Dec. 2nd, 2013 12:04 pm
I said I would write an entry about the game OFF and the effect it had on me. Here's the entry.

Before I start talking about the effect OFF had on me, though, I think it would be good to explain what OFF even is, because some people don't know what it is. Warning: if you intend to play the game, I would suggest not reading past the first few paragraphs or perhaps not even reading this at all, because it contains major spoilers.

It's a French computer game (translated into English, don't worry), made in RPG maker and created by a chap operating under the name of Mortis Ghost. In the game, you control a figure known as the Batter, so-called because he resembles a baseball player and uses a baseball bat as a weapon. The first person you encounter is a Cheshire Cat-like figure prone to using big words. He's called the Judge, and he starts off guiding you through the world of the game. Interestingly, he is aware that the Batter is only a character who's being operated by someone he calls the Puppeteer. The Puppeteer is you, the player, and this fact ends up having plot/symbolic significance as the game goes on.

Anyhow, the Batter has a mission: to purify the Zones. (The "Zones" are the different parts of the world of this game.) At first we think he just means he wants to save the world from the spectres that haunt it, but as we go on, we find out that, to him, "purification" means death. We never quite find out what's so "pure" about killing people (and, indeed, the whole world, because his actions result in pretty much the death of everyone and everything in the Zones), but the Batter never wavers in his convictions, and we play on. As we go further on, we find ourselves doing increasingly morally ambiguous things, like killing the Guardian of Zone 3, whose death, unlike that of the Guardians of the previous two Zones, does not feel like the death of a Not Very Nice Person or a mercy kill. It's at that point that a lot of people question whether or not they were doing the right thing by helping the Batter in his quest, and after that point, you get to explore the "purified" Zones, and...well, it's not very pleasant. Everything is white and dead, and everyone is gone (except for one surviving non-player-character, whose presence just makes it even more creepy).

As you play on, you end up going to "the Room" (a place that's even more surrealistic and creepy than anything preceding it and where you get some information that may serve as plot details...or, then again, maybe not). While there, you kill someone who doesn't even fight back (with that someone being a child), and this tends to be seen as the Batter's moral event horizon for those who don't think the results of his actions towards the Zones qualified as such. When you reach the end of the game, you're about to flip a switch that results in the total cessation of everything in the game's reality. There are two endings at this point, and I'm not going to spoil what they're like, but the player gets to choose, and there's one in which the Batter wins.

Here's why this game had such a profound effect on me. When I started off playing it, I believed in the Batter and his quest. I'm something of a Lawful Good (or at least, I try to be) and characters who have quests and goals that result in good effects (or at least effects that sound good, like "purification") really really appeal to me, because that's how I would like to be able to see myself. I also hold the belief that some things that might seem morally dubious might be acceptable depending on the results. To my worldview, the highest moral goal is that of helping people, and if an action involves or results in helping people, and the harm/negative effect caused by that action is not greater than the positive effect, then that thing should be done. That's why I didn't experience any sort of moral qualms about doing the things I did while playing as the Batter. All of it was justifiable to my worldview. It wasn't until I saw the "purified" Zones that I began to think that the harm I caused outweighed the good (there wasn't any good in the end, really), and it wasn't until I killed the child that I began to think that my actions were really incorrect and that the things I did maybe weren't all justifiable.

This contrasts heavily with the experience reported by most people who play OFF. They say that, at some point, they realize that what the Batter is doing is wrong, but they play on for whatever reason. They know that they, as the Puppeteer, are responsible for some pretty bad things, but they don't change their behavior, though they do feel remorse. I didn't have that experience. I was like the Batter himself. I projected my own worldview onto the character, and I realized that the actions undertaken by this bastard were actions I considered acceptable, at least in their context. (To be honest, there are some pretty bad things - I don't want to say what they are - that I think might be the right thing to do, under certain circumstances, and the reason I wouldn't do them is because I don't think it's my place, which implies that it might be the place of other people to do them.)

If I'm going to be perfectly honest, I felt both guilty and betrayed by the end of the game. Had I been looking at the game critically, I probably should have worried about the Batter's quest of "purification" from the start, but I identified and related to the character so much that I believed in him. I believed in the Batter. Even 'til the end, I believed in him, and when he started doing truly awful things, I felt betrayed. Wouldn't you feel betrayed if you had been following and relating to and believing in someone and they turned out to be a monster at heart? That was my experience in regards to the Batter in OFF.

This made me realize that there are some seriously wrong things with my worldview. Even though I still think there's little wrong with my actual ideas of right and wrong (i.e. morality), there are problems in regards to how I think people should enact right and wrong (i.e. ethics). When people ask me the difference between morality and ethics, I tell them that morality is right and wrong and ethics is what you do with it. And...well, if my experience with OFF is any indicator, some of my ethics are seriously messed up. As I was trying to correct this part of my worldview, I realized that some other parts of my worldview are seriously messed up as well. One of my problems is a need to feel superior to people. Like the Batter, I believe that I am "pure" (well, I never used that term self-referentially, but I do believe I am inherently better than many other people because of my religion and my interest in morality and helping people). My belief that I am "better" makes me think that my judgment is inherently better than some other people's, that my heart is always in the right place, and that I am superior. In trying to correct that train of thought, I realized that I feel a need to be "better" than other people because I don't think I can be "good" without being "better". (It has something to do with my belief that, as soon as you describe something, you imply that there is an ideal by which you are judging it, and you can compare it to other things and say that some are closer to or further from the ideal; "more" or "less", "better" or "worse", etc. I might write an entry about this idea later.)

That's what I got out of the game OFF. When I got into the fandom surrounding OFF, well...that was rather a different thing. The OFF fandom, in case you didn't know, is flipping insane. (This contributed to my formation of a theory about fandoms and why some are crazier than others, and I will probably write an entry about that, too.) Sometimes it's a crummy, stupid insanity, and sometimes it's a funny, awesome insanity, and sometimes it's just a "WTF" insanity. I made a text post on Tumblr about it, a text post that became somewhat popular. It read, "I really like OFF. I also really like the OFF fandom. These are two totally different things, but I like both of them." The people who reblogged and liked it were undoubtedly all OFF fans, so the fandom acknowledges how crazy they are. I wonder if it's because they all played a game that made them have deep thoughts and realize important things, and in trying to deal with it, they all sort of went crazy and decided to conform to the opposite of what the game really is.

But yeah, that's what happened with me when I played OFF. I had an experience almost completely opposite to the experience most people had, I realized a bunch of awful things about myself, and I realized I had to change them. Also, I found a bunch of crazy and silly people on Tumblr and I found a fandom to partake in, and that's going pretty well so far. The experience wasn't all bad. Not in the least.


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