The Hearts of Iron series might be the most ambitious series of videogames ever produced for a general audience. What they attempt to do is compress the largest and most complicated war in human history into something which can be controlled and directed by a single person.
All aspects of the war effort are at the player’s disposal, from the direction of production and research to the disposition and command of troops. The level of simulation is impressively deep, although understandably occasionally somewhat skewed. HoI is the closest that videogames come to being a doctoral thesis on the reasons that world war two was won and lost.
From my armchair I have directed campaigns all over the world. From the Sahara desert to the jungles of Borneo I have shepherded troops into battle, carefully laying plans for their supply and upkeep, assessing the enemy’s strength and pressing their weak points. Map of the world is remade into a canvas for imperial conquest, heroism and the struggle for democracy. I have never played a game of Hearts of Iron that did not leave me with a story to tell, a strange new history to examine.
Today I would like to present you one of these strange histories. A history of WW2 that diverges from our own, starting with a what-if that I played out in a game of Hearts of Iron four; what if France had stood up to Germany in 1936? This is part one of my (somewhat embellished account) of what occurred.
Continue reading “Liberté, égalité, fraternité : A HoI4 Counterfactual History.”
2012 MMORPG Developed by Funcom
The Secret World (TSW) is in many ways an unremarkable MMORPG. If one has played almost any MMORPG in the last fifteen years, much of its design will be familiar. The game is essentially an amusement park, split into a series of themed areas which are chock full of creatures to kill and quests to pick up. What makes The Secret World stand out is its setting and its story. Its setting oozes character, is packed with a library full of lore, and its fiction is bound together with its gameplay by an impressive (for an MMORPG) internal logic.
One’s character is an ordinary person living an ordinary modern life. What makes them special is that one night they are picked, seemingly at random, to be the host for a powerful and otherworldy entity called “The Buzzing”. The Buzzing manifests itself as a swarm of glowing bees, one of whom crawls into the player character’s mouth while they are sleeping. So far so creepy. The Buzzing turns your ordinary joe’s world upside down, making them effectively immortal and giving them superpowers. Post beeception one is thrown into a world where every urban myth, every ancient secret and every conspiracy is true.
If some of this is sounding familiar that is because TSW’s setting resembles White Wolf’s famous “World of Darkness” setting in many ways. Indeed, the friends who got me into the game sold me on the idea partially as a digital imagining of the World of Darkness setting. When I first started playing however, I bounced off the game almost completely. In this piece, I should like to tell you a little bit about why that was. Doing that involves a discussion of a most interesting topic, roleplaying in videogames.
Continue reading “Living a Lie : The Secret World”