Running gamut of mood, atmosphere and violence

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 December, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 December, 1997, 12:00am

Not much has changed at the basic level of computer games: you have violence and non-violence and that is about it.


When you think about it, I suppose that could be said about most forms of entertainment.


The games of violence will probably always outnumber those that are not and some of the non- violent games are quite silly in their attempts to avoid blood.


It is interesting, however, that most of the innovative work is being done in the non-violent area. One thinks immediately of games such as Myst and its sequel, Riven.


There is a newcomer called Myth that has interesting design elements, but it is in the violent category. Ultimately, the heart of any game must contain some form of violence.


Myst is still the all-time great - simple, non-violent, CD-ROM game. It is one of the top best sellers in computer game history.


There are two games that have been the talk of the game world: Riven and Blade Runner.


Riven is a terrific Christmas gift. Not only is it non-violent, it is an absorbing puzzle for the whole family. Riven is a game of moods and atmosphere that takes you into caves and over the hills of a mysterious land where you will sometimes see odd creatures.


Almost everywhere you go there are buttons, switches and levers which often open secret panels or compartments that you cannot see until later.


Although not explicitly violent, Riven always hints at possible violence. If you only buy one game this year, this should be it and it runs on both the Mac and the PC.


One of the most long-awaited games of recent memory is Blade Runner, based on the sc-fi film by Ridley Scott in 1982. It is interesting to note that what has made Blade Runner successful is exactly what has made Riven successful: design, mood and atmosphere.


One of the great problems with CD-ROM games that are derived from films is they can never be as good as the film. The people at Westwood Studios, where Blade Runner was created, have opted to take much of the design, some of the characters and a great deal of the mood of the film and put it into the game.


They have also tried, with varying success, to give the game a flavour that this type of game has never had before: a character who develops according to the decisions you make him take.


In other words, the hero can become a mass killer of replicants (the androids of the original story) and be little different from any other game hero, or he can become more like the Harrison Ford character and be concerned about who is human and who is not.


This makes the game both intriguing and at times a little quirky. Nevertheless, if you are a fan of the film, this is a must-buy game. But it is a PC-only game. There appears to be no Mac version in sight.


A new game that is not to be seen in Hong Kong but can be bought on the Internet is Myth. Information on the game is at http://www.bungie.com/myth. This is a multi-platform game with intriguing design elements and is certainly worth a look.


The ultimate of all violent games is Quake. There are others that have a similar feel to them: Marathon, and Duke Nukem. At the bottom of the screen, you see your hand and it holds a weapon. It may be a hand gun, a shotgun, an axe or simply a fist (yours, of course). This is what you use to blow away the bad guys and some of those bad guys can be people on a network (great for lunch hour at the office) or on the Internet.


Although it is 'mindless' violence, the challenge is not to get killed yourself and to be able to move round the environment with ease. If you want to try the 'ultimate' experience in this kind of warfare, you may try a special virtual reality helmet that was designed for this purpose.


But one must be extremely careful about helmets because not everyone likes them.


There are, of course, two old standbys that help if you really do want to avoid the violent games: golf and flight simulation. There are possibly more variations on golf than any other game for computers. This is obvious because golf is one of the few sports that does not require instant action.


Flight simulators have been out there from the very beginnings of the personal computer. If that does not appeal to you, I suppose you could go on the Internet and download a good book.