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It has taken me weeks for the thoughts in my head to congeal and form a coherent meaning, or indeed just realising what left me with a sense of complete apathy. Like a shooting star across the night sky, Dragon Age was beautiful and entirely engaging but

It has taken me weeks for the thoughts in my head to congeal and form a coherent meaning, or indeed just realising what left me with a sense of complete apathy. Like a shooting star across the night sky, Dragon Age was beautiful and entirely engaging but ended with a whimper, a splutter and then silence.

It is now that I'm beginning to see a trend with games of the past decade. Developers are continually attempting to further reach us via emotional ties with characters yet in many cases they are undone by the very medium they inhabit: the video game.







Massive spoiler warning for the following games: Dragon Age Origins, Fable 2.

I had so many questions during Dragon Age. So much time had been spent considering dialogue choices and so many unique ways to take the story that I was constantly left with a sense of wonderment and intrigue. What if I made the other guy king? What if I didn't fight Morrigan's mother? If Morrigan hadn't given me that ring how would I have escaped the prison? What alignment had I been leaning toward? Did Oghren finally get some action from Wynne? In many ways I can see it was foolhardy to hope that the end would address even a quarter of my questions, yet I did hope and hence came away disappointed. The ending addressed so little of the story I had built around me that it may as well have not even tried. It did worse for giving me what it did.



The static screens faded in with a block of text only to fade out and be replaced with another. Three or four of these screens later and my grand adventure was over. My party was split to the four corners of the globe and the emotional ties that I had been encouraged to form had been cut.






But, how could they possibly address all the dynamic content that develops over the course of such a game? A book or movie is a linear medium where ample time can be devoted to tying up each loose end. The sense of closure can be as powerful as the preceding work. Yet a video game can be and usually is a non linear experience and - in the case of Dragon Age - it can set off in so many different forks that generating the assets needed to provide that closure would spiral completely out of control. Yet if the ending fails to satisfy it can greatly impact on the overall experience and I feel in this case it did just that. The story was grand in scale and the emotions high. In the end you killed a dragon and it finished.

One can surmise the further the boundaries are pushed the more obvious the boundaries become







Fable 2 suffered a similar fate, although this less to do with the limitations of the medium. Instead, it broke down due to glitches and bugs that tore you from fantasy back into reality. At the height of my frustration I'd peruse the official Fable 2 forums and attempt to empathise with some of the players who weren't as interested in saving the world, but played to form relationships and play house. In particular, I felt sorry for the many female players I'd read about who were confused by their husbands disappearing into walls, or their daughters and sons stuck at the top of ladders, never to move or respond to the player again. Making these instances infinitely worse is the automatic single save system. Unlike Dragon Age and its many save slots where if you entered the wrong dialogue choice and Leliana suddenly wouldn't sleep with you a quick-load solves your problem. In Fable 2 your adventure was over. Those potential tens of hours wasted and your only choice to start again.






While my 'wife' was forever stuck in a wall and my 'daughter' forever standing resolutely at her brick-like side meaning both were utterly broken, I at least have almost 30 years of gaming behind me. I have been well versed and trained to expect a last minute crash on the final boss during an epic battle with no save game nor - back in the real early days - a level passcode. But these days games have higher stakes and a fresher audience. Peter molyneux tried really hard to make you care about your virtual relationships, yet he seems to have bitterly failed in ensuring you could actually enjoy them. And those fresh faced female gamers looking for love in all the wrong places must be left with an enduring question: Is this the typical video game experience?






Well yes, unfortunately. Welcome.


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