Body and mind
Popular narrative loves the human condition. Our bodies and minds are abused, battered, saved, lost, stripped, mended, exhausted, diseased and disabled. Combat is never far from the body and mind in a setting that is dictated by good narrative. Think of all the movies, books and TV dramas that rely on conflicts of the human condition be it physical or mental. Where would the hero or heroine be without a little pain and suffering?
Which brings me nicely onto the subject of one medium that I believe has yet to grasp the vast opportunities of exploring short and long-term injury, both mental and physical, within its narrative. Video games are still seen as childish representations of fictional realities. If I’ve learnt one thing from fiction it’s that I connect better to a character that suffers and succeeds when there’s a grounding of reality there.
One recent example was the decision I had to make whether to remove the hand of Lee, after he had been bitten, in the recent (Telltale Games) The Walking Dead game. I knew it had to be done for Lee to survive but I’d never been confronted with losing part of a limb, within the context of a video game, before. It was a very effective moment and drew me to the character’s overall plight that much more. I felt then that Lee may not yet survive the story where previously I believed he would. I shared that emotion because the loss was a permanent outcome that shaped the resulting gameplay.
When I played Fallout 3 I had hoped that the effects of radiation sickness would feature more than it did. Imagine if a contagion was a plight that had to be addressed within the framework of a game world. Where a player had to be mindful of who he/she came into contact with and what would happen if they became infected? Will that risk be represented in the game The Last of Us? I’d like to think it will be but how complicated would that make the variables of outcome for the player?
Still there really is very little to excuse the endless supply of meaningless, cold and un-involving video games that still get produced. Maybe like many of the other mediums of entertainment, it will take the smaller independent productions to lead the way to a less childish and more emotionally involved gaming future?