Another Mans’ Poison

Ico and SotC are two of the most delightful videogames of our time. I find it difficult to understand players who fail to appreciate the lure of either. There are few games which are as deep, emotional, human or beautiful, but as sales figures show not everyone agrees with this position.

As a child of the Seventies I was brought up on a staple diet of incredibly poor graphics yet extremely enjoyable games. The constant yearning for better visuals meant that many of the simple games were blessed with my own imagination to fill in the blanks left by the limitations of the gaming hardware at the time. I figure that this period in my gaming life gave me a valuable insight into why a game is enjoyable. Games such as Atik Atak or Imagine were very playable but lacked visual substance and although I wanted the visuals to improve I was rarely dissatisfied with a game.

Later in my gaming journey as the hardware became more capable, graphics have been given a more pronounced position within the design process. This design ethic leaves games feeling quite cold and empty and the novelty of the pretty pictures quickly wears off. Playing a modern frag-fest such as Gears of War for instance is a very thrilling ride, the graphics are top drawer and the game is playable, but after a few hours of play, after the billionth bullet fired I am so bored of shooting the enemy that I wish for an early gruesome death and experiment with new ways of dying before switching the game off.

Both Ico and SotC have meaningful narratives and both are visually stunning without making the aesthetics a priority. This is rare in today’s’ high definition society and is something which is desperately missing from many modern games. There are some exceptions to this; Farenheit is one highlight of recent times where the visuals are functional but the game-play is designed to encourage the player to make decisions about the development of the plot. I really appreciate games which I can really get my teeth into or games which think ‘outside-of-the-box’ or challenge modern game design to become something more than a visual feast.

The Last Guardian will become a true classic if it retains the same design code that Ico or SotC possess. As the game is on a next generation console its visuals will surely be incredible, but the narrative and game-play should be equally accomplished elevating the game beyond the melee of bump mapped moronic titles which unfortunately occupy the vast majority of the game industries sales. At least I can be relatively sure that Team ICOs’ games will continue to be produced, due in no small part to their critical acclaim, even if the majority of gamers are too shallow to understand such delights of modern design.
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It's a Tragedy...

Studying Greek Mythology as part of my English Degree has allowed me to conclude that the story behind SotC is a tragedy. I have discussed the transcript of the game with a good friend of mine, an English lecturer at Lincoln University here in the UK and we both agreed that the game can comfortably be classified as such and that this tone helps impact the game upon the moral consciousness of the player.

If the protagonist ‘Wander’ had survived the ordeal to resurrect the maiden the story would not have the same impact. Tragic events allow stories emotional weight and deliver messages or carry feelings the characters experienced during the tale to the player.

A similar conclusion can be drawn against Ico. Although in this tale the ‘hero’ did not meet death, his heroin’s fate was not clear and many speculate that she was not resurrected, but her soul became the Queens possession. Her soul therefore became a part of the crumbling castle, never to escape. The ending of Ico requires the player to draw their own conclusions about the fate of Yorda and I suppose it depends greatly on the attitude of the player, pessimist or optimist.

The Last Guardian may also have the same tone throughout, although early observations believe the story to have a warmer feel to it plainly because of the relationship between the beast and the boy. It’s safe to assume from previous experience that The Last Guardian may have some moments of bitter pain or loss equal to the fall of Agro in SotC.

Team ICO appear to portray tragedy consistently and with a purpose, to draw in the player into the game deeper than if it were devoid of tragedy. This is something I have come to expect and indeed revel in experiencing.
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