Our latest Inventory tackled the subject of the silly explanations games have given for the x-ray vision modes that have been popping up in everything from the new Tomb Raider to Assassin’s Creed. Skipskatte offered up a reason for why this has become so common:
Developers have pretty much figured out after years of trying that using other senses besides sight for something vital in video games is a lost cause. Unless you have a perfectly calibrated surround-sound system, you’re not going to be able to use sound the way you do in the real world. We feel vibrations. We have close to a 180-degree field of vision. If the game requires that you do any more than run around gunning people down, you need a way to “sense” through walls and around corners.
Caspiancomic agreed about the origin of this design element but thinks it might have gone too far:
I think this trope was definitely born under these conditions, but like a lot of modern conventions, it has become a crutch for developers. I feel like a lot of the more “coddling” elements in modern games began life as an attempt to give the player a leg-up in otherwise insurmountable situations, but they have since become codified ideas in their own right and inserted into games whether or not they really belong there. Not to mention the fact that “cheats” like x-ray specs are, while frequently legitimate solutions to in-game problems, occasionally just shortcuts to cover up bad design. See also: quick time events, always-on invasive hint systems, automatically recovering health, etc.
One of the entries on our list was the Dark Vision in Dishonored, a power gifted to the main character by a mysterious deity known as The Outsider. As the entry noted, activation of this power is accompanied by an unintelligible incantation. Billy Madison shared one interpretation of these strange words:
I loved Dishonored so much that I played it twice, and I never figured out what that Dark Vision noise is. I decided that it sounded like “huge thighs,” and that The Outsider is a fat-shamer.
Elsewhere in the comments, posters discussed the peculiarity that is the third-person perspective, where your viewpoint hovers at or above the character’s shoulders. GaryX brought up the explanation that Super Mario 64 gave for this view: “a floating Lakitu reporter.” Fyodor Douchetoevsky expanded on that idea a bit:
Oh man, I never thought of him as a reporter. I guess he’s like a war correspondent documenting all the crimes Mario is committing against the glorious Koopa Kingdom. Dark.
And with that, GaryX was inspired to create this behemoth of a post:
With an almost presumptuous flip, Mario entered the hazy, maze-filled caves. It was here the true extent of his ruthlessness finally overwhelmed me. Down in this dark, forgotten relic of what had once been the churning motor of Koopa Kingdom’s burgeoning industrial epicenters, past the rolling boulders and the frightened creatures, below the bottomless pits leading to other unknown, possibly secret, worlds, Mario encountered a world untouched by the turbulence above. Before us stretched a quiet lagoon, pockmarked by high outcroppings and lit by hidden sources somewhere up above, the only reminders of that war-stricken world. In the distance, I heard a cry, and before I could ask if he heard it too, Mario dived headfirst into the dark depths.
From the murky expanse before us came a creature of another age. Never before have I seen such an animal, and perhaps never again will I. She was simple and peaceful, ignorant of the greater conflicts that raged outside this secret grotto. Mere moments passed before Mario strode atop her. In this overwhelming, natural revelation, I failed to notice the Star atop one of the rocks. Mario had not. Striking his self against her, he beat the animal—her shrieks echoing against these long quiet walls and the reverberations signaling the final end of innocence, purged at last from even the most protected of sanctuaries—and drove her toward the shimmering sin, using her neck and head as a makeshift bridge.
The civil war opened in the wake of the Bob-omb King’s assassination. The siege of Whomp’s fortress. The defilement of the great Koopa Pyramids. All of these things I have seen, and all of these things I have documented as acts of war: rationalizations of an irrational agent, jumping and sliding across our landscapes with an unparalleled disdain for its inhabitants who have no choice but to flee or fight in a war that was never their own. Here, beneath the foundations of what we have come to comfortably call the modern world, I have seen the act beyond rationalization. I have seen cruelty. The forgotten heart of Koopa Kingdom, long buried and hidden away, spoken about in hushed tones only by the few of us true believers who once held out that so long as the seed remained it could grow once more, withered before me in his absolute corruption and died. And I, too, along with it.
Get Your Goat
While researching Out This Month, Drew Toal discovered the existence of Goat Simulator, a slapstick comedy game starring a goat. The comments were abuzz with goat talk, but Staggering S2 Bum stole the show with this story:
When I was younger, I had friends who owned goats. They liked to show their goats at the yearly agricultural show in my hometown, which was kind of a big deal. Anyway, showing goats is mostly just putting them in a pen inside a building full of goats so that if people are lost looking for something good—like carnival rides, hotdogs on a stick, or hot American donuts—they might see the goats and wonder what the hell that smell is. (Spoiler: It’s all the goats.)
Anyway, something else they do when they show goats is have a daily goat parade, where a bunch of goat fanciers put a lead on their goats and walk them around in circles in the main oval so people can say they saw animals. One year, I got to be one of the goat people guiding the goats, a goat guide, if you will. The young goat I got was borderline very stupid, even for a goat, and waited until we got into the main area before deciding “fuck it.” It had gone far enough and was not moving another inch. Naturally, this started holding up all the other goat herders behind me, so—being too young to handle the pressure—I panicked and started dragging the goat by the lead, which didn’t really help, but a couple of people in the crowd yelled out “Oh my god, that kid’s strangling that goat!” This is yet another experience that has scarred me for life. Anyway, that’s my goat story. Stupid fucking goat.
In not goat-related talk, The Space Pope had a grammatical bone to pick with the trailer for Conception II, a game about a young man who must save the world by mating with his high school classmates and battling alongside his superbabies:
Okay listen, Conception II. I will accept a completely bananas premise. I will grudgingly accept gameplay based around magic-eugenics. You’re a JRPG, after all, and some insanity is expected—nay, mandatory. But I will not accept reckless disregard for dangling modifiers! “As a disciple of the star god, it’s time to fight back!” Look at that. Look at what you did. Maybe Captain Fertility should go impregnate an English teacher and conceive a grammar-based starbaby. That would do you some good.
And with that, we bid farewell to another Gameological week. Thanks for reading and commenting. We’ll see you next week.