Zombies are banging down your door, your colleagues and child cowering the corner, looking to you for answers. You can put together the parts for a bomb, blow down the door and proceed safely, but there are still some areas you haven’t explored in the shopping mall yet. What do you do?
Wait. What’s that? The Joker has Commissioner Gordon strung upside-down over a vat of his crazy laughing serum halfway across Gotham? You need to save him, too, and finally put the Joker behind bars, but the Riddler has left two more trophies in the general vicinity. How important is it to you that you collect them?
All that being solved, you find yourself in space, with a large armada of enemy ships approaching the Earth. Armed to the teeth, you’ve traversed the Universe collecting allies for this final fight, but you’re not sure you’re completely prepared–maybe a few more fighters would even the odds. Can you just ask the enemy forces to hold off for another hour or so?
Of course you can, because you’re playing a video game. The only question is, as we strive for realism and immersion with each new release, at what point does a real concept of time or urgency come into play?
The question popped into my head when I was playing Batman Arkham Origins–a game wrought with opportunities for your mind to wander. I had just found out that it was possible that the Penguin had killed Black Mask, and I needed to get to his apartment to investigate the crime scene before the police mucked it up. At the same time, however, a young up-start of a criminal named Anarky sent me a video saying he had placed three bombs around Gotham’s most corrupt businesses and planned to detonate them, unless I chose to stop him.
Clearly, Black Mask is the antagonist of the game, the main bad guy, the poobah of profligation, so if there is a risk that my being late could ruin my chances of determining if he is already dead, then there is a sense of urgency implied here. However, equally important is this Anarky fellow and his apparent desire to blow up buildings, albeit in a side-quest-y manner.
So, keeping in mind that time is a relative concept in video games, I decided that bombs were a much bigger risk than bumbling policemen, and against Batman’s constant urging to the contrary, I disarmed Anarky’s three bombs first.
Call it prioritization, call it a blatant disregard or whatever you’d like, but I knew that despite what the storyline of the game would claim, the actual urgency of either event would have waited until I was ready, and that presented a huge disconnect from the game itself.
Yup, a game where you play as a man, dressed as a bat, fighting crime, and this is where things started breaking down for me? I get it. But bear with me here.