Recently in an interview I was asked about other forms of the heroes story, if there are other types yet to be explored by games, and indeed there are. As an example, one form I’ve been playing with, both in thought and practice, is tragedy. This classic tragic hero archetype is one rarely given to players. To often contemporary video games follow a hand-holding method of play design which makes sure always to “please” the player and let them “win”, a discussion explored more in depth in Randy Smiths recent piece on next-gen.biz.
I was fortunate enough to be able to execute a single-player campaign for Company of Heroes Opposing Fronts which was in fact a tragedy, full of tragic heroes, engaged in tragic actions. In the end, the player, as the fictional Kampfgruppe Lehr, is successful at fending of the British and Americans during Operation Market Garden (OMG), but the tragic nature of the 3rd Reich’s downfall and it’s destruction of Germany is the stories true end. Giving both a positive and negative value charge to the players final moments of the campaign with Wolfgang Berger.
Born out of the nobility of imperial Prussian blood the primary protagonist Wolfgang Berger is innately full of hamartia (flawed judgment), in his support of the 3rd Reich (3rd German Empire) and its aims at increasing lebensraum (German living space). Torn between the conflicting voices of his heart and his mind, embodied respectively by his brother Alrdrich and Major General Voss, he struggles to stay honest to himself. Soon he looses close friend Wilhelm Deinhard and brother Aldrich to a tragic reversal of his fortune brought about by his devotion to the 3rd Reich. In the narrative climax of the campaign a true catharsis enters the audience as Wolfgang cleanses his hands and mind of the blood-guilt left from his actions (the players actions) during the OMG campaign. As he comes to grip with his err over the body of his dead brother, Wolfgang’s broken heart is able to speak to it’s true antagonist the 3rd Reich, embodied by Maximillian Voss (see clip of the final mission I wrote and co-designed below.)