You know a good game when you find yourself sitting at home, snug on the sofa, controller in hand, staring at the screen with your mouth wide open.
“Oh, my, God.”
That sort of reaction is quite rare in games, so when you experience one, it tends to leave an impression on you. Here’s my Top Three: Gaming OMG Moments.
Number Three: “It’s up to you, JC.” (Deus Ex)
As I’ve already discussed in previous posts, I consider Deus Ex to be one of the best games of all time. At the age of 14, Deus Ex was a massive influence on me, from my writing style to my passion for film-noir and techno-thrillers. The plot was brilliant, the gameplay was brilliant and, sure, the graphics look dated now, but at the time, the game blew me away with the sheer number of choices it offered you.
By far the best moment of the entire game for me (and that’s saying something!) is the climax of the tale:
JC Denton, nano-augmented agent and pariah, invades Area 51, finds Helios – a sentient computer program, and the core of a world-wide computer network- and is given three choices:
- Merge with the sentient AI and rule over humanity using nanotechnology to create the first true democracy humanity has ever had – led by a leader which combines human emotion with the logic of a computer.
- Destroy Helios, and with it the core of the world-wide network, and return humanity to a new dark age, which would see our race rebuild anew.
- Use Helios and the technology of Area 51 to rule the world from the shadows, with an invisible hand.
This depth of choice was mindblowing, especially after the game painted the three main factions in shades of grey. I spent a good ten minutes trying to decide what to do before choosing to merge with Helios and bring about a post-human democracy. What a great OMG moment.
“If there were no God, it would be necessary to invent Him” – Voltaire.
Number Two: The fate of the Normandy (Mass Effect 2)
Mass Effect was a brilliant game. It captured my attention right from the start, and I played through it ferociously, almost obsessively. Bioware did such a good job creating believable, understandable characters and a galaxy with such depth of intrigue that I just kept coming back for more, especially with my trusty starship, the Normandy.
So, for the developers to open Mass Effect 2 with the total and utter destruction of the Normandy, and the apparent death of lead character Commander Shepherd, was a massive shock to me, and a moment that seared itself on my memory. Characters I’d come to enjoy listening to died in an instant, and the ship I’d come to think of as my own personal passport to the galaxy was gutted and left to crash.
Thrilling, and a little sad.
Number One: Revan unmasked (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)
Another Bioware game, KOTOR was one of the most influential RPGs of all time. The game itself, set millenia before the events of the original three Star Wars movies (and their disappointing prequels), told the story of the Old Republic as it was locked in a brutal civil war with the Sith Empire – a full-strength, Dark Jedi-led rebellion which wanted to conquer the galaxy and bring the republic to its knees.
Into this melee steps your character, a simple soldier fighting for the Republic – or so you think. After a long and complicated adventure, your character discovers that not only are you a Jedi, you’re also an amnesiac and – crucially, you were once the Dark Lord Darth Revan – leader of the Sith Empire.
This presents you with a choice – redemption, or rebellion. Do you take your newly realised status as a Dark Lord to heart and seize control of the Sith Empire once more, or do you redeem your previous dark acts and become a beacon for the light side of the Force?
What a great moment, a moment that turned the entire plot on its head and left me gobsmacked.
Of course, whether I turned back to the Dark Side or fought to redeem myself is a secret only I’ll ever know…