Well, today's journey shall be in three parts, and the first is the continuing drama of my living room walls. I finally decided that the curtains were the problem, since I stubbornly refuse to admit that the border was a mistake, and I headed out to my local K-Mart. She may be imprisoned, but Martha Stewart has never done me wrong, so without hesitation, I picked out some of her casual curtains that perfectly complemented the sofa. Now they are up, and I am so much more pleased with the room. I have a continuing issue with the border though: even though I spent fourteen dollars for every roll of five yards, the self-pasting nature of it is simply a pipe dream at best, so it keeps peeling off. I am heading out today to buy some wallpaper paste, in the hopes that I can finally whip the unruly paper into shape.
The weekend wasn't too bad, even though I am still a tad sensitive with Rich. The very nature of being fiddlecub is that I feel everything several degrees more intensely than the average person. My joys, my sorrows, my triumphs, my agonies: these emotions course through my very being, and even the simplest of occurrences that might just cause an emotional pinprick in an ordinary soul can tear down my protective layers in an instant. It's a constant challenge; I love being able to feel, because I hope that my feeling nature means I can appreciate others better, that I can feel love, tenderness, and warmth, and give those things better than I could if I didn't experience the depth of passion and sensation that are at my very core. On the other hand, being so sensitive to the people and events around me makes me vulnerable. My mind is never at rest: thoughts, tangents, hopes, dreams, fears, plans, goals - these things rush through my brain at breakneck speed, and a simple glitch in the tone of someone's voice or a slightly furrowed brow will become an object in a test-tube to be analyzed and reconstructed in a thousand different ways. Eventually, the thoughts don't rule the emotion, but the emotion manipulates the thoughts, until the reality of a moment becomes the fiction of my feelings. My struggle to control my emotions will probably remain a conflict throughout my life, and learning how to temper them is my life's goal.
We did manage to get the kids to The Haunted Mill, a little Halloween theme park near Hanover, PA. Four events for the five of us cost $100, and it was quite the rip-off. Frankly, I always approach haunted-house visits the way I approach any suspense thriller: I expect to be scared, and usually, that makes me easily frightened. The joy is in the fright, and I still have yet to forgive my college buddies for laughing hysterically throughout The Exorcist 3 in the Oberlin movie theater: I wanted to be scared, dammit, and they made it nigh to impossible to let the chills wash over me when all I could hear were their howls of derision. Well, last night, I hoped to be scared, but aside from the cheap lunge of a chainsaw-bearing ghoul, the only thing making me scream was my considerably lighter wallet. The together-time was enjoyable, though, and watching Dustyn clutch Rich's hand so tightly throughout the experience made it worth the trip, all things considered.
Part three of this entry is a small tribute to the games that have enraptured and enthralled with their unique narrative threads. I will certainly not bemoan the current state of story in games, because frankly, modern games provide stories as good as any games in history, and this year alone, Chronicles of Riddick, Far Cry, Silent Hill 4, and several other games have offered up intriguing and noteworthy tales. Still, I wanted to pay tribute to a few games that are very special to me, either for the yarn they spin, or for the unique ways they tell their stories
No essay regarding storytelling in games would be complete without focusing on The Longest Journey, Funcom's epic, beautiful saga about April Ryan and her journey of self-discovery. This 2000 title almost single-handedly revived a dying breed: the point-and click graphical adventure, and did so by weaving a complicated narrative throughout two opposing worlds: Stark and Arcadia. I dare not share too many specifics, but I do think it's important to note some very special ways TLJ so successfully draws the player into its milieu. Firstly, it takes time to introduce its major players, with lengthy spoken dialogue and a seemingly simple story thread of a pretty art student struggling with her studies and estrangement from her father. While at first the exposition might seem boring to some, it is absolutely necessary to the game. We care about these people, and by drawing us so deeply into April's psyche, her fate becomes as important to us as our own. By the time the game draws to its surprising, bittersweet conclusion, the player has explored a multitude of themes: religion, new-age populism, the price of friendship, the power of loss, and the fickle nature of destiny. No adventure game has ever explored such emotional themes in depth, and the experience is overwhelming and powerful.
Certainly, other adventure titles deserve note, such as Grim Fandango and Syberia, TLJ's spiritual successor. Instead, I want to mention two titles that provide doses of something gaming needs a little more of: humor. The first is the original No One Lives Forever, a fantastic first-person shooter that puts the player in the shoes of 60's superspy Cate Archer. It's campy melodrama makes it play like an interactive In Like Flint, equal parts nostalgia and parody, and it was truly the first game that made it worth waiting in the shadows to hear what your enemies were talking about. Hearing your foes discuss the ups and downs of being felons in such mundane fashion is just one of many unique pleasures Monolith's classic has to offer, and both the original and its excellent sequel should be readily available in bargain bins.
The other title is the one to which I refer in this entry's title: Giants: Citizen Kabuto. British studio Planet Moon served us this delectable dish in 2000, and it's practically three games combined into one. From the sparring Meccaryns ("Open the hatch? OK!"), to the goofy smarties ("I want meat!"), to the butt-flopping Kabuto himself, Giants is a superb game for many reasons, not the least of which is its refreshing dose of knee-slapping puns and bizarre references. While PM's follow-up, Armed & Dangerous, was just as funny, it didn't quite have the same appeal, and got buried underneath its own constant sonic barrage of sirens and bullets.
I could go on and on. Other games that are worth mentioning include Homeworld, Sacrifice, Impossible Creatures, Xenosaga, Planescape: Torment, and many others. Has a game's story affected you as The Longest Journey affected me? I want to hear about it. Until later, please remember that if we ever see a horror movie together, you are not allowed to so much as guffaw.