It's funny because it's true... well... in a manner of speaking...

>> Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It reminds me of Greg Costikyan's pen'n'paper rules for Violence: The Roleplaying Game of Egregious and Repulsive Bloodshed (PDF link), a satire of the "kick in the door" mentality present in most RPGs. Your character goes in, wrecks up a place, steals from people (some of them not even human, but still...), kills, maims, and generally acts like a thug in order to receive some sort of reward. It's ugly and mocking that style of play is fun, though I also have to confess that kind of virtual ruffianism can be enjoyable and an amusing and diverting form of escape. After all, one of the things a game lets you do is be transgressive, to enjoy doing things you'd never do in real life because they're just horrifying and awful.

What's a bigger issue, there, is awareness. It may be fun to play a game where you're some kind of fantasy monster--a vampire, let's say (and here, frankly, I'm thinking more of Fury Of Dracula than Vampire: The Masquerade--I just can't abide LARPing, sorry)--but in a good one, you're cognizant of being a beast. Even in a game we're a human monster--the better entries in the Grand Theft Auto series come to mind--you may be aware that there's a horror to what you're all about alongside whatever malefic fun you might also be having. But it can be all too easy, unfortunately, for the conventions of certain kinds of games--looking in containers for stuff, acquiring benefits by killing things you encounter, the world revolving around you and the environment existing for your entertainment (and settings like "homes" being essentially puzzles to be hacked)--to obscure the, for want of a better phrase at the moment, "virtual truth beneath the metagame." That is to say, what kind of hero acts like the knight in the above video? The potion is likely a necessary thing to finish a level, complete a quest, save a world, finish the game--but, other than the fact that it's part of the metagame (necessary for the mechanics of playing), why would it be there--how much would these non-player-characters have paid for what is likely a needed medical item?

Imagine, if you will, that you were sitting in your own home and some savior walked in without knocking, rummaged through your cabinets while you just sat there, grabbed a bottle of aspirin and walked out, perhaps returning to visit an indeterminate time later to see if the medicine had "respawned," i.e. whether you'd bought some more and put it in the same cabinet? You might be calling the police.

Something, perhaps, to consider the next time you're playing a game.


mattw Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 12:34:00 PM EDT  

Oh my god, all those poor people of Hyrule who I've stolen from, smashed their clay jars, and hacked away at their chickens over the years. How can I repay those 8- and 16-bit NPCs back?

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