A while back Oscar Strik wrote an article titled “An Ode To Objects” where he explained that the most wonderful items in games are ones that are clearly part of the game world itself. Essentially, if you can “plug and play” an item from one game to another, it isn’t doing the kind of work that Strik would like to see it doing. He cuts the argument down to a polemic near the end:
Read my lips: No more longswords +1, ever. None. Please give every single item some real flavour, some colour, some history. This can be a special in-game effect (special damage, limited use of a certain spell, and the like), or just something non-functional that makes it stand out (a backstory, a particular visual design).
I am Alastor. The weak shall give their heart and swear their eternal loyalty to me.
My name is Ifrit. The fool who awakens me shall pay dearly with the fires of hell.
I played Devil May Cry sometime around when it first came out. I was at my friend Tyler’s house, and we spent a full 24 hours passing the controller back and forth and pirating music from WinMX. I’m not sure if we completed it or not. After all, for a game that is about stylish swordplay and quick wits, the actual process of playing it for the first, second, and tenth time is a grueling march from point A to point Z. We died a lot, but I was fascinated with the game, not only for its gameplay, but for the setting.
The world of the first Devil May Cry is full of demons. That’s just a part of everyday life, so much that Dante, the main character, has a service for killing them. That’s his life. Demon murder. But we don’t see any of these Ghostbusters-esque hijinks. Instead, the game begins, and Dante is off to a strange island where strange things happen for no real reason other than “demons.”
There’s a creepy window with a tree that looks humanlike. There’s a castle ruin, strange in its combination of use (the bedroom) and abandonment (so much more of it). There’s a circle in the sea where giant biting heads appear to chomp on Dante. The game is just god damn weird.
Alastor is a sword that tries to kill the protagonist of the game. It appears, shoots out of a statue, and impales Dante, who survives by pulling the sword through himself. It is a moment of pure teenage badassery which is pushed even higher by Dante immediately picking up the sword and cutting the air around falling glass with it.
But that sword wanted to kill him.
The strange animacy of the weapons in the Devil May Cry universe is one of its unique features. Like the sword mentioned in Strik’s essay above, Dante’s weapons clearly have a life outside of their use-value for him despite the fact that our only real experience of them is through that use. We can imagine a world where Alastor isn’t conquered by Dante and instead consumes him, alien-like, planting demonic sword eggs in his belly that cut their way out when they hatch.
All forces and flows (materialities) are or can become lively, affective, and signaling. And so an affective, speaking human body is not radically different from the affective, signaling nonhumans with which it coexists, hosts, enjoys, serves, consumes, produces, and competes.
- Jane Bennet, Vibrant Matter 117