I’ve always admired how games can bring people together. I think finding ways to connect are rare and precious; that games can facilitate such a thing has always warmed my sad, shriveled heart.
But what I’ve not touched on quite as often, is the unique way games can shift us to an alternate perspective, seemingly without question.
Perhaps I’m not making sense. I’ll ask for your forgiveness on this. It’s been a long day.
Whether I’ve liked a particular game or not, I enjoy having my perspective shifted. In reality, I don’t adjust to change very well. Playing games, I adjust and adapt to change far more fluidly. Each new game has a new control scheme (well, to be fair, most shooters adhere to similar control schemes). A new system to learn. A new vernacular to figure out. A new environment to explore.
Sometimes there is a story. Sometimes it’s not as overt. Whatever the scenario, I get to experience it through a different character, one that I’m tasked to control. The game is the ultimate safe zone; it allows me to explore numerous possibilities.
Those experiences have broadened my mind and helped me exponentially. From all my time playing games, I’ve learned to look at situations differently. Sometimes what looked like one thing was actually another.
Like The Last of Us.
I didn’t love The Last of Us. I know that’s a bit controversial, as it was mostly universally loved. I’ve always noted how visually beautiful it was, but the rest of the game just didn’t resonate with me. I know it did with so many others though, and for that, I’m genuinely glad.
It did, however, leave me with some heavy thoughts.
I won’t spoil the game, but the two main characters are Joel and Ellie. It’s an apocalyptic scenario and she holds the key to a potential cure. He unwittingly sees her as the daughter he lost when the outbreak commenced so many years prior.
Throughout the game, you’re playing as Joel, killing pretty much everything that moves and can’t string together a sentence. At the end (which, again, I won’t spoil, though I will say it was my favorite part about the game), you are left to question Joel’s motives. Was he selfish? Absolutely. Was he a hero? I suppose that would be up for debate, but in my assessment, it wasn’t so easy to say. He was basically a killing machine with, what I’m sure he thought were, noble purposes. You could argue that the game was spent playing as the “bad guy” and I think that’s fascinating.
I suppose we all wonder what we would do in an apocalyptic setting. How would we behave? How would we survive? Would we survive at all?
I like that games can make me question myself. I like that they give me pause to really think about what it would be like to be various characters, or, to be myself in various situations. How should my character approach the situation? How would I?
I like questions. And I like angles. I like looking at something from all those angles and seeing what I can see.
Do I like all of it? No.
Am I glad to be able to look at those angles? Absolutely.
Certain games have a built in morality (or karma) system where you choose to play as good or evil. The story tailors itself to your choices. I inherently always play as “good” when given this option. In some games, you are encouraged to play through the game twice, once on “evil” and once on “good” to see everything the game has to offer.
This is an intriguing premise.
The first game I did this with was Infamous (a series I adore). I had to manually force myself to play the game as “evil” Cole. I saw the game from a very different perspective. Did I like it? Not especially. Did I enjoy it? Sort of. The game is still excellent, but I didn’t like playing the negative karmic path. I may have already inherently known that I wouldn’t care for the dark path, but it was still nice to be able to explore that in a safe, and completely imaginary environment. It was also enlightening, as the people inhabiting the city behaved differently towards you.
I never got used to having rocks thrown at me.
Even though I didn’t prefer to play the game that way, it gave me a perspective shift, and a drastic one at that. I like being able to experience such a thing in such a safe and often profound environment.
Games have always been a unique medium in which to have an experience. I will be forever grateful to take part in such safe environs.
It’s been a heck of a week, friends. Let’s try to remember to be kind to each other amid all the uncertainty and differing of opinions. We are far stronger together than the alternative.