Saturday, May 10

Fable 2: In Real Life

Cooperative gaming is all the rage these days. In fact, there has been a huge surge of coop games this past year. Co-op is, in a way, the medium's zeitgeist. Not only do players love the new focus, but designers as well, who are enamored with the challenges of co-op game design. From Army of Two to Schizoid, designers are experimenting with the boundaries of co-op and learning about its possibilities and limitations. Co-op is far from new, just look at Gauntlet, but as a style of gameplay it has recently received a jolt of attention.

Among those games lavishing in co-op is Fable 2. Peter Molyneux isn't one to rest on his laurels, let alone those of others. He and the team at Lion Head are pushing the limits of what games can achieve with co-op. Other co-op games up until now have focused on cooperative gameplay, which is fantastic in and of itself. However, Fable 2 is trying to offer something else altogether: co-op narrative.

Co-op gameplay in Fable 2 is excellent design in its own right. A second player, known as the "henchman," can jump into the host player's world at any time simply by pushing start. Experience and gold can be divided howsoever the players chose by allotting percentages of each when the henchman joins. Henchmen will retain their gold and experience when they return to their own games. Combat, likewise, is adjusted when playing co-op, as players must work together to fight most effectively. But these features aren't what set Fable 2 apart from the herd. What does is the game's transgression into reality.A henchman in Fable 2 has the power to permanently affect the host player's world. Henchmen have all the freedoms of the host player. In fact, the henchman has equal power, or perhaps even greater power, than does the host player. In Fable 2, a player cannot kill his or her spouse. Spousal-murder simply is not possibly. Personally, I'm a fan of this limitation. Lion Head, while advocating freedom as one of the main themes of Fable 2, it seems does not want to support, or even allow, such atrocious immorality. Actually, I think this is a much, much bigger issue than immediately apparent, but thats for another article. However, while players cannot murder their own spouse, henchmen can. Henchmen can walk into the host player's house, pull out a gun, and shoot the player's husband or wife. And the character will never come back. The spouse is dead for all time and forever and ever.

This initially bothered me. "Griefing" comes to mind as I consider the potential ruin and sadness that could be affected upon a person. I would be extremely upset with anyone who killed my spouse in-game. And then I realized, that is the whole point. Allowing such freedom in co-op gameplay is more than just characters interacting with characters; it is about people interacting with people through the game, and the game interacting with people through their actions and decisions. This level of co-op interaction transcends the television screen, and the game becomes something else altogether.Suddenly, co-op is less so about working together and more so about the relationship between two people. Now, cooperative gameplay is about trust. Not that it wasn't before either. Working together to take down monsters or ships certainly does involve trust, but Fable 2 employs trust on a completely different level, a level of morality and friendship. How two people play Fable 2 together is symbolic of their friendship. The game becomes a sharing experience. What players do in the game, even outside of murdering or not murdering spouses, is an interaction between two people, not two characters. Playing is like dancing: when two people dance with one another, they are interacting and representing their individual emotions. This is what Fable 2 is trying to achieve. The game relates to the players, offering a means of interaction, an outlet for sharing an experience. How the players engage that world and engage one another speaks to their relationship as people. Who you play with is a sign of trust. Can you trust your friend. Can you trust that your friend won't kill your spouse? What does this say about your relationship with that person. Furthermore, how will your interactions in the game affect your relationship. If your best friend murders your spouse, how does that affect your freidnship; what is your friend trying to tell you (and I don't mean he or she hates your spouse in real life, but maybe)?

Then the game becomes an exchange between player and character. The players actions affect the world, the world reacts to the character, and subsequently the player is affected by the worlds reactions. Fable 2 fuses character and player; the game creates a bond between the two. The character is a representation of the player, the person in a polygonal form. Therefore, when two players interact in a game, they are truly interacting as humans.

Images from Lion Head

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:05 PM EDT

    Ive killed several of my spouses......