Sunday, 4 January 2015

Geek - How Pixels can Move

I love video games. I love the idea of interacting and being the story.  That's probably why I've been so drawn to MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) games, as you are part of a living, breathing world and you grow with it.  That's a lot harder offline.  A single player game takes you on the story it wants to tell you.  It's a lot hardened for a linear experience to grab you and take you along with it.  But when it's done right, it's unlike anything else.  I've called this "How Pixels can Move" as video games have given me reactions to stories I've never experienced in any other medium.  I've lost myself in books, I've cried at films and still do, I shouted at the tv during Game of Thrones at -that- wedding, but none of them have left the lasting impression that a bunch of pixels that move around have.  Let me give you a couple of examples.

DMC (Capcom/Ninja Theory) Have a nose here if you're unfamiliar

A love it or hate it hack and slash game where you play a half demon, smart ass, mostly foul mouthed yet endearing character named Dante. He has a large sword.  There are mods that make him shirtless.  But I digress.  I went into this game loving the original four games of the same series because they were fun and I loved how cocky yet charming Dante could be.  Even if he did start wearing chaps...  This was a total reboot. It was torn down to its basics and re-built by the company Ninja Theory and dear god do I love them for it.  Not just because it was great to play, but I was playing it for the cut scenes.  I was hooked on the interaction between characters.  But there was one scene in particular that made my heart ache.  Dante is trying to save a young woman named Kat from a group of men who are at best going to kill her, at worst, take her away to the archvilain of the piece; a demon named Mundus.  Dante is stuck in Limbo; a spirit version of the world around him and he can't save Kat. Instead all he can do is watch. My heart broke.  My heart broke for pixels not being able to hold hands when they needed each other most.

A mid twenties me with nothing better to do spent over 100 hours on the original Dragon Age; a high fantasy role play game where your decisions effect the story.  It wasn't just what character do you want to play; Mage, warrior, rogue, it was how you answered questions, the in game decisions on how to deal with situations.  You could see them shaping the world around you.  This is a common feature now largely thanks to this franchise and its counterpart; Mass Effect.  I got drawn into this game because of the companions.  You meet other characters in game.  If you like them and they like you, they come along on the journey with you.  You can even romance one (or more).  I had a particular affinity to the game's secondary lead character after yours, named Alistair.  He was sweet, funny and was on the journey from soldier to potentially King.  That's if I helped get him there.  And I did, right up until the point I made the decision that he should get the glory of ending the life of the Archdemon of the game.  After all, if he's going to become King that'd be pretty kingly.  He died in my character's arms. Still in love with her, despite the fact I made the decision she couldn't leave her calling to be his Queen. I cried like a real person had died and for a while afterwards I'd cry if I thought about it.  I actually mourned for a group of goofy looking pixels.

So why does this matter to me right now? Why am I writing this?  Because in the last week I've embarked on playing Dragon Age: Inquisition.  It's the 3rd in the series.  It's beautiful and the world is set around all the decisions I made in the previous games. I went into it knowing it was a world I'd already had a hand in creating.  I got to the menu screen and the music choked me up. And recently I survived a battle I shouldn't have won.  I lost townsfolk I could have saved, but I fumbled on my keyboard and they burned to death in their homes.  I know that others will have saved them in their world, better players than me, but that doesn't help. But after all of that, I made it out.  The rallying song of my beaten and battered people and a pilgrimage to a new stronghold in the mountains had tears running down my face.  It was that perfect "season finale" feeling, but as though I was part of it, not just watching. Again, just pixels.

Bloody moving pixels.

1 comment:

  1. Gah! I tried posting a comment but it deleted itself.

    Love the post and agree whole heartedly with your views on DMC. Remember; I voted it Game of the Year last year.

    Like you I played through each level just waiting for the next cutscene, it was as if the gameplay (while excellent in itself) was more of a connecting point between the next cutscene, where as most games use cutscenes to connect gameplay.

    Only three other franchises have done that for me; Legacy of Kain series, StarCraft and Enslaved.