In the first of this two-part article, I outlined my thoughts on how persistent time can provide a new paradigm for permadeath in video games. In games like DayZ Standalone (Bohemia Interactive, 2013) and Rust (Facepunch Studios, 2013), hazardous environments combined with permadeath create conditions in which players construct fortifications to avoid having to respawn with empty-handed characters—and safeguard precious resources like food and ammunition from other players. Adding persistent time to this design formula can significantly change players’ conceptualization of permanency in these games. Persistent time gives all things a lifespan: Buildings ultimately fall to ruin, food has expiration dates, and—most importantly—characters grow old and die. Under these circumstances, progeny can become a significant resource.
This half of the article illustrates how persistent time can be incorporated into game design, along with permadeath and hazardous environments, to deepen the roleplaying experience through (1.) the creation of apprenticeships to pass skills and perks among characters, (2.) the development of complex kinship systems, and (3.) the establishment of outposts in the game world for future colonies. Continue reading
Extremism as a Narrative Device
Playing DayZ has allowed me to reflect on extremism a little bit. DayZ appears to be a game that fosters a plethora of extremes: one is either an extremist bad guy (I’ll kill everyone!), an extremist good guy (I’ll kill all the bad guys!), or an extremist indifferent (I’ll just care about myself!).
DayZ isn’t unique in deploying extremism as a narrative device. I mean, extremism has been a staple of video game narratives for a long time. For example, the original Bioshock threw players in an extremist underwater utopia that collapsed on itself, while Bioshock: Infinite deployed an extremist racist utopia as the world that the protagonist must escape.
Another example is the Call of Duty franchise that has traditionally used extremism, often unproblematically, as the motif for its bad guys. Traditionally, the Call of Duty enemy is an uncomplicated (and often boring) representation of the extremist found in the time period in which the game is set: Nazis, Cold War Russians, or extremist Islamists.
Even some of my favourite games appear to espouse extremism as a narrative device. Franchises like Metal Gear Solid and Mass Effect heavily rely on extremist tropes to justify the protagonist’s actions.
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