The Talos Principle will just not shut the fuck up. It’s the videogame equivalent of a flatulent pseudo-academic, posturing on morality and evolution and ethics at some incredibly dull soiree. It lasts almost twenty hours. Twenty hours! Twenty hours of obvious, tired, first-year philosophy student navel-gazing bullshit. Twenty hours of puzzles. Twenty hours of fucking puzzles. Puzzles are fine – puzzles can be really interesting. But for twenty hours? Twenty hours of rearranging objects and timing jumps and waiting, waiting, waiting, for all the pieces to move together? Smoke my pole, The Talos Principle. You’re at least twice as long as you should be.
You know whose fault that is? Gamers. It’s gamers’ fault. It’s gamers’ fault because everything shit and awful in popular culture is gamers’ fault. It’s gamers fault because they demand “content” and “value for money”, and are terminally fucking stupid, so equate those things with raw play time. Rather than dragging its unimpressive arse for almost a day, The Talos Principle would have a better bang-to-buck ratio if it lasted about five hours. But gamers are more entitled than a fucking Persian God-king, and feel slighted if a developer dares charge them for a title that won’t distract them from their sexless lives for at least a week.
And, of course, when gamers get – urgh, oh my God, just SO angry that not every videogame is EXACTLY how THEY’D like it – they take to the internet and threaten to rape everyone in the world. So that’s why The Talos Principle is long, and shitty as a result – gamers are violent consumers, with brains that have been dropped and got stuck on “Black Friday” mode.
Also developers are cowards and just make whatever they think will sell. And the gaming press chucks high scores at anything that looks a bit different or smart or “cool”, because they’re all bored and would rather be reviewing movies.
Forgetting discussions about length, here’s an idea. Instead of ruminating – or trying to ruminate – over big ideas like God, existence, man vs. machine, why don’t games just have decent human characters? Why not just write a really good story about a person, or two people? Why has “good writing” in games been conflated with vague, half-questioning, pop philosophy? Look at BioShock, Spec Ops, Hotline Miami, Deus Ex, Papers, Please. These games are all about something but not someone, and ultimately feel hollow and masturbatory, more like thought exercises than proper storytelling. Conversely, Actual Sunlight, Kentucky Route Zero, Sword and Sworcery and LA Noire are about PEOPLE, people who think and react and change, people we can relate to. And the best part? Human characters with defined personalities, and broad statements about philosophy or whatever, are not mutually exclusive! Look at The Wire. Seriously, look at it – look at it, for fuck’s sake. Every character in that is a person, a solidly characterised, plausible person. But still, that show, as much as it’s about McNulty, Bunk, Omar, etc, is also about the drug war, social disparity, bureaucracy – it’s about nebulous “America”, but explored through a cast of rounded human beings.
In The Talos Principle you play as a robot, so straight away, meh, who gives a fuck? The world you’re in isn’t even real – it’s a computer simulation – and the only conversations you have are with computers. Yeah, there are voice diaries and journal entries, but there are no interactions, no people, no characters. All you have are these vaporous, “erm, well, you know, maybe?” kind of discussions about the basics of philosophy.The Talos Principle purports to be about humanity, but never puts a human on screen. Instead you have a robot, some computers, some puzzles and a virtual reality – it’s a game where you play as nothing, talking to nothing, doing nothing, inside of nothing. And unless you’ve never read a book, or seen a film, or sat in a class that had even the basest pretensions of philosophical debate, you don’t learn a thing from The Talos Principle. It’s just a bunch of metal shit bumping around inside Tron.