† †(I strongly recommend that you read the first entry in the series before this one, but it isnít absolutely necessary.)
(The orbs from the ps2 menu exit the screen and float aimlessly around Sarahís living room. One orb begins to speak.)
Sarah: Uh, hi.
Cat: Whatís going on...
Sarah: The guy who sold this to me said it was a bit meta, literally
Voice: Correct, this game is metaphysical.
Sarah: Got it. No probs.
Voice: Would you like to start a new game?
Sarah: In a second. So whatís the deal, Mr. Voice?
Voice: Would you like to start a new game?
Sarah: Wait, so whatís the haps with the whole supernatural thing?
Voice: Would you like to start a new game?
† †(Sarah and Cat look at each other, considering how to proceed.)
Sarah: The guy who sold this to me was pretty shady, literally.
Cat: Donít use words incorrectly. Maybe this is probs.
Sarah: Nothing ventured, and possible gain, why not?
Cat: Playing with a supernatural being is definitely something ventured.
Sarah: Whatevs. Start new game.
Voice: Please select difficulty.
Sarah: What are my options?
Voice: Maximum difficulty or minimum difficulty?
Voice: Game Start!
A man with radiant rainbow hair stood at the edge of a cliff overlooking a vast metropolis and began to softly speak to no one. ďThe artist produces a beautiful thing independent of nature. Observers of art are passive, even if they feel strong emotion, even if the piece is active towards them, the piece stands independent of them. An observer may become a reflection of culture's grand gallery, but that art is not a reflection of the observer. Individuals may create art with people in mind, borrowing from life and common thoughts, but art, no matter what material is used in its creation, is not life and common thought. It is the expression of the artist, but out of the artistís reach, towering over any intervention of crass reality. This division is key to fiction, as it cannot exist if it is held close to reality. Fairy tales cannot have fairies, and many a story would be ruined by the truth. For fairies to really exist, they must exist in a world no lesser, but apart from our own.Ē
ďBut video games do not fit these definitions clearly because they have no line between artist and observer, and they require constant intervention on the part of the observer/artist known as the player. If the player is an artist, in tandem with the developer, then a game cannot be independent. The art is bound to the players, who use the gameplay as a complex mirror to create emotional impacts for themselves."
ďIt would be like writing a novel just because one likeís writing novels, which isnít a bad thing in itself. But it would be delusional for one to think that the emotional act of writing was an art itself, with certain languages being given reviews based on how fun, sad, or impossibly useless they are when it comes to novel writing. Since games rely on players to progress, or in any way tell a story, itís easy to fall into the trap of treating them like artists. But this canít be true if there is any hope for the medium.Ē
ďThe observer and the artist both exist in life, and observe or create a lie. The player, rather than being a hybrid of the two, is as fictional as the game itself. The player must cross a bridge to that separate world, and breath life into a game. During play, the player is an aspect of the fiction, and incapable of escaping that truth. I have no idea what that means, but it sounds neat, and I think itís probably true eventually, or necessarily. I hope itís true, otherwise games arenít art, and thatís unacceptable.Ē
The man then looked into the camera, looking directly at Cat and Sarah, and said, ďSo with that, my dear player, welcome to the stage, you are here, standing in the spotlight, in a very real way. Enjoy your stay in your new home. Oh, and remember, youíre here forever!Ē His tone was mocking and playful.
The game then cut to an ornate stone hallway with a gold accented red carpet. An androgynous character with messy grey hair, a baggy light blue t-shirt, and baggy cargo pants stood in the middle of the hallway holding a candelabra. This was the only light, and neither end of the hallway could be seen. The camera was aimed at her back in standard third person form, so Sarah assumed that he was the player character. Sarah moved the character a bit but then stopped to ask...
Sarah: Oooorb, orb thing, orb thing, what is this?!
† †(the talking orb emerges from the TV and floats next to Sarah)
Voice: Itís the game.
Sarah: But I have no idea what this is about, the guy from before was completely useless, what did he mean by 'you're here forever'?
Voice: This game lasts forever.
Sarah: Can I quit? It seems like I could just physically walk out of the room.
Voice: You could, but youíll stay here because the game is so interesting.
Cat: Are you sure there are no weird binding contracts that keep us from leaving?
Voice: You chose maximum difficulty so you canít leave this house. you will be given supernatural life support when you run out of food. But you also wonít leave because the game is so interesting.
Sarah: No probs, this game looks easy, Iíll prolly finish it tonight. Onto the main problem though, who was that guy?
Voice: He was a character.
Sarah: What he said was dumb.
Cat: I donít know, he seemed to have a point.
Sarah: Seeming to have a point is different from having one, he just said vague wumbo jumbo nonsense, talkiní all big, but without proving anything.
Cat: I agreed with it.
Sarah: Donít agree! It was useless and boring!
†††††† (A few moments of silence pass.)
Sarah: Yaaaawn. Time to walk down this hallway until something happens.
† † † †(Sarah walks down the hallway for a few minutes; no end is in sight.)
†††††††† (Sarah is curled up on a couch, wrapped in a blanket, with a cat named ďCatĒ sitting beside her. She is play vidya)
Sarah: This game is boring.
Cat: It looks pretty exciting to me.
Sarah: Low Difficulty + Heavenly Skill = boring.
Cat: But look! You have to carefully avoid all this danger!
† †††††† (A flood of enemies and projectiles surround Sarah, forming a complex mishmash of fire columns, poison spit, thunder, and sword strikes)
†††††††† (Sarah gets struck with a sword and is flung from the flurry into a nearby field, blinking with temporary invulnerability)
Sarah: It doesn't matter. There is little punishment for being hurt by one attack because after being hit Iím invulnerable and my sprite is thrown out of the combat. In other words, the high quantity of low damage attacks can only possibly equal low damage. Even in the case of high damage attacks, it can't add up to anything, and I am given ample time to heal. Thus the gameís complexity is a visual illusion, pretending to be intricate when in reality only a small fraction of the events have any tangible effect.
Cat: But in the time it takes to defeat all those enemies you can't take very many hits before you run out of health pots! † †
† †††††† (Sarah looks at Cat, and starts pressing random buttons, slamming all of the face buttons with her palm. A sudden light bursts from her, and all the enemies are cleansed)
Cat: Story though, story! You are hope incarnate, bringing light back to this war torn country! It only makes sense that you are so powerful.
Sarah: The story is about a struggle between incompetent evil and a moody youth with an auto-win button. It's what they in the biz call dramatic tension.
Cat: Donít demean an entire industry just because you consider yourself a god!
Sarah: Iím only a god amongst this casual trash.
Cat: I forgot you were 'teh hardcorez'.
Sarah: How am I supposed to care about the story when its resolution is as easy as spamming the same combo for four hours? Who would give a shit about King Lear if he had a phoenix down? The gameplay is equivalent to dialogue, it all happens in the same fiction; including the most minor actions, even stuttering left to right because the animation looks funny. I canít abide games which expect me to believe in an uphill battle against evil when the gameplay is only slightly more interesting than walking from point A to B.
Cat: But all fiction is a lie! Thatís what makes it fiction. The illusion of battle is created with a field of projectiles, and the uphill battle is believable because of the non gameplay dialogue! Itís not like actors who play Hamlet actually go through his tragedy!
Sarah: But that actor isnít a member of the audience too! I am supposed to believe the tension because I create it myself by butting heads with the gameís challenge. Without a foil for my impressive competence my role in the story is to activate the next cut scene. A scene which is bound to ignore how incredibly easy the Ďepicí task really is. Games like this are Lamesville, Ohio. Ö USA. Ö More like, USY, United States of Yawns. ...
† †††††† (Sarah kills a few more hoards of enemies and starts to aimlessly jump around the screen)
Cat: Then why are you playing it?
† † † † †
†††††††† (Sarah stands up, walks over to the console, rips the power cord out of the back, and puts it back in.)
Sarah: Fuck your moe shit!
Cat: You could have corrupted something or ruined the system's power supply!
Sarah: Better than waiting a bazillion seconds for it to turn off!
† †††††† (A beautiful orchestra swells as the console logo appears on the screen)
Sarah: See! It's already back on.
† † † †† (Sarah sits back down and cancels through the warnings about improper shutdowns)
Cat: Yeah... But you could have just exited from the game to the main menu ...
Sarah: That would have also taken time.
Cat: What you did also took time.
†††††††† (Sarah scrolls back and forth through the menu a few times)
Cat: What do we play now?
Sarah: Uhhhhhm. Ö
Cat: Do we have anything left?
Sarah: Yeah, but nothing interesting.
Cat: Well, then what?
Sarah: I want to go on an adventure!
† †††††† (A few moments of silence pass)
Cat: Do you think itís time?
† †††††† (Sarah goes to her room and comes out with an old console and a game box. The box art is white with a blue flower in the center. The title reads ďThe Heroís TaleĒ. Sarah improperly shuts down the other system and plugs in the old one. She turns the system on by pressing the eject button, puts the disk in the tray, and shoves the tray back in. She sits back down as a faint synthesizer comes from the TV while colored orbs orbit on the screen)