The following statement may annoy some of you. I certainly know it will annoy Peter but I try to make that a daily occurrence, so I’m just fulfilling my quota really.
Outside my window there is snow. Not a lot of it, I’m not suddenly mistaking the quiet street I live on for Canada, but enough that pretty much everything is white and certainly enough that one of the buses near my house isn’t running (although that takes almost nothing to achieve). It really was very pretty when I looked outside last night, the strangely orange street lights making the snow glow oddly and highlighting the footprints from the few souls that had sullied the fresh powder.
That was when I had an odd moment, a reminder of the truly bizarre way in which our memory can work. I was looking out of the window and thinking about games, pondering what I could write about in this very article today. The snow and the footprints suddenly gave me flashes of Uncharted 2, the point where Drake is struggling in the wake of the train crash. That was certainly a defining moment of the game, but there were other points that were equally as important right? I mean surely the game wasn’t just that segment for ten hours?
You can't help but feel Drake's pain.
The snow though? That’s very vivid, a fixed memory in my mind. Perhaps it was the sheer pain you felt Drake was enduring, the hopelessness of his situation at that point. Naughty Dog excel at getting across the emotion of their characters, and Drake staggering through the snow as he bled out really took that up to the next level. That’s what made me wonder though, is it just these emotionally charged moments that stick with us, does the rest of the game simply slip by and float out of your head as soon as it’s completed?
It’s certainly true of Halo: Reach. My memories of Bungie’s final Halo title are clearer than those of Uncharted 2, but there’ still a single moment of the game that sticks in my head, a point that seems to fix the rest of my memories of the game in place. If you still want to play the game you might want to skip the next paragraph for fear of spoilers.
Although by the end of Halo: Reach your entire squad, and ultimately your character, has been slaughtered by Covenant forces there’s one death that sticks out, one that I’ve talked about in the past. Although most of your squad seems to be playing a game of “Who can die in the noblest way?”, Kat’s completely sudden and unexpected death sticks with me like no other. I’m not sure there’s even another character’s death in any game that effected me as strongly as her untimely demise at the hands of a sniper. It nearly made me cry, and even now I can feel it stirring my emotions.
There, spoilers over. That single moment in the game underpins everything else I can recall about the game, it’s the point upon which everything else is anchored. I wonder if Bungie were trying to achieve that, if they knew that a single cutscene would be the point at which the game sunk its hooks into my brain. Did Naughty Dog know that with Drake’s snowbound struggle? They clearly recognised it afterwards, the exceptionally similar moment in Uncharted 3 makes that clear.
Altair's adventure may have made an impression, but I just can't remember it.
I’m willing to accept that my memory works in a weird way though, that it might just be me that needs these high points to anchor down any other memories of a game (or film, or book). I’d be interested to hear if you have a similar experience though, do you have a specific moment of a story that suddenly jumps to mind when you think about it? Is there a point that all of your other memories revolve around, or do you have a more perfect recall?
With all of that said it’s time to go make my own footprints in the snow. I may be some time.