Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Anyone got a Pet Octorok?

I'll just bet if you're reading this, you've experienced this... You're trying to find your backup emergency key underneath the rock in your front yard, and, upon lifting the rock up, you hear, from out of the heavens, "do do do do do do do." Or, seeing a towering stack of boxes in the back room of your local Borders, you are tempted to grab a Sharpie and make them into blocks of bricks, and that maybe, just maybe, there's a mushroom in one of them. I've even walked down the back corridors of Stonecrest mall, getting the mail, and imagined where I would put down trip mines, or where the blood sucking aliens are going to drop at me from the ceiling.
It's the blurring of fantasy and reality (something I know a lot about. And it's an experience that few older than me would understand, that this world is so much like a video game, or perhaps it's the other way around. No matter.

There was a plumber that came out to redo the pipes underneath the Cafe sink, and he had a mustache and an Italian accent... he could have been Mario. And only my brother, who is much better than Tetris than me, can pack everything into an SUV from one of our vacations, and still have plenty of room to spare.

I've talked about Escapism a lot in these blogs, because it's something that we've all learned to do. We are comfortable on the Enterprise, with Picard at the helm, because it is a safe place for us, and we continuously return to Middle Earth or Pern or Narnia, because those are the worlds, in literature, that we could actually live in, so vivid are the details of the imaginary universes created in those books. The same thing goes for Video Games. Our generation is very little different from the ones before, only the media has changed. My dad used to take books from the library in Bethany, Oklahoma, and read by the hour, locked in his room. They were westerns, or sci-fi, or fantasy... each worlds different from our own.

And while books are still a very economical way of escaping into another world, video games have become yet another source of other-worldliness. I have lived most of the time when video games have been affordable for everyone, and I've seen the worlds come and go, from simple pixels to lifelike representations of people, where even the hairs are discernible on the screen.

There is a book just released (which you can get at Borders), 1001 Video Games you Must Play before you Die. Looking through it shows just how far we've come in such a short amount of time. I remember with my Commodore 64 how advanced it was if the computer spoke even the most rudimentary words through the small speaker. Now having the characters not speak is questioned. And the worlds people have created, with enemies and power ups and everything....even creating a mythos around a character, a world, so that the complexity rivals that of any master author.

And while I will never be able to play all 1001 games (nor would I want to), I will go again and again to the world of Hyrule, and clothe myself in the green garments of Link, and wield the Master Sword and the Hylian Shield. And every time I find the Magic Flute, especially after beating the Fifth Dungeon, that sense of accomplishment will fill my soul, as if I had painted a masterpiece, or slain a dragon. For the Legend Of Zelda has few equals, and the world they have created around Link, Zelda, and Gannon, is one I would live in any day, if given the chance. I am playing LOZ: Twilight Princess right now, and it is a veritable greatest hits album of all the magical things that have been created in each of the other games. Magnificent!!

I understand the addictiveness of games like World of Warcraft, with the Multi-player economy and the vast expanses of worlds to explore. But I'd rather be alone. I'd rather walk the plains of some imaginary world myself, instead of having 3 million other people sharing my journey. And yet, every time I finish a single-player game, like Windwaker, or Ocarina of Time, I almost can't finish the game, because after that, well, it's like closing the pages on a book, knowing that the world is closed off to you, because the actions are finished. It is the platform's main weakness, because you can never actually let the game go on forever like you can WOW. They've made the game profitable for everyone, and so it has to be multiplayer.

What I would propose is what I call a SPORPG. Single Player Oriented Role Playing Game. Lets use Hyrule for an example. The game would drop you into a world such as Ocarina, with a very slow, deliberate build of characters, with the mythos of a fully developed fantasy novel. [A day passes in between one sentence and the next] Of course, now that I have had a night to look up things on the internet, I see there already is a term called SPORPG, which is basically what I'm talking about. But in most instances I came across it, it was used as a derogatory one, as if insulting WoW, for instance. It is as if playing by yourself is actually a bad thing. In all my watchings of people play MMORPGs, I've never seen anyone interact with their surroundings, fall in love with the land they are in. This is what intrigued me most about Fable, that you could value the friendship of some NPCs, and develop relationships. In the game, you could even be married. The issue I have with the Zelda games and with Fable is that, when the game ends, it is over. You could start at the beginning, but that would be it. There would be no continuing beyond a certain point. I want the game to last forever, with no end to the adventures to undertake or people to interact with. And there needs be no end to it, as computer technology has progressed to the point where a game can be continuously coded and programmed even as people play it. There are always new lands to be discovered, new enemies to take on, new treasures to find. In Hyrule's instance, the game, namely, to find X princesses or find X pieces of the Triforce, it is not necessary for every temple or dungeon to contain a part of the main plot. There can be sub-plots and meanderings that would lead you to any number of different places. Link already has a home in Twilight Princess, so it would be easy to make that a point of return, where things could be bought, kept, traded, interacted with, while the adventures were continuing. It is simply not enough to have a house that you only go to once or twice, to get the hearts out of the pots or get the 50 rupies in the chest.

Of course, I'm aware that there has to be some profit in it for the programmers. I would be willing to pay a monthly or semi-monthly fee to have the game continue. And if the new platforms come along, a simple uploading of ones profile into the new version of the game (which would allow for more interactions between the characters) would be simple using the now common online databases. It would be simple, affordable, and profitable for those who made it. If this were made, I could still be playing Fable today.

The only game I have ever found where this is true is in the open source game Dink Smallwood. Of course, the name is a parody on so many fantasy names, and the game is as well, but the open source allowed game novices to create their own worlds with their own plot lines. Most developed parts were increasingly difficult, but the idea was superb. Create a world that could be developed and played by everyone, but not all at once, but singly, as a single hero would.

Thankfully, adaptations of games like Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda are made all the time, and so, while the lands and the mythos are different, at least there is some world to be escaping into most of the time, and most are affordable for the older platforms. I say, give me Hyrule any day, and I'll travel down the Hero's path over and over again, if not in the real world, then in a created one.

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