Almost Interesting

So, I’ve been busy of late. I had a peritonsillar abscess, which from what I’ve been reading usually results in antibiotics or surgery or death. I raw dogged it. So… I got that going for me. I also bought Dragon Age, which… hm.

I’m increasingly of the opinion that BioWare’s games are successful at presenting a gripping story that almost makes up for the fact that I’m playing a BioWare game. God, I know some people that last sentence would piss off. I LOVED KotOR until the final boss fight, where suddenly being without my team and without one very specific skill for Lightsiders meant that I simply couldn’t beat it. I tried three different times to like Mass Effect because I sank sixty dollars on it, but at the end of the day the horrible mechanics made me put it down. On the third try, it was when it took me more than a dozen tries to kill a boss, and the fact that on three of those tries, I didn’t even get to move because I got thrown around so much, or a crate dropped on me, or some other horrible occurance.

Dragon Age was BioWare’s big chance to redeem themselves, and for the most part, they have. It’s fun and engaging, but that’s also because it’s a big step back from Mass Effect’s failures. It’s also because Dragon Age is so closely based on your tabletop game systems that there’s less room for error. In fact, I only requested Dragon Age as a gift because I can’t get my failure friends to play D&D with me. I’d much rather do that as either a player or a DM than play Dragon Age.

The game is fun, however, and the story is interesting, and it feels like they’ve made a big improvement by not having gauges ala Fable or Mass Effect that track how good or chaotic you are. In those situations, the only tangible in-game rewards were typically for maxing out the meter one way or the other and it made more realistic, middle-of-the-road play seem useless. Dragon Age’s moral choices are strongly individual, but with long lasting effects. I like it.

The largest problem I’m having with the game is its buggy nature. I’ve had several occasions where quests bugged out, or switches didn’t flip to progress whatever was supposed to happen upon my entering a room or killing a certain enemy, and it’s annoying. Furthermore, while I was incredibly invested in the game and playing it nonstop for a while, enthralled enough to work on two separate campaigns, my main story has progressed to the point where the actual story and lore are winding down, and after spending a day away from the game I have no desire to play it left. BioWare has this dialogue tree and story stuff down. Now if they got together with a game company that made games, they might get somewhere.

Maybe if I keep bitching about things people love I’ll get famous. Might need to be funnier or talk fast, though.

I’m holding a conversation concurrently with writing this post. I think that’s how the word concurrent works. And as my girlfriend pesters offers entertainment for me via YouTube, I start thinking about how I really don’t like watching videos compared to viewing images or simply reading. And I think I may know why.

Growing up, I read and played video games. Sure, I watched TV, but my two biggest forms of entertainment were books and hand-me-down consoles from my grandpa. Both of these are extremely interactive forms of entertainment – videogames require actual input, whereas books require the reader to conjure sights, sounds, and other senses in order to perceive a scene. Then, in seventh grade, I was introduced to the internet, and what might be one of the most significant developments since the printing press – hypertext.

In short, the internet is hypertext. It’s what the first two letters in HTTP mean. Anyone who has ever had a wikipedia bender leading from Mystery Science Theater 3000 to Jean-Paul Sartre knows what I’m talking about. It is a very stream-of-consciousness, chaotic, and reader dominated. Video, however, is not. The pacing is set. Rewinding and rewatching is difficult for the same reason that voice mail is difficult when compared to text messages. You simply get the same problems again. There is no (little) way to slow things down without what really amounts to changing the product you’ve been given.

I, and countless others, grew up on hypertext. We fed off of it. I am not the only person that grew up on video games, then discovered hypertext at a formative point. There’s a generation out there that has grown up expecting to set its own pace and be able to explore in its own direction. Give it time. Maybe another 30 years, maybe another 10, maybe two. Hypertext will kill the video star.

On a marginally related note, if you thought the definition of art was tricky now, think of it once hypertext takes over.

In fact, I have an even cooler idea than this website. I should take everything about Wilson, every character, every setting, every plot point, and I am going to make a wiki of them. And I will call that wiki the primary text, and I will go “Behold! I have written a hypertext epic!” And the critics and high-minded literary snobs will kneel before me, for I have invented the future, and it is the wikipedia bender. And I will sell ads on the website to make money, and because everyone will come to the site and invent their own narrative, I will get impressions. And make millions. It isn’t just post-modern, it’s post-text. And I am the future of art and

…wait. In the internet version of that South Park idiom about the Simpsons, Penny Arcade did it first.


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Header photo by David Reber's Hammer Photography. Many ideas and images copyright Blizzard.

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