Why VICE Gaming Is Now Waypoint
Waypoint Editor-in-Chief Austin Walker explains how 2012's 'Dragon's Dogma' helped to inspire the name of VICE's new gaming site.
Image by Stephen Graham
In the lead-up to Waypoint's launch on October 28, the site's staff is giving a preview of some of the titles that they'll be playing during the massive 72 Games in 72 Hours live stream.
I've been to Tamriel and Middle-earth, to Nilfgaard and Lordran, and each is filled with its share of terrors. But nothing in the vast catalog of fantasy games is as frightening as the nights of Gransys, the world of 2012's Dragon's Dogma.
What separates the nighttimes of Gransys from these other game worlds isn't the catalogue of supernatural foes—after decades of playing games, what's another cyclops or chimera? Instead, it's the simple fact that once the sun sets in Dragon's Dogma, a deep darkness falls over the world. That's not a metaphor. The game literally just gets dark.
In many games, the night brings on a blue hue, communicating to the player that it is night without actually impeding regular gameplay. But the nights of Dragon's Dogma are designed to get in your way. The sun crosses over the mountains to the west, and suddenly tasks that would be easy by day become challenges. The mountain paths that line the centre of the continent are dotted with chasms, and without the light of day, they become treacherous and hungry. The undead corpses of the Abbey's meagre graveyard are doddering distractions at noon, but under the shield of midnight, they overwhelm.
For these reasons, I spent the first dozen hours of Dragon's Dogma carefully scheduling my treks out into the wilderness. I'd leave at dawn, before the sun had fully risen, and when it hung at the highest point in the sky, I'd turn back toward one of the game's few harbours of humanity, where I knew I'd be safe. There were occasions where a wrong turn would leave me confused, lost, and holding tightly to my ever-dimming lantern, until finally the night took me. These failures reaffirmed my strategy: While in Gransys, heroes travel by day. The night time is not for us.
Which is why I was frustrated when Dragon's Dogma told me it was time to stay out late. To complete a new quest, I'd need to move through the caverns of a mountain—inhabited by who knows what—or else circumnavigate them entirely, and then infiltrate a castle overrun by goblins and other creatures. The castle, the caves—those didn't scare me. What scared me was the distance: regardless of which direction I took, it would be dark by the time I reached the woodlands that ran up to the castle walls.
I was not thrilled... but I was enjoying Dragon's Dogma, and had no intention to stop. It was time to go into the dark. So I equipped my character with extra lantern fuel, opened my map, and set a waypoint.
A waypoint is anything in the world that we orient ourselves by, something that we look to for guidance on a journey. In the past, waypoints were things either natural to the world—that one weird tree, the sharp plateau in the distance—or things placed in the world by those who held the authority to erect watchtowers and fortresses, train yards and taverns. They were places travellers saw on the horizon, places where people stopped to rest and recuperate before moving forward.
But in games, waypoints take on an additional dimension: they are the first (and brightest) illustration of a player's intention. We use them both to guide us onto our objectives and to lead us off the beaten track and toward wherever our curiosity takes us. Before we assault the fortress, before we start the race, before we leap from one star system to another, we set a waypoint. They are the marks we leave on the map, the beacons we place in the dark that declare, yes, we will walk into the night.
In some games, waypoints are communal, too. In Eve Online, commanders lead hundreds (sometimes thousands) of other players through voice commands and tactically designated waypoints. It isn't always such high tension, though: some of my fondest memories of Guild Wars 2 were when I found a beautiful vista, and then marked it on the map so my friends could join me there—a place, again, to rest and recuperate.
When it was first released, Dragon's Dogma had a very limited "fast travel" system. There wasn't an easy, repeatable way to teleport yourself safely and easily across the map. Every waypoint you set was a commitment. It meant taking the time to prepare, charging ahead with a mixture of trepidation and excitement, and dealing with whatever unpredictable bullshit came your way.
That's why we're Waypoint. Maybe it's a bit on the nose as a metaphor, but it is our intention all the same. We aim to be a guide to games culture. We want to investigate how and why people play games through a combination of articles, live streams, podcasts, and videos. We want to make you think, laugh, and ask new questions. Waypoint isn't just our name, it's a guide for us at the site, too, something we can orient ourselves with as we step forward into whatever comes next.
To those of you who have followed our team for years—across sites like VICE Gaming, Polygon, Kotaku, ZAM, Giant Bomb, and Crunchyroll—thanks for sticking with us. For those of you just hopping on board, glad to have you. Let's do some cool shit.
You can follow Austin Walker on Twitter.