The following is a guest post from Prunescholar:
Prunescholar is a fan of all kinds of games. He is especially interested in how games make us feel, and the stories and memories they leave us with. Prune considers himself an ally, and has had the help of many awesome people (including the folks of Lashings of Ginger Beer Time) on his path to intersectionalist feminism and understanding experiences outside his own.
In Oblivion, I’m a bit of a shit. I own eight houses, never use them, and still act chummy with all the homeless folks of Cyrodil. I am waiting for the game to call me out on this. A sidequest? A conversation? I’ll even take a line of incidental dialogue: “Get out of my face, you bloody toff!”.
Other titles also disappoint. At no point has my plucky hero turned around as I raided some long-forgotten croft to say: “actually, buddy, I have enough cash right now. Bought the best gear, unlocked all upgrades… I think I’m going to leave this loot behind”. No impecunious NPC has approached my band of brave adventuring souls to upbraid me for hoarding enough Gil to found a tiny country.
Not only would it be wonderful if the above encounters had actually happened, but this particular lack of self-awareness inhibits our games from speaking about themes like money, or poverty, in a radical or a thought-provoking way.
Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale is a great example of this. In Recettear, you play a young girl whose father went missing on a dungeon raid. One day a fairy rocks up at your door and lays down the bad news: your dad left behind a whole lot of debt, and the collection company is going to repossess your home. Unless…you can find a way to make the money back yourself. Before you can object, she’s stuffed you into a pair of overalls and turned your living room into an item store.
Recettear is a feel-good story about a young girl’s triumph over adversity against all odds. But I felt guilty when it finished. The problem wasn’t being exploited by my fairy accomplice (whose ambiguous position is lampshaded a couple of times), but the way in which I’d exploited others to make back my father’s debt. Specifically, the adventurers I’d employed to earn money on my behalf.