6/04/2013

The Voices My Voice Follows: Videogames

Previously, I spoke about the authors who inspire me.  Originally, I intended this follow up piece to be about both videogames and boardgames.  But I quickly realized there's too many of each to write about them in the same place, so I'm splitting them up.  Today I'll talk about the videogames that inspire me (and the ones that I play the most often).  I'll start with the ones I've talked about the most here.

StarCraft: StarCraft was one of the first PC games I ever owned.  I'd played WarCraft II on the Mac and my step-brothers owned WarCraft: Orcs and Humans.  But StarCraft was all mine.  I've always slightly leaned more toward Sci-fi worlds than fantasy, and I really enjoyed RTS games.  StarCraft's real strength, to me, is that there's a bigger story going on than what we see, and we can know that but still stay focused in on the game.  At it's heart, the games in the series are about the relationships between characters, but these relationships play out on grand scale.

WarCraft: WarCraft II was a game I picked up because I'd heard a lot about it and because I'd played a few Blizzard games before (more than I realized at the time, actually).  I loved it.  The characters weren't really there yet, but the story was interesting, especially in that depending on if you played Orcs or Humans, it would end differently.  I was amused by the things the characters would say if clicked on, and the game world has grown far beyond what it was.  The writing may not always be top notch, but it's clear Blizzard spends a lot of time planning where the games can go and where things were before the moment they exist in, and that kind of world building always resonates with me.

Diablo: To be completely honest, Diablo was definitely the third place Blizzard franchise for me.  I played mostly because my friends did and I wanted to play games with them.  Diablo III really changed that for me. While I still play mostly co-op, D3 was the first time I really wanted to push through the whole story alone and try different difficulties.  I know that a lot of people feel like D3 doesn't live up to the standards of Diablo II, but I think they have different goals in mind.  I like where Blizzard seems to be going and I'm curious to see what's going to come in the next expansion.

Assassin's Creed: Assassin's Creed, I think, speaks to a lot of people's urge to be the guy that's so badass that he can do whatever he wants and get away with it.  At least, that's what it does for me.  I'm still not quite sure I know what to think of the storyline with Desmond.  I really liked Altair's story, wasn't a little hesitant for most of Ezio's, and enjoyed Conner's, but I'm just not sure of my investment in Desmond.  I didn't like him much in the first game, and I've gone back and forth with being okay with him since.  I'm curious to see where the next game goes, and I think that'll change a lot of my opinions on the modern era storyline.

The Walking Dead: First off, I love the Walking Dead comics, and I greatly enjoy big chunks of the TV show, so I had some reason to come to this game expecting to like it.  And it blew those expectations out of the water.  The story of the game is healthily complex and we get to see some hints at what may have happened before we first see the characters "on screen" in the comics/show.  It hits the right notes of both horror and sorrow, while still giving glimmers of hope.  And in true Walking Dead fashion, no one is safe.

Left 4 Dead: I do enjoy me some zombies.  Left 4 Dead, like Diablo originally was for me, was a game that I picked up because all my friends were playing.  Despite this grouping of games, I'm not much of an FPS player.  I'm not terribly skilled at it and I tend to get bored easily.  That said, Left 4 Dead (and Left 4 Dead 2) is one of my most played games and I'm fairly certain it more than doubles the playtime of the rest of my Steam list.  The characters greatly entertain me, and we still drop "I hate ____" and "ALMOST THERE!" jokes in both my game groups.  I'm curious to see if Valve will ever do a third Left 4 Dead, because I get the sense there's a bigger story waiting to be revealed.

Half-Life: Speaking of games on which I'm waiting for a third installment...  Half-Life is an interesting game.  I love the world and the way things have come together.  The community around the game is pretty amazingly creative and involved.  But I'm not a big fan of Gordon Freeman.  I know, this is blasphemy.  I don't mind silent protagonists (I mean, heck, I really like Chell and Master Chief), but Gordon just gets me.  Maybe it's that he's supposed to be a scientist; a scientist that doesn't talk or do science is a pretty lackluster scientist.  On the other hand, the supporting cast is great.  So I keep coming back for more.

Portal: Chell is awesome, despite not talking.  Personally, I ascribe to the "Chell doesn't talk because it's a dig at GlaDOS" camp.  For that matter, GlaDOS is pretty amazingly entertaining.  I love the puzzle solving and mind games of Portal and it's full of things that can be called out later ("When life gives you lemons...").  All in all, I feel like Portal is a bit of an homage to being a smart nerd and that endears it to me quite a bit.  Plus, as you can probably see as a theme, it seems to be connecting to a larger world in a way yet to be fully revealed.

Halo: I really wanted to not like Halo when I first played it.  It was the overhyped game of choice for a lot of jerks on the internet.  But I ended up liking the fact that the games were focused on giving players a contrast between the small dramas of the characters and the greater dramas of a galactic war that turned out to be a battle in a larger galactic war.  Over time, a lot of depth has been added to the game world, and Bungie and then 343 Industries worked hard to link a lot of out-of-game material into an in-game system of discovering it.

Worms: So the Worms series is definitely not about storyline for me.  But it's good fun.  Sometimes I just have to blow something up and there's always plenty of options in Worms.  Plus, it's still entertaining when I fail spectacularly to do what I want, which isn't something I can always say of other games I play.  It's good to get away from all the heavy story and Worms serves as a good palate cleanser when I feel like I'm leaning my writing/roleplaying too close to a specific game studio's style.