Continuing with my 30 Days of Gratitude, I am thankful for the little things that make me love video games.
Day #13 – Gamers Gonna Game, Game, Game
I have been playing computer games since before 99% of the people reading this were even born – to the point where when Nintendo launched the GameBoy in 1989 (yeah … 25 years ago!), I was enough of a gamer that my parents bought it for me to carry on airplanes on my frequent business trips.
The great thing about games is they are an interactive form of escapism, rather than the passive forms such as movies or TV. Like reading a book requires your mind to fill in the visual blanks, in games you control the action and cause the narrative to unfold.
My personal favorite games are in the RPG (role-playing game) and FPS (first-person shooter) genres, though I am pretty open to most things. Most recently I have been replaying a game called ‘Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast’ on the Mac, which is one of my favorites and gives you the great feeling of wielding a lightsaber and Force powers against the remnants of the Empire in the years following Return of the Jedi. I have also been playing two tablet ports of classic games – ‘Icewind Dale’, a combat-centric RPG on my Android tablet, and perhaps the greatest RPG ever ‘Baldur’s Gate 2’ on my iPad. Great deep complex stories and characters.
A good game needs many things working in its favor, most importantly quality gameplay and some type of ‘hook’ to keep you engaged. Games that engage you on multiple levels will be your favorites. But once you get all of that, you will find that games giving you ‘something extra’ will remain memorable for years. For me those things mostly come in two flavors: music and ‘unexpected extras’.
Several years ago a CEO of a big game company said it was very hard to justify content that nearly ever player who made it to that point in the game wouldn’t experience. Voice acting is expensive, graphics assets are expensive, and so on. What this means in practice is that all of those little ‘Easter Eggs’ stopped showing up in games. No longer were there random dead-end paths, go-nowhere quests, fun things to overhear, and so on.
But there are still plenty of great moments in games, here are a couple:
– In Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, if you have Mission Vao and Bastilla in your party on Tatooine, and are headed out towards the desert, Mission will start bugging Bastilla about using the Force to get at others, play small tricks and so on. Bastilla says that I Jedi would never stoop to such things, but Mission persists until Bastilla shuts her down and Mission lets go with a final snipe. Moments later Mission trips and falls, Bastilla says that she should be more careful and Mission is left saying ‘hey …’! Classic moment!
– In Baldur’s Gate 2, there is a staggering amount of incidental dialogue – between members of your party (similar to above, things change depending on who is with you and where), between random characters, and between your protagonist and creatures you meet throughout. You can also ‘romance’ members of your party, which often turn into huge and sprawling quests unto themselves!
– Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, you can switch on the radio in a number of places (and in some shops it is always on in the background). Aside from music, there is a talk show ‘The Deb of Night’ with call-ins, commercials and more!
– Throughout Jedi Knight II – especially wandering through the Cairn base or the Doomgiver ship, there are Stormtroopers having random conversations about experiences, weapon accuracy, and so on. As I have played this game dozens of times I have heard them all before, but it is fun to stop outside a door to listen before igniting the lightsaber and charging in!
– And finally, you know you are a hardcore gamer when you know this scene from Divine Divinity:
Existential skeletons? Who knew …
I love great music, and we know that movies can have great soundtracks … so why not games? Just as film has John Williams and Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman, gaming has composers such as Jeremy Soule (Neverwinter Nights, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, etc) and Alexander Brandon (Deus Ex) and Matt Uelman (Diablo II) and Inon Zur (Fallout 3) and Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy I – VII) and more.
I love all of those guys, but wanted to share my top game music choices … which I narrowed to only seven entries. 🙂
Divine Divinity – by composer Kirill Pokrofsky
Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines – from “The Last Round”, this is ‘Lecher Bitch’ by the Genitorturers –
Gothic 2 – by composer Kai Rosenkranz
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – by composer Jeremy Soule
Blade of Darkness – by composer Oscar Aurajo
Baldur’s Gate 2 – by composer Michael Hoenig
Arcanum – by composer Ben Hogue
How do you feel about video games?