Posts Tagged ‘ Mirror’s Edge

Exit Interview – Runner

Let me just start by saying that Merc and I were really taken aback when you walked out on that last mission. We’d both been really impressed by your dedication to the job, and had some big plans for you. Why did you decide to resign?

A lot of reasons, really. To start with, I guess I just didn’t enjoy the day-to-day, you know? I wanted to be a runner, and if that’s what the job actually was, it’d be great. But it seems like I’m never running. I’m always looking around rooftops for some improbable network of catwalks, HVAC units, and air ducts to help me get from Point Fucking A to Point Motherfucking B.

Pathfinding is part of the job.

You know what’s annoying, though? Trying to pathfind while being shot to death by guys with assault rifles.

No one said it would be easy. Running is illegal in New Eden.

OK, but why are police waiting for me everywhere I go? It seems like the entire police force just hangs out on top of buildings, waiting for me show up. Then Merc is always in my ear, stating the obvious. “Careful, Faith. There’s a increased blue activity in the area.” Hmm. I wonder if that means they’ll show up? “Careful Faith! There’s blues ahead of you!” Thanks, Merc! I couldn’t see them ’cause I was blinded by their muzzle flashes.

And do we have to call them “blues” all the time? I mean, I know we”re rebellious, militant pseudo-hipsters, but can’t we ever give it a rest and call a thing by its name? This one guy, I can’t ask him a simple question without him being like, “Catch you later, Faithee! What can I give you, Faithee? Think you can handle me, Faithee.” Then, after wasting my time with his insinuations, he goes darting off. So I’ve gotta chase him for twenty minutes just to ask him a simple question. And for some reason, everyone just goes along with this shit. Nobody can just answer a direct question. Or ask one. It’s all oblique references.

I think we’re getting rather far afield fro-

No, see, this is why I’m quitting. I’m trying to investigate this murder that my sister was framed for, and instead of just asking people, “Hey, what do you know about this murder?” I’ve gotta couch everything in these little code-phrases. And I get answers in kind. “Very powerful people are involved in this, Faith.”

“Who?”

“Let’s just say, there are forces that would like to take control of the police.”

“Who?”

“There’s a cabal of-”

Fuck it, I just lost interest. And to be honest, I don’t really give a shit about my sister, either. What? My jack-booted thug of a sibling gets busted by the conniving fascists she works for and I’m supposed to drop everything to bail her out? Yeah, she’s the only sister I’ve got, but seriously, it’s the scorpion and the blind dog, you know? So it was okay for her to crush dissidents and hunt down runners last week, but now that she’s framed for a killing that for once she and her friends didn’t commit, she’s on side of the angels?

So you’re quitting because you hate your sister?

Not just her. I’m quitting, however, because Merc sent me into a room full of policemen for the umpteenth time. It was ridiculous. Door opens and it’s basically a firing squad. I run through and started dodging bullets, and just as I start to feel pretty good about myself, I realize something. Every other door is locked. So I start running circles around the room looking for an exit, but I can’t find one. It must be upstairs, but to get there I’ve got to get past the cops. Except there was no way to to get upstairs without getting shot to death. The only thing missing from that little scene was the Benny Hill music.

Maybe if you looked harder-

Certainly. But you know what? I didn’t want to. I’d looked hard for the way out of other traps, and all I got were more traps. I felt like I was escaping from jail cell into a coffin. So this time, I just walked out of the room, got a wall between me and the cops, and called it a career. When I get home, I’m going to pour myself a nice glass of wine, lie down on my IKEA sofa, and try to forget everything about New Eden. What a stupid name for a city.

Staycation

Someday I’ll be comfortable with what I do, and I will be able to believe that it is a job at which I work very hard. But it is hard for me to say that with conviction, when I spend so much of my time playing games I love, and discussing them with people I like. It is harder still to acknowledge any toil of my own when I identify and agree so completely with this passage from A Connecticut Yankee:

There are wise people who talk ever so knowingly and complacently about “the working classes,” and satisfy themselves that a day’s hard intellectual work is very much harder than a day’s hard manual toil, and is righteously entitled to much bigger pay. Why, they really think that, you know, because they know all about the one, but haven’t tried the other. But I know all about both; and so far as I am concerned, there isn’t money enough in the universe to hire me to swing a pickaxe thirty days, but I will do the hardest kind of intellectual work for just as near nothing as you can cipher it down — and I will be satisfied, too.

Still, writing is work. And if you play enough of them, and if you have to play them because you’ve promised colleagues and editors that you will play them, games become work as well. Consider, also, that I still try to play games for relaxation, I also try to read a bit for enjoyment, and I still try to write for pleasure. Then, of course, there is the fact that a lot of my work involves strategy gaming, which requires rather more than shooting character models until they stop moving.

I get tired, and I don’t acknowledge it because I don’t feel I’ve got the right or the reason. But sometime in this past week, it dawned on me that I could not remember the last time I took a weekend off from work. I could not quite recall the last time I had played a game that wasn’t eventually going to be the subject of a Three Moves Ahead, a column, a review, or a blog entry. So MK made me promise not to do any work on Saturday or Sunday, including playing games for professional purposes. I agreed, and worked until late on Friday so that I could keep my part of the deal.

What I needed the most, besides a break and a day full of stiff cocktails and buffalo wings, was violent and kinetic videogaming. I needed brutal power fantasies and faster-than-thought gameplay, and I needed games without a single fucking hotkey. Feel free to argue with my choices, but Mirror’s Edge and Grand Theft Auto IV seemed made to order.

Ultimately, Grand Theft Auto was the better game for my purposes. When you’re running in Mirror’s Edge, and the motion blur starts to creep in around the edges of your vision as Faith kicks it into high gear, the rush in incredible. But the endless dying and capricious save points means the game delivers that feeling only sporadically.

On the other hand, the game gets me so involved that I find myself leaning forward with every long jump, willing Faith to go farther. I flinch when she hits the ground too hard. Few things are more satisfying than sprinting toward a SWAT trooper as he draws a bead, and dropping into a slide-kick just before he pulls the trigger, punting him to his death with a savage kick to the stomach.

Still, GTA IV was the more mindless, escapist activity. Niko Bellic gave me a simulated life to live in the endlessly involving Liberty City, and I enjoyed role-playing his character. Thrilling car chases, brutal back-alley killings, and the casual carjacking of a driver who nearly hit my on the street was my kind of diversion. Like Niko, I didn’t need to think or plan what was going to happen. I just waited for the phone calls that told me where there was killing to be done, and then I went and did it.