Fodders Favourite: Ending

Crossing_the_finish_line

From observing peoples gaming habits, it’s clear to me that many of us have different key motivators when it comes to playing our much loved games. Sure, it will differ somewhat depending on the particular game, but I have definitely seen some patterns in behaviour. Some people get deep into the games story, some people are completionists that strive for every achievement, whilst others will jump straight into the multi-player sections, rarely touching the main campaign at all.

My key motivators appear to be simply game-play and the sense of achievement that comes with “beating” a game. I attribute this to my old-skool arcade roots, where games relied on these factors to keep you engaged. They tended to all have punishing difficulty to stop you from beating them (and keep you feeding those coins in), so when/if you eventually did, it was the only reward you needed.  The trouble with this is, I’ve noticed that even today, once I’ve beaten a game, I sit back basking in the game-beating euphoria, rather than paying much attention to the games ending.

"Just a couple more levels lads; I reckon we've got this!"

“Just a couple more levels lads; I reckon we’ve got this!”

This means that as I think over the various games I’ve beaten, I struggle to recall many that really stand out. Most are a case of; World saved, well done, group hug…blah, blah, blah (well, that’s what I usually take away from them anyway). A worthy mention was the videos you’re rewarded with in Tony Hawks Pro skater. However, these skater profile and bail video’s feel more like “unlocks” than actual game endings per se. That said, it could be argued that my actual choice is really more the credits than the game ending, but I still think that’s all part and parcel of it.

The choice I speak of is Portal, Valves little masterpiece of a game, which originally came bundled with The Orange Box collection of games. The first part of the ending see’s you come-to outside the test facility as parts of GLaDOS, the games robotic antagonist, rain down on you. Dumping you in what appears to be the parking lot, right by the main gates, is a simple yet profound visual representation of your freedom – the fact you made it out*. The photo-realistic backdrop adding an extra layer to the sense of escape; out of the game and back to reality.

Literally making it out

Literally making it out

The scene that unfolds next is one that plunges back deep into the depths of the facility. A storage room, full of personality cores, the companion cube and in the middle, a lit black forest cake – which is referenced heavily in the games narrative. It’s mere existence provides yet further evidence of the sadistic personality of GlaDOS. As the personality cores come to life one by one, a robotic arm reaches down and extinguishes the candle on the cake, before the second, more memorable part of the ending kicks in: the credits.

As the credits roll, GLaDOS delivers her final test report, via the medium of song. Evaluating the test as a huge success and indicating that she is very much “Still Alive“, this song is a work of pure genius. Its light hearted melody perfectly encapsulates the dark humour of the game, whilst the lyrics serve to conclude the game in a way that’s as unprecedented as it is unmatched. It speaks volumes when people who have never even played Portal – so are listening to it completely out of context – comment on the acoustic quality of the song as a stand-alone piece of music. It truly is the the icing on the cake.

*a patch was subsequently released, where the character is dragged backwards – it was included as part of the PR surrounding the announcement of the sequel; Portal 2.

Embrace GamerGate

When it comes to GamerGate, I think certain elements of games media have been “doing it wrong”. My advice would be to embrace GamerGate but not to focus on it. You can’t. GamerGate is about as well defined as an N64 game, with all that characteristic, view-limiting fog to boot. I appreciate that’s much easier for me to say, than one of the many people that have been caught up in the nasty, abusive and down right evil side of the drama, but I don’t feel it’s any less valid.

GamerGate is a blurry, low-res set of ideals and complaints that seem to encompass all area’s of games industry. It’s hard to actually define the movements true goal or even it’s core tenets, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it’s points, or worse, attack them. What I mean by this, and going back to my original statement, is that you should really work with your audience rather than against it. Separate the gamers from the gate.

That doesn’t mean that you necessary have to support it, agree with it or even like it. GamerGate, as an entity, means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To some it’s a platform to voice grievances, to some it’s about exposing supposed corruption and to others it’s the root of misogynistic evil.

One of the many faces of GamerGate

One of the many faces of GamerGate

Your perception of GamerGate is largely going to be down to the tweets you’ve been exposed to, which in turn will be linked to the type of people you follow. The sheer nature of cognitive dissonance will, more than likely, have whittled these people down to those that are, in most ways, like minded. For those with a devoted interest in the hashtag, at 70k tweets a day, it’s very unlikely that you’ve read them all and, even if you have, confirmation bias will be subconsciously filtering the information into your brain anyway.

My somewhat long-winded point is, your opinion on the word #GamerGate is irrelevant. What is relevant are the feelings and points behind those hashtag’d tweets, and what they represent. You need to be able to accept, or at least acknowledge those people (your readership/customers) have grievances with you and that it’s a significant number. You need to work with them through those issues.

The alternative of referring to them all as misogynistic man-babies, basement dwelling nerds or suggesting the title that most of them refer to themselves as “are over”, is clearly not working. Neither is publicly poking fun at the issues, that you completely disregard as having any merit. All you’re doing is fanning the flames that are under you.

Don't do it man!

Don’t do it man!

It’s important to not get this twisted. Embracing GamerGate and accepting people have an issue is not the same thing as agreeing with, or accepting the issue is valid (you also have no obligation to engage with abusive individuals). It’s about responding in a professional manner. I’m sure everyone, in every career, can relate to the desire to tell customers to go fuck themselves. I’m sure many even do so, either behind their back or once they’ve hung up the phone. I can’t think of many industries where it would be company policy to do it to their face though. When your ethics are being questioned, whether you believe there is any truth to it or not, this is not the way to re-enforce your position of professionalism.

It’s this behaviour that is really my only take from the whole thing and in reality, the hashtag is actually nothing more than coincidental. It’s my opinion that if you truly what to be viewed as a professional in your field, you have to start acting like one. I concede it probably feels like pissing into the wind, but if you want to make the industry a better place, you have to be willing to listen to your customers and be open to the fact there is usually always room for improvement.