The last year of gaming has been a special treat. Previous years have advanced games dramatically with better graphics, believable character models and massive open world designs. However this year is the year of the story.The old game mechanic of “go there and get the thing to get through that door to advance to the next level only to do this all over again” (see Doom), no longer cuts it. Today’s audiences are smarter and expect more, this can be seen from the success of shows like ‘Games of Thrones’ and ‘House of Cards’.. Immersive stories, complex characters and interwoven plots form the cornerstone of any triple-A show and we are now seeing this same level of storytelling cross over into games.
Warning. What follows will contain spoilers.
Dishonored, a connection to a child and a mission for revenge
For me it began with Dishonored. I had heard very little about this game and while it became clear to me later on that people loved this game due to the mechanics, for me this was not the case. Sure teleporting behind a guy and cutting him down without him knowing is rather impressive, as is possessing a guy and having him kill all the bad guys for you. However what drew me into the game was the story; the assassination of the Empress and the kidnapping of the little princess Emily. Having stepped off the boat with some peculiar comments being made all around, my version of “Corvo” was immediately at odds with the world. When meeting the young Lady Emily and using the time to learn the controls by playing hide and seek, I felt I understood immediately that Corvo was connected to this young woman and must protect her. Seeing her get taken and her mother assassinated, I felt a strong emotional response and quickly burned her assassins face into my brain vowing revenge.
As Corvo I was angry, brutally angry
From there, my Corvo killed anyone in his path and got quite creative and effective at doing so. In fact in the initial prison escape scene I stayed as long as I could at the exit to kill as many of the “enemy” as I could. This decline of Corvo into a brutal assassin only stopped when the game showed through the environment that my actions as Corvo were not only bad, but were also affecting the game-world itself. Furthermore the game suggested my actions could have a lasting affect on the young lady. For the first time in a game I started to question the decisions I had made so far. Could Lady Emily forgive him when the death toll associated with her rescue revealed to her the ruthlessness of Corvo’s revenge. This was of great concern to me as I could damage this child more than her captors through my actions as Corvo. I changed my style of play to only killing those who left me no other choice.
For the first time, I put away my gun and traded barbaric kills for stealth and compassion
When I finally caught up with the assassin Daud I found him a broken man, haunted by the deed he had performed and longing for death. With the man in sight Corvo’s blood boiled and I stopped at nothing until he lay defeated. But I had a choice to make, as if the game knew I’d be seething and gunning for his death, to do the right thing and forgive him for his sins or to end his life.. I had burned this mans image into my mind and even fantasized about his death. But when the moment came, my thoughts were of Lady Emily , would she show mercy? And so I spared him, as a lesson in compassion for the future Queen.
I learned earlier that my actions could have negative effects on the world, and now I was starting to see the inverse of that. By refraining from killing, the world seemed to be on my side. Not so for Havelock, his betrayal and lust for power rotted his very soul.. As I watched above, listening to his ramblings I could not help but feel pity for this man. He had just killed his co-conspirators, resigned to the fact that Corvo was coming for him. Landing behind him, I slid my blade into his neck, providing a quick death.
The game it seems was attempting to point out right and wrong but allowed me to choose
And so my game was ended with the Little Lady on the throne the plague was cast aside. I realized that my action initially converting from chaos to control had directly impacted the ending and as it was not a conscious choice of wanting the “good ending” but rather a response to a series of emotional prods and questions throughout the game. This left me very satisfied with myself as a person for making the right decisions and getting the best outcome. As a result I never felt the need to replay it, or try for an alternative ending. My story had ended. I watched the alternative endings on youtube and was appalled by one in particular where Emily’s life was utterly destroyed and her mind irreversibly poisoned. Seems I made good choices, at least I am satisfied with them.