Wii Sports Resort turned up in the post today. I’m about to plug in my MotionPlus and try some invisible jet skiing. But first, I’m going to die in Far Cry 2.
Fans of the critical blogosphere may have noticed several bloggers trying their hand at what they’ve termed Permanent Death Far Cry 2, a self-imposed rule that means if you die, you’re really dead. No reloading.
The idea is to test how the experience of Far Cry 2 – or indeed any game – alters when your actions and your inevitable demise are irreversible. Does it lend greater weight to the decisions you make? Does it become more affecting when your buddy dies and you can’t save them? Does it give more meaning to your ultimate fate?
The hypothesis is that, in the normal course of play, the death of your Far Cry 2 buddies is trivial when you can reload an earlier save. Indeed, your own death is rendered irrelevant, as you will no doubt “die” numerous times on your way to finishing the game.
Far Cry 2 designer Clint Hocking claims the answers to those questions aren’t as important as the player’s ability to ask them in the first place. Hocking is a firm believer in the primacy of “play” in as much as he contends that it is the player’s engagement with the game’s systems that results in interesting and – dare I say – emergent stories. He writes on his blog:
Ultimately, when I reject narrative techniques in favor of ludic ones, what I am really saying is that I reject traditional authorship. I reject the notion that what I think you will find emotionally engaging and compelling – and then build and deliver to you to consume – is innately superior to what you think is emotionally compelling. By extension, I reject the idea that I can make you feel the loss of a friend in a more compelling way by authoring an irreversible system than you could make yourself feel by playing with a system wherein a friend can be both dead and alive simultaneously and wherein his very existence can be in flux based on your playful whim.
My interpretation of this is: Frank Bilders’ death in Far Cry 2 carries meaning because your actions lead to it happening, while in Final Fantasy VII, to use a very hoary example, Aeris’ death has no meaning because your actions can have no effect on it whatsoever. The former is the game; the latter is just something that happens while you are playing the game. (Clint, let me know if I’m putting words in your mouth here!)
Anyway, I’m off to play some Permanent Death Far Cry 2. Then I’ll try some Permanent Death Invisible Archery.