Toby explains how he can't stop making adventuring parties made entirely out of his real life friends.
By Toby McCasker on November 21, 2013 at 11:34 am
One of my fave jams right now is Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space by Every Time I Die, in which Keith Buckley declares: “I WANT TO BE DEAD WITH MY FRIENDS!” I don’t know if Keith is a gamer. It appears likely. He has a beard and I’m almost certain he smokes the reefer, madam. No matter what nihilistic despair he might actually be exorcising, every time I hear him howl that line, I always think of video games. I think of how I want to be dead with my friends in video games.
One of the coolest things about anything with a bit of RPG to it, I’ve always thought, is being able to design yourself and the peeps in your party. This has sadly been out of vogue for some time, but the curious influx of kickbacks like Legend of Grimrock and re-released oldies like Wizardry 8 have got me thinking about this an- hey, can we just take a quick shmoko break to appreciate Wizardry 8? I have been replaying this bad-boy (ta GoG, ay) and it is still the absolute boobs.
Oh yeah. Was it good for you? Don’t inhale, that’s how you go from social smoker to smoker. Anyway, in Wizardry 8, you can dolly up a party of six diff miscreants, and even give each of them a voice. I kind of sound like Wolverine being distracted by minor things. You bet your sweet buttocks I design myself first. I design myself, and then I design my friends. I want to be dead with them you see, because I’m pretty terrible at games and that’s generally how everything ends. Still, we will have fun on the way to the grave. Escapism is one thing, but wouldn’t it be almost 60% better to be a stranger in a strange land, and run into versions of people you hold dear, and go on many crazy adventures with them?
Is this weird? I guess. Weirder: I can’t play games like this any other way. It feels empty and lonely with cardboard template people coming along for the ride. In fact if I’m not satisfied that each one of my creepy homemade friends is as close to my fantastic vision of them as possible, I will restart my goddamn game and do it all over again. I will even do this if I eventually decide the voice or portrait I picked for them is unfitting, some six hours in. I have played the opening dungeon in Wizardry 8 about 100 times in the last week.
I can’t think of any games that have done the create-ya-mates thing recently, or even lately. Game designers probably thought this convention limited their narrative scope to write defined characters and integrate them into the larger story. They replaced the vibe with moral choice, effectively. That often futile illusion that some kind of personal shape is taking place. I tell you what: I remember Mass Effect 1-3 fondly, but I remember Wizardry 8 to the incidental letter. I remember getting caught pick-pocketing a traveling merchant, and things getting heated, and soon he was mostly hair and bone. I remember Xandra the mageling faerie – modeled on a salacious Romanian gal-pal of mine – immediately and insensitively quipping, “Pillage the bod-eez!” Like, man. That is probably what she would say IRL.
I could stand to make more well-adjusted friends, I guess.