Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.
(Out Of This World if you are not tea-swilling, toothless Brit who cleans chimbleys in old lahndahn tahn). SPOILERS for a 26-year-old videogame follow.
The first time a game broke my heart, or at least left me in a state of shocked disbelief.Another World’s mid-game twist did to me what the shock death of Optimus Prime in the 1986 Transformers movie had done to me five years previously. That was to rip away my perceived safety net, my belief that my screen heroes could not perish.
To see it happen to character I loved but could not control was one thing; to have it happen to a character who was supposed to be me was something else entirely. Another World’s accidentally planet-hopping traveller Lester was not someone with a personality per se, but I formed a bond with him a) because he was me, off on an incredible adventure in a strange, new and hostile world, which I discovered right along with him and b) because the expressive, rotoscope-styled, still-gorgeous art and animation gave him a sense of life I’m not sure I had before seen from a game.
When he, in turn, formed a bond with a wordless alien prisoner (“Buddy”) I too felt the friendship, the relief at not being alone, the instinct to protect and assist.
And then Lester died. Except he didn’t; canonically, he survived his grievous wounds, and would fleetingly return for a maligned sequel that, ultimately, definitely really absolutely killed him. But, back in 1991, I was convinced he was dead and that Buddy carried his corpse away to freedom only out of a sense of duty. I was shocked, but I was amazed that this could happen, that there would not be a pat happy ending to something I had put hours of effort into. (It really was effort, too: Another World is, by today’s standards, a vexing and unforgiving experience).
Innocence, lost. Though not half as much as when, years later, I found out he’d survived.