R.I.P. Josip Idromeno
Nothing in video games this year filled me with more respect and unbound enthusiasm for the medium than when comrade-in-arms Josip Idremeno died in my arms. It was dark, late in the evening, when I found him buttoned down by enemy fire on a starlit African hillside. I immediately opened up with my AK, drawing fire away from my Buddy and eventually turning the tide of the battle.
I didn’t see Josip again until the last body fell, a few short meters away from his prone, writhing form. I rushed over to help, feverishly pumping syrette after syrette of healing fluid into my wounded friend. Alas, my efforts proved to be in vain. Josip expired a short time later and I could do no more than watch helplessly as my in-game counterpart gently brushed his hands over Josip’s eyes, closing them for the last time.
A strangely hollow feeling overwhelmed as I followed my map to the nearest safe house. Not quite raw grief, but something considerably more powerful than disappointment that my African adventure through Far Cry 2 would continue on with one less ally at my side. In short, I had somehow come to care for my virtual friend’s well-being.
Prior to his death, Josip and I had collaborated on a number of operations. I saved his life several times before his untimely passing, often throwing myself into greater danger than I normally would simply to draw fire away from him. He in turn offered me multiple opportunities to build my reputation, making my search for the notorious arms dealer known as the Jackal that much easier. A real emotional connection had been established through these shared experiences.
Even the creeping presence of gameplay constructs didn’t diminish the impact of Josip’s loss. It was clear after I hit him with the first healing syrette that a happy ending was not in store for Mr. Idromeno. Normally a guaranteed life-saver, the syrette did nothing on this occasion. So I hit him with another. And then another. I knew they wouldn’t work – especially since my stock of three syrettes did not change after each injection – but it didn’t stop me from hoping they would.
When it was at last clear that nothing could be done, a final syrette was used – this time depleting my stock by one – to ease Josip’s passing. The only difference between that final injection and the failed life-saving attempts which preceded it was that I’d elected this time (with a button press) to send my Buddy into the sweet hereafter. Despite this very obvious element of artifice, I just couldn’t shake that hollow feeling as I trudged to my safe house save point.
It’s the strongest emotional gut-punch I’ve experienced from a video game since the death of Aeris in Final Fantasy VII. Only this time the choice was left entirely in my hands. Artificial or not, my connection with Josip was one I had actively cultivated by choosing to work with him and coming to help when asked. Far Cry 2 isn’t exactly being hailed as the year’s ultimate gaming experience, but I don’t have to think for more than a second or two when asked what the standout gaming moment of the year was for me.
Did anyone else out there in the ‘Sphere have a similar experience with Far Cry 2? Or any other game? If you had to pick one standout gaming moment for 2008 – not a full game mind you, but rather a single memorable event – what would it be?