Hello everyone. This post is going to be very personal indeed, and I must begin by apologizing for writing such a long digression from my usual subject matter. Which is not to say that I will not be discussing videogames, I will be, however I will be talking about the darker side of their presence in my life.
It’s 2016 and it is all right for men to play games like this, I get that, I really do. Gender need not determine what one’s interests; we should all play what we want and like what we like. I know this, but despite that knowledge, it took me a long time to come around to actually playing Long Live the Queen (henceforth LLtQ). In the end I’m glad I did because what I found, behind the facade of a magical-girl-adventure, was a thoughtfully designed and subversive storytelling engine.
Story time. Many years ago now, me and two friends (whom I shall call here, Sovereign and Steelzenith, as those are their online handles) had been playing Hearts of Iron three for hours.
The year was 1940. I was playing the distant and watchful America, Steelzenith was playing the French and Sovereign was playing the Brits. Things were going well so far, Steelzenith was holding the Blitzkreig in central France, while pushing the Italians back over the Alps. Sovereign had a small expeditionary force holding south of the (horribly crushed and defeated) Belgium. I was, as yet, unable to intervene. I therefore spent my time organising troops, naming new divisions and slotting them into some semblance of order. I made sure sure that my fleets were well prepared and ready to shepard the doughboy tide across the Atlantic, when the time came.
2014 Strategy/ Space Shooter developed by Anisoptera Games
The joy of playing with Lego was, for me, always tempered by the fact that whatever monstrous fighting machine I ended up building (and it was, inevitably, a monstrous fighting machine I ended up building), never actually did anything. There are games now which cater for the disappointed evil engineer in all of us, and I would like to talk about one of them and the surprising lessons it has to share, here.
Reassembly falls into a genre which is difficult to pinpoint, but which I will be calling “engineering” games. The important thing about an engineering game, is that the player makes virtual machines to influence the game world—and that making these machines is integral to the gameplay. The general category encompasses a wide variety of games like Space Engineers, Factorio and Kerbal Space Program. Engineering games generally tend to fairly open ended, with a good deal of space for player experimentation. They are also, for the most part, not really about anything other than the machines and mechanisms that one builds. They have of course, semblances of story lines and settings, but this is almost always a simple narrative scaffolding. The real interest of these games, their important themes and their best story arcs, are all about the player coming to understand the game world in which they are situated and using the materials at hand to try and influence or control that world.