One of the things that turned the original Game of Thrones book around was the beheading of Ned Stark. “Hey, wait a minute”, everyone said. “He wasn’t supposed to die. Cercei was supposed to talk Joffrey out of it. Varys was supposed to work around it. Ned was supposed to… I dunno. If he was going to die, he was supposed to die on his feet. What the heck?!?”
At that point, we had our first indication that we were going to have some tropes seriously subverted in the coming books. And tv seasons, I guess.
So begin with the assumption that the world is a nasty place and you’re not only going to have to get your hands dirty if you want to improve it, you’ll probably have to sell your soul to do so. Oh, and people who sell their souls? Less effective at improving things.
Now make a video game.
I’ve been playing The Age of Decadence. It’s an isometric game (think the original Fallout or Baldur’s Gate) and it is set in a world that looks like it would have been quite the place maybe 200 years ago. 200 years, of course, is a long time. You pick from a fairly diverse set of eight starting options: from soldier to politician to pickpocket to scholar. You then get thrown head first into a world where the old poker maxim applies: if you look around the table and you don’t know who the fish is? It’s you.
I’m playing as a scholar and one of my first quests is to dispatch a rival scholar who recently moved into town. That is: Kill Them. You may be thinking “I deliberately put all of my points into scholarly stuff because I didn’t *WANT* to kill anybody!” I know that *I* did. Well, that matters not a whole lot because this ain’t that kind of game.
Now, of course, you have the option of helping this guy out and helping him get set up in town. That’d be right nice of you. Downright neighborly. Of course, it means that you’d be kind of out of a livelihood and your master, the guy you’ve spent the last decade with, would be out of a job too… but it’s the right thing to do. Oh, it’ll cost you points to your reputation for loyalty as well. That’s somewhat of an important stat for some reason? But then you get to choose.
The brilliance of the game is in that combat is nasty and likely to kill you. Even if you are a trained soldier, combat is better avoided than engaged in (seriously, you’re probably going to die multiple times if you try to get in a fight… even if you’ve picked a combat class). Now, if you like challenging combat, this game is for you. If you want a game that rewards you for outsmarting your foes and avoiding combat, this game is for you.
If you want a game to have a moral center and be affable?
This ain’t the game for you.
So… what are you playing?
(Picture is HG Wells playing a war game from Illustrated London News (25 January 1913[/efn_note]