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Vidya ex machina

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Radical Dreamers: Goodbye, Videogames


I am a traveller. Of any kind you can think. I've been in many places in the world, each unique in its own right. But I've also travelled through worlds, and different stories. I've been in London. Paris. New York. I've explored the Mojave after the bombs fell. I've fought for survival in Pripyat against horrors I can't define. I've also been a runner in a dystopian government, and became a master of parkour. I've climbed the ladder of a modern vampire society. I've been to a different dimension in the South Pole, a soldier who fought against demons who threatened to invade the real world. I've been to Chiron, a planet so hostile and yet so full of natural beauty, and I've been in several zombie movies with three other people whose name I can't really recall. And after my entire body was almost completely changed through mechanical augmentations, I decided the fate of technology in a world that didn't yet know what it wanted to be.

One of the special features in the DVD in Inception was a documentary on lucid dreaming. Strangely, I've never dreamed that much. Sometimes I would have an extremely vague idea of what I lived during the night, a few rare times I would remember my dreams perfectly, most of the times I wouldn't remember anything at all. But this only made me treasure so much more the times when everything would live through my memories. One of the things that caught my attention during that documentary was a research that apparently showed that hardcore gamers would have far more lucid dreams than an average person. And how can that be wrong? Videogames for me were never about the gameplay, at least in the traditional terms. Videogames were me, in a world. Escapism? Initially, yes: I didn't have what I'd call a "good" childhood, and it's been just a year ever since I managed to put everything behind completely. But after that, I still felt hungry. I wanted more. At that point for me videogames had evolved into something else. It was no more worlds to get lost in, but worlds to briefly go to, for that hour or two that would allow me to take a break, relax, and live in. To dream of. The only shame is that this dream would soon shatter due to the current state of the game industry. And after picking up the pieces, this led me to my blog post, which will be my final blog post. I'm leaving videogames. I already uninstalled everything and gave away to friends my Steam and GOG accounts. Why am I doing this?
Because you no longer represent what I'm looking for, videogames. I just no longer have fun with you. Because I can't get immersed in you anymore. There has recently been a massive turn in game design towards pure gameplay. Some might say "everything is dumbed down now!" but that's not really the case. It's the fact that I no longer can ignore the huge HUDs screens reminding me that it's just a game. That every time I join a respectable multiplayer games I get greeted by people with absurd names that could never exist in real life OR a fictional world.

You remember Far Cry 2, right? Horrible, horrible game. It was buggy, it had severe gameplay faults, it was downright terrible. Yet I loved it. Because even if for just a moment, I was there. In Africa, fighting enemy soldiers, hunting for diamonds, even crashing my jeep because I pulled out my map while cruising at 100mph. Boom. Bang, bang.
Another thing that is one of the reasons for which I'm leaving videogames is peculiar, and I know some of you won't like me for this accusation, no offense. If the more "conventional" games have this obsessive spike towards gameplay, the more nichè audience received games made to cater more to their OCD than their immersion. An old friend of mine would sometime brag that he played through the Thief games so many times that he basically knew all the levels perfectly, and would always complete all levels without ever getting caught or seen. I mentioned Thief because it has a particular predisposition to this: it has quick-saves, the speed at which you go through the level is directly related to how many times you played it, supplies are sold before the level (good luck understanding which ones you'll need and which ones you won't) and all the other things you learn is through experience. See, when I'm playing a game, I don't want to remember that walking on wood is silent, even though you hear the noise. I don't want to remember that the exit is on the top floor and that by using a slow-fall potion I'll be able to get out without alerting the guards.
When I'm playing video games, I want things to go wrong. From me, from the game, from anything. I want to accidentally trip over some item, hear it clanging, and hear a guard ask "what was that?" to then come investigate while I tell myself "shit!". I want freedom to say whatever the hell I want. Because that's what would happen into a dream.
Imagine this: you're dreaming of a particular situation. Only you've dreamed of it again. And again. You know precisely what's going to happen, and once you explore how you can make the dream go different, your fun is pretty much over. The pleasure of dreaming is gone. This is what they deliver in video games. A few really good moments, and once you realise it's all the same it's over. You get a list of upgrades you can research (Mass Effect, Civilization, take your pick). You know EXACTLY what they're going to do. Why is it even called research at that point? Why are we in the classical age and we already have plans for a ship to Alpha goddamn Centauri? It doesn't help that once you replay it (everybody generally agrees that you're supposed to have at least two games to make it last your while), the tech tree is the exact same. Yeah, it does make sense but no, it's not helping me to get inside the game. And I understand it. Hardcore gamers who also happen to be dreamers are rare, too rare for developers to invest their time with them. And why should they? Why should they deliver something shiny new every time you start a game? I understand that what I want is impossible, and developers are frankly awesome to already follow us to the point of even mentioning true immersion. Keep up the good work, devs.

But this is also the reason for which I'm leaving videogames, and not coming back until these games start getting made. Thanks, devs, for those rare times I actually got something that gave me exactly what I wanted (see those at the beginning). Thanks, you guys, for giving me food for thought in this world. I bid you farewell. Maybe some day I'll come back. Maybe.

P.S. I'm so watching Wreck-It Ralph.
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About Eprahimone of us since 3:08 PM on 03.14.2009

I'm just a person who likes video games. Favorite genre is RPG. Top 3 video games are Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, Deus Ex and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. Now move along, citizens.
Steam ID:eprahim


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