Smile, You're Gaming

Smile, You're Gaming
The Best of All Possible Worlds

Tom Endo | 27 Jan 2009 13:49
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When I sit down to play a game, I do so with the intention of making the world right. Because the worlds I visit are cratered places of terror and lawlessness. They're hell on earth, which is fine by me; it'd be too easy otherwise. Whether it's busting caps in some Fallout 3 mutant or marching through the Combine, it's all about walking into battle, killing bad guys and walking out alive. Occasionally I'll go a little berserk and kill a bunch of civilians just to see what happens, but I'll always revert to an earlier save when I want to go back to the main storyline. If I really love a game I'll go back and replay it as the bad guy, because why not see what the bad ending is, anyway? This is gaming at its best.

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Industry pundits rail on and on about the need to instill games with more interesting choices and more realistic scenarios. I've coined the term Call of Duty 4 syndrome. This is precisely the wrong direction developers should be going in. Videogames are basically concerned with unicorns and rainbows, except the unicorn is a space marine and the rainbow is an alien under his boot. All games are ultimately optimistic. No one wants to experience the inner emotional life of a videogame character; no one wants to see Tommy Vercetti die like Al Pacino in Scarface; and certainly no one wants to play a videogame about someone's descent into heroin addiction.

The difficult choices we face in everyday life are not the province of videogame characters. Thankfully, I can't say a single decision I've made or a single action I've witnessed while playing a game even marginally resembles my toughest decision in the course of a typical week. Take, for example, my recent subway travails. The other day, I sat down on a moderately full train after a grueling day of shopping for limited edition sneakers. At the next stop, a brunette stunner steps onto the train, resplendent in designer duds. She eyes the cabin before striding over to my seat and standing directly in front of me. Keep in mind there are a few open seats left on the train. There's the seat next to a fine gentleman who obviously works for the EPA, given the number of paper bags, cans and other recyclables he's carrying with him. There's also a woman practicing her lines for an Off Broadway play - something to do with cats and pimps.

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