I was recently inspired to shovel some coal back into the tender engine running the Xbox. I enjoyed an eight-month run as a member of society, but falling temperatures and a primal desire to trade physical exertion for coziness have won over. This is a dangerous time, life chronometer-wise, to take up hobbies of any creed or mode of dress. The barometer has fallen sharply, and a dark and turbulent stretch of thesis writing is on the horizon. The air smells of ozone and poorly-constructed sentences on the nature of dark matter. This is a storm that must be weathered with all vigilance. I have asked Siri for directions from my Current Location to employment at a grocery store; Route 1 is a slippery slope.
Thus it was with a distinct feeling of illogic that I laid monies for a new game. The vessel of vicariousness I chose was one called Dishonored. The choice was not made lightly, but, as with all major life choices, was the culmination of a search through every Internet there is, tallying those anonymous spirits which point apparitional fingers toward that thing you want to do and say “yeah dude worht it.” Not that they could have easily dissuaded me, as the promise of a game where freedoms with consequences are introduced has strong allure. I don’t recall ever finishing Red Faction: Guerrilla; I think I was too busy knocking holes in walls and then walking through them repeatedly, manic grin on my face, recalling the days of Nintendo when your environment was immutable. Being able to approach a task from any particular angle is not only liberating, but rewires some rat’s nest of dendrites near the front of the brain, forever changing the way one perceives the world. I hardly use the door to my apartment anymore.
Dishonored seems to be about rolling in human filth and eating food found in sewers, in a time of plague. I have on occasion been known to miss the point, but this is the aspect outstanding to me. There isn’t a single facet of the game which is not constantly turning around to you and saying “bro, outbreak, not a good day for whatever it is you want to do.” There are literally posters on walls reminding you. NPCs will not shut up about it. Rats abound. It hardly seems appropriate to be eating tins of fish out of dumpsters. The outrageous bit is that the game rewards you for this behavior by increasing your health, rather than immediately laying you out with the flux.
In between episodes of consuming trash, you are expected to perform acrobatic feats and, optionally, get into fights. I avoid the latter, for three reasons: (1) I am my mother’s son; (2) I’ve played Halo too many times to be enticed by the prospect of battle with belligerent Englishmen; (3) the game doesn’t want me to. I am frequently offered incentives for passing by an opportunity to rumble, be they in the form of ethereal Achievement Points, or fewer rats down the line (seriously), or 10% off my next meal at Pizza Pie-er. This means doing battle of a different kind, with the ill-conceived notion of “hiding” in video games. One typically hides by concealing about 50% of your body behind a thing, and that is considered close enough, because legs are really the indicator of a troublemaker. Occasionally some enterprising individual spots you anyway, despite your efforts and intentions, which I guess is supposed to be a life lesson. You start to take exception, before you remember that, in fairness, you were just kind of standing in a bush and expecting that sort of thing to be okay. Rightfully you should have been spotted about five steps into the level, and you have thus far been saved only by a high level of unprofessionalism amongst the computer-controlled gestapo.
Then you turn into a dog or something, and that’s cool.