On pretending to be a cube and respecting an artist’s vision.
I typically don’t role-play when I game. I just have no desire to actually place myself in my character’s shoes, to make decisions as if I were actually a spaceman or a druid and not a middle class, white American male gazing glassy-eyed at his computer. Which isn’t to say I don’t invest deeply in whatever game I’m playing; my emotional connection to my avatar is just usually fueled more by traditional audience-to-character empathy than E.T.-and-Elliot-esque synchronicity. Perhaps it’s because the perspective I’m bringing to video games relies much more heavily on fully authored sources like films and novels than more participatory pen-and-paper RPGs and the like (I’ve played roughly one-fourth of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign in the entirety of my nerdy existence, and while I enjoyed it, the game sputtered out for a reason), or that I got into video games around when they started cribbing more of their narrative tricks from the cinematic. Whatever the reason, I play games more to engage with the work as a whole than to invest in a protagonist as an extension of myself.
I know this is sacrilege to some, a squandering of the gift of interactivity and the intensely personal experiences that can result from co-authoring a story. And not only do I see the appeal of role-playing – of just saying “fuck it,” suspending disbelief, and fully investing in being a time-traveling hermaphroditic dwarf or whatever – but I would agree that my inability to do so sometimes makes me miss the point of games where it’s the key draw. When I started this project, I wanted it to function not only as a series of opinion pieces, but also as an exploration of why classic games are so loved, even when I disagree with the reverence. But I quickly realized that my desire to view games as complete works, to dissect them as one would a film or a book, would inhibit my ability to find value if a creator actually intended for me to role-play. In these cases, were my very attempts to respect an author’s intention actually causing me to ignore it? Continue reading