Monday, August 25, 2008


So I wanted to take some time to talk about my absolute favorite game of all time.

(*WARNING: I'll probably call twenty games or so my 'favorite games of all time'*)

This game is, as the well-known Gabe has one said, the best hour of his life. I can't help but agree. See for me, whenever I play a game, I have to figure out how to define what kind of an experience it is for me.

Like, most games fall into a 'time passing and accomplishment' category. Puzzle Quest and Mass Effect and KOTOR series and all sorts of games with cool storylines are just something I have to beat to know what happens. The story book but with graphics, if you will.

Some games, fighters especially, are under the competitive flag. I have to play because I like being good enough to conquer my friends. I like being competitive and improving, being able to defeat any opponent, conquer any adversary. Knowing what I can do, and seeing what my opponent's limits are. Isn't that what wandering kung-fu masters do? If I think I was meant to be born in the Chinese Dynasty era.

Then we get to the third category, which is kind of the point of this newspost. I play some games because I like being enthralled by the experience, carried away to literally feel myself becoming part of the game. Very few games have managed to do this to me so far, Rez and Shadow of the Colossus are the first and foremost examples.

Most rhythm games follow a pattern where the music is being played and, in that, you have to keep up with the music to make it sound official. You are, in essence, repeating the music. An actor playing out a script that has been written for him.

Rez takes this approach in reverse. Instead, you are the rhythm, and you become the music itself. The background music is just the setting for the music you produce; everything from locking on, firing, missing, activating the power-up, advancing your form, even getting hit all are just music-making sound effects that mesh.

I have never, in all my life, been so in unison with music itself as I have been with Rez. The first level - Buggie Running Beeps - made me feel as though I really was that hacker trying to enter a super-high level security zone, captured my extremities and pulled me in.

I really was fantastically absorbed by that game. But, really, why? What made it so amazing?

Synthesia is, I think, the word we're looking for here. The game was nothing special as far as video games go. But I'll be damned if it wasn't totally worth the ride.

See for me video game music has always had a special place in my heart - that's for another newspost, of course - but I'd like the record to show that I truly believe games just aren't the same unless they have amazing music. God of War needed it's epic surging of classical and vocals. Shadow of the Colossus needed it's sweeping, shifting fantasy music to cue in at the appropriate moments. Devil May Cry 3 needed to abandon it's entire rock/metal aesthetic in favor of a full-on orchestra with vocals leading "Devils Never Cry" for the final battle.

And, in that, Rez needed it's trance.

I mean strip everything that makes it Rez away and you've got a cakewalk of a rail shooter. But in doing that, I think, you'd be undoing everything the lead developer actually spent time on. Instead of dumping his money and planning into a rail shooter you've probably seen a million times he made you feel like you were a part of the game instead of holding the controller.

And hey, it worked. Game of the year, or something. Woo.

One other game has managed to do that, and that is Shadow of the Colossus.

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