Game style considerations

Warning for the readers of Gentoo Universe, this is a blog post that has nothing to do with technology, and it should rather be categorised as personal ramblings on life and games. Feel free to ignore the post if you don’t care about it. Also, I’m dealing slightly with my political views, please do not troll the comments about it, thanks.

Spoiler alert: not much about what you’ll learn about me, but rather on Fallout: New Vegas of which I’ll describe the ending in a moment. So if you intend to play the game, you should stop reading now, or I might make it not work playing (well, not really, but nevermind).

While I’m nowhere near an hardcore gamer, I’ve played my fair share at one time. I’ve been playing videogames since my childhood, leaving them be about at the time I finished high school, limiting to Pokémon and a couple more; I returned to games after my hospitalisation (which was happening exactly four years ago), when I bought a PlayStation 3 as a way to relieve stress — the suggestion, which came from my best friend, actually worked quite well up to now, even though I’ve still had a couple of near-breakdowns.

While there are all kinds of games, my personal preference in term of genres is probably the role-playing games, both “Western” and “Japanese” styles of those — the distinction of the two being very clear for those who played either of the types; quickly and roughly put one is an open story, the other forces you through a single story, with some optional branches depending on how thorough you were on completing it. Most Western-style role-playing games come with a karma system: you’re “good” or “bad” depending on your actions during the game, and yet you’re not discouraged from playing the games with either choice.

More interesting still is Fallout: New Vegas: when you play the game you’ve got different factions that will treat you differently depending on your actions to them, and to their enemies, separately from the karma system itself. Also, while you have a few parties that are definitely bad, you’ve got a choice of three/four different endings, that depend on who you plead allegiance to (if anybody) during gameplay.

I first noticed how much involved I (and not just I) get with the games’ “lifestyle” choices when I spent a whole evening discussing the best outcome for the game’s world with my above-mentioned best friend, with whom I share not a single view in politics. My view, which might sound strange coming from a primarily leftist, is that the best outcome for the Mojave is if the New Californa Republic faction takes control of the region, since that will give order, and an organized society, to the area, while his choice – even stranger coming from a rightist! – is to liberate the area from controlling sources, leaving it in a state of sorta-anarchism. For those who wonder, I maintained my view underscoring my support for the Followers of the Apocalypse faction as well, to equilibrate the scales.

You can see from what I wrote above that I am actually comparing, and somewhat doubting, my personal political views with my choices in-game. After we spent some time talking about this topic, we noticed how silly it is, from a non-gamer point of view, to do so — well, we realised that with the help of my friend’s fiancée, who’s tired silly of listening to us two talking about Elder Scrolls and Fallout games.

Turns out that this is not the only game having a similar effect on me, the previous instalment of the series, Fallout 3, has a similar effect. Since I’ve played the base game twice, both with good and neutral karma, to get the PlayStation 3 platinum trophy I was just lacking a playthrough with bad karma. I’m having a pretty difficult emotional stint, so I thought that playing the ruthless asshole in-game would help me distract, so I restarted the game, and went out of my way to play bad.

I’m having a hard time.

It’s not just the Fallout 3 way to decide your starting karma that bothered me (letting Amata’s vulnerability be used against her), it’s the whole lifestyle of the bad person in-game. Ouch. So many innocents to kill, so little good to be done to them. It hurts me to play this way, it’s like being trapped in Tranquillity Lane for the whole time — if you played the game, you know what I mean!

But that’s not what most concerns me: modern games are quite immersive, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that they stimulate my personal, ethical behaviour. I consider myself a good person, after all. Of course it shows a bit more of my wished politics choices, since I could find in New Vegas a combination that, in my opinion, works better than any one party in Italy, in the NCR and FoA combined. I guess I’m a socialist with a strong sense of authority, which is not exactly the kind of leftist we’re used to here.

At any rate, what concerned me is comparing this situation with the kind of gamestyle I used to have when I was younger. Back in the days I played on a (pirate) shard of Ultima OnLine (well, I mastered, actually), and my player was always either neutral (as in, follow-whoever-does-me-good neutral), or a variation of “negative order”, possibly “legal evil”, but not quite. And in other games, I have had my satisfying destruction, without any order or legality before…

Am I growing old? Has my gamestyle changed so much because I started considering my own responsibilities? I’m wondering this, not just for the games, but also because lately I found myself considering what I should be doing, if I’m supposed to find a way to live more wildly, or if, at twenty-six, I should rather look at solidifying my own status. The fact I can’t even enjoy playing with bad karma, is making me wonder if I’m already changing more that I could tell before.

Oh well.