It was a day like any other in Big Sur, Californ-i-ay. Beautiful sun out, my beloved and I hiking the Tan Bark Trail, among the redwoods and the oaks, hearts swelling to the gentle rhythm of trickling creeks, small waterfalls. We walked for a good half hour, eyes wide, mouths agape, charmed as hell by the brilliant foliage. Then came the sound of gushing water as we approached a large waterfall. I bent a knee to drink from the source. My girlfriend smiled at me. I had turned 32 just a day before. This was the life. We continued our adventure through increasingly rough terrain, the trail having become obstructed by fallen trees and shifting sediment. Soon after passing beneath a great black tree trunk, we decided to turn back. The trail had long disappeared and our hike was quickly morphing into a muddy, vertical affair. And so we began our journey back, passing again beneath the fallen tree.
Wasps. Lurking in the darkness beneath the trunk. They sprung about us, attacking as a pack, having decided on my girlfriend’s crotch as enemy numero uno. Within seconds they had stung her several times through her jeans, and I tried to swat them away as she screamed and ran. That’s when a wasp stung me right behind the ear. The pain was intense. I shrieked like a banshee and my girlfriend and I both panicked, running wildly through the forrest, flailing our arms like crazy people. She screamed again. One of the wasps had stung her on the buttocks. I swatted it away and we kept running. Several minutes (and after many more defensive swattings), it appeared as if the wasps had ceased pursuit. The stings really fucking hurt. We walked on, muttering horrific things about Mother Nature, cursing her vicissitudes. A few minutes later, and after our terror had somewhat abated, a wasp that had been HIDING UNDERNEATH MY GIRLFRIEND’S FUCKING SWEATER LIKE A LITTLE PIECE OF SHIT NINJA FROM HELL stung her in the ribs and she panicked again, squirming out of her sweater and tossing it to the ground. I found the wasp in its folds and crushed it between my sleeves. Its friends were nowhere to be found.
And that’s why first-person games are evil. Because no matter how much I appreciate the delicious taste of classics like Half-Life and BioShock, there always comes a moment when a SON-OF-A-FUCK WASP SNEAKS UP ON ME FROM BEHIND AND STINGS ME BEHIND THE EAR. I get it. That’s how it works in real life. But I play games because real life is a scary, awful place, and the night is long and full of terrors. We exist in a hellscape of cleverly designed traps in the form of spiders, snakes, ants, wasps, mosquitoes, wolves, mountain lions, and bears. All of which are capable of sneaking up on you from behind, and executing vicious, life-ending attacks. Werner Herzog was onto something when he said that “nature here is vile and base. I wouldn’t see anything erotical here. I would see fornication and asphyxiation and choking and fighting for survival and growing and just rotting away. Of course, there’s a lot of misery. But it is the same misery that is all around us. The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don’t think they sing. They just screech in pain.” Even great third-person games like The Witcher 3 allow dirtbag fawn, foul, bandits and monsters to hijack your reality from an impossible angle.
It’s no wonder then, that my first true love was Ultima Online. Really, this article isn’t so much a shitpost about wasps and first-person, so much as an ode to isometry. Oh sacred isometry, giving us the illusion of three dimensions while allowing us to see evil approaching from any and all directions. Back in 1999 you already allowed me to see Player Killers, Trolls, Orcs, Liches, Lizardmen, and Dragons before they could sting me behind my precious ears. God I miss those days of yore. Ultima Online, you are the reason I loved Pillars of Eternity so much, and Underrail, and Wasteland 2, and Age of Decadence, and many other great recent RPGs told from the Right and Safe Perspective, the Non-Wasp Perspective, the Perspective That Does Not Attack My Girlfriend’s Crotch.