“I need a weapon.”
“It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this.”
“I don’t keep it loaded, son. You’ll have to find ammo as you go.”
Above are a few memorable lines that forever shaped the adventure laid out before the feet of gamers around the world. Having consumed a fair share of games and slowly (ever so slowly) coming to terms with the fact that I’m more mature in my thinking about video games, I like to think about how we, as consumers, process them. Those papers analyzing the correlation between violence and video games may be paying off.
My thoughts on this particular subject have emerged as games I’m eagerly waiting for present themselves as a chance for a pure adventure; being full of the unknown, waiting to be discovered, with the chance of peril making them more than just a walk in the park. More often than not, I’ve found most of these new adventure games invoke the action of action/adventure titles, opposing my original thought. Action vs Adventure – often lumped together, but not necessarily interchangeable.
What is it that you and I are looking for in our adventures? Is it the thrill of being the first to plant the flag on the unknown mountain? Is it the heart pumping moment as you jump to the next cliff face? Evading the spotlights as you attempt to spy on your enemies?
It could be all, some, or none of these instances.
My perception of player strategy in recent years has revealed the following: When presented with a problem, usually a puzzle or set of challenges, given the chance a player will choose to fight (and by that nature, usually kill) their way through to the end goal. In this example of action vs adventure, the action side takes point, possibly to the detriment of the non-violent adventure alternatives.
I’ll do my best to quell a few arguments that I know will spawn from my last thought. The fact that games give those type of options to players is not necessarily bad. Nor does it mean these games need to change. Creators should be allowed to create their games as they see fit. I question whether or not players will take a road, if it is given, to complete an adventure without having to fight, maim, or kill their way to completion.
By definition, adventure means to be exciting, or to be an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks. Certainly, when presented with situations involving said danger or unknowns, we can fight our way through.
At the risk of personal opinions on the internet, I don’t think this always needs be the case. I look forward to games such as No Man’s Sky, or games we’ve had access to like Subnautica and Minecraft as examples of adventuring and playing a game where the end goal isn’t to run a gauntlet through the hordes of hell on Mars or to defeat enemies of darkness.
Minecraft is probably the best example out of the choices above because of the ability to play the game in Adventure, Survival, or Creative modes. The former two modes, allow the player to interact with the world that is generated with limited interaction, while the main difference in Survival being players can place blocks where they choose without restriction. Creative mode is a straight sandbox, allowing players to create what they see fit. Where Minecraft really fits as an example of an adventure without the need to kill comes from the difficulty settings. Minecraft offers a peaceful difficulty which prevents enemy combatants (skeletons, wolves, zombies, etc.) from spawning and allowing players to not worry about their health or hunger meters. In essence, this allows players to explore the world that is being generated without having to worry about combating a threat.
While some may argue that combating the world is still part of an adventure, I will say the idea I’m presenting is a bit gray. This gray area brings me to Subnautica. Do you like the ocean? Do you like being stranded in the ocean with a crashed space ship, no food, and possibly no drinkable water? Welcome to Subnautica. This game allows players to explore the very alien depths of an ocean covered world while doing their best not to be the new addition to Davey Jone’s locker. Part of that adventure entails you having to not die- which kind of a problem in the art of gameplay. This survival entails you needing food. I’m all for sushi, but you still have to kill said sea creature to make that happen. In addition, exploring may uncover some unsavory creatures that don’t necessarily share our sense of adventure. More often than not, you won’t be swimming faster than they do, so let’s hope you have your spear sharpened. In this context, I feel that Subnautica sits with the ideal adventure experience I’m attempting to describe, though it may sit closer to gray with my definition.
This brings me to the eagerly awaited sci-fi adventure that is No Man’s Sky. From what I’ve interpreted from the various videos and interviews, this game has the potential to be exactly what I mean by adventure. With billions upon billions of planets to discover, with who knows how many different types of flora and fauna, players of No Man’s Sky are invited to be a stranger in a strange land- to discover the oddities of this incredible shared universe. And guess what? You’re not being asked to have to kill anyone to do it. From what I can tell, this experience will allow you to explore to your heart’s content, name new creatures, discover planets, and more. Could I be wrong? Most certainly, as the game isn’t out until August. That’s when I’ll know for sure. Am I hopeful for this experience that even the good Doctor would be happy with? You betcha.
Perhaps what I’m after is the true spirit of exploring, and not necessarily without the risks because that is inherent with adventure. Maybe what it I’m after is simply the ability to have my adventure and not be forced to put the pointy end in the other guy.
Think I’m a little naive? Misguided? Have similar or other thoughts on the matter? Consider this an invitation for discussion.