follows his own ghastly sense of duty, making him a suitable McCarthy villain. He represents a new world coming to destroy Marston's old world, as if he is leaving no country for the old men. But he is no better and no worse, he is evil as well. He is indifferent to violence, supports federalism, and thinks his methods are justified by his goals. He is witty and eloquent too.
Both works are bleak. (Here I refer to McCarthy's entire corpus). Both deal with a destructive cycle of violence, both courageously criticize the human nature and society at the same time. Both are very violent and a condemnation of violence. Change the language a little bit, write the same story with a beautiful lyrical prose...... and you have a novel by Cormac McCarthy.
That's it. Wait for the next list! I think I have used "McCarthian" so many times it might actually become a word now. Now let me depart with a word on the nature of these lists.
All top 10 lists are very subjective. I believe these series are extremely so. You take away something from the two mediums and you love talking about that so you write it. It's personal. I will try to analyze the games and the books to an extent, but ultimately you are walking with me on a personal journey into the world of literature and video games. I hope to be a worthy traveler for you.
But you know what would be awesome? If you shared your side of the journey as well. Come to our board and tell everyone which games reminded you of the fantastic world of these authors. But don't tell me that my list failed for not having that game on it. Remember,we have different mentalities.
Also, PM me if you like to suggest any specific author to be added.
Till next time!
List by Nazifpour (02/28/2013)
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