The TalkOver

« September 2006 »

Memo to the street: I'M SORRY.

I'd like to take this time to offer my formal apologies to the street on behalf of the medium of video games. For what good it'll do, I'm sorry for everything.

I mean, I love video games, but that doesn't mean they don't pull some egregious shit. For example, if such a thing as the Breast Anti-Defamation League existed, they'd have to issue press releases every single week condemning the inaccurate and stereotypical portrayal of Mammary-Americans in whatever game or games shipped that past Tuesday. Add in the Nipple Legal Defense Fund, and you've got a recipe for a metric pile of pulped wood. So to speak.

It is much the same way with the street, by which I mean the seamy at-risk urban underbelly of our nation's metropoli, fictional or otherwise. Cities have never gotten a fair shake in games, from Rampage to the "natural disaster" button in SimCity. But since Grand Theft Auto became popular, pretty much every pasty, white, nerd programmer in the country has gotten to put words in the mouths of hardened thugs.

Which brings us to the excessively subtitled Def Jam: Fight For New York: The Takeover, a PSP game based on a series of underground fighting games from Electronic Arts, the CBS of video games. There's a lot of punching and kicking, which is fine. But before the punching and kicking, there's a pre-fight exchange of words. Now, I'm not up on my pre-beatdown urban underground lingo. I'll admit that. But if real recognize real, then it follows that fake recognize fake. And I'm pretty sure this shit is fake. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"You need a permit to run this operation!
Permit? Whatcha talkin' about, fool?
A street permit, and unfortunately, you've been declined!
Frontin' gonna get you a death sentence!

You see what I mean? They seem to have gotten about half their dialog from one of those annoying "ebonics" web translators, and the rest from getting Diff'rent Strokes mixed up with The A-Team. And it's all like that. Bad search-and-replace, like "yo" for "your". An inability to correctly place the apostrophe in "ya'll" [sic]. And of course, heaping piles of accidental homoeroticism:

It don't take more than one to stick it to ya!
Why don't you tie my boot laces with your lips?
I'm gonna lace you up with some thunderous blows!
Look here, you think all the booty on the streets is all yours, partna?

Partna? What, am I fighting John Wayne all of a sudden? For fuck's sake.

But my favorite line in the whole game has to be "Everyone's a comedian in tha hood." Because when I think of the gritty urban landscape, I think of a bunch of struggling stand-ups trying to perfect their material. It's all those brick walls, you see. They just can't help themselves. They think it's an evening at the Improv.

I just wish game makers would follow the cardinal rule, "Write what you know." Sure, it'd lead to a lot more games set in midwestern suburbs, malls, and game store basements during Talisman tournaments, but at least the dialogue would be true to life, and not some pastiche from someone who's closest brush with the street was torrenting Snoop Dogg's porn video.

*All the dialogue in the game is in all-caps. Reproducing it in the entire column would be obnoxious, but I do so here because it helps me take this quote completely out of context.