The “Citizen Kane of Gaming” is Settled

Yes, in the midst of the comments fighting over some damnfool RPS piece about how game criticism is just fine

(…hint: it’s not, a million untrafficked blogs don’t make up a Pauline Kael, you need mainstream soapboxes to get mainstream cred and TotalBiscuit ain’t that…)

I ran across a comment so glorious I just had to share it. Ladies and Gentlemen: the Citizen Kane of gaming is…

…Ultima VII. It’s always been Ultima VII.

Charles Foster Kane is a thinly disguised allegory for William Randolph Hearst. It is an awesome film even if you don’t understand the allegory, but you can see that it’s the drive to tell a true story in the guise of fiction that pushes the makers to create a truly great film. The story itself couldn’t be told as non-fiction because of the power of the Hearst company and the litigation that would have followed. Citizen Kane is often considered the creators’ best work, despite the fact that it is a black and white film and “old”.

The Guardian is a thinly veiled allegory for Electronic Arts. It is an awesome game even if you don’t understand the allegory, but you can see that it’s the drive to tell a true story in the guise of fiction that pushes the makers to create a truly great game. The story itself couldn’t be told as non-fiction because the Ultima series is fantasy, and slipping a demon-god with a cult into the fantasy world made more sense than having an Eeeevil Corporation(TM) try to infiltrate Britannia directly. Ultima VII is often considered the creators’ best work despite the fact that it is 2D and “old”.

Me, I was always more of a Wing Commander fan. It’s still absolutely perfect, though. There’s little to add, beyond an observation that big open-world sandboxes like Ultima 7 are now the rule in the fantasy genre, rather than the exception. The perspective might change, but the idea’s the same, and that idea’s absolutely dominant.

So congrats to Electronic Arts: you not only were the Hearst analogue in the Citizen Kane of Games…you killed off its Welles. Props.

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One thought on “The “Citizen Kane of Gaming” is Settled

  1. Citizen Kane isn’t an allegory for William Randolph Hearst. There is a lot of Hearst in Kane, but that’s because the screenwriter knew Hearst personally and had been to several of Hearst’s big parties. Citizen Kane is an allegory of nothing, that was the whole point of the movie. The whole thing was a magic trick, an illusion. It makes you think you just saw something profound and allegorical, but in fact what you saw was nothing but smoke and mirrors. That’s what is so amazing about the film, not what it represents, but how it makes a shallow pool look forty feet deep. It actually fools you into seeing something that isn’t there.

    If there is a meaning to Kane, its that a man’s life cannot be summed up in a word, or a film, or a single concept. Hearst has always been the red herring when it comes to understanding and analyzing Kane. It literally leads you nowhere. It’s a beautifully crafted illusion. Its filmmaking at its most pure and most innovative. Its why I always hated the Citizen Kane of gaming. The phrase itself is Hearst, a red herring and distraction. There is no Citizen Kane of gaming because there is no Citizen Kane, at least the popular conception of it. All there is of Kane, is the illusion that Orson Welles conjured in 1941.

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