When I was about 10 or 12 years old, I can't even remember for sure, my best friend and I used to spend hours creating things related to our favorite video games. Enamoured with Final Fantasy IV, we wrote a guide referencing various characters, places, and objects with their respective myths. When we were going through our Mega Man phase, we would use dot-matrix printer paper to create entirely new levels. One year, we teamed up with a few neighborhood kids and made a Super Mario movie (I kinda wish I still had that VHS...and a machine to play it on). Those days are well into my past, but they've stuck with me quite a bit over the years.
Why? Those days were filled with imagination, a trait that has dwindled during my shift to adulthood. Sure, we didn't always have the most original ideas, but what truly mattered in those days was we took a basic idea and then we ran with it, generating our own ideas, injecting our own imaginations, and letting our creativity run wild. This is why I love video games so much today. I'll usually find a basic idea that fascinates me, then my own ideas and creativity take the wheel. In a weird way, video games are a little like my muse.
Which brings me to the Borderlands games, most notably, Borderlands 2. Now, I'm a pretty big fan of this game, as evidenced by my time posting to the Borderlands subreddits and the few blog posts I've made. I've played through multiple times in the last few months, maxing out my levels, farming for cool weapons, and using the diverse variety of classes to give myself a unique take on the game. What I can't get over though is how utterly fascinated I am with this game. I can't remember the last time I played a game so religiously that didn't have a "Final" or "Fantasy" in the title. So what is it about this game that has touched not only me, but an entire community of Redditors?
AN EPIC STORY
Both Borderlands games take place on the planet of Pandora, a planet filled with horrific creatures and overrun by commercial greed. In the original game, the Vault Hunters are driven to hunt down "the Vault", which contains ancient alien technology. The story involves a long quest, but it intertwines with Pandora's history. Not only are you fighting against remnant psychos and bandits left behind by the Dahl Corporation, you also struggle against contenders for the Vault, an army by the name of the Crimson Lance. Dialogue might be sparse, and the story itself might be slow at times, but the action never really stops as you plunge through the story.
Borderlands 2 takes us into the future a little ways, bringing in a new clan of Vault Hunters while keeping the old familiar Vault Hunters as non-playable characters. You get to keep the previous stories, witness the repercussions from the first game, and then set out to find another Vault. Only this time, you have a clearly identified villain. Handsome Jack, president of the Hyperion Company, is a ruthless (though somehow hilarious) and calculating villain, hell-bent on destroying anyone living on Pandora.
The two games branch nicely, folding one into the other, creating a truly epic feel.
Brick, Mordecai, Roland, and Lilith. Salvador, Maya, Zer0, Axton, Krieg, and Gaige. All of them Vault Hunters, and all of them awesome in their own right. Sure, the story is the same at the end no matter who you choose, but the journey you take to get there might be totally different. Did you melee your way to the final boss? Did you fight like a soldier or a sniper? Did your enemies feel the sharp blade of your buzzsaw axe or the claws of your deathtrap? Did they succumb to the concussive blast of your phaselock or the elemental power of your phasewalk?
The story is there regardless, yes, but the characters, each with their own history and personas, really make the game. Not only do you get the epic feel of Pandora's past and present, but you become connected to the characters you take along for the ride. You learn their catchphrases and abilities, and every time you begin a new campaign with a different character, it truly feels like you're starting over again.
As I said in the beginning, it's the simple ideas that inspires us all to create. A story, a character, and before you know it, you're off on your own. I've been a member of the Reddit community for a while now, and a member of r/Borderlands and r/Borderlands2 since I first picked up the original Borderlands game. But it wasn't until just the other day that I noticed how much creativity was coming out of these subreddits.
Music videos, fanfiction, video shorts, comics, drawings, analytical theories, paintings, cosplay, and I know some of you hate it, but modding...yup, that's using some creativity genes, too.
These are all outlets for creativity, and they've all found inspiration from the legends of Pandora. An hour on Pandora can lighten me up as well, lending to me the inspiration I have to continue my editing or finish writing my own epic stories. It's a great feeling being a part of a game that inspires so many others. This passion is what leads to innovation. It might seem backwards, but I truly believe there is no such thing as an original idea. True innovation is taking an idea and spinning it completely upside down and inside out, leaving the passion there but the idea totally new.
Thanks for reading, Vault Hunters!
Borderlands 2: The Ultimate
The Finer Things: Pandoran Redux
Video Games, Comics, Movies, and Books. I'll talk about it all, and I'll tell you why it's so awesome!