Home. You know where it is on your keyboard, but where is it in your games? This round table has elicited an impressive array of views on the topic of homes in games, and I have been consistently fascinated with the entries submitted.
myself, I’m surprised that none of my online gaming experiences (MUDs mostly)
afford much of a memory of home. I do remember the Romulan temple I built on
TrekMUSE at the firefalls of Gal’gathong (I built those too); I married some
people there – as a priestess, you understand. It was my retirement after years
of diplomatic service. Was it home? Only in the sense that it was highly
personal to me. Maybe that’s enough.
Wing Commander is mentioned in Jason’s post… I remember the Tiger’s Claw. Perhaps because I never owned a copy of the game, it doesn’t quite have the depth of resonance that it could have. But there’s something familiar there, a distant memory of something akin to home, and it’s not something that any other (single player) space game I’ve played has evoked.
games, and their derivatives, present playground worlds with places intended to
be homes. You go there to save, and to get the law off your back by saving (in
some versions). Do any feel like home? The abandoned airport in San Andreas,
maybe. I go there often, and it feels familiar and welcoming when I arrive. It
helps that it’s so far from each of my four girlfriends that they never call me
when I’m there. But I can’t deny it’s the presence of a jetpack and an attack
helicopter that are the real bribes for staying at the airfield. It is home
only through familiarity, perhaps. But perhaps that is enough.
What about the social sims? My wife and I really enjoyed building a house in The Sims. But it was never a home, because we never got to live there: the actual gameplay was so laborious, we never made enough cash to buy it. Housework to me is part of the cost of maintaining a home, not the essence of one.
Crossing, that’s a different story! There, we definitely had a home – and
we spent a tremendous amount of time arranging furniture there. The ability to
personalise seems quite valuable in creating an impression of home. We even had
neighbours. I had a bit of a crush on Mint, the green-furred squirrelgirl next
door. The fact that we came back to our house every day to save enhanced the feeling
that it was home. I didn’t feel the same way about my farmhouse in Harvest
Moon so I guess that Animal Crossing got something fundamentally
right with their houses.
Looking at computer role-playing games, I have homes there too. For some reason, my pirate fortress in Skies of Arcadia still sticks in my head as home. I built it with my own two hands, and staffed it through my diplomacy. I got to choose which of my two female companions would have her face carved into the rock face. I slid down poles to board my ship. Come to think of it, my ship, the Delphinas, felt like home too. I think it was because I became so emotionally attached to it – familiarity again – although in this case, the attachment was as much to the people as to the place.
If games have not yet taken you to a place you can call
home, perhaps it is because most games are more intent on making your blood
race and your nerves fray than making you feel safe, secure, and surrounded by
familiarity and friendship. Perhaps this disparity might serve to enhance your
excitement by giving some contrast; it’s hard to know. Personally, I’d be more
willing to consider a first person shooter that at least tried to give
me a place I could call home, than one which puts me in a tunnel and asks me to
kill everything in front of me.
Home? Home is perhaps not a place, but a feeling. Home is
out there… keep looking… you’ll find it.