Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
Hello! I am a shark. Specifically, I’m the shark from Maneater, The New Video Game Where You Are A Shark. You may have heard of me. In fact, you may be wondering what I do, or how I do it, or maybe even why I do the aforementioned things I do—even though I’m pretty sure most of those questions are covered under the above heading, “Shark, I certainly am one.”
Still, though, I feel for your inquisitive plight—although not really, on account of being nature’s perfect, heartless killing machine. So let me field a couple of simple queries about sharkdom, and how I embody it. For instance: I do not fall in love! I don’t give grand speeches, either. Heck, I don’t even talk. I don’t have friends. I don’t even really have enemies—even though I am capable of waging a rampage of vengeance that would put John Wick to shame. (Could I beat John Wick in a fight? I don’t know, but finding out would definitely make for an excellent series of scenes in John Wick: Chapter 4.) What I mostly do is, I swim, and I bite things. Is that enough to hang an entire $40 video game on? My answer may surprise you: I am a shark.
It’s a condition that doesn’t leave much time for contemplation—only pure, unobtrusive carnage. No important decisions. No moral weight. No soul! Just bite, bite, bite, with a brain the size of a walnut, and an id the size of the ocean. Sure, other things happen around me—a surprisingly well-done reality show parody, a bunch of unfunny narration saved from itself by the very funny Chris Parnell. But we both know you’re not playing Maneater, The Video Game Where You Are A Shark, to hear Dr. Spaceman do punch-up. You are playing it to be me: an increasingly massive shark!
Here’s another thing I do: I raise big, important questions about the principles of video game design. For instance: Why doesn’t my video game have a dedicated lock-on function, for when you’re fighting other animals that swim around a bunch? It would certainly make biting them easier. Also: How badly did Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto series screw up our understanding of satire and comedy in video games? Tripwire Interactive, I know you made me (a shark), but you can’t make everybody in your game an idiotic asshole just because you’re scared that people won’t want to eat them! (I will eat them anyway, IAAS.) But the biggest question Maneater raises is, why don’t more video games let you be a shark? This one does, and it’s just the tops.
To be fair: Other games over the years have allowed you to also be a shark sometimes. Odell Lake, for instance, and also that Jaws Unleashed game from 2006. Oh, and the competitive multiplayer game Depth, and all those Hungry Shark mobile games that have come out over the years. The point is, that’s only, like, six games out of however many video games have ever been made. (Don’t ask me, I’m a shark.) The ratio is all higgledy-piggedy. We should alert Congress or something, because it’s an issue that clearly needs to be addressed.
For now though, we will have to collectively content ourselves with being me, the shark from Maneater. At least I’m not like one of those regular shark from science class, or the Discovery Channel. Those sharks don’t have electrified teeth you can swap out on a whim, or the ability to spew poison at their opponents, or—and this is the key one—the power to flop around on land for a minute or two at a time, eating people as they run around shouting things like, “Aw, geez, a shark!” That last one is important, because it’s extremely funny to see a shark jump up on a beach (city street, golf course, etc.) and start eating people. Depending on how the shark (it’s me, by the way) flops around, it might possibly be the funniest thing there is.
In conclusion: The great American poet Kenny Chesney once said, “I’m like a shark. I’ve got to be constantly moving.” To which I say: “Too slow, Chesney! While you were making quotes, I was flopping around the boardwalk toward you! Nom nom nom nom nom!” The point is, sometimes you don’t want to think, or plan, or write best-selling country songs. Sometimes you just want to do the simplest, coolest, thing possible, executed with a thoroughly sufficient amount of flair.
I am a shark.