Great Gaming Moments: Miasmata
I play a lot of computer games, and along the way I see a lot of awesome level design. Every so often, however, events converge to produce a moment that makes you giddy with excitement. Perhaps none of the individual elements are particularly special, but the combination of them—an emergent event that could never have been planned or scripted—is greater than the sum of the parts. Maybe it’s impossible to convey exactly what about the moment was truly great—perhaps you had to be there—but I’ll give it a shot.
Miasmata is different from many of the games I play. It’s a first person survival/research game. You the player are stranded on an island, but possibly by choice. There is a plague, and you are seeking a cure. The team that came before you have found some of the answers (before they died) but you must collect their research and perform more of your own. Of course, you are suffering from the plague yourself. You are weak, unable to swim any distance at all, barely able to stagger along on level ground. Can you find the cure before you succumb to the illness? And can you avoid the monster—oh the monster, the fearful (but somehow absurd, but still fearful) monster—that stalks you?
"Look at you! Sailing majestically through the air, like an eagle … piloting a blimp."
Many moons ago, I played Portal: a delightful little puzzle game with a difference. When Portal 2 came out, of course I played it too; it's much longer — and is essentially more of the same, but with a quite expanded playing world to explore and escape. I have just started playing Portal 2 again!
In the first game, you work your way through the various Tests until, testing over, the guiding computer terminates testing by terminating you — or, at least, that is the plan. If (when) you escape that final death-trap, you battle your way out through the behind-the-scenes infrastructure as the computer (GLaDOS) tries to entice, cajole, wheedle, and beg you to return to the testing chambers. It was a joke, she says. Wasn't it funny? she asks. There is cake, she promises — although you have evidence that suggests the cake is a lie! Finally you must battle GLaDOS herself, and … escape? Perhaps not…
Portal 2 commences many, many years (or possibly millennia) later. You awake from your enforced slumber to find that the facility has crumbled around you. A pleasant little robot does his best to get you out, but in the process takes you through the chamber where GLaDOS has been slowly rusting — and promptly manages to reboot her, at which point she drops you back into the world of Testing. I vaguely recall the humour of the first game — but in Portal 2, it definitely seems to be ramped up. In these early stages, GLaDOS is so delightfully bitchy; she claims not to be bitter about the fact that you KILLED HER and left her in pieces with nothing but the last two minutes of her existence being replayed over and over as she watched you KILL HER again and again, but no, not bitter, not holding a grudge, thankyou for that, by the way [SARCASM MODULE TEST COMPLETE] oh that works…
It is her snarky comments which make the sequel so much fun to play — and, indeed, to revisit. As shown by the quote above, it doesn't take her long to start sniping about your weight ("congratulations; most test subjects seem a little emaciated after their long sleep, but you've actually managed to pack on a few pounds…") along with comments about your probable brain damage, your lethargy, and your weight (again) — always delivered in the form of a back-handed compliment.
No, she's not bitter at all.
I still have a long way to go with this game, but it was the quote above which made me laugh so much I just had to jump out for a while to come and mention it…