I’ve been playing video games since before I can remember, the sounds of Altered Beast putting me to sleep as a baby. You can say I have played my fair share of games, from chasing apes in Ape Escape to fighting Dracula in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night to exploring a post-apocalyptic, underground society in Metro 2033. Video games are a vital part of my life, but there’s one thing that tends to draw me to one over another: the story. One series I simply cannot shake in terms of narrative is The Darkness series starring my favorite mobster, Jackie Estacado. I did not truly know the influence of a gripping video game story-line until I was faced with life, death and vengeance as Jackie Estacado.
As a nimble young man, Jackie had no idea what had awakened inside of him. He was surrounded by prevailing friends and family, a compassionate and beautiful girlfriend, and the world at his fingertips. But the Darkness had come to flip that upside down.
I was recommended by a friend to pick up The Darkness and give it a try. “You will definitely like it,” he had said. I wasn’t too sure. I liked to get involved in my own games, my way. I knew what I liked about a game and what I didn’t like. This made it hard for others to choose for me, because I could be particularly picky when it came to video games.
When I started playing the first installment in The Darkness series, I literally could not stop. It was like the first time I started reading “Harry Potter,” when you know you’ve picked something up that is truly astounding and you can’t bear to part with it, not for one second. I knew I had stumbled upon something special, a video game unlike the rest. As a writer, I love to read, and it says something about a story that can really grasp me.
At one point in the game, Jackie explains his back story with his girlfriend, Jenny, whom he met in the orphanage as a kid. They grew up together, became best friends and eventually started dating. Jackie was a tough, mobster type, but with Jenny he was a big softie who immediately melted at the sight of her. Maybe it’s the feminine side getting to me, but I was a sucker for their romance.
Betrayed by his family, Jackie sought revenge. When his enemies forced him to watch them kill Jenny in the old orphanage, I started bawling. Never has a video game moved me so. I had become so attached to Jackie and Jenny and their playful relationship, like watching Ron and Hermione in “Harry Potter.” So when Jenny was killed off, I couldn’t bear it. I felt for Jackie. This may have been one of the saddest moments in video game history.
After that, I, too wanted revenge for Jackie, for the way they had treated Jenny and destroyed any chance of a normal life for Jackie. As Jackie did, I also gave in to the Darkness. I wanted to use it to tear my way through vengeance, and I secretly enjoyed eating the hearts of those who had wronged Jackie. Some sliver of satisfaction arose from finishing off Jackie’s Uncle Paulie. The final battle wasn’t even terribly challenging, but it was about finishing the game, the story, in a way that didn’t make me want to tear my hair out so I could stay involved in the narrative. After the game ended, I cried again, both for Jackie’s life of vengeance to those who had wronged him, and the fact that the game was over. I hadn’t felt such emotions for a video game ever, not even with the second installment of Silent Hill.
Because of the emotional impact Jackie’s story had on me, I dubbed The Darkness my favorite game of all time, because of the involvement I felt with the characters and the incredible narrative that went along with the supernatural action and mystery. It possessed everything a perfect video game should: a gripping narrative, relatable characters, supernatural edge, and intense action. I’m still searching for a video game that can top what I felt in The Darkness.