In a lot of ways, gaming is all about choices. Whether it’s the little things or big ones, it all boils down to a constant string of decisions. From the moment you pop that disc into your console, it begins to ask you questions, and you must respond as you see fit in order to access the game. Will you create a new save file? Would you like to start a new game or continue from an old save point? How about that tutorial, eh? Want to give it a spin or skip right past it into the action? Have you made a cup of coffee to help you relax and accompany you on your journey into this brave new world? Before the opening cut scene has begun to play, you’ve already answered a number of questions, and that’s without even hitting the options screen.
Of course, not all choices are quite that simple. Video games love to play your heartstrings like a badly tuned violin, forcing you to make deep moral choices; often ones that reflect who you really are. They have a tendency to make you sweat in ways that other forms of media haven’t even considered the possibilities of. Control comes with a price, and for me, personally, that puts me in a very compromising position.
I love letting loose with my favourite video games. I love a just cause to fight for and a completely unlikable evil bastard to destroy along the way. I also love that feeling when you know you’re doing something righteous, something that you believe in, and for the greater good too. I don’t mind becoming an unstoppable whirlwind of destruction or performing an unholy massacre as long as I have a damn good reason for doing so. Protecting the innocent, saving the day and all that other Captain America shit; that makes me feel good. That the easy way of doing things though. Justice in the form of a few solid slaps is a no brainer. When things really start to move me, however, is when they blur the lines between right and wrong. Taking my character and putting them in a compromising position leaves me completely unsure of the outcome, and makes me question their motives. This is one of gaming’s true achievements, delivering you into the hands of a story in which you control the main character, but may ultimately have no control over his or her fate. In these cases, you could be thundering towards the end of your favourite story, only to discover that you’ve fallen by the wayside along your travels.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t like to RockStar. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. I RockStar alright, I RockStar real good. It would be impossible to count the hours I’ve spent running with Timmy Vercetti and CJ Johnson, engaging in fire fights with the police, and gunning down rival gangsters. Yes, I enjoy a good RockStarring just as much as the next player. However, when I’m playing these games, I still like to stay inside my own homemade, nice guy, guidelines. It’s the only decent way to deal drugs to strangers. Of course, Grand Theft Auto series aren’t the only great games that RockStar have produced over the years. Their spaghetti western, Red Dead Redemption, is one of the best pasta based video games of its generation. One of the more memorable things about the game was the achievement that unlocked when you hogtied a lady to the train tracks and watched as she became the human equivalent to marinara sauce. Personally though, I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t just take a random woman and deliver her to her doom for the sake of a few Gs. It felt unjust, cruel even; and I refused to murder an innocent person in this manner. Even if they were unknowing, unthinking, non-player characters in a video games. Luckily for me, I eventually stumbled upon a damsel in distress while galloping across the plans. She was crying for help and my Captain Planet mind made me rush in to help her, without a second thought. Right into a bandit ambush! A brief but brutal shoot out ensued as I gunned down the criminals, leaving the lady who set me up alive and well. Needless to say she soon became locomotive linguine, and I’m now 5Gs richer.
It’s all quite simple really. I try my hardest to be a good guy when playing video games, because that’s the kind of person I am. I ensure that my characters reflect that as much as they can. I’ll happily Johnny Cage somebody right in the bollocks if it’s called for, but only if I have to. I don’t enjoy the idea of being evil and causing harm for no reason, it just doesn’t appeal to me at all and never has. Even where fictional characters are concerned. When attacked, I’ll retaliate. When wronged, I’ll do everything in my power to put it right, even if this means murdering hundreds of bad guys in horrific and gruesome ways. However, I will not abuse my power and just go on a killing spree for no reason. Don’t get me wrong, I love all manner of video game villain from King Bohan to GLaDOS. I love these characters and others like them. I find them fascinating, to a point where I have an arm covered in tattoos of video game tyrants. These heartless bastards are amazing and a huge part of why their respective games are so well regarded, but I don’t want to be them! I want to be a guy who could almost set an example for on-looking youngsters, if it wasn’t for the fact he way busy decapitating slime balls and ripping the spines out of his enemies’ backs. The kind of guy who understands the differences between right and wrong and is willing to put his life on the line to proof that wrong is wrong. Being a nice guy isn’t always easy, but since the first time I’ve picked up a joypad it has felt like the correct thing to do.
It’s like my mother always said “There’s no point in saving the world if you’re going to be a cunt about it.”