As gamers, it is practically written in our genes that we will abuse every freedom provided us by a developer (that is why we make such great open-beta testers, because we will wedge our characters’ faces into the most absurd corners and shoot penis shapes into everything we see until we run out of laughs or ammo). But in this context, unlike most others, abuse of freedoms is a good – nay, a great thing.
(Rock on, Ashley Burch)
Some developers planned for our collective short attention span and incorporated distractions into their games. The minute I discovered Link was free to do other things besides pursuing Ganondorf and the captured princess, I found myself on a mission to angle the fabled 26-pound fish, run down every noisy Cucco, and ignore baddies everywhere in my Hyrule-wide search for gold skulltulas.
I could’ve run down Lost Planet’s timer with the amount of mission-ignoring shenanigans I partook of in GTA III, and my attitude didn’t sober up with the improvements to realism in the fourth numbered entry in the series. Niko Bellic swan dove into as many lakes out of helicopters, assaulted as many old ladies, and ate as much unnecessary pavement as any of his multi-ethnic predecessors.
And the Saints Row series took freedom very seriously (?) with their allowance for bra-wearing, sky-diving, granny-flashing, dildo-beating, turd-spraying, hot-dog-suit-wearing… well, you get the picture - nonsense. But in my opinion, freedom is not so much something granted by the developers as it is something seized by the players.
(Gamers and dick jokes, I swear to God)
Even in titles where the freedom of the above-mentioned games is not programmed in, players find a way to contradict the script in hilarious and defiant ways. I know that I personally spent a good twenty minutes at the beginning of Half Life 2 chucking soda cans at guards’ faces and giddily evading capture. I even managed to wedge the train platform door open with a box and get myself trapped outside of the game’s code. Oops. Haha.
(Gordon Freeman, prankster extraordinaire)
Some games practically BEG to be defied. Whiny, useless escorts screaming “SAVE ME AAHHHH!!” or RPG NPCs welcoming you and your arsenal of laser weapons to their defenseless goldmine of a town. Or pretty much any character that says the word “can’t” to you at any point in your dialogue – basically has set themself up as ground zero of the next explosion-holocaust.
A friend of mine tried his damnedest to murder Cole McGrath’s nagging, ingrate girlfriend in inFamous – prior to Kessler’s big ultimatum. And that same friend found endless mirth in denying me a hand up to ledges in Army of Two (which for those of you who don’t know, somehow causes the denied character to buckle and collapse as if he was utterly stunned by the distress of his betrayal – try it with your friends).
I spent more time in Braid rewinding Tim’s balls onto and off of fiery projectiles and rabid bunnies (the noise was hilarious) than I did solving the actual puzzles. Hell, even Streets of Rage provided some inexplicably hilarious comic relief in the form of partner grapples. Every once in a while I would just skate up behind my buddy and engage in a decidedly homoerotic hug until he punched me in RL or one of the baddies came along and beat us apart with a lead pipe.
(More like Streets of GAY-GE! ...heh)
The point is – games will always provide us with freedoms in a way the real world almost assuredly cannot – at least not without the consequence of being fired or completely abandoned by your friends. In a world where a second chance is just a loading screen away we are free to grind a rail using Tony Hawk’s nose, conquer a city with a purple dildo, and fail to save the planet because we’re too busy griefing our friends.
So here’s to you, video games, for providing us with the freedom to fail, and do so hilariously.
God bless Gamerica.