Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Bleak

The Bleak is kind of an idea for a video game. Well, not a complete idea, as so often my ideas are, but a kind of overarching aesthetic and mood. I got the idea from myself, coopting ideas from Portal 2, but bear with me here.

So, the idea is that a maleficent force--GladOs, I guess--has access to a large population of humans and some sort of hazard to chuck them at.  Representing that population are a series of player characters, each a randomized human character. A number of traits are selected at random, including skin tone, outfit, vocalizations, the whole deal. Once randomized, this human is active until it dies, and when it dies its body is included in the local landscape, permanently.

You roll a white male in a blue jumpsuit, then die trying to make the lion pit? At the bottom of the pit is a skeleton wearing a tattered blue jumpsuit, and your player character is suddenly a black guy in footy pajamas... until you don't see the spike trap.

Now, there are of course obvious problems with this idea. For one, players are morbid and depressing. One man's game meant to reflect on the sacredness of life and weirdly hollow deaths in video games is another man's opportunity to create a fully customized room full of corpses, and if the game was sufficiently hard your players would ideally die frequently enough to get the point--and see some dead bodies--but not so frequently that puzzles need be solved with heaps of human corpses. In fact, in order to avoid training players to kill a heap of player characters to solve every obstacle, you'd have to avoid using anything similar for a puzzle solution at any point.

In other words, you could never encourage the player to use the corpses of his victims/former pawns as puzzle tools, with the understanding that they will no matter what you do and giving them the tools they need to take advantage of it if the mood strikes them. Hopefully, giving a player license to arrange their bodies into a pile that spells "balls" will cause them to do it,  then gasp in horror as they realize how callous and bizarre that is, even on a simulated person.

Anyway, the whole point is to reflect on the sacredness and brevity of life, which is a fine way to get a video game shown at MoMA but probably not a great way to get score hits on Youtube.

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