Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Emotions Falling Out

Note: This is the second post in a series this week themed around Fallout 3. This time I take a look at the various emotions I have felt while playing the game.

Reflecting back on my time so far with Fallout 3 -- both as the player and as the in-game character -- I realise that the game has taught me many things. One of those things sticks out more than the others and that is the various emotions I have felt or seen while playing the game. These emotions have demonstrated to me how a game can affect a player's approach to it in different ways the more they play, be it through knowledge of how things can and probably will pan out in the game or through experience with the game and its world as progress is made. The best example of this I can provide is detailing how I approach the game now, compared to when I first started to play.

During the first 20 or so hours with the game, I was scared of The Wastelands. The place, more times then I'd care to admit has made me hesitate before continuing on due to how immersed I was and also due to the uncertainty with what was to come. I have even jumped a few times when an enemy has crept up behind me and attacked. The desolate and barren place, with showings of brutality and insanity found all over unsettles you, making you anxious about your survival. When you finally find yourself safe inside an abandoned shack, low on medical supplies and ammunition after barely surviving fights against the stronger, hostile creatures of The Wastelands, you soon realise how intense the game can be. The vast expanse of land entices you to explore but you won't find anything of reward or interest until after you have learned to be wary of your survival.

Compare that to how I approach the game now, about 80 hours in. I have a lot more confidence when I explore now, entering places like the Metro Station tunnels with not even a thought of what I will come across. I am stocked up on weapons, ammunition and medical supplies and not worried at all about the Raiders, Super Mutants and Feral Ghouls who are all intent on killing me. I see a factory in the distance and immediately have a desire to explore it, curious about what I may find. I am rewarded for this confidence too which only further increases my desire to continue exploring and my haste in doing so. Then, all of a sudden, I am again attacked from behind. I don't jump this time but fear soon takes over as I turn around and begin to panic when I realise that the beast is something I have never seen or fought before. I find myself once again barely surviving the fight, injured and worried that I may come across more of these beasts before I find something that I can use as a safe place to retreat.

I am of course referring to the Deathclaws, strong and agile beasts that can kill you with a few swipes of their claws. Without realising it, the game puts me in my place and reminds me that survival in The Wastelands is tough. You don't know what you will find and you can still die no matter how prepared you may think you are. As a player, going through this change of approach and then being shown that I was just being cocky is intriguing to me and is something I haven't experienced before in a game. I am already aware of the power a game can have over a player through immersion but I have never played a game that has taught me to be so weary of my approach, taught me to think before I do something in game and taught me to reflect on the past to benefit the things I may do in the future. It is amazing to me and if you can't tell already, I absolutely love it!

To go on a slight tangent now; approach to the game isn't the only thing I have been able to reflect upon after playing. The game has my attention so much that I am able to reflect on the various quests I have done and the places I have explored, remembering them in detail. I have always had a photographic memory (if you will) for locations in games and stuff like that, but to be able to remember pretty much everything I have done in a game is not something I am able to do regularly so the fact I can do it with Fallout 3 is fascinating to me. That makes me quite happy which conveniently brings me back to the emotions that you can go through while you play through the game. I've provided some examples here in this post, now I want to hear about your examples so if you have played the game, feel free to let me know in the comments.

3 comments:

Scott Juster said...

I haven't played Fallout yet, but I'm intrigued by its ability to "humble" the experienced player.

It's easy to get cocky if one has a history playing games, and I wonder of Bethesda designed the game to purposely exploit this over-confidence?

ebi said...

Great read! I found you via Kotaku whilst taking a break from playing fallout with my fourth character. I find it amazing that I have invested close to 200+ hours in this game and still see and hear things I've never experienced before.

My example of the game putting me in my place would have to be on my third character. I decided to make my first female character to try out the black widow perk. I played her as a hooded ninja and stuck to using sneaking, light step and everything else that made me an excellent silent killer. I only used the death claw gauntlet and the dart gun to paralyze running targets. I played a completely neutral character who only listened to money and collected bounties on killing good and bad characters as well as stealing from my employers when I felt the need arose. My point being that I was (in my opinion) unstoppable. I could get through any situation and was always a step ahead of the bounty hunters that inevitably came after me, often stalking them through the wastes. I had literally tens of thousands of caps and could do most tasks without taking a scratch. One day I had taken a detour to explore an area I had never seen and spotted a group of raiders walking along a train track out of a canyon. I took them all out quickly without any resistance and took their fingers so I could cash them in later and decided to explore. I was faced with a choice of left or right. To my left was the canyon leading to who only knows where and to my right the track went on to a crashed train at the bottom of a hill. Paying more attention to the right I noticed birds high in the sky. A sign for anyone that has played long enough that there was a settlement somewhere over the hill.

Excitedly I ran towards the hill to my right and as I reached the train I heard a loud bang which sounded like a far-off explosion. This was followed by a red marker appearing on my radar. 'Fine', I thought to myself. If others are fighting it makes it all the easier for me to catch them off guard. I heard another noise which sounded closer than the last and the stealth indicator at the top of the screen changed to 'caution'. Not a problem. I could always run and get out of sight. As these thoughts were going through my head the largest super mutant behemoth I had ever seen came over the hill and immediately began charging towards me. This was the first time I had seen one in the wastes and it caught me completely by surprise. For the first time with this character I felt fear. I began bolting for the cliffs of the canyon. As I ran I turned and saw that it's massive strides were bridging the distance between us. I wasn't going to make it. The sound of his running had my controller shaking and I was in an all out panic by the time I reached the cliffs. I climbed for my life and barely made it in time to escape the behemoth.

Whilst I can't say I got any less cocky, the game did a good job of reminding me who's boss. You can never underestimate the wastes.

Steven O'Dell said...

@ebi -- Wow, wasn't expecting a comment on an old post but more importantly, I wasn't expecting a comment that was as in-depth as that. Thanks a lot for stopping by and taking the time to make such a comment, it's very much appreciated.

Your situation is one of many that I'm sure many people have had during their time in the Wastes. Fallout just has that special 'something' (in my view) that allows you to start feeling comfortable before it shoves it right back in your face. As I said in the post, no other game has done that to or for me and as a result, I think it's absolutely brilliant! I stopped playing to focus on some other games but I've been wanting to go back for a while now, especially since I'm still yet to check out any of the downloadable content. Perhaps your comment will serve as the motivation I need so thanks again. :)