Smile, You're Gaming

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

Tom Endo | 27 Jan 2009 12:49
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But never mind those seats, because this girl spotted a weak one - me - and now she's going to stare at me with her Mona Lisa smile until I give in. I won't say I'm not tempted. I can sympathize with a long day at the Gucci store, and clearly she's had one of those days. But I batten down the hatches and hold tight. Then she goes for the jugular: "I like your shoes," she says. And maybe she does, or maybe she's actually a silver-tongued siren come to steal my seat. So I make my stand. "Thanks, but you're never getting my seat. I know your type. You think you're slick; you think you're pretty fast. You've got nothing on me." Defeated, she runs away from me as fast as possible, as does the enemy sympathizer next me. It' was a tough decision, as well as a shining example of real-world heroism.

My point is this: There is a war being waged between attractive women and men for seats on the subway - who knows what's right and wrong anymore? This is why I turn to a game like BioShock where the toughest decision it offers is whether or not to harvest a little sister. Big Daddies might as well walk around with armfuls of kittens, the choice between bad and good is so clear. Either you kill them because you realize so many kittens in one place could cause a toxoplasmosis epidemic, or you let them live because ... well, I don't know what fool would let them live.

As gamers, we find solace in our worlds of terror and doom. These gritty dystopias allow us to easily discern the path of the righteous savior or evil antichrist, because they portray worlds where these extremes are believable. They allow us to fulfill fantasies the real world cannot, because the greater the adversity, the more glorious the triumph.

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I don't play games because I'm looking for some existentialist meditation on life and death. I didn't lay waste to 43,000 tentacle thingies to assume the lotus position and light myself on fire before the tentacle queen as a form of political protest on behalf of mankind. This is the kind of ambiguous heroism reserved for real life. I played Cuttlefish Wars: The Inkening for 10 straight hours because I wanted to bring light to this game's dark world. I wanted to bestow this game with the benevolence that has so few channels of expression in my daily life. There's a saintliness to many of our favorite characters, a wonderful lack of imperfections that allows us to sit comfortably in their skin. Even games with an evil path steer clear of characters who can be simultaneously right and wrong. That's ultimately the tragedy of real life: ambiguity.

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