There have certainly been more wholesome adventures
Way back in 1999, I once had a curious thought while playing Final Fantasy VIII, a Japanese role playing game in the spunky-teenagers-save-the-world mould. This particular game features a rather prominent dichotomy between the civilized and savage, as futuristic settlements litter a world where monsters still roam the countryside outside the city limits. One of the questions it caused me to consider was how technology could advance without complete dominion over the wilderness. Continental road and rail networks that could be interrupted by marauding monsters felt ridiculous, even by the loosest standards of fiction.
Another question Final Fantasy VIII raised, albeit perhaps unintentionally, was the degree to which it was considered healthy behaviour for people to go out monster hunting. Teenagers traipsing through the local forests and fields slaughtering giant bugs is evidently quite acceptable in this universe. Needless to say, I’ve never quite understood fantasy. Apparently, neither has Terry Cavanagh, developer of Hero’s Adventure.
Lasting only a few minutes, Hero’s Adventure is perhaps less a game and more an interactive commentary. The subject is turn based role playing games, specifically the violent tendencies encouraged and expected and their possible effects on personal wellness. You play as a young boy who, frittering away the moments before dinner, explores the local wilderness near his home.
Hero’s Adventure can best be understood as a sort of dramatization or easily imaginable work of fiction. Far from being fantastical, everything featured is rather mundane and entirely plausible. The loving parents, the idyllic house near a forest, the trio of common animals met in the woods, none of it is out of the ordinary.
The twist here is how the young boy’s world is framed by a violent mechanic. The harmless wildlife encountered are viewed as enemies, signalled by the delightful core flute melody sharply changing into a hardened guitar rift for battle. In this mode the animals can only be massacred, and they must be buried deep in the forest in order to progress.
Most games like this wouldn’t think twice about the cruelty such gameplay asks us as players to commit, which is precisely what Cavanagh is attempting to demonstrate. The grim darkness the young boy reaches travelling deep into the forest makes this clear. The musings of his parents once the screen has gone black drive the message home. Hero’s Adventure is meant to trigger a seldom acknowledged ethical impulse, and to that end it’s immediately successful.
Click here to play Hero’s Adventure.
This article was originally published on our old website at https://thenewspaper.ca/the-arts/cavanaghs-concerns/.