Today, I have spent the best part of six hours ‘playing’ the latest in the Fallout series: New Vegas.
‘Playing’ seems rather flippant. In the course of today’s extravaganza I’ve been terrified, amused, frustrated, elated, and – throughout it all – utterly engaged.
The cost of this was $10 for three days; compared to my usual $16 for two hours of bland dross down the cinema.
I, like many of my generation, grew up with ‘gaming’ (the rather clunky phrase du jour) and can attribute to it many of my fondest memories.
Does anyone else, for example, remember ‘The Great Giana Sisters’ or ‘The Chaos Engine’? Probably not but, if not, your loss buddyboy.
Some of the most recent examples of this art form, and it is an art form (perhaps the most promising we have – cinema’s moribund, theatre’s ossified, and music is strangulated, utterly derivative, and beset on all sides) might be:
The aforementioned Fallout,
The world, the Weltanschauung, which is Fallout is essentially a ravaged dystopia populated by mutants, warring bands, and communities scraping the unforgiving ground for the meagre means of survival – and one in which you are constantly imperilled; both physically and morally. Its aesthetic is that of an Armageddon imagined through the eyes of a particularly misanthropic Sinatra: all fenders, checked suits and antiquated weaponry (with a post-bellum shtick). A better example of post-nuclear catastrophe – a future we may once again have to begin considering in earnest, given the utter abandonment of the NPT – you’d be hard-pressed to find.
Next, the ne plus ultra of Ayn Rand inspired philosophy: Bioshock.
Bioshock places you in an underwater city, Rapture, which is exquisitely imagined, and striking in its melancholy beauty. You’ve crash landed and are now tasked with deracinating the reign of a maddened despot bent on the imposition of an insanely individualistic and laissez faire ideology. This may be one of the most beautiful games I have yet seen; you could easily wander this city for hours on end simply staring at the gargantuan vistas on offer.
Last, in this short, and decidedly undefinitive list, Limbo:
This silly picture doesn’t do it justice; I urge you to google it and watch one of the videos which will give you it in all of its Germanic Expressionist glory.
The game evokes myriad sources: ‘Lord of the Flies’; ‘Night of the Hunter’; ‘The Company of Wolves’.
It’s imbued throughout with a kind of Lynchian, nightmarish atmosphere in which every scene is foreboding, and the consequences of each action pitiless. You’ll die over and over again; dying never looked so good.
So, what’s the point? I suppose it’s that this medium is one of the most commercially popular, yet critically reviled – or, more importantly, ignored – in the history of the arts (as I’ve said, it is an art, and an art to be reckoned with).
Nevertheless, it remains one of the few remaining conduits for genuine human expression and imagination.
I referred to it before as ‘gaming’: could there be anything more serious?