Apparently a lot of you are sick of playing video games set in the city in which I live.
Last week, from the comfort of my desk at the Gawker Media offices in New York City, I reported about an event I attended in the TriBeCa neighborhood of New York City about a new video game that will be set in New York City.
That game is Crysis 2, and many of the comments I saw in reaction could be summed up as "another one?"
Yes, video games have been set in the Big Apple, for a long time.
Mike Tyson's Punch-Out, Nintendo Entertainment System, 1987: Boxer Little Mac goes jogging past the Statue of Liberty.
Make that, a really long time.
Spider-Man, Atari 2600, 1982: Peter Parker, in spandex, swings past, uh, maybe a skyscraper or large NYC-style cheese grater.
Everyone knows that there are piles of games set in New York City. (Everyone = Wikipedia.) Even the people making games in New York City know this.
"There was this point when everybody was doing New York [in video games]" Crysis 2's lead creator Cevat Yerli, told me. (He's not from New York. He's based in Germany). "So why do we do New York as well? ... I liked the challenge of standing out from all the crowd."
You see, we've crossed from the era when it was hard to make games set in NYC because no one was doing it, to the era when it's hard because everyone is doing it.
Prototype, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, 2009: Some sort of biological infection wrecks Manhattan. The military is called in. Players get to blow them up and the infected creeps — chases through Central Park included.
Standing out from the New York crowd was not Yerli's only motivation. Before I even told him I live in Brooklyn he was justifying the transition of the Crysis series from tropical island to Manhattan Island with the one fact every New Yorker agrees with: This city is awesome.
"I also always saw New York as a symbol of nature," Yerli said. "It is an icon. People know the Statue of Liberty. People know New York. There's so much to it, and, for me, it's the pride of mankind. Then if I want to save some city — which one would it be — that symbolizes the strong will of mankind, if you will? That is New York."
I thanked Yerli for designating my home as the place to save.
Games set in New York often are in this city because they have to be (that's where Spider-Man lives!) or because it makes for a recognizable backdrop (that's the Statue of Liberty!) or because, well, it's a cool city that provides a pretty good template. You don't even have to call it New York City — call it Liberty City — and people will still know what you're talking about and look forward to base-jumping off the Empire State Building or cursing at the taxis.
Grand Theft Auto IV, Xbox 360 and PS3 and PC, 2008: A love letter to four of five of the boroughs of New York City, as multicultural and socially wild a New York game as there ever has been.
Realize that even some racing video games have New York City tracks, which makes little sense, unless you've fantasized about looping the lanes of Manhattan Bridge or the streets of Times Square. Also odd, and worth noting, almost no major New York game-making development studios are in New York City, so this isn't like television or comics where the creators seem to set their fiction in the place they live.
Yerli, whose Crysis series was previously set on a tropical island is in New York for the 2010 sequel for good reason, he told me: "This time the the location is an integral part of the story. It has its own character arc per se. It is a lively character that is alive. It has its transformations going on. It is something that is, in a sense, crying and you want to protect it. It wants to be saved and for me that kind of already tells so much story without having to tell it. Showing it instead of telling it."
I'm okay with the idea of New York crying. Hey, I was okay with whatever it was that happened to New York in Metal Gear Solid 2, though I'm still not sure what that was. (Anyone?)
Turtles in Time, Super Nintendo, 1982: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, NYC residents.
For all the games set in New York, I don't have many memorably New York City gaming moments. I think I liked jumping to the top of the Empire State Building in Prototype, but it's already fading from memory. I liked spray-painting subway cars in the version of New York in Marc Ecko's Getting Up. Doing a King-Kong and shooting down helicopters from the top of the Empire State Building in GTA IV's The Ballad of Gay Tony was cool too, rivaled by the game's motorcycle chase on subway tracks and that great New York moment of dangling a blogger from a helicopter hovering over Battery Park or thereabouts.
I don't mind all the New York City video games. But I live here. Admit it, though, Los Angeles, GTA: San Andreas not withstanding is too devoid of landmarks to be an interesting video game locale. Other cities? Shanghai is getting some attention in Army of Two and Kane & Lynch sequels this year. Moscow has some cool buildings, as does Paris, which was rendered quite nicely in last year's The Saboteur.
Maybe Crysis 2 can be the final New York City game. Yerli has an idea that might make it suitable for that honor.
He had told me that he'd been to New York City three times during the development of Crysis 2. The third visit was recent:
"Over New Year's I'd been to New York to work out the ending of the game," he said. "I was supposed to go [earlier for] kind of my second honeymoon with my wife and I canceled that one." (He remains married, believe it or not). "Instead I came here for New York for New Year's.... The point was the end [of the game] wasn't clicking. So I got this beautiful view of Central Park and whole of New York on the right side of me and I was thinking: 'What can I do with New York in the end?'"
"How can you destroy it?" I asked.
"Something that no game, no movie, no fiction ever did with New York," he said. "And, rest assured, that trip did provide the idea."
New York video games, I love you all.
Crysis 2, PC and PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, 2010. New York needs saving.