December 19, 2010

The dark games of Victor Gijsbers

Filed under: Gaming,Literature by Branko Collin @ 2:14 pm

A couple of weeks ago I recommended you play Zwarte Piet, one of the few video games (that I know of) where you play a black hero. But is he a true hero, or just a white caricature of one? Your enjoyment of the game can hinge on your answer. And games are there to be enjoyed, right?

Philosophy student Victor Gijsbers doesn’t seem to think that is the whole truth. About the inspiration for his role playing game Vampires he once wrote: “It was breathtakingly cruel, a condition with an inexplicable charm of its own; it was dark; it was uncompromising—what a shame that, as [the author] himself claimed, the mechanics didn’t work.”

I first noticed Gijsbers’ work when he published The Baron (and simultaneously a Dutch version, De Baron), a text adventure for adults that on the surface deals with how moral decisions can become easy when all those you meet are monsters. Need I say there is a twist?

As John Walker put it at Rock, Paper, Shotgun:

The Baron begins as an experiment in futility—a fascinating exploration of someone‚Äôs inability to change the inevitable repeating pattern of their life. As you set off on a quest to rescue your kidnapped young daughter from the evil Baron—made all the more sinister by a note left saying he has to be with her as he loves her—you have a righteous task in place. Which makes the implications of your inevitable failure so very interesting. And then it changes.

I was so deeply affected by this game that after finishing it the rest of my day was pretty much a write-off. I was emotionally ruined. I say this because I want to put up a massive neon warning sign before people play it. But I really think people should play it.

(Not everybody agrees with him, but you will have to play the game yourself to find out where you stand.)

(Illustration: Victor Gijsbers / Emily Short.)

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