Friday, October 29, 2010

The RPG Effect on Life

It occurred to me that, as an avid gamer and fiction writer, I put a lot of myself into the works I undertake and the characters I create. This is true for almost the entirety of writers, gamers and artists as we can rarely (if ever) make a character that is truly irredeemable or totally unlikable. This was made startlingly apparent to me as I played Fable 2 one day and found myself in a situation that struck straight to the bone.

I had spent a good few hours scouring the city of Bowerstone for a villager, housewife, etc. by the name of Katie and had finally succeed. Unfortunately at that point I still had 80% of the main plot to take care of including "The Spire". For those of you unfamiliar with the game, it's pretty much a near 10 year time-skip where you're imprisoned in this monstrosity and semi-brainwashed into being an officer in the main villain's army. Back onto the plot of this post...

We had a little girl together named Abigail and I made sure to keep them as happy as possible: I visited every chance I could, I bought gifts, I upped their 'home allowance' and things were doing well until the 'glitch' as I call it. It was after I had completed one of the more major parts of the campaign (the Hero of Will arc) and I decided to head home and visit my wife and daughter. I fast-traveled to Bowerstone Market and was greeted by my wife in the town square, not by our house like usual. She gave me a short dressing down and said she was leaving me. This was dramatically opposed to what I saw on the family tab in the menu which still showed all 'happy' in the three categories. I tried everything from gifts to expressions to standing in her way, but nothing worked. When she finally left the district I received the standard notification and renown loss, but I felt a cold shiver run down my spine. At this point I had completely forgotten that none of this was real. It felt real.

I ran to the house, knowing what I'd find in the back of my mind and refusing to believe it, and barged up the steps looking for the crib holding my infant daughter. It was gone; she was gone. Through the mechanics of the game, once your spouse has divorced you and taken the kids they're deleted from the game altogether. No reunion, no second chances, nothing. I snapped; I literally saw red and started slaughtering villagers in the street. I had taken out the entire district and all of the re-spawning guards before I realized what was happening. I shut off the system and brooded for the next few hours. Looking back on the event I can easily distinguish why it hit me so hard.

To me, family is everything because my family is so close. Sure we may have our disagreements or butt heads occasionally, but in the end we'll always have each other to fall back on. The thought of part of my family being ripped away from me without just cause (or any cause, really) just flipped a switch inside of my brain. I know that it was just a game and that none of it actually happened, but the concept of loss is a strong thing; especially when you invest yourself in the character as I had. Video games have a way of revealing bits and pieces of our true character by putting us in situations where, if we put ourselves in the shoes of the character, wouldn't be as clear cut as hitting a button.