Thursday, June 2, 2016

Boston looks weird

By Steve Weddle

Been pretty busy of late. I'm on Chapter 24 of Dennis Lehane's A Drink Before the War, which you all probably already know is pretty good. And I'm working through the Commonwealth on my new survival character in Fallout 4.

I'd been out of video games since, well, I guess since I spent my mornings and afternoons in graduate school playing NBA Jam in the bar on campus. Then, when I was at LSU for grad school, the maintenance guy and I played Madden for a few hours each afternoon until he got fired. Since then, though, they've seemed kinda childish and silly. As often happens, of course, I was wrong. I've been playing the games with my kids and, dangnabbit, the games are pretty cool.

While it's bad form to compare the work of a writer as swell as Dennis Lehane to a video game, so I won't. Not directly, at least.

I guess video games have always had stories in them. I came up playing Adventure on the Atari 2600, in which you had to kill a dragon with an arrow sign. In Defender, aliens were stealing humans, so you had to shoot down alien ships. Isn't that what it was? Seems like it. In Galaga, a game where I had no equal, you just sorta shot stuff. The storylines were essentially that you're a good person and you're killing the bad people, sometimes to save these other people.

While I was sleeping, games have gotten bonkers. In the video above, you come across a cage fighter named Cait. [SPOILERS AHEAD] You end up ruining her gig as a cage fighter and travelling with her. If you get close and she trusts you, she tells you how she's been sexually abused for years and turned to fighting to earn a living and deal punishment. The men she's living with abuse her. Her parents abused her. She's abusing drugs. The story is not completely original (whose is?), but it's still pretty damn affecting. Then you find out there is a place where she can get clean and she asks for your help. The story continues to get complicated and violent, with an arc similar to crime fiction. It's one of the things that keeps pulling me back into the game. (That and the need to harvest more Tatos so that I can craft the adhesive I need to craft the gun parts I need to retrieve whatever MacGuffin is next.)

This game is full of characters who have amazingly rich backstories. MacCready's story -- about his dying sone -- is another one that gets you right in the feels.

So, yeah. I'm sure video games have had crime fiction in the blood for years and I'm just now noticing. I'm glad I did. When your kids say, "Hey, Dad, come watch me shoot this raider in his head," you're in for a good time.

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