Sturdy as hell
Oh dear: youre back at work / school. Hope you enjoyed your Christmas break because its nose-to-the-grindstone time for the next few months, buddy. Youre probably sat at your desk right now, thinking about how you wish you were back at home, playing games in your pants. Ok, chin up, friend. Im going to teach you to love that desk youre sat at by highlighting the most wonderful, heroic, and downright memorable desks in all your favourite video games.
So straighten your stapler, make sure your coffee mug is on a coaster, brush the crumbs off your keyboard, and get ready for a rollercoaster ride through gamings most important desks. Warning: may contain more serious messages than simple commentary about desks. Also, there will be jokes. Just saying.
Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
Admit it--you wish you worked at Abstergo. Look at that comfy chair. Bet you dont get a bad back while youre plugged into the Animus, plundering the memories of Assassin and Templar ancestors for artefacts that will help your evil overlords enslave the human race. Ah--such lumbar support!
The desk itself is sturdy and modern; strong enough to support a rather sizeable screen and plenty of tech, and curvy enough to give any office that near-future-chic look. Theres even room underneath for a crazy head of IT to comfortably go about his bizarre corporate espionage agenda. Of course, this desk is a portal between the clearly fictional in-Animus realm, and the weirdly meta modern world of Black Flags Abstergo building. In narrative terms, its probably one of the most important elements of the game. Ha--and you thought it was just a desk.
If you like intricate technical stuff in games, like physics objects and dynamic lighting, then the desks in FEAR will make you grin with glee. Theyre chock full of little bits and pieces that you can bash around and knock onto the floor--perfect for a spot of light-relief in between slow-motion murders.
More for the tech crowd? You can mantle over desks during combat, jumping over them to out-manoeuvre your enemies. Enemies even flip desks to create cover for themselves, an ability you controlled during later games. Its one of the finest examples of inanimate objects having such a huge impact on core gameplay. Sexy indeed.
Oh Eva. The things Ive imagined. Things involving you, me, and that desk you sit behind, smouldering. See, theres nothing inherently sexy about your desk. Sure, the lamp is kind of designer, and the phone is pleasingly old-fashioned--evoking a simpler time before mobile and computers--but the real appeal of your work surface (and indeed, the playing areas of most mystery games as a whole) is the stories I invent for it in my own head.
Eva, forget about the Lost Souls Alliance. Forget about your PA duties, which are actually just a cover for all the spying. Lets do it. Lets sweep all that office tat off the surface and really, really get to grips with the Sunday Times crossword. Yeah, the cryptic one--because Im that freaky.
When youre Heavy Rains Nawwwwwmaaan Jaaaaaaaayden, every desk is sexy thanks to the ARI you carry around in your claw-like hands. By popping the pseudo-futuristic ARI specs onto his head, our Nawm can transport himself--and his desk--to the top of a mountain, or the surface of Mars. He can open virtual filing cabinets on the Formica surface and trawl through any number of important FBI documents.
Its a fascinating contrast to the relative normality of the rest of Heavy Rain, and a fairly brutal dig at the relative incompetence of young Nawwwwmaaan, who totally bungles his investigation despite all his futuristic tech. Meanwhile Ethan discovers the identity of the killer through primal, fatherly determination and instinct. Is David Cage having a sly dig at modern societys over-reliance on technology? Hmm.
If your boss is an asshole, he or she will often ask you to think outside the box (without explaining what that actually means). Sound familiar? Allow me to provide an example of thinking outside the box. MicroMachines. This game takes the humble desk and turns it into a race-track; a veritable amphitheatre of broken dreams and life-changing victories. And to think you were just going to rest a cup of tea on it!
MicroMachines lets you race tiny cars, trucks, boats and even helicopters across a wide variety of everyday locations but, because this is a feature about desks, I have to say that the desk tracks are my favourites. Again, though, theres probably some deeper message here. Something about video games using everyday objects and locations to increase their appeal through familiarity. Maybe. Desks, eh?
Want to know the future of gaming desks? Of course you do! Look no further than Alien: Isolation, which not only uses next-gen tech to render its desks in horrifying detail, but also faithfully recreates the desks (and yes, every other aspect of the game) to look exactly as you remember them from the 1979 film.
Its 70s sci-fi, reimagined for gaming in 2014, and it looks bloody brilliant. Thats really the point here. This isnt actually a feature about desks. You do know that, right? The desks are just a Macguffin that allows me to talk in a more focused way about video game worlds and the way we interact with them beyond smashing up crates and taking cover. Mkay?
X-Files: Resist or Serve
If you grew up as a teenager in the 90s then THIS was the desk you always wanted to be behind. Not only would you be able to thumb through all the X-Files that Mulder left lying on it, but you could also sit and stare at 90s geek-sex-icon Gillian Agent Scully Anderson until she filed the harassment complaint against you. Which, for most, would occur within roughly 30 minutes of arriving for work.
There have been various X-Files games, the best of which is Resist or Serve, which sadly appeared after the TV show had ceased to be cool (or good). In it, you can walk around Mulders basement office and look at all his stuff. The attention to detail is impressive--his desk and all its surroundings are just like you remember from the show. Really taps into your nostalgia glands, something companies like Nintendo and Sega make millions from. Only, they use Plumbers and Hedgehogs rather than furniture.
Indie darling Gone Home is practically a desk simulator. For those who havent play it, you wander around an empty house opening drawers and reading notes to push the story to its inevitable conclusion. Its ok, if a bit boring. Anyway, loads of desks in it, the best of which is in the fathers study. It contains several sad clues about why the father is something of a loser, and how his low self-esteem is a direct result of poor parenting from the Grandfather figure.
Better than that, its a fine desk unit. Its almost a bureau, which among desk-fanciers (Im pretty sure they exist--please dont Google them) is very much the Lamborghini of office furniture. Considering Dad is such a crap writer, he certainly has some decent tools for his trade. Also, he keeps a bottle of something boozy in his desk area--perfect for knocking back while he reads all those publishing rejection letters and ponders the reality of imperfect family life.
Resident Evil 2
Phooooooooaaaar. Its Rebecca Chambers in a cheerleading outfit! Surely this is the sexiest desk ever? Well worth the time it took for you to search it 50 times in a row, right? In normal life, if you opened your desk drawer at work 50 times expecting to find something new, your colleagues would probably start to slowly edge their seats away from you. But in games, repetitive searching is fine. Perfectly normal behaviour.
Look, I cant attribute intent to some developer who made a game years ago, but Im willing to bet that he was having a joke at the expense of obsessive Easter Egg collectors in games. The people who do everything again and again to try and discover something no-one else has found. Were encouraged to scour games for every last scrap hidden in them by their creators, often for very little reward. Weskers desk is probably the perfect example that highlights this bizarre trend, and the futility of following it.
It was a big moment in the NBA 2K series when you actually came face-to-face with the GM in 2K13. No longer just an AI routine (although, he really is just an AI routine), the GM became a real person. Hes got a desk with papers and a novelty coffee mug on it: he must be real! In a sense, the desk and everything on it legitimised the simulation of NBA 2K. Suddenly, theres a human face to blame or thank for all those craft transfers or rogue business decisions.
Simply, the introduction of a desk--and the equally wooden man behind it--was a huge moment in the sports genre. Sadly, 2K14--despite going next-gen--added very little to the desk-based elements of the game. Going forward, I honest hope (really) that each franchise gets its own unique GM that sits behind unique desks in unique offices. Why? The immersion it would bring is immense, and itd carry sports games firmly into the new generation. Yeah! Desks!
Sometimes a brave desk is all that separates you from the slavering, unwashed hordes that want a pathetically small slice of your gaming utopia. The desk in Papers Please is a virtual representation of your position of power--its a physical barrier that creates a false distinction between you and the poor people who are at your mercy.
Of course, again, thats what games really are. Theyre the thing that gives you the power of life and death over an infinite population of pixellated people. Essentially, most games that offer choice are just you stamping Approved or Rejected on the fates of their inhabitants; and theyre like holding a mirror up to your own morality. Example: did you save Ashley or Kaiden at the end of Mass Effect? Dunno--depends which one you liked the look of most when their papers landed on your desk. So to speak.
Desktop Tower Defense
Fact: in the name of research, I had to spend several hours playing Desktop Tower Defense on Friday afternoon. I ignored all my emails, made a nice big cup of tea, and clicked away the working day fending off tiny mobs. All in the name of research. See, we dont just throw these features together!
Anyhow, the desk. Yes, theres a desk in Desktop Tower Defense. Its pretty cool. Theres some cash on it, which you cant pick up no matter how many times you bash your hand into the screen. Looks like its made out of a sturdy wood--maybe even oak, which is lovely. Look, Ill be honest, I probably need to do a bit more research on this one see you in a couple of days.
All desked out
So, there you have it: the most important desks in gaming. Bet you never thought that those trusty wooden constructions carried so much philosophical weight? Maybe youll show them a little more respect now, right? No? Still just going to rummage through them searching for health-packs? Fair enough
Want more features about inanimate objects and random stuff? Heres one about 11 Random Objects That Look Like Video Game Executives. And heres one about the 10 Most Abnormal Things That Normal People Do In Games.