Well that Deus Ex Wasn’t Very Subtle

So I left a bad review on Amazon the other day for a video game I picked up and was ridiculously disappointed by. Don’t stone me for saying this if you’re a video game fan, but Deus Ex: Human Revolution bored me to tears! I list several reasons in the review (http://amzn.to/18Dy4ry), but I thought one reason might be worth discussing over here at the old blog. That reason is the excessively subtle nature of the “cyberpunking” of the Deus Ex world. In playing the game, there was very little to tell me I was in a cyberpunk world. There were just little touches of advanced technology, but they often looked like more familiar objects from the present day world. One example I could point to are the main character’s eye implants that look like fairly normal sunglasses.

What’s that got to do with me or my writing? Well, I’m not a subtle writer. A cathartic baptism by fire is literally that in my novel, Catharsis. The love interest in that book is named after a Hindu goddess of procreation. The sensitive soul that is Bodhi literally ingests the emotions of those around him.

I’m wondering if that’s a bad thing. What do you think? Could Catharsis have stood to be a bit more subtle? The mystery writer Terence Faherty offered me an anecdote with advice once, long ago, pulled from his days as a tech writer for a bank, I believe. His advice was basically that no matter how clearly you write in a tech manual “Press F1,” people will misread it or misinterpret it and come away from it believing that the instructions told them to do something other than press F1. He said something to the effect of “Always state plainly, ‘Press F1,’ even in fiction.” And I’ve really tried to stick to that in the years since.

But Deus Ex: Human Revolution is an insanely popular game. The reviews are mostly positive and there seems to be a real sense that the game immerses its players in a cohesive cyberpunk world. So maybe people are better with subtlety than I give them credit for or am myself.

What do you think? Is Tron: Legacy the right approach with its blaring neon color schemes and saturated style? Or do you prefer the more subtle approach taken by the new Atlas Shrugged movies, where the cyberpunk touches of a near future blend almost unnoticeably into the overall film? Should I tone my own writing down?

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