Regular readers will know I’m an avid video game player, but it wasn’t always that way. Years ago I decided that video games couldn’t get much better graphically than they were at that point and that there was never going to be a computer role playing game that suited my particular needs. It was 1991 and I just knew that Streetfighter 2 was as good as games could possibly get graphically. The gorgeous cartoonish characters were better than any I’d seen up to that point. Somewhere, someone was talking about 3d games becoming more popular but I’d already played all the old isometric puzzle games and couldn’t see them coming back into fashion anytime soon. I’d been trying out some of the new computer first person view Dungeons & Dragons games but they were very glitchy and I never saw the appeal of not being able to see what role you’re playing in a role-playing game, so I knew that these first person games would soon be a thing of the past (Yeah, I know now. But this was before they combined guns with the childlike mentality and disposable income of sofa soldiers). My main problem with role playing games back then is that there wasn’t really any way to play a role. You just killed monsters, hunted for treasure and used experience from killing monsters to level up til you could kill stronger monsters. It was abysmal, so I quit playing videogames.
From time to time my friends tried to get me back into games with the current flavour of the month. Doom I found to be a shallow experience that caused many arguments about the fact that real people can aim a gun higher without having to jump or climb. Nights Into Dreams was a sublime game but didn’t have anything to keep me coming back. It seemed like gaming wouldn’t offer me what I wanted in my lifetime. Then I met Kim in 2002, we moved in together and bought a cheap Playstation and some games she’d enjoyed as a kid. As I watched her play a wonderous adventure story full of twists and turns, swords and magic my love for gaming was slowly rekindled. I found that I could remember enemies specific weaknesses better than Kim and after a while I was coming up with strategies to help her in battles. When she eventually coaxed me into playing for myself I was suddenly a gamer again and will always remember Final Fantasy 9 for that reason. So I started playing again and started catching up on some things I’d missed out on. But soon the same prolem was bugging me. Role-playing games were all about killing things and levelling up to kill more things. What little actual role-playing there was in these games was limited to occasional dialogue choices that didn’t make any real difference to the game. I found myself wondering if a game would ever come out that would give me what I wanted.
When Fable came along we were completely unprepared for it. Suddenly here was a role playing game that let you flip people off if they pissed you off. You could flirt with people (both male and female) which could later lead to marriage with almost anyone. Kids wandering in the street could be punched if you felt like being mean. There were so many interactions that could be simply performed, ranging from an evil laugh to air guitaring in a fantasy world. When I realised that killing people meant that you could buy their house and rent it out to the next poor chumps who came along I soon started slaughtering whole villages. It felt fantastic, freeing; it felt like the game I’d been waiting for all those years ago when Streetfighter 2 was the greatest thing I’d ever seen. Every time I played I found a new way to make the game a different experience for myself. Yet, despite everything that was included in the game it was still missing some things that would make it the game I was really after.