Who Am I? (Kane and Lynch 2 edition)

Continuing to think about avatars this evening, though with a somewhat addled brain. I’d thought about writing about Tecmo and Baseball Stars, but thought Kane and Lynch 2 deserved some though, especially after having read an interesting (and so positive) write-up on the game forwarded by a friend.

Obviously, in K&L2 your avatar is either Kane or Lynch. As Kane or Lynch your basic abilities are navigating the essentially linear, though extremely confusing, world, and shooting the bad guys. Or is that the good guys? Well, really it’s just the “other guys”. Shoot them, shoot them good. In this sense, the agency you have in the game is pretty similar to many, many other games.

In single-player you control Lynch throughout the game (the bald one who’s kind of more of a psychopath), whereas in playing it co-op with Gordon initially, I was in control of Kane (the other one, who’s apparently more of a klutz). Because of this, I had the experience of seeing Lynch as being the Other to me, whereas Kane was “me”. When I started the single player version of the game and I was Lynch, it was a bit of an out of body experience, almost, because I had adjusted to being Kane in all the scenarios I played through. Thus, being Lynch felt strange and a little distasteful somehow.

The fact is, though, that both Kane and Lynch have pretty firmly established characters of their own, they’re certainly not avatars you’re meant to fully project yourself into as yourself. Rather, I suppose, the idea is that you channel your inner Lynch or Kane and play through the game feeling like you’re them. Or, as the article I mentioned above discusses a bit (and as most reviews indicate), it may be that you feel completely revolted or turned off by the character of your avatar and thus consciously or unconsciously dissociate yourself from them.

That dissociation is a peculiar experience – not as interesting as I figure it could be, but a good one to have anyway. Controlling someone you think is an idiot asshole is not super common in games. Often you won’t necessarily love your avatar, but it’s rare to completely write them off as a human being and generally scoff at their reasons for doing what they (and you) are doing. Each time my Kane or Lynch died, I couldn’t help but feel like they deserved it.

In a way, the repeated deaths on the way to the end of the game – in gutters, in restaurants, on tarmacs – were the real endings, whereas getting on a plane and escaping was a mere pipe dream, a fantasy. Kane and Lynch are characters made to die. That they don’t “officially” die in the game is kind of pleasing in its irritation and somewhat the opposite of John Marston’s death in Red Dead Redemption (surely we all know about that by now, and if not, sorry). The bad guy turned sort of good goes down in a hail of bullets.

The idiot psychopath who has learned nothing shakes the last Rottweiler off their leg and flies off into the grimy sky.

28 September 2010
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