press A to have an epiphany (tap A rapidly for a brainstorm)

The morality plays of the video game world have little bearing on our actual lives, insofar as they represent a highly stylized reality in which our most important decisions our also our most demonstratably dramatic.

Gaming conventions ironically reduce this overblown drama to the most trivial of actions: pushing a button. Cold War-era dramas, particularly Fail Safe, exploit the inanity of such a button-press having such terrible consequences; nearly all video games overlook the dramatic potential, taking inanity for granted.

Take Revenge (press A) or Grant Clemency (don't press A).

This is supposed to be high drama, you see. And like any medium, if you're willing to buy into its conventions, I suppose it can be.

But whether such convention has any bearing on life is highly questionable. Binary, split-second decisions make for high drama in many media, but at least in the novel (esp. Dostoevsky, et al) the protagonist is 'given' the opportunity to make his/her ultimate decision throughout the novel -- or rather given opportunities to prepare for that ultimate decision by finding oneself thrust into situations that foreshadow the ultimate one.

In the novel, high drama is arrived at gradually, and the pivotal moment operates from a humming clockwork of prior, formative moments.

Video games merely mimick this approach, and only because they seek to mimick the successes of previous media. Their resemblance to other media is surface-level. The video game's success as a medium must be measured on its creators' ability to employ original mechanisms to power its generic engine.

A button press cannot 'stand in' for the moral mechanisms which underlie the day-to-day decisions we make -- or at least if it attempts to it is immediately transparent as a poor substitute.

Silent Hill 2's approach is much more interesting than the binary QTE solution presented by something like Grant Theft Auto 4: the game's outcome is dependent on how many times we have, say, reread an old letter, how often we ignored a potential ally, etc.

These choices are made, generically speaking, through button press -- but certainly not a single button press, and not 'in the heat of the moment.'

Our outcome is arrived at through a series of gradual choices, and the mechanism which drops us into one ending or another is more or less invisible to the player.

This arrangement resembles life much more closely than other, more common generic arrangements. It is also much more satisfying, i.e. horrifying, as befits a horror like Silent Hill 2. (Whether it is satisfying because it resembles life is up to debate, but I would say yes.)

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