Friday, March 2, 2018

Dear Video Games: Take Notes from "Overwatch"

I don't play Overwatch.

Not for any "better than you" reason. Not over zeitgeist burnout. Nothing like that. I was actually in the beta and loved it. I'd decided before the first trailer was over that I was gonna main Tracer forever. But half an hour into playing, I realized my big problem: because of my seizure issues and the trouble I have focusing on extreme action and angles close up, I'd have to forego Overwatch until I got a better setup. My head just straight up wouldn't handle it.

Medical lock-outs for entertainment are a frickin' misery. I used to be more overtly upset about it than I am now, but it still does bother me. I'd love to be able to go to 3D IMAX films with my buddies instead of having to either go it alone or asking them to minimize their experience over my presence. Past Kara may have grumped over that, but 37-year-old Kara is not interested in putting her friends in that sort of situation.

So in many cases -- the high-end versions of action films, releases of video games, etc. -- I just sort of have to shrug and walk off. If nothing else, I can go and watch theory videos or Let's Plays, as I did for Five Nights at Freddy's.

And then, there's Overwatch. Beautiful glorious fucking Overwatch. Full of characters, full of lore, and me absolutely gutted that I couldn't explore it because my brainmeats were too sensitive to heavy motion.

Except that Blizzard came over, patted me on the head, and handed me the lore anyway.

Now, before I go much further, let me hold back a sec. I can absolutely tell I'm gonna get misinterpreted here, so I'm going to clarify. My interest is not in getting free content for no work. I'd pay for what they're putting out there. Hell, I'll pay for the subscription to the game once I get a better set-up so Emily can High Noon my sorry ass across the map.

I'm not talking about getting things for free. I'm talking about the fact that a game rich with lore, and inaccessible to people like me (for health reasons) or to people who just can't FPS to save their lives, decided to offer that lore to everyone anyway, as an offshoot.

I call myself an Overwatch fan only tangentially since the fastest I jump on news is when it's for work. If I devoted a little more energy to it, I'd give myself the "fan" name happily. And I'm sure there would be people out there saying I don't get to call myself a fan since I don't actually play.

Which is bull -- since Blizzard decided their fans don't have to play to know their characters.

Admittedly, there are games out there for which the gaming aspect is a part of the narrative. Choice-based stories like Doki Doki Literature Club or Until Dawn or Papers, Please where your interaction is an inherent part of the delivery. Choice and interaction and reveals are so much a part of why you're there that, yes, you'd have to interface with the game proper somehow to get the full experience. If you were too sensitive to the motion controls of Until Dawn, you could play alongside a friend or watch a YouTube gamer likely to make your similar decisions.

The use of games as a storytelling mechanism by way of experience, decisions, and immersion is an amazing advance in the field of fiction. And games that achieve that deserve to be seen for what they are.

But decisions like Blizzard's to make Overwatch lore accessible to non-gamers are something I'm hoping will become more prevalent across games that aren't as reliant on medium for their story. Even Assassin's Creed having non-game elements allowing students to explore historical sites is a positive step in this direction.

So do I expect every game to roll out its story to me free just because I get dizzy? No. But I think Blizzard is making a positive step toward enabling people to participate in their fan base and enjoy their creation regardless of their medical state or skill level. And if other game creators can find helpful, relevant ways to do that, I'm hoping to see it happen moving forward.


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