Thursday, 10 June 2010

Game Therapy

Has it just been one of those weeks?

Well, I feel your pain.

So allow me to offer you my (not entirely medically approved) gaming solutions for a wide variety of mental and emotional ailments, using popular science fiction characters as a pop cultural touchstone (important on a Friday).

DIAGNOSIS: Stress

JUST LIKE: President Laura Roslin from Battlestar Galactica

PRESCRIPTION: Being the default leader of the entire human race in the midst of an interstellar war can get pretty stressful, and this can lead to sleepless nights. Well-Rendered might have had difficulty prescribing a game to President Roslin were it not for an anonymous reply to the Well-Rendered survey (Mark 1):

"Games are a way to escape the real world problems each night before bed. Instead of laying awake worrying about bills and such, I am wondering how to get past the next level."

So there you have it, President Roslin. Instead of lying awake worrying your glossily-tressed head about what to do when the cylons next attack, why not play a bit of Myst instead?

Suddenly, you'll be so busy trying to figure out which levers to pull in order to direct the steam through the engine to power the submersible (phew!), you'll have forgotten all about the schemes of the dastardly (yet dashing) Gaius Balta and his slinky cylon compatriots. Sleep well.


DIAGNOSIS: Depression, Boredom, Apathy

JUST LIKE: Marvin the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

PRESCRIPTION: I know, I know. Brain the size of a planet, and all he does is open doors. I wouldn't be so crass as to tell Marvin to snap out of it, life as Zaphod Beeblebrox's underling can't be easy.

But I might suggest trying to distract himself from the bleakness of his situation by playing a game which both thrilling and firmly routed in the grand tradition of escapism to which so many highly intelligent beings (we are working on reclaiming the word "nerd", in a similar fashion to the Vagina Monologues speech when one of the woman tries to get the audience to shout "c***" except less embarrassing) adhere.

You see, science-fiction fans can protest until they are blue in the face that they love the genre because it is intellectually challenging (and I'm not saying for a minute that it isn't), but as a fully paid-up member of the black-obscure-logo-t-shirt-and-smudgy-spectacles brigade, I can tell you that the most seductive thing about science fiction is the fact that it takes place in an imginary setting, be it an alternative version of our own world, or a different one in a galxaxy far, far away.*

One of the most exciting and immersive video games ever made is Beyond Good and Evil, which I bang on about almost as much as I do that other one with a strong heroine which I'm going to refrain from mentioning today (well done). Thanks to great writing, wonderful characters, a blindingly brilliant soundtrack and clever subversion of video game conventions, Beyond Good and Evil gives gamers one of the most involving and emotionally affecting experiences this side of the Red Ring of Death.

I defy Marvin to remain gloomy when the survival of the beautiful world of Hillys depends on him alone.

DIAGNOSIS: Megalomania

JUST LIKE: Mom from Futuarama

PRESCRIPTION: Mom doesn't make life easy for herself. As the galaxy's Most Huggable Industrialist, Mom is so concerned with maintaining her iron grip over the galactic economy that she spurns the love of a young(ish) Hubert Fansworth, leaving her lonely and bitter.

If she had a safe arena in which to channel her despotic tendencies, she might not have been so hasty in demanding that Hubert market his children's toy Q.T. (Cutie) McWhiskers to the intergalactic arms market.

I'd suggest a game where she can see the impacts of her decisions on the terrified pixillated faces of her minions, thus making her think twice about calling upon her real-life robot army to enslave humanity.

How about Theme Hospital?

After spending a few days trying to prevent virtual patients from redecorating her hospital corridors by voiding their bowels, Mom would no doubt be so exhausted that she'd like nothing better than curling up on the sofa with Hubert and Q. T. McWhiskers (non-lethal version).



DIAGNOSIS: Rage, Repression

JUST LIKE: Rimmer from Red Dwarf

PRESCRIPTION: Well this one's easy. Rimmer's unhealthy repression of his rage eventually results in him developing an electronic aneurism (he's a hologram, see). If he just had some kind of outlet, he'd probably find it a little easier to cope with the profound frustration that comes with having dreadful parents and no body.

I'd recommend that Rimmer jack himself (easy now) in to a nice violent Beat 'em Up like Street Fighter.

Honestly, passive agression is never healthy. Far better to beat pixillated, two-dimensional Guile into a bloody pulp than internalise your rage, even if you do channel it into rather brilliant one-liners.



DIAGNOSIS: Nymphomania

JUST LIKE: Princess Aura from Flash Gordon

Actually, I have the odd ideological problem with diagnosing poor old Aura as a nymphomanic. She's just a modern girl (or alien, whatever) who enjoys her youth and her various slave boys/girls/dwarves/courtesans.

Still, you could argue that a line has been crossed when you start resurrecting dead men and dragging their re-animated corpse across your father's kingdom because you like the look of them in leather hotpants.

I'm not sure aversion therapy works, but perhaps Rumble Roses is worth a try in Aura's case. The game is a pretty grubby affair, what with its mud-wrestling mode and unlockable g-strings (as in... oh, never mind), but despite its desparate attempts to be titillating, it somehow manages to be spectacularly dull. About half the game consists of videos of the various Roses strut around baiting each other in a humourless parody of "real" wrestling (yes, I know that is an oxymoron). The gameplay itself is designed primarily around how best to display the Roses' pixelly assets, and as such is clunky, long-winded and tiresome.

It manages to make sex look profoundly boring, and might encourage Aura to, you know, get a hobby.



DIAGNOSIS: Evil

JUST LIKE: Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars*

Alright, I know that most psychiatrists these days might have a few qualms about diagnosing a patient as "evil". But Emperor Palpatine is a quite clearly deliniated bad guy in in a story about the battle between good and evil, symbolised by a great big behemouth of an analogy about a force with two sides, "light" and "dark".

Palpatine isn't a multi-faceted villian or a flawed character, he's just a baddie. Consequently, there is not a lot that modern psychiatry can do for him. All you could really do is section him, which would be hard considering that the force is strong with him and he would probably just finger lightening the orderlies and tell the nurses to move along.

If you could manage it though, it might be a good idea to provide him with a safe arena in which to be evil and not hurt anyone. A bit like giving Rimmer Street Fighter, only you want to encourage Palpatine to, you know, spend as much time as possible on the computer to keep him from corrupting young jedis or similar. I would recommend Fallout 3, which is not only vast (thus hopefully keeping him entertained for hours), but rewards you as much for being evil as it does for being good.

I'll leave you with a clip from Fallout 3, which shows the player being given the option of destroying the innocent city of Megaton.


So until next time, take care of yourselves, and each other.


*Actually, I consider Star Wars fantasy, but that's an anal-retentive discussion for another time.

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