While I do think there are themes that are 'implicit' written within a game's cutscenes and gameplay (Even John McIntosh and Carolyn Petit say that the game's gameplay speaks more than its supposed story), I do think a lot of the themes feel unintentional and don't really want to comment on anything other than "We're just like GTA, buy us" or "We're just like Skyrim, buy us", etc.
So, to a lot of consumers, all of the ideas of games being political feel like overreach or in their terms "clickbait", as in trying almost too hard to link a seemingly unconnected game to real life events.
To me, who plays and enjoys a lot of games with cutscenes, such as games from Bioware, Telltale games, visual novels and even Quantic Dream, I can easily tell the set of values put on display because there are a limited set of options. Stuff always gets cut out from the final product so the question remains: why does this this option exist out of the thousands of other options that were cut out?
One example, in Heavy Rain, Madison has to find the nightclub to help Ethan find his son. The doctor invites her in and offers her a drink. Madison can drink the alcohol and go through a torture porn sequence where she has to run away from the doctor or not drink the alcohol and let the doctor go to another room. This entire torture porn sequence is avoidable and adds nothing or very little to the plot. But the question remains out of all the resources, why did the animators spend time making this scene?
To me, while themes are implicit, they're not always intentional, but rather a case of Monkey see, Monkey do. The video game industry is trying hard to become legitimate, so it ends up copying a lot of other works in the medium for that legitimacy. To me, a lot of the controversy surrounding Gamergate is more of people fighting the symptom and not the disease.
Or, I could just be spewing a bunch of nonsense from my mouth.
That really could have been a junk drawer episode, based on how much you moved about. I haven't a clue what the reasoning behind this is, so if someone could explain whatever provocation there was, that'd be swell.
I actually love overanalysing stuff, it broadens the view and is fun to see things about a piece of media in a different perspective.
Like, I played portal so many times it's boring now, but then I read a political reading of the story and especially final boss fight yesterday and immediately started it up again to look for clues, and it was like WHOA, not really subtle, why did I not notice this before? So yeah, even if it's not what the authors intended, it can be read that way anyway and many people will do.
(Actually, there is an interesting video about authors intent on PBS idea channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVm65tlhqw8
they use Neon Genesis Evangelion as an example)
That's why I like some of the game theory episodes, too, e.g. the one where he argues that Majoras Mask can be interpreted as an analogue to the Kübler-Ross stages of grief.
I think what people are primarily afraid of is that possibility of games needing a "checklist" of ethnic or social minorities that you HAVE to include in your game in order for your game to be considered "progressive", and if it's not "progressive" then it won't get good scores or attention. In other words, it stops becoming about how good someone's game is, but rather about how many external issues that game tries to push on the player. I'm all for more inclusion in games, but I don't want "checklists" that the "progressive" gaming media tries to push.
And yes, I realize my use of scarequotes might come off as trying to say that progressivism is a bad thing, which it's not, I just think what it means is debatable and that many people who call themselves progressives cling on only to the oldest/intellectually non-evolved version of it and then pretend like that is the only possible right version.
I think you could actually use that criticism to inform a newer more interesting version of Batman. I dreamed up a TV version which would actually be called Batman and Robin. The show begins with Robin's intro and Bats has been operating for some time. Having him explain things to Robin allows for the exposition missing from a lot of live action Batman stuff.
In the show the updated Batman would be focused on developing charities and industry in Gotham to get rid of the crime. Thing is by the time he got his shit together to do so the Mafia was so entrenched that they began to attempt to sabotage his fund raisers, factories etc as they see it as a threat to their own empires. Who buys our drugs and stolen goods if everyone is self actualizing in their new jobs. The Graysons were actually performing at a charity event held by the Wayne foundation in Crime Alley when murdered and thus kicks off the show. Then you get into the mentally ill criminals he views as his responsibility because they started showing up in droves after he used theatrics to scare the mob. Finally you get the Terrorist organizations like the League of Shadows showing up, because they are not happy about Gotham's recovery as it disproves their decay thesis and go after Wayne's empire.
That's the thing about when people make criticisms like this. If we don't just say nuh-uh its not that at all you can see improvements to the think you like. I loved playing as Peach in 3D World. Its possible inclusivity discussions helped Nintendo make that decision. In which case a benefit was gleaned. If we hold these discussions respectfully we can get a lot out of them.
Sorry to disappoint you, Bob, but no. This is not, in fact, the big picture. It's a bigger picture, to be sure, but is it all-encompassing enough to earn the definite article? THE big picture? hardly. I can list several topics that were not even mentioned, let alone covered in any significant manner: space, gymnastics, calculus, the list goes on.
One of the things that have frustrated me ever since Saarkesian ever popped up was this seemingly pervasive attitude of...what I would characterize as litigious 'defense of the medium'.
I don't know how to fix it, or whether it can be fixed, but this episode is a great counter to it. "Everything means something, even if you don't mean it to." From 'gay couples' in tomodochi life to 'Roman/American' Angry Birds, examining deeper meaning in art (even if it wasn't the artist's intent, is always an interesting exercise).
That said, I challenge you to say one good thing about CoD; any of them. '9/11 catharsis' has been your go-to for years now, so see if you can bring yourself to find anything redeeming about it.
Even over analysis of fiction and fantasy has its place; applying meaning to something the author or creator clearly didn't intend can have some wonderful effects on the "meaning" in the first place.
I'm reminded of the book the "Tao of Pooh" (something I've read excerpts from but only recently decided to purchase). It implies that each character in the Pooh universe is a representative of different paths to enlightenment, but Winnie the Pooh is the only one who follows the correct path. Now its ridiculous to say that that Alan Alexander Milne had been thinking about that when he first came up with the characters, but that doesn't make the "Tao of Pooh" any less insightful.
Interpretation is a powerfull tool, and the best authors can have stories that have many. THe best stores, poems, pieces of artwork, and of course, video games, all can be interpreted in many different ways, which provokes deeper thought and discussion.