Last week, I started playing Dishonored. I fell in love with it. All that talk of the game being short was, as ever, internet exagger-annoyo-mania. I spent about five hours doing the first proper mission. Just hiding under tables and sneaking around houses, watching people. I loved how you could take a lot of different paths to your objectives. I loved how you could just crawl about on a roof, unseen, and then appear behind an enemy in the blink of an eye.
I wanted to know if I could do it in real life.
Are we influenced by games? I think we are, a bit. But not in any dangerous way. Don't believe the reactionary idiots - playing a game about killing doesn't make us want to kill. It doesn't fundamentally change who and what we are. More often, games make us study the world around us in a new, fresh, beautiful light. Games make us see the "level design" in the architecture and landscapes that surround us. You play Tony Hawk and you start seeing skate lines all over your town centre. You play Mirror's Edge and the world becomes a parkour playpark. You play Dishonored, and you start to think about how you can get into the houses of all the people you love without them knowing.
MISSION 1: MY MA
My first mission would be to get into my mother's house. Let me explain the situation. My mother is in her seventies, and she has nurses who come to visit. Because of this, she has a key outside the house in a little box with a combination lock. I know the number for this lock, so getting the key is no problem. The big difficulty would be getting myself into the house and hiding somewhere without her noticing. I also gave myself an additional objective. Years ago, my sister bought me a Justin Timberlake doll as an ironic Christmas present. It lies on top of a wardrobe in one of my ma's bedrooms. I decided that I would have to get in and out with Justin Timberlake, without being spotted.
On Friday morning, I went to her door, put the correct combination into the lock, and got the key. I then went to her living room window and peeked in, to see where she was. She was sitting watching TV, so I ducked out of sight. With the street quiet, I silently let myself in the door.
I listened at the living room door, because that's the kind of thing you'd do in Dishonored. I'm not sure what was on TV, but I heard my ma say, "Oh, shut up you. Idiot." so it might have been Jeremy Kyle or something.
I crept upstairs, and headed straight for the room Justin Timberlake was in. At that point I heard the living room door open downstairs. I dashed into a bedroom and went under the bed. It was at this point that I had a moment of self-awareness. I was a 35-year-old man lying under his mother's bed. If she stumbled across me, she would maybe have a heart attack. S*** was getting real.
I listened carefully. I couldn't hear my ma's stairlift humming, so I knew she wasn't coming upstairs. I slid out from under the bed, with all the grace and agility of a Scottish writer who's nearing forty, and grabbed Justin Timberlake. Then I had an idea. I could go back downstairs and risk being caught, or I could climb out of the window.
This bedroom's window is directly above the little porch that juts out above the front door. I'd been out on it many times in my youth, but hadn't set foot on it in years. Still, what would Corvo do? I opened the window, clambered out onto the porch, and dropped onto the path below. I felt MAGNIFICENT.
Admittedly, I then had to go back into the house to make sure the window was closed in case an EVIL Corvo got in, but the mission still stood as a success.
TIMES DISCOVERED: 0
INFORMATION FOUND: 1 (My ma wanted an idiot on telly to shut up.)
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKES CAPTURED: 1
MISSION 2: MY SISTER
This one would be more difficult. My sister's house is a busy house. There are always people coming in and out. The house is hardly ever empty. There would certainly be people inside when I make my entry, and these would most likely be people with better hearing than my old ma. Another problem, and a major one - dogs. My sister has a few dogs, little Bichon Frise things, and these little white s***s make a lot of noise at the slightest hint of a person's approach. This was like I'd set the game to VERY HARD.
My mission objective? I had to steal a slice of bread from the kitchen. The kitchen is the most busy room in any house. This was high-level stuff.
The one positive was this - because there are always people coming in and out, to and from work and so on, the front door is often unlocked. There was a possibility that I could just walk straight in, but only if the dogs weren't there.
What would Corvo do? Well, he would maybe possess one of the dogs, but that's not something I can do in reality. I tried anyway. Nothing happened. So I did the other thing that Corvo would do. I waited. I waited and watched. For about three hours.
And then I saw my sister come out of the front door with the dogs. I crouched behind a car and waited for her to pass. I dashed to the front door of the house and slipped inside. The house was noisy. I could hear the TV. There were coats hanging on the banister. People were in. I peeked into the living room.
Yes. My brother-in-law was watching TV. Could I get through the living room and into the kitchen without him spotting me? I started to crawl. I crawled into the room, and lowered myself to my belly, sliding myself along the floor. Another wave of self-realisation. What would my brother-in-law think if he turned and saw me sneaking in like this? How would I explain it? "I'm doing a column for Eurogamer." Would that cut it? I doubt it. What I was doing was weird. Like, really weird.
In fact, as I lay there, I realised that what I had said earlier was wrong. I said that games can't fundamentally change who we are, but Dishonored had turned me into a prowler. Sure, I had justified it in my own mind as a "funny bit" for a games website. But I was still a prowler. This was creepy.
I started to slide myself backwards. I wanted OUT. I wanted out of the mission. I wanted to EXIT TO WINDOWS. My heart was pumping in my chest. This was a terrible idea, and I resolved never to tell anyone about it. I heard barking outside. The nightmare scenario was taking shape. My sister was back. The front door handle turned.
What would Corvo do?
He would kill her. It was clear. I had no sleep darts, and no supernatural powers. If Corvo was in this situation he would have to kill his pursuers.
This weekend I murdered my sister, her husband and three little dogs.
But it wasn't Dishonored's fault. I didn't choose to kill them because I wanted to be Corvo. There was already something wrong with me, clearly. From the moment I decided to break into my own mother's house, it was clear that I was a disturbed individual. When I had my final moment of self-awareness, lying there on my sister's floor, I tried to blame Dishonored for turning me into a monster. But this was purely my mind trying to rationalise an evil act - It can't be ME who is lying on this floor. It can't be ME who is strangling these doggies and eating them. Something else must have made me do this. An agent of evil of some kind. A game. Anything.
As you read this, I am inside your house. I see that you have a lot of violent video games on your shelf. And yet, you have a lovely home, and you look like a kind person in these framed photographs. You have lovely soft pyjamas.
In Dishonored, as in life, you can choose a path of death or a path of peace. The choice comes from within. The rest is just dressing.
I have made my choice. I'm very, very sorry.
TIMES DISCOVERED: 2
ENEMIES KILLED: 2
DOGS KILLED: 3
YOU KILLED: 1 (In a moment)
DARK SOULS SCREENSHOTS USED: 1