Welcome to Facebook Files! This week is a little different, since it’s a bit more of an editorial. Apparently, people don’t appreciate it when I ramble on for seven paragraphs in a Facebook thread (I wonder why). So we’ll just stick to the site for this week… >_>
Last week, I was at a friend’s place and we decided to play some games. Now, she isn’t much of a gamer, but she is a design student in general ("fashion communication" if anyone’s curious), and she’s always been interested in dabbling in different titles and seeing what they’re about, even if it’s purely from an aesthetic standpoint.
So, of all the games we could have played, I decided to introduce her to Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, since it’s one of my old favourites. We booted it up and initially, she did the whole criticism thing all design students do anytime they lay eyes on anything (they could look at poop and talk about how the colour is off or how it’s too lumpy for ten minutes). In this case, she thought Raziel’s design from the opening cutscene looked terrible (can’t argue there) and that the narration was kind of cheesy. Now, I’ve thought all along that Soul Reaver’s writing was fantastic, so listening to someone who isn’t used to the medium commenting on it was fascinating as always.
It took her about twenty minutes to get past the hurdle of learning to control the game and the camera. At first, she had trouble figuring out where to go and basically with…communicating…with the game. She couldn’t figure out that you had to move boxes over to ledges to get to higher areas in the level, or that every puzzle thereafter was essentially a variant of the same thing. But that didn’t last long…soon she was killing undead vampires with relative ease.
What was more fascinating though, was how her impression of the game’s narrative changed the deeper she got into it. She went from calling it cheesy to actually caring about the little in-game cutscenes that would push the plot forward every few minutes.
Soon, she was not only killing vampires, but she was doing it in style, making use of all the different weapons lying around, trying to throw them into bonfires or impale them against the walls, with the Soul Reaver theme blaring in the background. It made her feel like a complete badass, despite the fact that Soul Reaver is a PS1 era game and looks nowhere near as good as Half Life 2, which was the last game she’d seen. She’d even hold down the soul-devouring key until the corpse of her victim disappeared entirely because she felt it made the game "more dramatic."
The communication between the game and her was improving, too. She learnt to make use of high jumps to make up for the camera’s shortcomings, and figured out that if she couldn’t go forward, she most likely had to go back and look for something she had missed. That the game wasn’t just going to leave her stranded in an area without purpose. In the end, I think she ended up spending more time with the game than with me!
Thinking about this kind of made me look back at Soul Reaver with a new pair of eyes. It’s an incredibly well-designed, user-friendly game. A lot of what it did back in 1999 is what several developers are only just getting the hang of, in order to make their games more approachable. It also made me want to hear other people’s gaming experiences with their non-gamer friends and family. I love watching how different kinds of people react to games, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, so if you have any stories to share, go for it.