One of the most talked about things in regards to Bungie’s Destiny is not about the shooting, the graphics, or the resolution. People are talking about actor Peter Dinklage’s portrayal of a robot that gives you directions and gives the game a voice your character can’t.
His voice divides the community of people who played the alpha version of the game on PlayStation 4 last weekend. Some say he sounds flat, dull, unenthused, while others say he sounds perfectly robotic, stilted, and programmed to be uninterested. The entire debate is running under the assumption that the game isn’t finished, and that maybe, things could change when it’s out in two months.
This is the most interesting feedback to an alpha–if we can really call it that–of a modern action game. We’re talking about acting in a game that’s obsessed with killing, one that articulately details a weapon’s power by numbers and bars. We’re talking about the game’s narrative, which Bungie seems to have put considerable work into, creating almost fantasy-like lore–remnants, I guess, of its work on Halo, a game with an absurd amount of story.
Maybe this is progress. We criticized Bioshock: Infinite, another shooter with a story to tell, for its racism and dissonance. And this year’s E3 was full of constructive conversations about female representation and diversity and violence. Now, we have a game marketed to be the next big game from Activision. A game that avoids matchmaking lobbies and brings people together on its own. A game that is pushing the limits of how we understand the MMO genre. A game worth millions of dollars.
If Dinklage’s voice acting is what we’re talking about now, good or bad, then I think we can call it progress towards broader media literacy in relation to games. It’s healthy to criticize games, and it’s been fascinating to watch the rise of people talking about the narrative strengths of them instead of their technical strengths. Both are good, but since the launch of the new consoles, the discussions have been unbalanced. Games are so many things and it’s important we stay critical.