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"When a man is tired of Liberty City he is tired of life."
March 14, 2012 12:57 AM   Subscribe

Cities in dissolution. "It’s a game for anyone who has ever wondered what happens in the grandest house in town once the lights go out at night. It’s for anyone who has ever seen two men slumped at a hotel bar and wondered what other secrets are contained in such temporary lives. Thief is a game for anyone who has ever walked through a city at night and thought, which parts are still breathing and what does each seclusion contain." Rockpapershotgun's Adam Smith thinks about cities.
posted by Sebmojo (8 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good article, thanks for posting. There's more thinking that goes into videogames than is often given credit for.
posted by arcticseal at 1:50 AM on March 14, 2012


I completely dodged reading Our Mutual Friend for a course on cities in modern literature this term (hint to professors: if you assign 6000 pages of reading for a 3 credit course, we won't do it all), so it's interesting to see it pop up in this context. Now I almost feel bad for slacking, but I've always struggled to enjoy Dickens' style. Having grown up on a highly urban-centric scifi library (Delany, Gibson, PKD, etc) while living in a metropolis all my life, it's very challenging to go back and read 19th century depictions of "the city" - its exoticism, alienation, general social tumult, the oppression, the liberation, class conflict, surveillance, circumspection, etcetera....all that crap is virtually all I've ever known, and probably much of metafilter's userbase shares that experience.

On video games specifically, some other thoughts. World of Warcraft is a good example of a game which started with a real respect for space and drowned it in the bathtub at one point. In classic, dungeons such as Stratholme, Blackrock Depths, and areas like Westfall and Redridge genuinely tried to explore fantastical environments, and the difference between that and later "on rails" dungeon and area design found in expansions couldn't be more stark. Space became increasingly trivial to the experience of the game, and was finally dropped entirely in favour of a dungeon finder which would teleport you to destinations via a menu. Once arriving at a dungeon, you then traversed a linear path through a series of bosses.

That's not to say quick travel is inherently bad. But if your game is about place and space, if it is a game that relies on players to participate in a world, in an environment, and especially if it is entirely about those things, then you mustn't trivialize how players engage with that world, as then their experience of it will be accordingly trivial. Skyrim is a good example where that feature becomes controversial.
posted by mek at 4:12 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


That article really made me miss playing Thief.
posted by dubold at 5:34 AM on March 14, 2012


So if I ever get that gaming PC I occasionally make noises about getting, I should play Thief, then, that's what this guy's saying?
posted by pts at 5:58 AM on March 14, 2012


I don't really evaluate games on an artistic level other than sort of generally appreciating the beauty of their worlds, but if quick travel weren't an option in Skyrim I'd have quit the game a long time ago. It takes 30 real-world minutes, at least, to get from one end of the world to the other.

There's immersing oneself in a world, and then there's spending so much time doing mundane things that it feels more like real life than an escape. No thanks.
posted by downing street memo at 6:11 AM on March 14, 2012


I don't really evaluate games on an artistic level other than sort of generally appreciating the beauty of their worlds, but if quick travel weren't an option in Skyrim I'd have quit the game a long time ago. It takes 30 real-world minutes, at least, to get from one end of the world to the other.

I think the standard "you have to walk there once, then you can fast travel" solution is a pretty good one on this score. The exploration is a huge part of the fun of Skyrim, but the endless walking of places you've already explored can get tedious. Making you undertake the journey once gets the exploration bit, but without the tedium. Another way of doing this that I liked was in Star Control II, where the initial travel was relatively slow (the map is pretty huge), but later in the game you acquired a different mode of travel that was much faster. It allowed you to get the hugeness of the game world in the first part of play, but not have to deal with it later on.

I actually find travel mechanics fairly fascinating because they're one of the core ways in which a game establishes it's world. Red Dead Redemption, for instance, wouldn't let you fast travel between the US and Mexico(there was a work around, but we'll ignore that), which made the border a real, physical thing, which was fitting and worked really well.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:34 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


So if I ever get that gaming PC I occasionally make noises about getting, I should play Thief, then, that's what this guy's saying?

Seeing as Thief is so old that your phone probably meets its recommended specs, you could probably just buy a copy right now.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:07 AM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Don't miss the linked piece on Pathologic - I had no idea such thing existed. It's a truly unique Russian game that makes you suffer and write interesting essays about the experience.
posted by hat_eater at 4:12 PM on March 14, 2012


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