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.
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.
I am Sean McGeady, El Presidente, the sovereign ruler of the Republic of Tropico, a digitally elected overseer of a nation that has transcended its artificial nature as a populace of randomly processed pixels and become a conduit of my every presidential decision.
To fail a game is to fail oneself. To fail this game is to fail a nation – my nation. These are my people. I am their shepherd. When they starve, I starve. When they flourish, I flourish. Tropico is a nation of my best and worst tendencies, a reflection of myself. Holding it together is no easy task but I, Sean McGeady, will try my damnedest, come Hell, high water or rapid blood loss to bestow the Tropican people with a sense of national pride and a happiness previously unbeknown to them. For as El Presidente, it is my duty.
It may or may not surprise you to hear that I’m considered somewhat pessimistic by my friends.
You may think that with a bleak personality such as mine I would crave the colourful delights of Disney films. You would be mistaken. Instead I find them subversive and seditious.
You may think that with an isolated existence such as mine I would crave the aspirational gloss of teen dramas like The O.C. You would be incorrect. Instead I find them offensive projections of an unrealistic ambition.
You may think that with a life like mine I would watch films simply to escape myself, to feel a fleeting fantastical happiness at the hands of a fictional circumstance. You would be wrong. I revel in the sadistic side of cinema. I want it grim. I want all the grim you’ve got.
Recently I learned through a fellow blogger that the theatrical ending of Danny Boyle’s post-apocalyptic zombie flick 28 Days Later is not the original ending.
When I’m not hiring and killing prostitutes, jacking and crashing cars, or ruthlessly gunning down helpless, disabled civilians due to a feckless overexposure to violent video games, I like to kick back, relax, and play some video games. It’s the perfect way to unwind.
But amidst these barbarian broadcasts urging all players to repeatedly stab everyone they meet in the face or heart, video games transmit an altogether different message. Saturating the minds of gamers with the most potent and dangerous weaponry known to man – knowledge.
Throughout my life I’m perpetually enlightened by a medium considered by many to be corrosive to the mind. There are studies relating gaming to the improvement of cognitive abilities, hand-eye co-ordination, logic, memory and multi-tasking. But in addition to these less tangible attributes, video games spray out facts like an edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica thrown in a petrol powered wood-chipper.