Video games are great at allowing you to walk in the footsteps of any- and everyone. Want to be a burly, 100-foot creature destroying a metropolis? Play Rampage and you’re even given a choice of monster. Want to be H.R. Giger’s indelible toothsome ray of sunshine? Various generations of Aliens vs Predator games let you get in touch with your inner secondary jaw. There’s many games that let you slip into the physique of lithe, scantily-clad warriorettes, and I won’t even try to count all the titles that put you in the futuristic boots of space marines.
Yet there are some identities we’re very rarely asked to assume – so it’s nice when a game actually gives you such an opportunity.
One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.
I’ve walked the Holy Land at the time of the Third Crusade. I’ve explored Renaissance Florence, Venice and Rome. I have crossed the cupola of the Blue Mosque. Five minutes ago I was scaling Notre Dame de Paris.
Allegedly I’m an assassin, member of an ancient order whose creed is “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” This is what I really am, though: a tourist. And I’m loving it.
There are some games that, while I’m playing them, change the way I look at the world around me. I remember times spent playing real-time strategy where in my mind’s eye I’d draw selection boxes around the people I’d see, or around a herd of sheep, and I’d plan out strategies of where to send these people to do my bidding. (I was young and silly at the time.) Or, when I was a teenager and had to bike to school, I’d see everything through the lens of the X-Wing and TIE Fighter games, zooming down the deathstar trench and evading incoming laser fire. Yes, I was and still am a geek.
One of the games I’ve been playing a lot of lately, Assassin’s Creed II, has definitely taken hold of my visual cortex – not least because of where I live. Check out these videos from the first and second Assassin’s Creed games, taking place in medieval Acre and Renaissance Venice respectively:
Living in Bern, I can’t help looking at the 17th and 18th century architecture and thinking, “Hmm… If I jumped up there and grabbed that ledge, then pulled myself up there and did a leap over to the other side… and the spire at the top should give me a great vantage point from which to plan my next assassination.” (Note: by ‘assassination’, I mean ‘shopping spree’. Or ‘cuddly kitten’. Or something else that’s inoffensive and doesn’t make me sound like a psycho.) Frankly, though, I think there’s only a slim chance that Assassin’s Creed III will feature the best of Swiss sandstone architecture – although Swiss banking would fit in nicely with Assassin’s Creed‘s conspiracy storyline.
More importantly than my geek musings, though, I’ve got an announcement to make that’s been a long time coming: a friend of mine will be posting book reviews on Eagles on Pogo Sticks. I asked him ages ago but then never got my act together. No more excuses, though – please give my friend a round of applause as he gets ready to introduce himself.