Back in 1999, it was an amazing year for the gaming industry. We got to see System Shock 2, which at that time was a revolutionary for storytelling in a first person shooter, and also inspired games like Bioshock and even have its influences in games nowadays like the 2017’s Prey. Super Smash Bros made its debut in the January of the year on the Nintendo 64 while Final Fantasy VIII released on the Playstation. Even for the PC “Masterrace”, they got their perfected Quake III Arena which then was famous for its CPMA mod which bloomed the competitive first person shooter tournaments. Nonetheless, there’s one that flesh out from the rest; Planescape: Torment. A game that didn’t made a lot profit at the time. Won shit tons of awards. Even regarded as the best role-playing game of all time. Best known for its storytelling and world building than its gameplay mechanics which it borrows of from the second edition of Dungeons & Dragons games like The Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale which also uses the infinity engine and still marvellous games till this day. The thing is about Planescape though, it is in some ways, changed how a narrative in a videogame were made even decades later. It can’t be replicated into a movie adaptation, or a novel. It only works as a game. I know what you’re thinking, what the hell am I blabbering about on an 19 year old videogame. I’m getting to that part in just a minute. Before anything else, you’ll have to understand the context of what I’m trying to explain. There’s weight into this. It wouldn’t do any justice to this game or for the sake of this essay if I fail to lay out the context beforehand.
The protagonist, unlike your typical prophetical dragonborn, a farm boy or just the mere fact that the protagonist is a perfectly human character, our protagonist here is actually already dead. Well, not really dead. He’s immortal. The first act of the story started waking up at the mortuary slab. Waking up not knowing anything and having amnesia. The premise, the setting and everything here wants to change that typical fantasy genre trope. There aren’t any humans, dwarves, elves and orcs. The world itself, The Planes as they called it, a multidimensional place where you go to when you die. And even then, there’re societies and cults that believed that the world that there’s still another life beyond this and called it the true deaths. The whole town of Sigil, is full of demons and succubus, and the whole plane is condemned into the blood war, where different race of demons rage war on each other. And after all this, in all that chaos, the protagonist, your character, his sole motivation and goal is; to find out who he is. That’s all there is to it. He isn’t supposed to save the world. He don’t even know his own name. His mortality was taken because of his own wish. Every time he died, he is awaken again without any memory of the life before this. The only guidance is from the tattoo he made in his every incarnation. And in his travels, he finally meets with the witch hag, Ravel, which she reveals that she was the one that ripped your mortality. She was imprisoned by The Lady Pain (don’t worry, she’s not relevant to this story), and was task to answer a riddle. A riddle in which will have a significance meaning until and even perhaps after you finish the whole game. “What can change the nature of a man”. Now, you have to understand the salience of the question, mechanically and in terms of narrative. When you first met her in the maze, the possible answers that you can answer are 16. 15 truths and a lie. This comes down to, love, regret, a woman, hatred, betrayal, power, death, success, age, greed, and finally a lie, which just to seduce and compliment Ravel. Every answer is actually correct. She will grants the exit to the maze afterword. It doesn’t really matter which answer you choose.
However, at the very end of the game, this happens.
Nameless One: What can change the nature of a man?
The Transcendent One: I have seen you live a countless lives, Broken One, I have lived your endless quests that accomplish nothing except spread your torment though the multiverse. Then, this is my answer and you are my proof: Nothing can change the nature of a man.
Nameless One: You are wrong. If there is anything I have learned in my travels across the Planes, it is that many things may change the nature of a man. Whether regret, or love, or revenge or fear - whatever you believe can change the nature of a man, can.
The Transcendent One: Then you learned a false lesson, Broken One.
Nameless One: Have I? I've seen belief move cities, make men stave off death, and turn an evil hag's heart half-circle. This entire Fortress has been constructed from belief. Belief damned a woman, whose heart clung to the hope that another loved her when he did not. Once, it made a man seek immortality and achieve it. And it has made a posturing spirit think it is something more than a part of me.
“Whatever you believe can change the nature of a man”. This is what I said about how the choices given to you at the beginning. It is such a powerful gesture in a videogame. Whatever you believe can change the nature of a man, can. The real answer is belief. Whether it is love, power, or whatever that we, the player feels or thinks is the answer. Because we believe in that. The whole story revolves around this concept. Everyone we met in our travels did this whether we noticed it or not. This is mind-blowingly good. Oh and by the way, “The Transcendent One” is actually his mortality. The antagonist. Spoiler huh. In a lot of ways, this game feels a lot more real than anything that I learned growing up. It may doesn’t seem like it, but our world do have some reflections on the worldbuilding of the Planes. What we think will find itself to be manifested into this physical reality. The ending takes place in The Fortress of Regrets. A physical manifestation of what the first incarnation of The Nameless One. Something that exist just because of a thought. An emotion of a being.
All this talk about belief and how it can make a real difference actually has a term for itself. It’s called the law of attraction. The new thought. In which likes attracts likes, positive attracts positives, and good thoughts attract good things. Tony Robbins, a well-known philanthropist and motivational speaker put it so perfectly on describing the law of attraction and the magic of visualisation. We all know how people become successful, it’s because of their mind-set, but how does that really built. The first thing on top of everything else, is of course the potential. It what determines how far you know you can go. Robert Bannister, the first guy to make a 4 minute mile run made that potential that we can do those things. He broke the records. In 2 years’ time, 37 other people made the run. It’s because they know it’s not impossible. The potential for every single person is remarkable. Whether or not they tapping on the potential depends on the actions that they make. From the actions that they make, will produce the results. For some people, what made them realise their true potential comes down to beliefs. Beliefs that they can do all those things. Ironically, the results that they produce, will reinforce the belief and it’ll affect the potential again and so on. So let’s say, that a person have an unlimited potential (like anybody else does) make such little actions and of course will make very little result. It’s because he doesn’t believe in his potential in the first place. Add up with the poor results that he gets, it’ll definitely have an effect on his belief on his potential. This will keep on spinning and spinning to no end. If you believe in the first place that you can do all those things, then of course you will tap your potential by doing more actions and results in a good way and that will reaffirm your believe again. Lots of other great figures have done this before. If you want to drive that Lamborghini, then truly believe that you will drive it one day. Truly believe that you will want to achieve that dream. No matter what people tell you it’s futile and a waste of time to think of far-reach goals, keep on believing that you can reach it. Don’t let others’ pessimistic thoughts drag you down from getting what you want. And if you still didn’t get that Lamborghini, don’t let it affect your beliefs. It’s because you still have doubts about yourself.
This is a remarkable lesson I learned from just playing a videogame. The whole reason I want you to read through that story of The Nameless one, is to truly understand how this whole concept is explained through a videogame. An art form of the law of attraction. A fictional representation of its concept. Or perhaps, I just freaking love the game. I was thinking of doing a second playthrough. This time with strategy guide and getting all of the secret overpowered weapons.