I’ll be the first to admit that my video gaming skills are far below the average (as it were, it would seem that I should be one of those who would watch rather than play the damn sport/job) with my hand-eye coordination and speed below most people twice my age. Perhaps I need to stick to downing some vitamin B tablets, or perhaps I should stick to board games such as go and shogi. But I have a knack for running away from where most evidence points.
Recently, I visited a website of suspect makeup, wanting to unload my handful of bitcoins, and I started to play what was a most interesting video game. The last time I played any games—Turok, GoldenEye and Mario 64—was on the old Nintendo system of a previous millennium. I would eventually bore of these games. This game, however, kept my interest. You play a character who has just crashed onto an unknown planet, memory gone, and needs to survive.
There is no perfect end, there is no drive towards something better. There are local aliens of middling technological abilities, but that doesn’t matter as you are limited to a new level of physics and new elements. Bit by bit you make choices: you travel in whichever direction you want, and for the most part the world ignores you. You are limited by human necessities; you need water and food, you need to talk to the locals, who all have their own issues.
Meanwhile, you slowly learn your own history, and the history of what/where you came from, as you see and learn about the pieces of the craft you jettisoned from, that locals keep as prizes from the sky. Since you have no idea about the local politics, let alone the rivalries, you must be careful about who you trust, about what actions you can trust, if that. You have the choice of being friend or foe or neutral to all you meet, of being a great man or a not so great man (almost everyone you meet allows you to have a certain amount of missions to help and gain help, though there are certain tribes or groups you will come across who will give you the shirt off their backs; yet use them too much and they fall into disrepair and die of hunger, or other such ailments, or they learn not to trust when you break promises, or simply are taken over by another group). And all that you do resonates. Act violent (it turns out that you’re quicker/more powerful here... that you’re nothing short of a super-being) and too many people start conspiring against you.
There is some element of allowing evil to happen. I’ve played this game all the way through a handful of times already: it’s that addicting and the story/world changes each time. The biggest turning point (or decision making point) that I seem to come up against is the choice of, assuming you make friends here on the new planet, helping the people, or fighting your own people when they finally come to this planet, albeit in massive ships as numerous as the Spanish Armada. Turns out that you find out that you were part of a recon unit, sent out here to scout the place for precious materials. And it turns out that you can stab your new friends in the back, or help them to fight.
Either way you are considered a traitor. And even if you should pick the double agent route (hedging bets, or perhaps you’ve decided to pretend to be friendly to your people and sabotage them or vice versa to the new people), you have no guarantee of not being a traitor to at least one side. There is talk of some players choosing not to pick a side. But, as in most cases with humanity, this has not worked out. These players claim that, even if they have died (thus not surviving, the main point of the game), they have achieved something, that perhaps that idea will live on in the game itself, through the other characters you’ve come in touch with.
That seems a little childish, if you ask me. Even if the game, assuming the battle is still on, allows you to watch after you’ve died, I have yet to hear of influencing the outcome with one’s own martyrdom. Or at least it appears that, given the multiple branches from similar actions, that no one can say that with any great certainty that any meme in life will give certain results. And the rules of the game are rules of the game: survive. Why add to it?
Another great feature: once you’re finished can be watched via a camera (you can edit this, if you’re so inclined) as in a movie. It’s not a great movie, but it works, and is probably better than most movies out there (it runs at half an hour, so it’s not too much time lost, if you want to give it a try). On Youtube, you see hours and hours of these movies being put together (people making the wrong decisions and setting up harder obstacles than is needed just to have a climax, just to have the three parts to a movie, just to have pretty much everything). There is even talk of the possibility that one will be nominated as an animated movie for an award in the future.
The AI of the world is truly the greatest aspect of this game, and shows how well designed it is. There is minimal “hive” thinking amongst the people or individuals you come across—or no more than is realistic. All of them are given certain ways to think and react, and from the moment you set foot on the planet this changes. This in itself is amazing.
That the game only truly ends when you die (old age or sickness or something violent), also makes it unique in many ways. It was initially available with one life alone. But when that didn’t work, too many complaints, they added a handful more.
There is a contest, among a few players, about who can become the oldest character. They claim that this is the best way to play the game, simply learning enough to stay old. They have gone on quests to find a fountain of youth (rumors that I’m sure the game makers have started to increase interest in the game itself).
The controversy of what one is meant to do at the end of the game, meant to have accomplished, is both the games strongest and weakest point. How can one say that a game about merely surviving is any good? And it’s not like WW where one gets stronger and stronger. There is a mortal limit to your strengths, and to gain any more strength, there is no miraculous tech (though it doesn’t hurt it’s usually short lived because the knowledge travels fast), but rather an organization that you must create and allow to become powerful. This will, of course, challenge other organizations, and, again, you will perish in a bloody war if you grow too powerful, because the game follows reality (a rather human one, it must be admitted): that which is divided must unite and that which is united must fall.
There are rumors that the next game will continue from the last point of the best rated movie made about this first game. I wonder whether they're giving too much power to these games. I also wonder about rumors that the next world will allow you to play multiple generations (unless you die before reproducing), because it will detract from some strengths of this game.
That being said, I highly recommend this game to everyone out there.
Hard to sometimes point to the inspiration for any given story or idea. Here it's easy: it was Borges and his fantastical writings.
Ficciones is a great start. Nothing I write comes close, but it's easy to see when something I write is a derivative (or a hapless integral of a couple stories of his or a couple ideas of his) of a story of his.
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