Tuesday, June 30, 2009

ZA Critique: The Path

The magazine is on break this week but I figured I might as well keep up the blog.

After an extended rest from writing ZA Critiques, I think my pace for playing games is back to a more agreeable setting. When you're writing an essay for a game every two weeks while most games still take 10 to 15 hours to beat, eventually you're going to start getting crunched. I'm also enjoying working on much longer games and taking my time with them so that I get the full experience.

A lot of digital ink has been spilled about this game and like with Braid, I opted to produce something different. Specifically, I don't really fret over the rape symbolism that much because there's not a whole lot to add. It's there if you want it to be, if you want to interpret the symbolism a different way that's possible as well.

What instead interested me was how they used your activity in the game to change the final sequence and imagery at the end. This has been done before, the prime example being the end montages from the first two Fallout games. Depending on what you did in the game, the fate of various communities would adjust and be explained. It's a sort of weird narrative device in that the game takes a big emergent narrative structure and then repeats back what you did in it. Except instead of the generic task of helping people we are speeding young girls off to their symbolic loss of innocence. And instead of a raspy narrator explaining the fate of a city we're watching a David Lynch montage of disturbing sounds and images that adjust depending on what you did.

That's pretty interesting. The fact that the design itself encourages a lot of strange, messed up behavior in which you are driving girls to their doom makes the creation of these montages a curious paradox. You, the player, are actively pursuing things that will eventually be outside your control until you finally can only watch as it is happening to you.

Or Bioshock, except it actually works here.

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