Monday, December 24, 2012

Sleeping soap box

Sleeping Dogs really had me for the first third of the game. The undercover cop trying to fit in to a murderous triad without actually killing anyone was interesting, though I did wonder how long he would be able to keep it up. As it turns out, not very long at all. Shen goes from 'I'm a cop, I'm not going to kill anyone' to 'I'm a gangster, suck on my bullets' with such ease that the character lost all credibility. Yes, he felt guilty for a while, if his nightmares are proof of anything, but that doesn't keep him from taking up arms with his new brothers and gunning down members of both his and rival triads with all sorts of weapons, up to and including a gleefully over the top segment with a grenade launcher.

As Shen's attitude changed so did mine. At first I was quite careful when driving around town, running down as few pedestrians as possible. After the turn I decided that getting to where I wanted to go quickly was more important than keeping my tires clean and bumper unblemished. The character's mood and motivations actually changed how I was playing the game, and definitely not for the better. Was the game still fun? Of course it was, Sleeping Dogs is an excellent sand box game in an interesting setting. I just wish that more effort had been put into keeping Shen a cop instead of just another gangster with police ties.

I think that the protagonists of sand box games end up as either true villains or at best morally ambiguous  because the developers honestly believe that players, given the freedom, with always default to dick head mode and start testing out new moves on random passers by. For some segment of the population this is undoubtedly true. These are also the same people who think that the solution to gun violence is more guns. Give the player a hero and he or she will play heroically. Imagine an open world Superman game where Superman punching an innocent literally turns them to pulp. Most people would do it once, realize that it just doesn't fit, and never do it on purpose again. These are the people to make games for because they will appreciate the effort, spend the money, and not send their child to school packing heat.

That wandered a bit, didn't it?

I can't take credit for this line of thought, much smarter men than I brought it to my attention.

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