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Alasdair Duncan's blog
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Alasdair Duncan avatar 5:14 AM on 06.26.2008  (server time)
The Start Of The Affair: Deus Ex

My affair with gaming has gone on for quite a while; my mum owned a Commodore 64 during the mid-80's which she used for her job as a computer programmer but she found games to play as well too. Mainly text adventures like the games based on the Fellowship of the Ring and the Hobbit. My dad had some games too like Booty and an F-15 flight sim which totally confused me at the time. I knew if I kept flying straight I'd come across a plane eventually, but the rest was a mystery. Anyway, after a few years I graduated to a NES which was awesome. Despite sticking with Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt, I got the console the same Christmas Super Mario Bros. 3 came out, so that was the first console game that I really got my teeth into. Despite that, my choice of game comes almost ten years later on the PC, a game that made play it over and over again, join a community, create a website, read a book and eventually lead me to get married.

I had had a bit of a fallow period during the 90's; I never owned a 16-bit system or a Playstation or N64 either. When I saved up enough cash during 1998 to buy a PC, I got Half Life and Grim Fandango, two games I love 'til this day. I'd also gotten a Dreamcast with my brother and was entranced by the games available for it (Jet Set Radio, Sonic Adventure, Metropolis Street Racer, Shenmue, Virtua Tennis, Powerstone....), but late that Summer, Edge magazine reviewed a PC game that sounded right up my alley. The game featured a futuristic setting along with RPG elements as well as FPS combat and cyberpunk hacking. This game was Deus Ex.

[THIS PARAGRAPH CONTAINS SPOILERS]I totally believe the glowing review that Edge gave Deus Ex is what had me buying it: the chance to develop a character that would travel the world, building skills and deciding his fate. At the start of the game, JC Denton is part of U.N.A.T.C.O., an anti-terrorism branch of the UN. The world is gripped by the outbreak of a plague called the Grey Death, a disease that has ravaged millions, but there is a cure called Ambrosia. The governments of the world maintain strict control of Ambrosia, dishing it out to the rich and powerful. Various terrorist groups are now active, trying to gain control of Ambrosia distribution Ethically, the terrorists have a point. Eventually your NSF opponents become your allies, as your brother Paul (who is also a U.N.A.T.C.O. agent) reveals to you the grim plan that is being played out by higher powers.

Despite being a U.N.A.T.C.O. agent, you can be as lethal as you like during the game. I found this a real eye-opener. The only FPS games I'd played on the PC had been straight forward shoot-em ups like Quake and Doom (and to a degree Half Life), where if it moved, kill it. Here I could avoid enemies, take them out with a stun gun, hack turrets and cameras to turn on them, the choices seemed limitless and invigorating. Indeed, I usually play the most of the first few missions using only the stun gun, gas grenades and sneaking past the hapless NSF agents. What I also liked was the fact there were non-combat areas, like the U.N.A.T.C.O. headquarters and Hell's Kitchen, where there were plenty of side quests to keep me occupied, more characters and more information about the world I was in.

Deus Ex was a game I played all the way through, then again and again. The multiple endings ensured that, but there was that intangible feeling of place that kept me coming back; the feeling that I wanted to be in this world, no matter how corrupt and dangerous. It's the same feeling I get when I watch Blade Runner or read William Gibson (you can tell I like Cyberpunk). The game also featured many literary references; character's names would come from books or comics, many of which I was familiar. I got a bit of a thrill seeing the name Gully Foyle on the hotel check in-book in Hells Kitchen as I remember reading The Stars My Destination at the time. One of the books that was littered around the game was "The Man Who Was Thursday", a turn of the century tale of assassins and conspiracies written by GK Chesterton. I ended up getting the book off Amazon and impressing my mum, who had read the book as a child. I ended up joining the forums at Deus Ex Gaming, initially to look for some help with some levels. I ended up posting on their forums regularly for a few years, eventually forming an online friendship with some of the guys who hung out there, some of whom I've hooked up with in real life. After a while I formed a friendship with an Australian girl who hung round the forums for a while. We e-mailed for a long time, then sent each other text messages, phoned each other. Eventually she moved in with me in Scotland and we got engaged. On the 10th of June we had our first wedding anniversary (I remembered). So there you have it: Deus Ex; helping profanity-spewing, ugly Scottish guys get laid since 2000. The game is on Steam right now for a pittance; if you haven't played it, then for the love of God go and get it right now!

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