Tuesday, 17 August 2010

I know Bioshock came out three years ago

I've been playing computer games a little bit more than usual recently. I think it's a combination of a lack of decent TV and a new lapdog. The way I remember playing games in my teens was a repetition of saving and reloading my progress with every step. If a fight didn't go exactly the way I wanted, I'd hit 'Ctrl+L' to rewind my avatar, placing him (until Ms. Croft came along it was almost exclusively a him) back before the fight/discussion tree/jump. If that didn't work I'd look through the various gaming mags I had to find the cheat code. This was a phrase (some in joke) or sequence of buttons that wouldn't look out of place in modern rhythm games, allowing me to swan through the hard bits with God Mode on: invincible, all powerful and totally without any obligation to play by the rules.

I don't know if it's because the visuals have evolved to a level that verges on cinematic or if its the fact that games are filled with the kind of ambiguous morals you'd expect to see in shows like The Wire, Deadwood and Breaking Bad but I'm being drawn into the games in ways that I haven't encountered before. I'll drag myself through an encounter with half my squad decimated and the bonuses no where near achieved but I can't just reload and try again. That would be somehow inconsistent and disingenuous. I find myself living by a different type of cheat code.

The line between storytelling and playing a game have become blurred. In the story I'm directing through button mashes and mouse gestures, the path has been written and I have to live by my actions. If I fail to save the girl or only barely defeat the dragon so be it.

That is until I die.

At which point I'm glad that I remembered to save and reload my game so I can have another go at moving on to the next level.

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