A New Age of Gaming

When young, one is confident to be able to build palaces for mankind, but when the time comes one has one’s hands full just to be able to remove their trash.

–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I never completed Fallout 2. So, in preparation for my copy of Fallout 3 that I preordered back in May, I started replaying the first in the series and will hopefully finish both games before I can fiddle around with the latest’s customizations and different camera.

Loading the game, the first thing I noticed when creating a new character was that the default age happened to be twenty-five (which one can alter). I was fourteen when I first played this game; at that time, the age of twenty-five was some mythical far off adult land of which I had no real concept. Now that I am twenty-five, I look at the age and recall trying to make the age as young as possible. I could not think in terms of a twenty-five year old, and wished to make no attempt at such back then (I still have a hard time conceptualizing myself as an adult due to lack of markers such as marriage or children as goals).

I used to have different expectations of games. No matter how many times I was proven wrong, I kept hoping that I would play these RPGs and possibly be represented with an ending based on the little quests I performed or ignored during my play. Over time it became evident that I was striving toward one goal, possibly a handful of different endings, but that I was much more pleased with the endings I often rewrote for myself. I’m not sure when the shift occurred that I realized this and started removing myself from games as such, but it also meant I stopped naming my characters after myself and my friends, and started creating personae. In fact, I think it was around the time of Fallout that I began such (and little surprise, it’s when I began involving myself in theater).

So what, you may be asking yourself right now. Well, one temptation (undoubtedly bred by Diablo II and its unforgiving stat/skill attribution system) is to go find some FAQs and find out what the best configuration of skills/attributes are to make sure I have the Ultimate Character! Except, I realized I don’t care and this game is not so difficult that I need worry about making too many mistakes in character creation. Fourteen year old Denis played Fallout and had very few issues when Vault 13 citizen Denis was bumbling about the world, more often talking his way out of situations then engaging in wholesale slaughter.

This means that I came to an ugly realization today. Somehow I’ve become engaged in having the best possible ending/character available to me as I play through the game. This makes little actual sense, as I have yet to encounter many games where I am prohibited from completing everything available outside of harder difficulties. So, yes, I’ll continue making Diablo II characters that get the minimum possible STR required for equipment and then pump everything into VIT (unless I need a shield and then put some in DEX). When I boot up Fallout 3 I will not be making this mistake, however.

When I was a younger gamer, I was much more enamored with the possibilities of an endless game. Endings were something far off and I did not measure my game by the amount of time I spent in the world constructed for me. In other words, the end was not the goal, the experience of getting there was the whole point. If I made mistakes along the way, that was all right, I make them in real life. However, this same Denis also put himself in these games, living these games.

I don’t wish to return to that. Instead, the actor in me is much more enamored in taking on these roles, which means not seeing things from my eyes, and not playing myself. Sure, my responses will be grounded in my own experiences, but most actors will agree, the only difference between two actors’ take on Hamlet will fall in what they bring to the role from their own lives (N.B. this assumes they are of equal proficiency to take on the role).

Therefore, since I am not about min/maxing in real life, it’s high time I stopped allowing it to rule my ways of play. What I care about is the story and how I interact with and perform it. I do wonder if I’m the only one who fell into such a trap, however? Is this a result of competition, or did I just fall into a desire of perfection bordering on OCD?


About Denis Farr

Writer interested in intersectionality, games, comics, nerdy stuff in general, theater, and how it all mixes. Graduate of Wabash College, with studies in Theater, English, German, and Gender Studies.
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2 Responses to A New Age of Gaming

  1. What this makes me think about is my pen and paper RPG experiences. The nice thing about such games is that you can technically start at any level. Thus one can fill the tech tree with ‘points’ or ‘feats’ (whatever the game’s particular currency of advancement might be) slowly and naturally as you advance from peon to proficient or one can choose to pool 14 levels worth of points and roll around in them like a fat kid with bags of candy at Halloween before ultimately maxing certain stats and gaining end point abilities that don’t seem to imply any level of logical self sustaining progression.<>“Really, you’ve gone through 14 levels with a strength of 4? That was fun, really?”<>“Oh no, I just made this character, but this spell here will buff my strength for 12 hours so I was able to spend those stat points on Int instead.”<>“But that’s a 13th level spell. How did your character survive for the previous 12 levels without it?”<>“I dunno, I guess he just did.”I’ve never been comfortable with that sort of build logic. There really is no greater case of disconnect between player and character than the above interaction, which I’ve seen over and over again at some of my least favorite gaming tables.These same people will then often use these unbalanced PC behemoths to act out prurient and tedious whims, treating the character not as roles but as avatars. Clearly I have issues with these types of gamers. I should start some sort of support group.***To address this concept directly: I would say that my largest video game experience with creating characters has been Oblivion, but as indicated before I have a vast history with D&D and similar products. Sure I’ve built skill trees and the like (I’ve logged my fair share of Diablo 2 hours also), but Oblivion represents a much fuller and diversified skill set to choose from and cultivate. Not knowing how to play the game, or what the meta-game was going to present me, my main goal was to create a character that could do many things pretty well. This left me with a character that felt very real in the ways I interacted with the monsters, traps, and other obstacles. It also left me unable to impose my will upon the landscape as is the case with most games at lower levels. This of course was when I turned to Denis, the veteran Oblivion player, looking for insights into my problems.I believe in the well crafted, well rounded character in games like Fallout, Elder Scrolls, or whatever GURPS campaign I might be designing at the time (currently The Prisoner). I won’t attribute it to my being an actor, though I am, but rather someone interested in story and thus <>back<>story for my characters.

  2. Chris Lepine says:

    You’re lucky that you’re playing Fallout 1 & 2 then, because they’re one of the VERY few games that does not punish people who choose not to min/max their characters.Give your character a ton of bad traits, screw with your perks, make her/him a dullard. The game has a playable alternative for any of these possibilities.. and in fact, makes them games EXTREMELY entertaining!After finishing F1 for the umpteenth time, I should try to finish F2 for the second time before F3 is out – great idea!

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