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A month ago, I moved into my new home. The house is a big project in itself, with lots of renovation work and plenty of TLC required. Between the DIY and the new school term, I've had very little time to game in the last few weeks. That hasn't stopped me thinking about video games, which is how we've arrived at the vitally important question above.
The home you currently reside in might be your first, or your fifteenth. Regardless, at some point you will have to move. The act of boxing, transporting, and unboxing your entire life will take a considerable amount of time and effort. Whilst the prospect of living somewhere new and shiny is exciting, the act of getting there is not. When this immense event un-folds, you will hopefully have friends and family to assist you, or have hired help.
Whilst those around you will do all they can to haul you and your stuff from A to B – and you should be grateful to them – let's ponder how moving home would be made easier by employing video game characters. With all their power and might, skills and tools, could these virtual chaps put themselves to good use in the real world? I for one think they could. This would be a very short discussion otherwise…
Peruse my suggestions below. You'll see I've put a great deal of thought/far too much thought [delete as appropriate] into selecting the persons that I would want helping me and those that I feel would make really bad choices. After reading, I hope you'll have a few suggestions of your own.
This odd little query began to roll around in the chasm that is my brain hole well before the actual move. Between sorting and cleaning the old apartment I would steal the odd half an hour to play Fez. I'm so glad I got around to playing this charming little puzzle-platformer. When I had to put the game down and return to boxing up my possessions, I would mull over all the ways that Gomez, the protagonist, could use his perspective switching ability to benefit me.
I knew that once these boxes were packed and shipped to the new residence, they would need to find a sensible spot to go so that they weren't taking up too much space. I'd also need to decide where all my furniture would look best. Gomez could offer me a unique perspective; I might think that the sofa looks fine facing one direction, but the little cutie would quickly tell me thatthis angle would look better. Add to that the fact that the adorable fellow is quite nimble and no stranger to carrying heavy objects, and you have a very helpful moving companion.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves; first we need to pack. All of your clothing, books, DVDs, pictures, furniture, family pets*… all need to be packed into neat little boxes ready to be sent off to the new abode. The unpacking can be done gradually, and is usually enjoyable, as you get to plan out where everything goes. Unfortunately, sorting and packing proves to be a more laborious and tiring adventure. I would have liked Steve from Minecraft to help me.
Gamers often question the incredible 'load limit' of game characters. Various characters can carry amounts well beyond normal human limits, and Steve is one of the greatest lifters around. Check out this VSauce video to see what I mean. The weight of everything you own won't even come close Steve's physical threshold. So long as Steve can 'stack' the items you own in his backpack, he can carry them in piles of 64, and he can carry 32 piles. That's 2048 books, or video games, or pairs of socks.**
Even the items that don't stack won't cause any hardship. In my latest move, the most cumbersome and awkward item to transport was my mattress. The act of carrying the overgrown cushion down one flight of stairs, stuffing it into the back of a van and levering it up another flight of stairs was unnecessarily taxing. Steve on the other hand, would have taken a few casual swipes at the fluffy thing, miniaturised the mattress (and bed) in one go, and then popped it safely away alongside a pile of my miniaturised neckties. Simple, effortless and, above all else, really entertaining to watch.
Just make sure Steve leaves his pickaxe in his own home. You don't want him knocking a wall out.
Steve and Gomez might have the packing and sorting locked down, but they can't really help with transport. They are pedestrians at heart, and I don't see the move going smoothly if we all try riding pigs down the motorway…
We need a driver, and who better than Franklin from Grand Theft Auto V. The logic behind this choice (if we can call this a logical discussion) is twofold. Firstly, Franklin has become so staggeringly awesome that he has the ability to slow down time. Secondly, as with all GTAcharacters, he has the power to disobey all traffic laws without upsetting law enforcement. Only by bumping a police car or an unwilling pedestrian will Franklin incur the wrath of the police. These two attributes combined make Franklin the ideal person to move you and your items quickly and efficiently to your new home.
But let's be realistic. All this talk of miniaturisation, reality bending and time manipulation is all well and good, but we have to appreciate that our world does not yet accept these insults to Physics. So let's pick a more sensible option. Let's see… Ah! Got it. Alyx Vance from Half Lifecould help you move home. And she could bring her Gravity Gun!
Alyx is one of my favourite deuteragonists of all time. Intelligent, resourceful and incredibly likeable; she more than makes up for Gordon Freeman's reserved nature. Alyx is a pragmatist and has no aversion to rolling up her sleeves to help out. She also knows her way around electronics – very useful if the circuitry or lighting in your new digs need updating. But she'd prove especially helpful if she brought the ZPEFM along with her. Moving the wardrobe or dining table into place would be easy-peasy if the Gravity Gun could be used sensibly. And the ZPEFM in best placed in Alyx's hands; you wouldn't want to accidentally fire your Television across the front garden.
One last suggestion: Snake from Metal Gear Solid would make a good addition to the 'moving team'. This was actually a suggestion from a reader. And what a great suggestion. Snake would be ultimate choice for one job that is often overlooked. When all your stuff is unpacked and in its place, there's still one more thing to do: those empty cardboard boxes need to be tidied away. You could recycle them, try to pass them off to someone else... or you could let the guy with the love for boxes take them off your hands.
It doesn't matter how many you have, Snake can neeeeever have enough boxes. Just be aware that he may try and prank you before he leaves. If he suddenly 'vanishes', just look for the box that's trying not to giggle.
There are lots of friendly video game characters. They would gladly help you move, but that doesn't mean you'd find them helpful. Take Donkey Kong: he'd delight in the task of carry the heaviest boxes to and fro, but I wouldn't trust him with any boxes marked "fragile". You might think about asking the Prince from Katamari Damacy to roll up all your things into a big ball for easy travel. However, by the time he's finished rolling to the new home, he'll have scooped up much more than you'd like. Whilst Link and his gadgets might seem like the perfect way to get the job done, he'll ruin every ornament in your house before you can scream "Hey, Listen! Stop breaking stuff!" and don't get me started on the mess he'll make of your garden...
Moving home is exhausting and boring. Games are relaxing and fun. Combine those things together, and what do you get? That's right: really confused looks from your new neighbours. More importantly, you'll get the task completed in no time. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off buy some plants for my new back garden. Does anyone know where I can buy Peashooter Seeds?
Have you got any suggestions for game characters that would make moving home so much easier? Leave a comment below. I'm pretty sure this will be the most important question you have to answer this week.
* Family pets must be packed into boxes with air holes***.
** I do not own 2048 pairs of socks.
*** Air holes must be cut into the box before the pet is placed inside.
Games are fun, but I sometimes get the impression they don't like us all that much. It doesn't matter how many times you have levelled up or how many weapons you have strapped across your chest; the game is in charge and won't hesitate to prove it.
The majority of video games entertain us by making us feel awesome. They might transform us into the ultimate warrior or the most resilient survivalist or the greatest sportsmen there has ever been. Games lift us up and allow us to feel superior. However, before that feeling of awesomeness can turn into arrogant smugness, games can always find a way to keep you level-headed.
So the game gifts you with the skills and abilities to perform the exceptional, but it can always bring you down to earth and also remind you who the boss is. You think you're the world's greatest, but boy/girl you are not. Below are some of the ways a video game can remind you that you're only as strong as the game allows.
I'm a fan of real life gravity. It's one of the most dependable aspects of my life. Sure, I may curse its existence if I trip up or when I try and to carry too much at once, but it can be relied on to always perform as expected. Video game gravity is less predictable. When the game permits, you can often ignore death from falling by using a glide ability or using another human being as a big squidgy cushion. You can sometimes double jump or super jump your way to higher platforms. In a few games fall damage is ignored entirely. That is, until you fall or leap into an area you weren't supposed to be, and then the game will hurt you.
I've poked fun at Kratos in the past. Never to his face, of course. I thoroughly enjoy the character – no one does "rage-filled" quite like the God of War – but his fluctuating levels of strength and badassery cause me to chuckle. For example, Kratos is capable of leaping from a balcony ten stories up and surviving the fall. If he swings his blades around, Kratos will suspend himself in mid-air for a brief moment, as if gravity itself has stepped back from his spinning, stabby things. Conversely, if Kratos falls of a beam or leaps from a platform that he wasn't meant to, the game will drop him like a stone. A big, angry, shouty stone. You might be playing as the actual God of War, but you'll still follow the path the game has laid out for you.
Furthermore, consider how many games worlds have spikes in them. Not content with pits for the player to fall into, game designers enjoy adding giant metal barbs liberally across each level. This was a point suggested by a reader (Voltaire Crescent) who highlighted that even the blue hedgehog must take care when running headlong across the horizon.
I find it quite difficult to believe that these spikes are natural parts of the landscape, especially in the Green Hill Zone, but I also find it challenging to accept that Eggman left them there. Having seen how devastating spikes are to Sonic's progress, I can't imagine why the moustachioed villain doesn't abandon all robot building efforts to begin mass producing the large metal barbs, coating each world with a layer of murdery goodness. The reason why Eggman doesn't do this, is that the game wants you to spend most of your time running at speed and bounding across chasms; the game only wishes to occasionally impale the hedgehog, just to point out who's really in command.
I once had to break open a door in real life. A roommate had locked themselves out of their room and needed to get in urgently. I rang the (very understanding) landlord and they agreed that I could force my way in providing the repairs were paid for. Whilst I considered trying out the film-favoured, boot-to-the-door method, I realised that probably wouldn't go the way I imagined. So instead I went for the more standard shoulder barge. On the third attempt I popped the latch out of the frame and the door flung inwards. For a brief moment I thought I looked supremely heroic, but I was told later that my expression of gleeful surprise (I cannot believe that I broke open a door I'msoawesome!) ruined my moment of machismo. The point I'm making here is that even I can force a door open.
For countless, mighty warriors the sealed, locked or barred entrance presents an impenetrable barrier. Regardless of physical strength, magical prowess or natural ingenuity, so many doors stay shut, at least until the game allows it. Games often revel in this unseen power by patronising the player, explaining exactly why the player cannot pass. Nope, you can't open that old, possibly rotten wooden door until you have the right key. This door cannot be opened until later on in the game for reasons I haven't quite made up yet. And this door can only be unlocked from the other side. It doesn't matter that your double handed sword could easily carve through it or that your shotgun could take the thing off its hinges; that door isn't moving until the games says its fine.
It's a good job Gordon Freeman is mute. If he could speak, I've no doubt he'd be the first to ask why any entrance or exit is closed to him when he his walking round with the perfect tool to prise any barrier apart. How many times must he wobble a door handle, look to his crowbar and then sigh heavily. On the other hand, I may be giving Mr Freeman too much credit. He may be an intelligent scientist, but he'd rather smack a wooden crate until it breaks than simply pull the lid off.
Even in games which bless the player with a lock picking ability, you'll still find doors that cannot be opened for reasons unknown. The door looks exactly the same as any other, but the game delights in reminding you that this particular gate cannot be opened until the appointed time. And in the case of Dead Island, where you are given permission to break down (some) doors, you must complete a button prompt in order to force your way through. Apparently even the adrenaline building up in response to imminent zombie chomping can't get the best of a video game door.
Water in real life is fun. It fills swimming pools and Jacuzzis. It also fills water pistols and balloons. We can keep ourselves and our belongings clean and it keeps us alive. Without rain we don't get rainbows! But in video games, water is not your friend. In small amounts it may grant a small amount of healing, but most of the time it's trying to murder you.
There's a reason why water levels are hard. They take what in-game skills you've learnt so far and throw them down the drain. You'll get them back once the water section is over, but until then you are going to be splashing around helplessly. First person action games such asDishonored delight in taking away your ability to use weapons the moment you are more than knee deep in a river. And you thought you were being sneaky by taking the low road. And the moment you put your head under the water, you are at the mercy of that steadily falling 'breath bar'. All the physical strength and agility in the gaming world won't save you if you can't find the surface.
This might seem a little obvious at first. Of course grenades will make you feel weak; they are balls of suppressed explosion ready to spread you across the landscape. But reflect on the role of grenades in action games. They prevent you from spending your hours hiding behind cover as your enemies wander towards you. Your plan of attack can be stalled entirely by that bleeping arrow that indicates that a ball of death is nearby. Grenades are also the perfect way to ensure that person who killed you in multiplayer dies too. They are a game changer.
More than that, they remind you that your character is not an invulnerable killing machine. The game might allow you to take seventy bullets to the chin providing you digest the contents of a few first aid kits, but a single grenade can turn you into the rag-dolliest rag-doll in a heartbeat. The term 'bullet sponge' is nothing new to gaming; video game characters can absorb a huge amount of damage. The anatomy of a first and third person shooter must be a curious thing to study. Their flesh, muscles and sinews must have the consistency of custard – the surface glooping back into place after something has passed through – but their bones must be more akin to ice cream wafers, barely able to resist the slightest pressure.
It's not just the nature of QTEs that reminds you that you are truly feeble; it's how the game humiliates you afterwards. Should a nasty beasty take your life in the normal areas of the game, the death animation will be swift and decisive, so that you can quickly get back to trying not to die. Death from QTE is much more theatrical. The death animation will last longer than the 'Platoon death scene', with the camera turned to show the gruesome act in the most cinematic way possible. You'll probably have to watch a cut scene again too.
Death in video games is abrupt and clinical. Death in a QTE event is degrading and messy. And you don't get to move on until you have learnt your lesson.
You swell with smug self-adulation as the credits role and reminisce on just how embarrassing that last fight must have been for the poor 'boss'. Then, as the credits subside and the title screen returns, a message laced with patronising tones presents itself:
Well done. Fancy trying it again on a higher difficulty?
It's subtle, but the game has once again reminded you that you are not that special. You just beat the game on normal? Pfft. Everyone is normal. All the cool people play this game on 'Hard Difficulty'. Oh so you've beaten normal difficulty too? Here's the 'EXTREME DIFFICULTY' setting. Try not to cry whilst you're playing.
The first (and possibly best) time I realised a game was patronising me was during the first boss fight in Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny. It was also the first time I had ever fought a boss that didn't come equipped with a health bar or a clear way to kill it, so I died quite a few times. After one too many thrashings, the game stopped me at the 'retry/quit' page, put an arm around my shoulder and asked whether I wouldn't feel better trying 'easy mode'. I of course shrugged off the games petulance and battled on. I'm happy to say that a few tries later I beat the boss and moved on, but that same message would appear more than once during my adventures. I'm not sure how, but I'm almost certain that each time "would you like to switch to easy mode?" appeared, the font was a little bit more condescending…
At the end of the day, games are our friends. They try their best to make us happy. But they don't like to see us taking the powers they bless us with for granted. If are egos become too lofty or our heads become too bulbous, games will take us down a peg. And I think that's important. Challenge is an integral part of any good game, and the more ways a game can challenge us the better.
If you have any other examples of games reminding us that we are weak and feeble, or you agree/disagree with what I've written, leave a comment below. If you want to you can contact me directly on Twitter @redheadpeak. If you're feeling adventurous you can click to follow my blog on WordPress or give me a like on Facebook.