I felt an unmistakable pang of guilt when I elected to forego Mirror’s Edge. It was showcased at E3 last year, and afterward I was caught speaking of it using the voice of a shrieking, swooning fancritter. At some point I got around to playing the demo and was so underwhelmed that I couldn’t even find the game I’d been longing for. I wanted “Prince of Persia with a first-person perspective”, and what I found was, “Quake, with platforming and kung-fu”. The depth hinted at in the trailer turned out to be an optical illusion. It was a vast, deep pool of pristine dystopian mystery that turned out to be little more than a puddle to anyone who tried to immerse themselves.
To be fair, it’s not like the Mirror’s Edge trailer made false promises. I saw the game I wanted to see – the one I wanted to play – and as much as I enjoy pointing out the problems EA has caused over the years (onerous DRM, high prices, canceled titles, and AIDS) I can’t hold them responsible for not reading my mind. They had a fresh approach to platforming, a unique art style, and stale gameplay. For EA, that’s a major breakthrough. I regret not throwing my weight behind them whenever they make any slight movements in the right direction.
In the end, I was so enamored with the fantasy version of Mirror’s Edge that I’d authored in my imagination that I decided that I’d rather keep it there instead of overwriting it with the real thing.
Rutskarn at Chocolate Hammer has done what I wouldn’t do. He’s ruined the game by playing it, and he’s writing about his experiences going through the game. Part 1 and part 2 are available via the links at the beginning of this very sentence.
There are few things I regard with more contempt in a story than that of the obvious traitor. A good writer will foreshadow or telegraph the betrayal in subtle ways so that it fits once the deed is done. A bad writer will simply advertise the betrayal instead of hinting at it, and you end up with a movie or game where the audience is shouting advice at the screen in frustration. It distances them from the protagonists, because it makes the protagonists seem clueless and inept.
I was actually willing to forgive the absurdities of the setting. The idea of handing messages to couriers and having them run the messages all over the city is preposterous unless we throw away everything we’ve learned about cryptography in the last hundred years. There is no reason the runners couldn’t have done their job from a sofa with a few cheap bits of electronics and a couple of one-time pads. I could look past this as a requirement of the setting, but they needed some narrative grout to fill in those holes. They needed to present us with another, alternate reality to work with. Having couriers endure great pains and danger to deliver messages and then never explain what the messages are, why they’re important, orwhy we should care, is to simply draw attention to the holes in the setting. It’s not an unforgivable crime, it’s just unforgivably easy to fix.
E3 is on now. I wonder what game will be an enticing disappointment me this year?
If it wasn’t for disappointment, I wouldn’t have any appointments.
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