Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Love-Letter to The Developers of inFAMOUS 2

Dear Sony, Sucker Punch Productions, and the entire inFAMOUS 2 creative team,

My name is Alex Pardee. My father and I both had Atari joysticks practically fused to our hands since I was 4 years old. Luckily, I was able to surgically remove said joystick after a few years and repeatedly replace it with a NES controller, then a Genesis one, and so forth. There may have even been a Dreamcast controller with a microphone used to control a retarded fish at one point, too.
When I was 6 years old I created a concept for a horror/action video game based on the schoolyard game of "Tetherball", which revolved around demonic creatures infesting an elementary school that could only be defeated by a boy who stands next to his tetherball pole and hits the monsters with his chained up ball. I have no idea how that wold have been considered innovative, even in 1982, but nonetheless I submitted it to Activision (because they had the best box art) and patiently awaited the development and release of my Tetherball game. I think I went to Sears every weekend to ask about it. Activision must have gone out of business or something because my game never came out. But, whatever. I was never too depressed about it. I just kept playing video games. Even the stupid ones like "GUMSHOE" where you shot a detective in the face and that somehow made him bounce through the air to solve mysteries and eat balloons.

The more I played video games, the more I wanted to develop them. But as fate would have it, I grew introverted in middle school and eventually fell into the secret life of a starving artist, which I continue to pursue (and passionately love) to this very day.

Flash forward to what seems like a hundred years later. I am currently very ill. Though I am finally healing as of today, for the past 23 days I have been nearly bedridden due to some complications and infections contracted after multiple oral surgeries. As someone who lives alone, has never broken a bone, rarely gets sick, and passionately works 16 hours a day, I was devastated at the simple fact that I could do little more than sink into my couch and let the pain guide my groans. My girlfriend has been with me off and on via Skype so that has worked worked wonders, and my friends have come by a couple times a day to shove milkshakes in my face and make sure I didn't explode from the pain. But mostly, I have been alone. And regardless of the amount of painkillers I devour, the pressure, the pain, and the acidic mustard taste of infection has been so prominent that I can do little more than dwell on it every second. I couldn't draw. I couldn't work on my computer. I couldn't even answer emails without growing nauseated.

Now, sickness aside, I still passionately love video games, but due to my general work schedule, I rarely get a chance to fully indulge myself in the experience of starting and completing a game. I tend to use video games as small hour-long personal reward sessions, knowing damn well that I'm paying 60 dollars for (usually) only one hour of escape. But for that one hour, after weeks of hard work, the "dollar-per-minute" price-tag is worth it. However, if a game is good enough in that one hour to take my mind off of work and stress, I may stick with it a little longer. But that's rare.

So during the first few days on my couch as I sat, silently and cluelessly hoping my body was fighting something I could feel but couldn't see, and once I was able to actually focus on my television without feeling like I was piggyback-riding an alaskan fisherman in a thunderstorm, I decided to reward myself with 60 minutes of a video game. That video game was inFAMOUS 2.

5 minutes passed. I felt dizzy. Sick to my stomach. "Hmm. A fast-paced, loud, spinning video game probably isn't going to help," I thought to myself. Then 30 minutes passed. The disgusting taste in my mouth seemed to have gone away for a few minutes. 60 minutes passed. 90 minutes passed. 3 hours passed. More antibiotics. More painkillers. 6 hours passed. 8 hours passed.
Those initial 8 hours of unknowingly focusing 100% on inFAMOUS 2 were the beginning of my new escape. During a time in my life where all I could do was simply WAIT for my body to heal, I had discovered something that allowed my brain to escape and forget about the pain.

Am I being a bit overdramatic? Perhaps, but not much. inFAMOUS 2, as a video game, is a rare gem amongst a field of nicely painted clunky rocks (like the disappointing wreck of a game that Shadows Of The Damned is), and because of that, I thank every person who wrote so much as one line of code in the game for saving me from going insane, as those 8 hours turned into a total of close to 45 pain-forgetting hours of escapism. When I first sat down to write this I did a bunch of research about the game and was going to attempt to sound like a real and informative reviewer, but the reality of it is that none of the technicalities matter. After 5 minutes, my television came to life and I was able to seamlessly transition into the role of Cole McGrath and feel like a hero. Or, rather, in my case, I got to feel like an asshole that loved jumping 19 stories down and power-bombing street performers into mush for no reason. Pushing my pain to the side, inFAMOUS 2 took me on an adventure that spanned a devastated, flooded New Marais, 30-story skyscrapers, Louisiana swamps, huge battleships, suspension bridges, cemeteries, ghettos, and even Ice-Castles; an evolution of super-powers, games-within-the game that included CSI-like investigations, flight simulators, on-rail shooters, watching television, x-raying humans, controlling an army of monsters, killing protesters, throwing cars, playing skee-ball, flirting with a Voodoo queen and even riding on the shoulders of 100-foot tall electrified black man.

The environment is lush, beautiful, varied, and ballsy. The animation both in-game as well as the cinematics is subtle, but perfect. The voice-acting is convincing. The combat system is fun. And thanks to the concept designs of Massive Black and The Aaron Sims company, the creatures and characters are some of the biggest and best outside of Gears Of War, God Of War & Bioshock.

So as sappy as this is, and even though I'm practically a hundred years old, Infamous 2 not only helped me forget about my pain, but also made me want to make a video game again . Even if it's a
stupid one. Does anyone even still PLAY tetherball?

Anyway, Thank you Sucker Punch , and thank you Sony. From the bottom of my inspired heart.