I played Resident Evil 5 again for the first time in many months. I got my sister to play mercenaries with me, too.
We started out pretty rough; the last game we played a game together was Gears of War 3, and we were still trying to roll away from the enemy by mad-tapping the A button (an action that will lead to great misfortune in RE5 if executed under the same circumstances). Even after we refreshed our button fingers to the ways of the zombie slayer, we continued to get clobbered. Hope seemed... silly.
But, almost as we were about to call it, I leaned over and said with as serious a face as I could muster:
"I need to change my character."
I'm pretty sure she knew what that meant right away. I scrolled over to Tribal Sheva; I wasn't kidding around anymore.
The last time I had used her, it WAS a joke. But, the stakes were higher then; we had tried for several hours that night many a month ago to demolish our worst enemy: The Boat Level. Just imagine a crap load of chainsaw wielding jerks that just freaking love dying only to come back to life ten or fifteen seconds later for a second helping of countless shotgun and magnum blasts. The holy 'A' rating required to unlock our last character seemed fourteen-million times more hopeless than our feeble attempts to pick up the game in the present day.
Then there was Tribal Sheva. Her gloriously low-tech bow lacked the oh-so-useful and seemingly essential laser sight every other weapon had. Her fan-service costume certainly didn't garner any further support from either of us.
"You're kidding, right?" was something similar to what my sister said when we were loading up The Boat Level for try number 33,495, this time with my Sheva sporting her... nothing. (Seriously, still disturbs me that so many costumes do that with women).
I wish I was all cool and would have said something like, "Trust me, we've got this; I'm pretty fucking 1337."
But, it was more along the lines of, "Seriously, this is getting ridiculous. I just want to mess around a bit," spiced with a couple of bargains stating that I'd change characters if we didn't do well again. (That might even be a lie. I honestly don't remember anymore.)
We did our now usual drill; I climbed down the ladder, murdered an undead crossbow wielding bonehead and collected as many time bonus things as I could, while my sister expertly executed the first chainsaw maniac dropping from the sky a few feet away from the spawn and only 20 or so seconds after the round started, lamenting the second a tentacle endowed 'special head' zombie would materialize, chucking a flash bang to eliminate its sorry ass. Only thing different was, I was missing a crap load of shots; Sheva's arrows whipped past their heads with expert inaccuracy.
"It's no use!" I cried with anger! After the bow had proved ineffective, I had given up and resorted to Tribal Sheva's seemingly superior Grenade Launcher. Not so -- rounds were too few and ineffective to be useful.
Naturally, the next thing we knew, we were out of sequence; my sister and I had been backed up on top of a shipping crate that had no easy exits to avoid the blood thirsty mob, but did have a nice distant view of the pain to come: three more chainsaw-wielding, potato-sack headed freaks of nature slowly proceeding along their maddened war path, fueled by gasoline and a deadly Uroburos ridden blood stream closely followed by every green-bottle-toting, crossbow-straddling local who decided to join them on their head cleaving pleasure cruise.
All hope was lost.
But, hell must have frozen over. I started nailing half court shots on the undead: the weaker ones going down with one arrow a piece -- 'special heads' revealing themselves and being exterminated in three. Sis powerfully conserved every Magnum round she could for the big boys -- waiting till she could laser point them dead between the threads separating their bloodshot eyes for four or five expert head shots, waiting for their bodies to rise once again and repeat for the kill.
Shit hit the fan hard; 'special heads' were breaching the comfort zone. They'd pop of the occasional slice and we'd need to revive each other with that (thankfully) endless supply of morphine vials we were pumped full of on the heal.
Then, each and every one of our greatest fears materialized simultaneously.
Two of the sack heads used their unimaginable leg strength and leapt up onto our crate at the same time and stared at us at near point-blank range. Sis had to reload her magnum at that very moment.
"Explicit word starting with F!!" we cried!
I did all I could. Arrow to the face! Arrow to the face! Arrow to the face! Holy shit, one went down! The other began his horrifyingly maniacal tantrum of blood thirsty laughter as he raised his gas powered totem of judgement toward my sister's Albert Wesker's glorious head attachment device.
Susan was reloaded.
I wish I could make this stuff up, but you just can't.
We totally blew them away. We actually had a whole 30 seconds of time left over where there were no enemies left to kill because we had dispatched ALL of them. I think we had some stupidly large combo going. Like, a 50 combo or something. I don't quite remember. We unlocked the new character with flying colors.
Turns out when you can actually hit enemies with Tribal Sheva's bow, they die really quick. We figured one arrow does about just as much damage as a Magnum round, but meh, we never ran numbers or anything.
What Does This Rather Lengthy Story Have to do with 'Discovering Life Through Video Games?'
It's not quite what you think. This story is only one of dozens of moments my sister and I had while playing Resident Evil 5. What's oh so very important about this is the moment. Through a game, my sister and I discovered a moment that we'll carry with us for the rest of our lives.
There's a big difference from the moment we had and some moment that was made by the designers to be memorable. Screw all of the boss encounters and stuff. I only really kinda remember a few of them, and probably not for any good reason. (Except maybe the final fight with Wesker or something, but that was born out of a hopefully unintentional lack of ammo. Really funny stuff)
I find the moments in video games so personal and moving, it's hard to say just how many of these things I carry with me. I'm one hundred percent certain that some of the most inspirational and enlightening times I've had have been from moments like these. Ones that on most occasions my sister and I would be the only people to ever know about them.
Events like ours are really cleverly hidden in my opinion. "They were just a good time of gaming" is what it comes off as on the surface. But how many times do I just reference Tribal Sheva and get a goofy grin between us? I've shared a (admittedly disguised) pivotal moment with another human being.
That's discovering life.
The larger bulk of my work has been sharing moments of my life of creating the games themselves. Did you feel a little bit of pain playing suteF? I hope so. There are times where I felt some myself when I was making it. A lot of times in fact. Gee, does it show?
The more I think of moments like my sister and I have shared (and, she's not the only one I've played games with and felt the same way, mind you), the more I believe that I need to create an experience that can provide some of these open-ended, non-scripted moments. Admittedly, I'm guilty of throwing my personal story into my work and thus muffling any moments people may have been able to create for themselves. It's just kind of how it has worked, really.
suteF has achieved a better result, though. How many people have just been left to connect the dots of the narrative? That was a choice I made at nearly the last minute, thanks to a friend who had showed me her own unique spin on it.
Anything the player gets to create in their moment is better than something the designer could have scripted.
Here's hoping that 2012 brings a few of these ideas to light so all of you get a chance to design your own moments through a system I present to you with plotted dots. Connect them however you see fit.