In his first piece as Managing Editor of the NYVGCC, Kevin L. Clark responds to Circle Emeritus, Leigh Alexander’s piece, and introduce himself to the rest of the group.
by Kevin L. Clark
“Am I playing the character, or am I being me?”
This question posed by our own illustrious Circle Emeritus Leigh Alexander, written for Vice the day before Bungie’s Destiny hit shelves, was meant to ponder the concept of “You” in video games. A true Jill-of-all-trades, everything from insightful writing to games consulting, the London, U.K. scribe has always pushed buttons in an attempt to inform, shock, or just make you a true believer of gaming culture. Having been a casual observer of her talent, I figured as my first post as Managing Editor of this here New York Videogames Critics Circle, I would attempt to directly answer the question posed in her piece.
Who am I, you ask?! Well, thank you for wondering. My name is Kevin L. Clark, and I joined the Critics Circle last April. A long time gamer (as I’m sure we all are) I have always wanted to be around my contemporaries talking about the ins and outs of the industry. I wanted to debate the fates of past, present and future games; and challenge societal issues catalyzed by our work. As background, I previously penned for Ebony, Vibe, and XXL magazines. I originally got my start on the web at AllHipHop, SOHH, and HipHopDX. I’m currently a Content Producer at Black Enterprise, handling both the web and print.
That’s enough about me.
Back to the matter at hand: Are we reflected in the game and the characters we choose? Or are these narratives only designed for us to experience? Speaking solely for myself, I believe that, yes, our personas are willingly reflected in the best games due to the suspension of belief needed to enjoy the journey. One of my all-time favorite games is Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead, and while you don’t have to customize your character à la Destiny, you have important decisions to make that affect you and your companions. As Lee Everett, you are emotionally thrust into his shoes to be the leader in a world full of zombies. Do I shoot this guy’s undead kid or let him do it to have closure? Will I take this box of provisions to feed my group or do I find another way?
I played the game as if I was there, as if I was in Dave Fennoy’s shoes and he was the voice. And real, for me, is to put your best, most positive foot forward in hopes of saving lives and completing each task without disappointing those around me.
On the other hand, the satirical Saints Row is devoid of a code of ethics and morals. You can arguably do whatever you want to whomever you want. Run over a large amount of townies to agitate the cops and engage in a shoot-out — sure! Walking down the street with “The Pentrator” and club opposing gang members to death to take over Stilwater — why not?! Can I still inject the optimistic nature of my real self into a game that offers zaniness at every turn?
The absurdity within the game does not change the way I choose to play as the protagonist I am portraying. For instance, at the end of the game (** SPOILER ALERT **) you are faced with the decision to head to the airport to decimate Killbane or go to the statue and save Shaundi. I still inject myself into the action as the player and go for the latter — saving the woman is penultimate over destroying the bad guy.
Why? Because evil always arises to fight another day in games — and in the real world. While I indulge in these few moments of fantasy I am going to play out a scenario where good triumphs despite the odds. Gaming allows us all to hop into the lives of dastardly villains (Fallout 3) and white-hat wearing heroes and make the decision on how it will all end. Leigh writes that the self in games is an “unsolved problem,” which I believe is easy to resolve: Know who you are before pressing that option button.
Kevin L. Clark is the Managing Editor of the New York Videogames Critics Circle, a lover of Star Wars, and a Brooklynite. You can follow his latest and greatest @KevitoClark!
3 thoughts on “When We Play Video Games, We Are Everything!”
I actually went for Killbane the first time, not Shaundi. Not sure why, but I don’t regret it, because damn that ending is better and more emotional and more engaging than it has any right to be. This was improved by having Female Voice 1 (Laura Bailey), who is both really fun to listen to, and gets extra lines in the the final-final mission.
Typically I’ll play through as I would were I the real character. I play as good regardless of interesting choices. If the game was enjoyable enough for a 2nd playthrough, well then I’ll do the selfish or evil choices for humor’s sake, knowing that my real choices still stand in my first playthrough memories ;P