I’ve been fielding questions about religion lately as a result of my daughter attending Catholic school. While she shares with me what she’s learned, I get to share information with her about how Jesus wasn’t actually white, or about how sometimes men love men and women love women and that’s just great. It’s fun. Anyway, this topic got me thinking, and it’s prompted me to do some deep research about religion. While looking at the Seven Deadly Sins, I thought to myself, “Hey, there’s a finite number of concepts that would make a great video game article.” Well, I’m a sinner for sure and here’s a list of games that bring out the worst in me.
Lust is generally thought of in sexual terms, but in the biblical sense it refers to an insatiable desire for something. Essentially, lust is all about the never-ending chase for the carrot on the stick, and there is no better representation of that in video games than with loot. The Diablo games pretty much invented this concept and it’s been taken up in other types of titles such as Borderlands. Personally, I’ve never felt the pull of loot so much as in the Torchlight games, however. The constant stream of new items and gear is ecstasy-inducing, broken only by the inevitable sense of overpowering shame at the realization that I’ve spent hours collecting items and not even made any significant progress in the game… or in life.
Video games are all about gluttony; using up resources and throwing them aside with nary a thought about consequences. Think about a Grand Theft Auto session where you drive a car until it’s damaged, jump out, and grab another one just leaving it behind. It’s completely wasteful and hedonistic. To me though, no game series exemplifies gluttony quite like BioShock. Not only do series protagonists Jack and Booker dig around in the garbage looking for food and drinks to restore health, but there’s not even any sense of propriety on the part of the player either. When coming across a garbage bin, I just automatically click on everything and consume it without any real thought about whether I even need it. I can’t help but feel disgusted at the complete lack of self-control as I gobble up discarded food as Elizabeth looks on, no doubt horrified.
I don’t play JRPGs very much anymore, mostly because I just don’t have the kind of time to devote to them that I did when I was in my 20s. However, I certainly have great memories of playing through the SNES and PS1 era of this genre. I also learned something awful about myself from playing these games; Final Fantasy ones in particular. I am an RPG hoarder. You can bet that by the end of any RPG, I will have 57 Fire Gems, 99 Hi-Potions, etc. One of the hardest things for me to do in these games is use my items. In fact, the greatest source of stress for me is the point between starting out and gaining the ability or character to heal. Oddly, I don’t do this with any other type of game. In the aforementioned Torchlight for example, I just collect stuff and rarely buy town scrolls or potions, although I suspect it’s because my carnal desire for loot overpowers my greed for petty items.
Speaking of Skyrim, Elder Scrolls games bring out the absolute worst in me. I’m a busy guy and a hard worker. I stay busy because that’s just the way things are in my personal and professional life. I work best with deadlines and clear objectives. Take writing for Twinfinite; I need to write a certain number of articles each week. It’s a clear system and I thrive in it. Where I struggle however is when I’m given no real objectives and am free to mentally wander. I get paralyzed by the sheer number of options and end up becoming completely non-productive. This is why I am completely slothful at open-world games like the Elder Scrolls series. I begin by racing ahead and taking on new tasks as they come up. After a period of time however, I find myself sitting and staring at the endless number of quests, and in the end all I find myself doing is furnishing my in-game house with crap. I’ve spent an entire (in real life) day playing Skyrim and never even leaving my town. It’s the video game equivalent of waking up at 3:00 pm on a Tuesday.
Most video games speak to a catharsis of the player acting out on impulses that s/he would never do in real life. Some of the most popular titles out there give you the tools to really tap into a sense of power and righteousness as you wipe out a legion of enemies in Call of Duty, dispatch aliens via Spread Gun genocide in Contra, or elbow your way to the guys who kidnapped your girlfriend in Double Dragon. Each of those are wonderful examples of expressing rage through gaming, but the one I enjoy the most is fighting a room full of enemies in the Batman: Arkham series. It’s some magical combination of mechanics, visual effects, sound effects, and the righteousness of being Batman that gives me a maniacal glee at just destroying a room full of thugs with no regard towards the broken bones or permanent brain damage I’ve caused.
Playing EVE Online is as close as a video game has gotten to capturing the feeling of being that person who gets off the bus in Los Angeles and dreams of being a star. I’ve played a little bit of EVE Online, and my experience of it is a perpetual feeling of envy towards not only people who have accumulated massive amounts of in-game wealth, but also towards the people who are smart enough and patient enough to find that sweet spot where interesting things are happening to them. Essentially, I feel like while other people are off fighting over the fate of the galaxy, I’m the lonely guy who’s stuck selling power converters at Tosche Station, dreaming of glory as I toil away in obscurity.
Dark Souls is notorious for knocking you down a peg, but even it doesn’t punish you the way a rogue-like can. At least with that game, there is never any trickery or chance about the tools you are given. If you fail, it’s because you made a mistake so it’s at least fair. With games like Spelunky or The Binding of Isaac, they have a tendency to instill in you a false sense of confidence about your abilities. Depending on the playthrough, you may be granted excellent abilities and favorable game spaces in which to play. You make some headway and begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
And then, it’s all taken away. You get too cocky, make a critical mistake at the wrong time, and you are killed. Unlike Dark Souls, you don’t get the chance to collect your effects and maybe salvage something out of the experience. You need to start all over again, and the only thing you get is the knowledge that you’re not good enough. Even any experience of enemies or levels is basically useless because it will be different next time… except it won’t.
So that’s a glimpse into the dark impulses I fall to when playing video games. Thanks for reading and hey, please share in the comments your deepest, darkest impulses that you can’t resist in your gaming life.