The XCOM Saga, post-game commentary
by Dan Repperger
If I were to describe the XCOM Saga in a single word, it would be “unexpected”. As I said back in the introduction article, this was mostly an attempt to recreate something I did back in 1995 as two friends watched me play through the original game. Now well into adulthood, none of us have that kind of free time, so I started rambling on Facebook instead. I guessed there would be some mild amusement — particularly from those that had been there for the original play through — but that was about it. I was taken completely by surprise when so many people started contributing to the game. Some of that was incorporated into game choices I made at base or on the field, while the rest came in the form of interesting commentary that really didn’t fit into the organic flow of the game, and thus the RP interludes were born.
What surprised me even more was the positive response from people not involved in the story. Quite frankly, I consider a story about Dan and his friends fighting aliens nothing shy of self-indulgent fantasy. I’d try to guess why a sort of cult following popped up around the story, but I think to make such guesses would be the real moment of self-indulgent fantasy.
The entire story took about a month to do, and I really enjoyed doing it. Playing a video game while getting buy-in from other people is hardly a torturous experience. It’s also quite different than a normal play through, since the actions are being dictated by my interpretation of the individuals (which doesn’t always result in the best game decisions) and then hearing the people behind those names tell me what the situation looks like to them.
With the story now done, I’ve come to several conclusions…
- I want to do it again. The fact that other people enjoyed participating or consuming is certainly a motivating factor, but I had fun doing it purely for myself.
- I’d like to keep the prior narrative moving. As a result, the game I’m most inclined to use is X-COM: Apocalypse. I have some ideas for bridging the prior saga into a story that takes place roughly 70 years from now.
- Several of my “players” said they felt such strong emotional buy-in because they were asked to think about their real persons, families, strengths, weaknesses, etc. So I don’t want to switch to having anyone play a created character. Additionally, some of the people that were most eager to contribute to the RP side of things got killed. As a result, Adam is likely the only person I will leave dead, since his death is a critical part of the prior narrative, and not just a random incident of war. Anyone else that died will be hand-waved back to life. Games are about fun, and I’ll never sacrifice that on the altar of perfect continuity.
- If I do indeed use Apocalypse, that game gives scientists and engineers their own character sheets and presence on the battlefield. So those roles can be filled by real people that are willing to contribute meaningful RP instead of the eye-roll-inducing commentary of Dr. Vahlen.
- While I want to expand the RP side, I have to be careful about bringing too many chefs into the kitchen. The story could easily slow to a crawl and lose its focus as I try to work through the gobs of RP contributions.
- I also need to stick to people I know really well. If I don’t have the right amount of firsthand knowledge (granting that some of it can be replaced by email inquiries and such), I can’t tell much of a story about what they’re doing in such a bizarre set of circumstances.