I’ve been playing the heck out of Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare. As should hardly be surprising at this point, I rather like weird games where things (killer plants) fight other things (zombies). Garden Warfare is an online third-person shooter video game, and it’s simply charming. I know that most hardcore gamers will balk at the colorful, cartoony graphics, but at its heart, this is a brutal battle where no quarter is asked nor given.
I like the game for a lot of reasons. Not the least of which is that I’ve grown somewhat uncomfortable with brutal first person shooters of late. Not that I was very fond of them to begin with. FPS have always struck me as claustrophobic, and war games based on any realistic design aesthetic run the risk of making war look like fun. I’m not going to say they glorify war or violence, but there’s little point in denying an aggressive, macho undercurrent running through these military shooters. They’re just games, and I don’t want to be seen as someone who is going to say video games are too violent OR that they cause violence. They don’t. But they just aren’t my bag, and a big part of that is that they all kind of feel the same to me.
Garden Warfare doesn’t feel like any other video game. The closest equivalents that come to mind are Team Fortress 2 and Monday Night Combat. Both those games are very bright and toonish with a sly sense of humor and an absurd design. In both those games, the violence is so exaggerated and goofy that it’s more slapstick than anything else, and, yes, it’s still violent and based on killing your opposition, but it just doesn’t feel so gruesome. Garden Warfare ups the ante even more, by being about cartoon plants and zombies.
But what really attracts me to Garden Warfare is what attracts me to fantasy in general. In a traditional military shooter, players are given a standard assortment of real-life weapons and truly strange abilities are off the table. But in Garden Warfare, players can take on the roles of a walking sunflower who harnesses solar energy into a laser deathray or become a mad scientist zombie who teleports across the battlefield. By diving into absurdity, the game has created its own unique feel. This is a game where I can be a giant, man-eating plant that burrows in the earth and swallows zombies whole. If you’re surprised that might appeal to me, you probably haven’t read very many of my books.
It’s why I’ve always loved fantasy. It opens doors. I love exploring different protagonists with different abilities against different obstacles. My heroes tend to run the gamut from high-powered brawlers (Duke the werewolf) to sensible organizers (Nessy the kobold) to manipulative geniuses (Emperor Mollusk). They face all-powerful monster gods, secret alien conspiracies, and their own inner demons. Fantasy allows me to tell all kinds of stories, and while that’s true of any genre, no genre is quite so flexible in this regard as fantasy. It’s why fantasy is such a constant element in video games in general and why it’s the driving force behind Garden Warfare. And why I am enjoying waging the endless battle between plants and zombies.
Plus, did I mention I can be a plant who devours zombies whole? Because I really, really like doing that.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,