They create worlds: Dishonored 2

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

One thing that video games struggle with more often than not is giving their worlds a palpable sense of history. Sure, fantasy and sci-fi games are in love with convoluted lore, but that’s different from creating a world that feels old. We regularly play games where we traverse spaces that are ancient, from the titular tombs of Tomb Raider to the old temples of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, but as impressive as these places are, more often than not they feel like movie sets, created for the purpose of acting as a cool backdrop to the game’s action. The signs of age, the water stains and crumbling pillars and fading tapestries, seem too consciously placed to be entirely convincing. Age seems a mere veneer, because in a virtual world there is no such thing as age. The ancient architecture was designed a couple of months or years ago at most and is being recreated for your enjoyment in every moment of the present. There is no such thing as an old polygon or texture.

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They create worlds: Disasterpeace

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

Usually when people talk about the worlds games create, they’re talking about graphics first and foremost. I’ve been playing since the early ’80s, and perhaps the most readily apparent way to see how the medium has progressed since then is to look at screenshots: it’s pretty much like first looking at cave paintings and then a Caravaggio – although admittedly a Caravaggio that’s like to have been done by a teenage Caravaggio who’s been glutting on Michael Bay movies or the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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They Create Worlds: Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

This was a peculiarly English end of the world. No guns, no running and screaming, no heroes or monsters. Just nosebleeds, headaches, fear – and then the light. What remains of everyone is brightness, and voices… and the world they inhabited.

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They create worlds: Alien: Isolation

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

When I was a kid playing pirated games on my beloved “breadbox”, the C64, games based on movie licences tended to be ubiquitous, largely interchangeable and mostly dire affairs. Whether they were mediocre shooters or bad action adventures, if it wasn’t for the title screen and (if we were lucky) a bit tune rendition of the movie’s theme, it’d be well-nigh impossible to know that what you were playing was supposedly an adaptation of Licence to Kill (yes, those two dozen huge pixels represented Timothy Dalton) or Platoon (a surprisingly enjoyable action game, albeit one that dropped the film’s anti-war angle in favour of some more mass market-friendly Vietcong shootery). Whatever connection there was to the films that purportedly inspired the games ended up being mostly imaginary.

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They create worlds: Assassin’s Creed

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

I’ve walked the Holy Land at the time of the Third Crusade. I’ve explored Renaissance Florence, Venice and Rome. I have crossed the cupola of the Blue Mosque. Five minutes ago I was scaling Notre Dame de Paris.

Allegedly I’m an assassin, member of an ancient order whose creed is “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” This is what I really am, though: a tourist. And I’m loving it.

Ah, Venice. (Avoid the dwarfs in red raincoats.)

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They create worlds: Fez

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

I love exploration in games. I love it when developers create virtual worlds that hint at a story about its history and inhabitants: the shack in the wilderness with the single plate on the table and the gravestone in the back garden; the eerie, sparsely lit alleys with people whispering for you to go away and leave them alone; the ornate mansions with their ostentatious displays of wealth and the secret compartment hidden behind the owner’s portrait; the desolate, windy  good at creating memorable characters, but their biggest strength for me lies in creating places.

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They create worlds: Grand Theft Auto

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto series has received a lot of flak, from all sides of the political and ideological spectrum. They aspire to being The Great American Satire, and sometimes they achieve moments of wit and insight, but while they’re great games, all too often as cultural critique they resort to lazy, crass caricature that says little more than, “America, huh?”

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