One theme that has always interested me regarding videogames is the different ways that individuals play. Some play shooters amazingly confidently and aggressively, tearing through levels with little regard to personal safety. Others are obsessive compulsive players, who simply must check every single nook and cranny before moving on in case they miss something.
I am probably what you’d call a ‘morality’ player. I simply cannot commit bad acts or lead a life of evil in a videogame, unless I have no choice (ala Overlord). In Knights of the Old Republic I became a paragon extremely quickly, and in BioShock I never even considered harvesting a single Little Sister. I have tried playing the evil paths in games (I even tried being a Sith in KOTOR for about five minutes before I couldn’t go any further), but I just can’t keep it up. I can’t do the horrible things games like these ask you to do, despite the unreality of the whole thing.
I was at a press event recently and got in a conversation with a few journos and some PR guys about my problem. One journo was absolutely puzzled by my style of play, and for the rest of the afternoon treated me like I had some sort of disease. Others agreed with me, though there weren’t any with my level of fanaticism for the good path. Others still agreed in theory, but in practice, found it much easier to play evilly than not. KOTOR, for example, is much easier to complete as Sith than Jedi.
This leads me (there is a point, trust me) to my latest problem. I’ve been playing through Fable II over the last few days (and loving every moment of it – this is, on a level, how games should be made). My overnice tendencies have been rearing their head again, as expected, and I’ve been trying as hard as possible to stick to the good path, help all I can and love my canine companion.
Social experiences are an interesting aspect of the videogame. I have been experimenting with the expression system, even to the point where a few ladies, the game told me, would be amenable to proposals of marriage: not yet, I said, not until I can afford a house and an allowance for her. Then I’d pick out a nice barmaid somewhere, start a family when I could afford it, and maybe even get a business of my own. This would be hours and hours of gameplay away, well after I’d done my fair share of adventuring, and was moving on to the bulk of the game. Or so I thought.
Yesterday I encountered a ghost who asked me to seek revenge on a woman who had rejected him by wooing her and dumping her at the last minute. I wasn’t actually going to follow through with this, as I had bigger fish to fry, but when I found her hanging around the town square one evening, I couldn’t help but enter into discussion.
I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. To cut a long story short, I was eventually hit with the decision to marry her, or break her heart. I couldn’t do it. I simply could not do it. She sounded so hopeful, so earnest when she said that she never thought she could feel love again. Did I really want to consign her to a love-free and heartbroken life?
I am now engaged to a character I don’t much care for, earning a miserable crust as a blacksmith with only enough savings to purchase a modest house and with an entire universe to still to save. How will I earn enough to keep her? What if she wants to have kids? I could have picked any character in the game, I could have experienced the thrill of the chase, I could have gone on dates, bought her flowers, anything. But now I’m wondering if there is any way to get out of it. I don’t know how to break off the engagement, and I don’t think I would if I could. Murdering her is certainly out of the question, though it is – amazingly – possible.
I can’t help but think that a stronger player would have just broken the poor girl’s heart and continued playing the game to their plan. That would be the obvious thing to do. They wouldn’t let the sympathetic whimpers of a NPC distract them.
Does anyone else face this problem, or is it just me?