It is 1998 and my father’s nicotine-stained fingers are much more nimble than my own. I need his fingers because without them Solid Snake will die.
Metal Gear Solid is a videogame, ostensibly, about infiltration. The protagonist, Solid Snake, must access a nuclear weapons disposal facility and neutralize a nuclear threat. Eventually Snake is captured and tortured and my childlike eyes are tortured too. My hero is dying.
My childish digits are incapable of the rapid tapping required to refill Snake’s health meter. It’s difficult even for my father, and I can see there’s an option to submit but my father is ignoring it. Maybe his temperament meant he refused to be bested by mechanics, maybe he wanted Snake to survive, maybe he knew I wanted Snake to survive. It didn’t matter. All I really know is Snake survived, the game went on.
The drums pound. The lights flash and set the smoke aglow. The crowd claps and cheers in anticipation. Then everything bursts into life. Lions roar, performers soar, cannons fire, swinging higher, knives are thrown and flames are blown until finally each performer converges on their mark.
The fabled eagle cries. The target is killed. The audience applaud.
You are playing Assassin’s Creed.
Assassin’s Creed is murder made theatrical. Death comes not as a result of silent assassinations but circus executions; a choreographed routine by a brotherhood rigorously trained and skilled in their art. But this art is different from the discipline in which I am trained. This is not stealth. This is stealth entertainment.
Skyrim lives and breathes, active on every level. The skies, the land and the shallows each accommodate monsters both mythical and actual. Under the shelf of a vibrant sky a medley of colours stretch a restless landscape upon which the elk graze and the mammoth ramble. Salmon soar upstream as the torrent surges below and hawks glide across the face of the sun, casting shadows across the backs of the sleep bears below.
Above the surface Skyrim is beautiful.
Such beauty is immediate, apparent from the very first scene. Only after time spent exploring will the player realise that Skyrim‘s beauty is only skin deep. It does not extend beneath the surface. There are places not penetrated by light, where the objects do not glisten, where Skyrim neither lives nor breathes.
It is ugly, empty and aimless: the water.
It took a turn. As snow fell calmly, the air lay still and the ground went undisturbed a seasoned soldier completed his objectives, alerting not a soul to his presence. Together we crept through Shadow Moses, eliminating adversaries, exercising unwavering restraint and inflexible discipline. This was Snake’s axiom. This was my axiom.
When the ideals I believed to be so integral to this experience were questioned, they were answered in a manner entirely unforeseen. They were answered by art.
Dear Lord McGeady,
As required under our tenancy agreement, I am writing to inform you of my 30 days notice and my intent to vacate the hovel at 7 Stonegrope Court on or before November 14th.
Before coming to your kingdom, Lord, I had heard you spoken of quite favourably. According to a cousin of mine who has happily resided within your community, and your father’s before you, red meat was always in plentiful supply, the apple orchards bore fruit the year round and ale flowed constantly from tap to tankard. Upon my arrival this is not what I discovered.
My Lord, your kingdom simply does not function.