I'm greeted with a sequence of inane click-through dialogue. Click, click, click. More dialogue. Jesus H, when does this game get its war on? Aha. Game. At last. More clicky-clicky text explaining what I have to do. Oh my God, I've known open veins to drain more quickly. Alright, I'm done with the tutorial, level me u-- fuck, more back story?
I closed the game and metaphorically threw it away using metaphorical hands over a metaphorical cliff. And I shot it in the head. Thanks RPS, but no thanks.
But within days I discover that Recettear is hailed as one of the top PC gaming experiences of the year. Others see charm and have fun, but I got snagged in barbed-wire fences of JRPG text. Putting aside the "i don't like the art style" "oh you fuckwit filistine you dont like colour with a u, play gears of brown bore why dont you" so-called arguments, the game had blown its chance with me. We weren't compatible. I'm not going to bother with a second game, it's off the list. Time is precious: as I write this, I haven't had any decent gaming time in three weeks.
So I'm left adrift, an unlovable blip in statistical homogeneity. It's a strange moment when you feel detached from the majority opinion that is usually yours to share. Some gamers go down the Emperor's New Clothes route, ranting the world has been fooled, the wool has been knitted over everyone's eyes - this game is shit, people. I saw enough of that when researching Punchbag. I saw enough to turn my eyes inward and dock with my pre-frontal cortex.
Of course, when I expressed my loneliness at not making a connection with Recettear, I was immediately mistaken for one of the New Clothes brigade. Gaming communities are a funny thing. There's a lot of soul searching recently over what it means to be a gamer, which both Punchbag and Schutzmannschaft played into. Why does gamer love so easily turn to gamer hate? Okay... wandering off topic here.
This isn't the only time I've been an outsider. I articulated my problems with World In Conflict previously and nothing has changed since then. WiC was applauded for being dang fun, not just for having an Alec Baldwin voice-over and SPLOSIONS IN SMOKY TECHNICOLOUR (with a U). Why was I left behind? Let me in, I want to play too!
And The Longest Journey. This is another one of those games that's paraded as the point and click adventure you need to play if you like your game stories with emotional depth, thoughtful characterisation and intelligent plotting. And you know, it is all those things. TLJ is a nice piece of work with epic scope, laced with unexpected twists.
The protagonist, April Ryan, is a child of the Buffy generation, but more authentic: unlike the player, she refuses to believe what's happening to her until unreality hems her in, leaving her with no option but to believe. She reminds me a little of Veronica Mars, who always appears to be in control except when confronted with actual, real danger.
But for all that, the game still left me cold. I'd bought into the hype but somehow missed out on the dividends. After all this time, I don't really understand why TLJ kept me at a distance. It isn't archaic low-res graphics, because Planescape: Torment gripped me five years ago and even wrung a tear from my staid features.
I have a morbid fascination with TLJ reviews just to see if there's anyone else out there who was similarly unmoved. I have standards, though. Reviews have to avoid using the wordette "emo". Whenever some guy uses that to describe something (ooh, I don't know, like TWILIGHT for instance) I just want to pistol-whip his thighs and Chinese burn his soul. That's how mad it makes me. Grr.
And then I read Lewis Denby's review on BeefJack and had an epiphany. This thing I have with TLJ reviews... it's guilt. Maybe it's my fault that I haven't appreciated these games, worthy of praise and respect. Maybe I am the problem. Maybe I need to be fixed. Perhaps it's the writer in me; once you start writing fiction seriously, you begin to see the cogs in other people's work and it kills a little of that carry-you-away magic. All critic and no soul.
But sometimes you've done enough penance to move on. Like that girl whose heart you tore out ten years ago, a moment you've replayed over and over again in your head: the sound of her tears spattering on your jacket as she tried to deny your decision. It simply doesn't matter any more: water under the bridge.
April Ryan. I'm not going to feel bad about you any more. I am moving on.
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