With No Particular Place To Go
The PlayStation release of the original Tomb Raider celebrated its 20th anniversary earlier this week. The occasion prompted A.V. Club assistant editor Caitlin PenzeyMoog to revisit the game, which she played in a very specific and strange way during her childhood. Because she couldn’t go very long without getting lost, she and her sister would forget about trying to finish the levels, and instead just kill Lara Croft over and over again, looking for the most creative and cinematic deaths possible. That reminded Venerable Monk of another radical game from 1996 where falling to your death could be kinda fun:
My favorite “jumping to my death” game as a youth was definitely Super Mario 64. There was so much verticality to the worlds, and so many great poses to choose from! Do you go with a normal “fist in the air” defiant jump? Press B to dive head first into danger? Long jump to tuck into a cannonball? Slide kick like a ninja?
Plus, Mario could fall a really long way without dying. He’d make that “huaugh!” noise as he flattened to a pancake and lose some health, but he sprang right back into action. My brothers and I spent a lot of time looking for survivable falls to use as shortcuts. We also loved diving into sand or snow from the heights, causing Mario to stick head-first into the ground. Of course, letting Mario drown was almost as bad as letting Sonic drown, so I won’t dwell on that subject.
PaganPoet remembered aimlessly playing a different Nintendo classic:
By the way, this article reminds me of the original Zelda, which I played when I was much too young to understand that there were dungeons to clear, power ups to gather, and Triforce pieces to collect. I had no clue about any of those things. I would just walk around the overworld killing enemies, collecting rupees, and enjoying the sights. If I did happen to come across a dungeon, I would play it until I died and then return to my overworld exploration.
And Wolfman Jew expanded on this idea of finding ways to play games that weren’t the intended method:
I really love the idea of being able to take a game and use it for something vastly different from its intended purpose. I’m not referring to playing in a way that pushes the limits of what a game can do, like one might with Skyrim or Deus Ex or what have you, but playing with games in ways totally contrary to their purpose or tone. I spent part of my most recent play-through of Twilight Princess just looking at art and wall patterns in the dungeons, and noticing that a lot of them actually have little details relating to the world, like statues of people in the Temple Of Time. It’s something next to no one ever notices, and only passingly when they do, but it’s still something that makes the world feel bigger, “realer.”
The Space Pope, meanwhile, was never all that interested in this kind of meandering:
When I was a kid, I don’t think I ever indulged in this kind of “Fuck it, let’s see what we can get away with” style of play. I think I was always more in the goal-oriented mindset. You could chalk that up to being raised with edutainment rather than console games, perhaps, but even in the more open-ended sandbox-style games, I rarely ventured beyond the campaign modes—never designed a death coaster in RollerCoaster Tycoon, never laid out a city shaped like a dick in a city-building game. Then again, my creative pursuit of choice is writing stories, so perhaps it’s less of an issue of chaos vs. progression and more of a lifelong preoccupation with narrative. Yeah, that sounds better, I’m going with that.
Gentle Herpes realized there might be a generational divide at play here:
I first really felt like part of the “older generation” when I was noticing how a nephew of mine played video games. Unlike an old-timer like myself, who tended to play by learning various tricks or collecting artifacts and following clues to either solve the game or rack up points, he was much more interested in trying to find cool ways to crash or kill the hero. “Winning” was only a casual goal, if one at all. The ultimate goal was to make cool shit happen.
Upon reflection, it’s actually a better goal. If you win a video game, you don’t actually get anything for it. You just have to start over and do it again. But making cool shit happen increases your enjoyment of the game in the moment. That’s better.
Get Used To It
I’m nearly finished with my in-depth Game In Progress review of Dishonored 2—every installment of which you can find right here—but over the weekend, we dug a little deeper into one of the chief creative minds behind the game, that of storied designer Harvey Smith. He and I mostly chatted about building believable game worlds, but the discussion eventually turned toward the style of game Smith helped establish with his work on Deus Ex and how they’ve seen something of a revival in recent years. He chalked that resurgence up to players finally catching up with the sophistication of these highly reactive, interactive games and starting to desire more of that from the games they play, a transformation he likened to the growing complexity of other media, like TV shows. Down in the comments, Duwease shared some thoughts on this notion:
I was especially interested by the idea that a medium’s audience grows more sophisticated over time, bringing the complexity of the average artistic venture up with it. I’m inclined to agree wholeheartedly, but I wonder if this might be a bigger problem with games than other media because of the interaction involved. Have you ever tried to get a friend into a game that you thought would be simple enough for them to pick up and play, only to have them struggle for 15 minutes walking backward into every object while the camera spins around their feet? A movie with complexities requiring familiarity with the format can still be enjoyable to the viewer on some level while they gain that familiarity, but a game where you can’t even get the camera to focus on the interesting parts does not.
And Now For Something Completely Different
Are you familiar with Staggering Stew-Bum’s very special Let’s Plays? They usually involve things like punching his way through Uncharted or killing every single character in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Stew’s latest endeavor is a kill-everyone run through this year’s episodic Hitman game, and over in this week’s What Are You Playing This Weekend? thread, he shared some of the hilarious antics he’s gotten Agent 47 into:
Thank you for that, Stew. It was beautiful.
That does it for this week, Gameologinauts. As always, thank you for reading and commenting. We’ll see you again next week!