When Games Break Your Heart

It’s rare that a videogame holds my interest long enough for me to get very far into the actual plot of the game. It’s even more rare for a game to reach me on a real emotional level. So it really hurts when one of the few that does breaks my heart, and not by design.

I’ve been playing a lot of Fable II lately. The plot is vaguely interesting, but what’s really grabbed my interest is the rest of the game. The buying and managing of businesses, the social elements (there’s something sadly funny about hordes of villagers following my character around begging her to marry them), and most importantly the ability to have a family. I get the dog thing, I like my dog, but what I’m really attached to is my family – my husband and daughter.

So I’m not understating it when I say that it ruined the experience of the game for me when they broke. I went off on one of the main plot portions of the game and left my family behind for a time. This was the portion that I’ve disliked more than any other and in just about any other game would have made me give up on the game entirely for lack of fun. However, I spent the whole time thinking “it’s ok, when I get through this stupid section I can go back to my loving husband who probably has another present for me (because he always does) and see my pretty baby daughter grown up into a little girl” and I got through it and didn’t give up on the game. Then I got back to my house to find my husband nowhere in sight and my daughter frozen and less responsive than when she was a bassinet.

So I called in my resident videogame expert, my real life husband. He poked at the game briefly and confirmed that my in-game husband wasn’t anywhere to be found and my daughter seemed pretty comatose. Then he turned to the internet for some help, since he knew this was a make-or-break issue for me with this game. And what did he find? It’s broken. Not only is my family gone, but I can’t even really finish the game the way that I probably would have because it requires a working family to do so.

He was sympathetic and advised me to start the game over or give up entirely. I haven’t decided which route to take yet. It wouldn’t even be a question except that I was really looking forward to playing during my upcoming recovery-from-foot-surgery period. I may end up starting over then, but right now I don’t feel like it. I’d miss my family too much. I’ll probably just bury myself in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise instead.

But I’m very sad that Fable II had such a game-breaking bug for me because I fear it’s going to affect my approach to future games. I feel like this was a major bug and should have been found in beta. It ruined a game for me, and there’s a decent chance I’m not the only one. To bad too, since it was a fun game. At least I got to see the climax when my husband finished it a week ago.

Favorite Fictional Rooms

Recently Jen Robinson posted about her favorite fictional rooms and it got me thinking about the fictional rooms that made an impression on me. I’ve decided to follow her lead and list my five favorite fictional rooms! Thanks for the great idea Jen!

1. The All of a Kind Family’s front room is the one that first came to mind when I started thinking about this topic. It’s been years since I’ve read Taylor’s books, but that room has stuck with me. I loved the pretty room with pictures of the family in neat albums where the girls played the button-finding game. In order to make dusting fun (and get her daughters to fight over the chore), Mama hid buttons in the front room. To find all of the buttons, the girls had to dust the room properly. I don’t remember if there was a prize or not, but I do remember the girls fighting over the chance to find the buttons!

2. The second room I vividly remember is Crictor’s bedroom (see illustration above). Crictor is a boa constrictor from a picture book called, simply, Crictor. I still have the very battered copy of this book that my brother and I read when we were kids. Crictor was owned by a doting old woman who knitted him sweaters and bought him palm trees and generally treated him like a pampered child. His bedroom had a long, skinny bed just the right size and shape for a boa constrictor and many large, lush plants to make him feel at home. When I was a kid that picture made me want a snake so that I could make it just such a bedroom (my parents didn’t really appreciate this, so I never did get a snake, which is probably just as well).

3. My favorite series is the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. Most of the story follows the heroes traipsing around in the wilderness, but in the second book, The Black Cauldron, they visit three enchantresses who live in a small cottage. Orwen, Orddu, and Orgoch’s cottage is rather a mess and their attempts to straighten up when they invite the heroes inside “in fact accomplished little” and seems to mostly consist of pushing a bunch of crockery off of a table and onto the floor. Their tapestry stands in one corner, but few other specifics are actually described. Nevertheless, I somehow have always gotten a wonderfully welcoming, cluttered, homey feeling from the place and always wished that Taran found his way back there at some point.

4. I’m a big comic book reader and always have been. My favorite comic book character is Barbara Gordon. She won my heart as Batgirl when I was a kid, but I can’t say the she really became my all-time favorite until she became Oracle. My first view of Oracle’s control room (I’m not sure what else to call it) really won me over. If I could be a superhero, Oracle is who I would be. She has an amazing computer set-up that gives her access to nearly every network on the planet and she has the ability to see through just about any networked camera anywhere. It is not an exaggeration to say that that room allows her to be nearly everywhere. She has the best equipment on the planet (including some alientech) and it’s set up to be in the most comfortable, user-friendly (specifically for her) set-up possible. I love that room and wish that it existed! And I love that comics allow me to actually see it, especially since it moves and changes constantly as she upgrades, tweaks and moves it around.

5. Oracle’s control room leads pretty naturally into one of my other favorite fictional rooms: Glinda’s library in Oz. It was a wonderful library in one of the most beautiful palace’s in children’s literature, but what really made it special was the Book of Records. On the pages of this book “are constantly being printed a record of every event that happens in any part of the world, at exactly the moment it happens.” So not only is it a wonderful library full of stories and informative books on every subject one might want, but there is also a book listing everything that has ever happened and everything that is happening everywhere. Pretty handy, huh?

So what are your favorite fictional places? I’d love to hear about them! And thanks again to Jen for getting me thinking about this!