This post is in dedication to the brave and often terrified individuals I have known who are living with or passed on due to AIDS related complications:
My mother had many gay friends. From stories, I have learned many of their names and faces, their stories, their lives, and what German queer life was like in the 70s and 80s. Being the person she is, I don’t think there is a period in my life where I have not known a queer person as a family friend–that’s just how my family worked. During one of the visits to Germany during the summers while I was attending Wabash, my mother and I were walking around in Fulda and ran into one of these old friends. What followed was a recounting of how many of her previous friends had succumbed to AIDS related deaths.
I have known friends to acquire HIV and later develop AIDS. It has even sundered some friendships in places due to misunderstandings during a very trying period.
Can games capture this? Should they even attempt?
It strikes me that almost every example I can think of in terms of an illness presented in a videogame is able to be cured. If the person dies, it is usually due to our own lack of haste, ineptitude, or because we just didn’t care to save said person. How many times is a game’s death inevitable and one which we know has to come, a fate we cannot alter?
It is highly unlikely that any but an art game will take on such a topic in terms of protagonists, but what would we do with a sub-character, or party member being afflicted with a disease, virus, or illness that could not be cured? What would our attitude toward that character be?
In games we often are presented with deaths that are sudden and violent, deliberate and focused, but rarely one that we can see a mile coming and have no control to stop. Of course, it’s also a morose topic. Why present a player with an element over which he or she has no control whatsoever? Are games capable of demanding and asking of us such an emotional commitment?
If the death of Aeris is one over which many mourned, is this something that can be replicated in a different manner? Can we create a character about whom we care and whom we know we cannot save, but knew such from the start or even midway through as we watched them collapse before our eyes? What if no quests in the game at all concerned being able to aid said person, but we had to accept what was occurring because the disease was too new and we didn’t know enough about it?
Or, what if we could prolong the character’s life through treatments, giving them a life. It might only be bearable, but that character can live a while longer.
The complications, of course, are that this would require some method of attachment to the character. If not the protagonist, this would require a compelling relationship between the player’s avatar and the character with whom we interact. If the protagonist him or herself, we suddenly face the question of whether or not people would play a game, knowing that no matter how fantastic the journey, it must end–probably not in a pleasant manner. Maybe the next generation we can save, but we’d still have that memory of the one who didn’t make it.
Maybe this game even exists and I am not aware yet of its presence, or have forgotten. Thoughts?