The Escapist Magazine
Issue 91
Greater than Ourselves
Editor's Note Letters to the Editor

"Go's creation is also surrounded in myth and bears similarities to a Judeo-Christian story, that of Moses' discovery of the 10 Commandments. The story tells of a special mountain with a maze-like ascent. The first person to make it to a cavern at the summit returned with the first go board, made entirely from magical stone. So two guys climb an ancient mountain and one comes back with a game under his arm that ponders the heavens, and another comes back with the foundation for modern lawmaking. And I still can't quote either one's rules."

Joe Blancato looks at the religious roots of games from around the world.

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"But what, really, are the effects of videogames on the mind, and can they compare to the psychoactive effects of the peyote plant? Alan Pope, a behavioral scientist at NASA Langley Research Center in Langley, Virginia believes so. Pope, in an attempt to prove that the same meditative effects experienced with techniques like biofeedback-controlled meditation training could be replicated with videogames, conducted a study with 22 children suffering from ADHD. Half of his group was treated with biofeedback meditation, the other half with videogames. The results were startling."

Russ Pitts delves into the cult of gaming.

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"Eternal Forces tried to capitalize on 10,000 years of imagery and failed, because the game didn't commit fully to those ideas. I mean, the Biblical Tribulation - that's violent, juicy stuff. That should have worked. Instead, the developers held back, sanitizing the situation, wiping it clean of blood and gore, yes, but also of pain. As a result, death in Eternal Forces has no cost; it's just a winking out, a tally mark on a scorecard rather than an intimate, terrifying event.

"I'm not surprised, however. Pain is uncomfortable, unreliable and tremendous. It consumes you, casting doubt and shadows on everything you believe. Just ask Job."

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"You manage to teleport yourself to Slaeter's Sea. You are hit by a hatchetfish; you die. You zap yourself with a wand; you die. You grow an extra finger; you die. You commit magical genocide on a race of bats, heavenly rangers appear; you die. As you continually perish, the game deletes your save file but keeps your ghosts around to torment you; literally a case of anti-experience points. The more you lose, the harder it gets. Become careless and the forest outside the village screams with ghosts and zombies, former selves come back to punish you for not being strong enough."
Christian McCrea explores the brutal, punitive and utterly Nordic world of Ragnarok.

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"Some CRPGs, notably The Elder Scrolls series, eschew player alignment systems almost entirely in the name of player freedom. However, player alignment system or no, CRPGs can't avoid answering the classic question of moral absolutism vs. moral relativism. If Good and Evil exist in the game world, it's because they have been codified during the development process; the system's discrete nature is inherently limiting.
"That said, it's entirely possible for a game implementing a player alignment model to take a nuanced approach to ethical questions - just ask Black Isle Studios."
Raja Doake examines the roots of our classic preoccupation with good versus evil.

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