Games have a lot in them, at times.
I’m not talking about your variety of collectables, or the vast level of customization that may apply from everything to weapons to vehicles to clothes. No, I’m talking about the little things. The easter eggs you may not notice, the in-jokes that are so minute that they can easily be bypassed in the heat of battle. Then there’s the next level things, the obsessive levels of detail that you would not know of without a multi-point field guide telling you of how to find them. I’m talking your Gears of War chickens, your Saints Row giant bunny from the sea, your Arkham Asylum blueprints.
I love these things. I can get quite intricate when playing a game, spending more time running down random alleys for the chance to find something rather than head to the next objective point. There’s something about the discovery of something you may not see that gives you a thrill that is hard to replicate in video games. I remember finding the dancing soldiers in Crysis 2, and having a good old chuckle for a few minutes. Random, strange things that give a little breather between the seriousness of games.
And games are very serious these days, make no mistake. The old argument is of the Sepia and Greyscale clan, who say all shooters and such look the same. Everyone is a stoic, no-nonsense type who is there to get the job done. There’s no time for chuckles, as you’ve got a job to do. So the moments which, yes, take you out of the game a little bit, serve a very good purpose. They remind you of a game’s inherent joy. That it is, at the end of the day, fun.
Of course, these levels of fun things to do can go to an almost breathtaking level.
I recently read an article on Cracked, full of funny lists of interesting things, which pointed out some of the most intricate fun details that go into games. There was everything from the multitude of easter eggs in the Metal Gear Solid games, to having your gamertag on individual bullets on Halo. Things that, by extension, should not matter. They are not important. Yet, knowing they are there, you find something fresh in the game.
Two jumped out at me though, and it’s no surprise they come from the Kings of the open-world game, Bethesda. The first was from Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, where it was noted that each and every non-playable character lived a life. Not just a set rotation, but they were programmed to have needs and desires that had to be fulfilled. They got up, had breakfast, went to work and the cycle would continue until you disrupted that. Stole someone’s food? They’d go out and buy some more, like a normal person. Even events occurred which had no bearing on the final game. One character was noted to being a thief, not a skilled one but a generic, bread-stealing one, and you could see him get chased by the police. The other, more baffling one, was a character who would cheat on his wife. He would actively, once a game week, leave his house in the middle of the night and go to another NPC woman’s house to sleep with her. There was no reason for this, and it didn’t affect the final game. It was just a small detail the game-makers put in for a laugh.
But it was the Fallout one that got me.
The article notes that in the Fallout games (3 and New Vegas), should you have your Intelligence set to 0, you have a completely different experience. People treat you like the idiot you are, shunning and at times attacking you. Your speech options are limited, and some NPC’s won’t give you side quests available to your other, more brainy characters. In an ingenious twist, one section which requires you to give a password, either by solving a set of tasks or out of pure luck, can be done instantly, thanks to the savant levels of your fool.
I don’t know about you, but I want to play as a fool now. I want to experience this difference in gameplay, and see what life as an idiot is like.
Well, what it’s like in a video game. I already know what it’s like in real life.