R P G A M E R . C O M   -   E D I T O R I A L S

Playing The Game

Alan Knight

One of the common features of a game nowadays is 'realism', which always seems like rather a misnomer to me. You don't really tend to find gritty antiheroes on every street corner; you're far more likely to find, say, a skateboarding goth. In a similar fashion, rarely do world-threatening consequences crop up. At least, not those that can be solved by a hero with a mighty sword as opposed to, say, politics. And I won't even mention the Toilet Shortage syndrome.

But then, what is 'realism'? Ladies and gentleman of the presumably willing and attentive audience, I posit that real life is in itself an RPG, and thus are automatically realistic.

No, no, stay with me here. Things will make sense soon.

People often describe coming out of their mother's womb as emerging to a bright, white light. They're nearly right. That's not actually light; it's more of a Now Loading screen. Similarly, near death experiences are hasty recoveries from the last save game that was made, or possibly the warming light of the Continue? prompt.

Really, if you think about it everything tends to fall into place. Let's take the average day in the life of a certain writer. In the morning, I wake up - feeling as if only 10 seconds have passed since I went to sleep. Presumably there was a brief snatch of inn music, but as I was asleep, I wouldn't have been able to hear. Proceeding downstairs brings me into at least a conversation, if not a full-blown encounter, with a Housemate, which often leads to random violence or discovery of the next piece of plot - or at least a sidequest. ("Hey, Alan, go to the supermarket for me?")

Upon talking to or pummeling the Housemate (with such special moves as Rapier Wit and Outright Insult), some skill practice is required, be it at the computer or university. Sometimes I'll even try a little Item Creation such as Cooking or Writing Ability, though burnt objects and scribbles - not necessarily respectively - are often the result. Sometimes the results will need thorough analysis and identification, but can also handily be used as projectile weapons.

Then I'll head into town, and hit the shops for a disposable item or two; maybe some Eyedrops, an indigestion Antidote, a 'Potion' (as the guys in the gutter might call it), or a new piece of armor. Well, a shirt, but who is being picky? At least it changes my model appearance. There are, of course, people all around town, minding their own business, standing around, or possibly skateboarding in all black. Attempting to talk to them invariably leads to an extremely unhelpful, repeated response. Very occasionally I'll need to head out onto the world map and make my way to a different town. Just like an RPG, this tends to be a dangerous and lengthy affair, fraught with large mechanical monsters and unhelpful guides.

Many people in the world have to perform repetitive tasks to receive a fixed amount of G every day or at the end of a month - like personalised fetch quests in the biggest MMORPG around. Often players have to perform Heroic Quests such as Go Shopping or Get Me A Beer. My personal favorite is running around trying to collect all the minigames I can - I've got an awful lot of PS2 and PSX ones. Others run around checking all the lamps, stoves, or clocks for Elixirs. I call them Treasure Hunters myself, and I'm not quite sure why others refer to them as 'Electricians'. The world has hundreds of classes - Librarian, Scientist, Martial Artist, Merchant, Dancer to name but a bare few. Most, if not all, of these classes train their trade skills and occasionally meet someone who opposes them and needs to battle. Many have fights with their bosses - Boss Fights, naturally. Of course, every RPG needs a party chock-full of misfits. I don't know about you, but around here there are many parties, each with far more than their fair share of misfits. The neighbours are starting to complain about the noise.

From time to time the standard flow of play will drop away to that of a strategy mini-game, where I'll need to direct housemates to perform specific commands around the battle map such as Clean Up The Kitchen, Dammit or Get Me A Beer. Housemates tend to move at a set and sluggish rate, will threaten to leave if I mistreat them, and will often stand there looking dumb while they wait for their next turn to roll around. For greater strategy, obstacles litter the battlefield - often quite, quite literally - and need to be negotiated to reach the enemies or goals.

Throughout all of this, we slowly get better at what we do and more resilient to damage - we're going up levels. And we keep gaining levels as our life goes on. At least, until we reach the point of mentorhood to a new adventurer, which inevitably means we're going to die soon in an FMV to allow the young'n to make his or her way in the big, bad world.

Who needs RPGs to be realistic? I've got more realism than I could ever need in this RPG.

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