Garriott Says We’ve Not Mastered Storytelling

By John Walker on February 1st, 2011 at 3:06 pm.

He's lived on the moon.

Interviewed in the latest episode of Game Theory with Scott Steinberg (below), Lord Richard Garriott of Britain explains that as far as game narratives may have come, be believes they’re still falling far short of those in books and films. He says,

“I don’t think we’ve yet mastered the techniques of true interactive storytelling.”

You can see the full interview, along with contributions from Charles Cecil, Jane Jenson, Bob Bates and others, in the third episode of this new series, this time focusing on game narrative. Oh, and I have a little rant, too.

Here’s the full episode:

I couldn’t agree more with Garriott if I studied for my PhD in Garriot Agreement. While my favourite games are those which have the strongest stories (Planescape: Torment, The Longest Journey, Deus Ex, Portal), they’re still exceptions, and while there’s certainly something unique about the way we can experience a narrative through gaming, they still fall short of the storytelling in the best books and cinema. Watching the episode, it makes me pretty sad that so many seem to think that we’ve mastered game narrative if we let the players interact during the cutscenes.

The episode sets out the idea that we’re currently in some sort of resurgence for storytelling within games, by citing a few recent examples. But pick any year in the last 30 and you can do exactly the same. It’s been a pressing issue with notable attempts ever since the first interactive fiction. While games have succeeded in incrementally improving their graphics, it’s hard to identify any significant progress with story in over at least a decade. As Legend Entertainment founder Bob Bates says in the episode,

“I’m not surprised that storytelling is back. I don’t know that it ever left. It’s just that we’re not very good at it. Still.”

The consensus seems to be that it’s a work in progress, something the medium is still trying to work out. And it’s a discussion I’d love to be had more often. Rhianna Pratchett points out that writing game stories is far harder than she’d ever realised when she was working as a critic. But I think her conclusion that she’d therefore been too harsh when criticising story is a seriously wrong one. Just because it’s very difficult to make something that isn’t poor doesn’t mean a critic shouldn’t identify it as poor. In fact, quite the opposite. The more people refuse to put up with the gibberish that narrates the majority of games, the more likely something will be done about it.

I passionately believe that the way we can experience story through games is unique, distinguishable from that of film, television or books. Even if a narrative is completely linear, it is dependent upon our progression to proceed. Certainly we can press pause on a DVD or refuse to turn the page of a book, but these actions are not comparable with the interactive nature of our propelling a game story forward. If we must solve a puzzle, reach a room, make a logical leap, kill an enemy, or engage with a character, this action is capable of transforming our involvement and our cognitive relationship with the experience. Game stories are special. But they’re rarely better than weak. And while there have been fantastic stories in games, it’s hard not to accept that what we really mean is “fantastic stories bearing in mind they’re for games.” Game stories have literally changed my life. I don’t deny that there have been great moments. But I would argue that gaming is seemingly still years away from its 1984, its Slaughterhouse 5, its Annie Hall.

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131 Comments »

  1. Turin Turambar says:

    No shit.

    There is barely any interactive storytelling in all the videogames history. Of course we haven’t mastered it.

    • John Walker says:

      Way to read the headline!

    • CMaster says:

      Oh yeah, this is a Walker article.
      I forgot we’re not meant to read them, so as to send him crying home.

    • Zaboomafoozarg says:

      I never read Walker articles, I just look at the pictures.

      I kid, I kid.

      The story in Betrayal at Krondor, written by an actual author, is why it’s probably my favorite game of all time (at this moment anyway).

    • Vorrin says:

      Mh, I think storywise, actually, probably my favourite ever is still Ultima 7 (both parts) or well, the Ultima series in general.

      To me, few things have come close to being such a good mashup of the best possibilities of a book, a movie and a game, fused together as that, so, way to go, having Richard Garriot discussing narrative :)

      System shock 2, also managed really well in that field, and all others for that matter (and yes yes, Deus Ex too, but I guess System Shock 2 with its ‘smaller’ scope pulled off one of the best suspensions of disbelief ever, and the best robo-baddie ever helped).

    • Oozo says:

      Just don’t make the mistake of reading the novelization of said game written by said author. Just… don’t.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Well, on the bright side, Garriott at least seems to have mastered stating the obvious.

      /Doesn’t read article

    • Hematite says:

      @Vorrin; U7 was fantastic, I only wish they’d continued the series*.

      *And also it’s a shame there were only three Star Wars movies.

    • something says:

      What Ultima 7 got right was creating strong characters with proper stories while being economical with the dialogue. That’s where games struggle – it just isn’t possible to have as much dialogue (or text in general) in a game as there is in a book or even a film or TV show, without compromising the game.

  2. Mike says:

    I think this is as much about perception as anything else. Most of the readers of RPS are pre-loaded whenever playing a game and experience it differently than someone who mostly watched films and is then sat down in front of Deus Ex. Until we understand how games are different, I don’t think we’ll have much more luck than hit-or-miss with game narratives.

  3. AndrewC says:

    I think a good argument for the power of story-in-games is how involved we get in them despite them being shallow and awful.

    Games are amazing. Just imgaine what they’d be like if they were any good.

    • evilsooty says:

      I am not terribly optimistic about the quality of storytelling improving until gaming is treated more seriously as an art form and can attract writers at a level above that of airport novelists. While games developers can create technically impressive 3D worlds, they unfortunately are not (usually) gifted when it comes to literary accomplishments. Crysis is an excellent example of this: the most banal of plots set to a breathtakingly beautiful world.

    • Okami says:

      Games are amazing. Just imgaine what they’d be like if they were any good.

      That’s the best thing I’ve read on the internet in a long time.

    • Kryopsis says:

      @evilsooty
      I do not think you’re approaching the problem for the right angle. I am getting the impression that you would like games to be written by accomplished authors. This is very similar to the mentality that resulted in major video games having Hollywood actors voicing the characters as opposed to professional voice actors. Writing for an interactive medium is different from writing traditional (linear) novels. A number of mainstream writers have worked with video game companies but the results were rarely successful. Similarly, a number of rather decent video game writers have attempted to write novels with rather unfortunate consequences. There are a couple of exceptions, I am sure (though I’ve yet to read either of Jane Jensen’s novels) but few writers, if any, are equally skilled in both interactive and non-interactive storytelling. I am not arguing that video game storytelling can’t improve: of course it can! This said, the approach should be different from hiring mainstream writers. Rhianna Pratchett argued that video game developers often neglect to invite the writer until much later in the production cycle. The writer is then forced to rely heavily on decisions that were already made by the creative team and has very little creative freedom of his own. Storytelling is not given much importance, certainly not as much as the quality of visual assets or the code. In order to improve storytelling in video games, we must first get rid of some (frankly absurd) notions.

    • Dervish says:

      No, it’s stupid. Games are simulations of reality–virtual universes. Story exists at the LIMITS of your simulation. Which is why reality (i.e. real life) will remain the most complex and interesting game, and one that doesn’t have a story–the idea of adding a story to reality is absurd. We employ stories in our virtual realities as a crutch; it’s a way of hiding our limitations and constraints.

      “I think a good argument for the power of story-in-reality is how involved we get in it despite it being shallow and awful. Reality is amazing. Just imagine what it’d be like if if was any good.”

      See how stupid that sounds? Everyone keeps banging on about “good writing” without realizing where depth and engagement really comes from. Good stories/writing/cutscenes/whatever don’t really make the game any better, they just help you forget about the edges of the simulation. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it shouldn’t be mistaken for a way forward.

    • Archonsod says:

      And which part of reality was Pacman simulating?

    • Dervish says:

      Nice try. You can imagine, say, a game where you fly a prototype fighter jet that is not yet finished in real life. But it’s easy to see how it’s still a simulation of reality, right?

      Well, it’s really the same idea with Pac-Man. You could make a little maze in real life, with a little robot that goes around chomping up blobs. The specifics of how Pac-Man might be implemented in real life aren’t important; the idea is that a game is just a simulation of stuff happening, even if that stuff seems fantastic or far-removed from your everyday experiences. It may even seem impossible.

      The point is not to waste time thinking about how various games could be “made real,” it’s to recognize that video games = virtual universes, which is why all the lessons learned from real life (“Why is X interesting?” “What makes me feel Y?”) can and should be applied to them.

    • Oozo says:

      As the internet would say: That made me lol so hard. AndrewC, I salute you.

    • Consumatopia says:

      Story as the limits of our simulation is a very good way of putting it.

      But I don’t think that means we wouldn’t need story if our simulation was sufficiently powerful. Even assuming that computational and design resources were infinite, the player’s time would still be finite. The player needs a reason to interact with your simulation rather than just continuing to interact with reality itself. The goal is not just to simulate a universe, but to simulate an interesting subset of the universe. That would mean, for example, designing interesting simulated people for the player to interact with. The process of designing these characters would be the crafting of a story–you would have to specify sufficient past history and motivation for the simulator to fill in the blanks to create a simulated person.

    • AndrewC says:

      OK I MADE A TYPO YOU DON’T HAVE TO RUB IT IN JOHN

    • Highstorm says:

      It seems like Minecraft is a good example of what Dervish is talking about. The simulation is expansive to the point of seeming endless and without boundary. The game itself has no “story” as we would traditionally call it in a game, and yet everyone who plays it could certainly fill your ear with any number of personal stories from their experience.

      It makes me wonder what “interactive storytelling” really means. The definition of the term suggests that the viewer, reader or player is taking part in the act of storytelling alongside the author. Most games offer simple binary choices. A or B, good or evil. They tell you a different tale depending on that simple coin toss, but it might as well be choosing what version of the movie to play at a DVD menu for all the role the player actually fills in the storytelling process. In a game like Minecraft, however, the author simply draws the world in just enough detail to let the player’s imagination run wild, and allow him to craft his own story.

      Maybe the reason we’ve yet to master this new form of storytelling is because we’re trying too hard to apply the methods and structures of other mediums to it.

      With all that said, I have to say that while I’ve lost countless hours to Minecraft and had a blast with it, I find little desire to play it unless some form of inspiration to build has struck me. I don’t think I’d like all of my games to follow the same structure. Sometimes I just like to hear a good tale in between (or while) shooting some bad guys.

    • Zaboomafoozarg says:

      AndrewC, your quote is the tagline for RPS. You, sir, win the internets.

  4. groovychainsaw says:

    I think there is great confusion between forcing a story upon the player and allowing the player freedom to ‘write their own story’. Neither is a perfect solution, but both can be done in games to greater or lesser effect. Minecraft is a superb topical example of what happens when you let players write their own story.

  5. CMaster says:

    I’d disagree about Deus Ex or Portal having particuarly great stories.
    The latter (much like most Valve games) has a not especially original or interesting story that is very cleverly told.
    Deus Ex is just a fantastic game that gets you wrapped up in the sheer gusto of it all, while explicitly asking you to think about some of the issues the often borderline ludicrous story brings up.. The actual storyline is just bond villain wants to rule the world, really.

    • John Walker says:

      I think you can similarly glibly summarise most stories. But it’s the process of being told the story that’s interesting. And in Deus Ex’s case, the being told is what makes it so special.

    • CMaster says:

      That’s what I’m trying to get at.
      There are some stories that are exciting, moving, gut wrenching, etc by the virtue of their events and characters.
      Other stories aren’t anything that notable in themselves, but are told in such a way as to really grip you. In gaming, the storytelling aspect often matters more than the story itself – an intrusive story, or one that is disconnected from the gameplay often makes the game worse even if it is an excellent story. But one told well, told incidentally or through the actual gameplay works so well.

      That was the fantastic thing about the first Half Life. The actual story content could be summed up in a couple of pages, probably. The fact that it was told around you, rather than to you is what made it so good and something that the series seems to get worse at with each new instalment, sadly.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      Remember this is about storytelling, not just story *writing.* You can easily dumb down most stories to a simple fetch quest or other such archetypes, no matter the medium (games, movies, even books). It’s often how that otherwise simple premise is told, how it’s portrayed, that makes the difference between a good story and a bad story.

      In this respect, Portal manages to take a simple idea and make it into something unique and engrossing thanks to the way the story unfolds.

    • DeathHamsterDude says:

      Yes. It’s been said that there are really only seven different stories that are ever told, that only the details and structure are different.

      1. Overcoming the monster — defeating some force which threatens. e.g. most Hollywood movies; Star Wars, James Bond.

      2. The Quest — typically a group set off in search of something and (usually) find it.e.g. Watership Down, Pilgrim’s Progress.

      3. Journey and Return –the hero journeys away from home to somewhere different and finally comes back having experienced something and maybe changed for the better. e.g. Wizard of Oz, Gullivers Travels.

      4. Comedy – not neccesarily a funny plot. Some kind of
      misunderstanding or ignorance is created that keeps parties apart which is resolved towards the end bringing them back together. e.g.
      Bridget Jones Diary, War and Peace.

      5. Tragedy – Someone is tempted in some way, vanity, greed etc and becomes increasingly desperate or trapped by their actions until at a climax they usually die. Unless it’s a Hollywood movie, when they escape to a happy ending. e.g. Devils’ Advocate, Hamlet.

      6. Rebirth – hero is captured or oppressed and seems to be in a state of living death until it seems all is lost when miraculously they are freed. e.g. Snow White.

      7. Rags to Riches – self explanatory really. e.g. Cinderella &
      derivatives (all 27,000 of them)!!!

    • skinlo says:

      I don’t remember the story being told to me at all in HL2 and Eps.

    • CMaster says:

      @FriendlyFire
      That was exactly my point. John was citing those games as having good story and I was countering that there are much better stories elsewhere (I’ve never played it, but TLJ does sound like the story and characters themselves are fascinating) but are instead good examples of Storytelling.
      I think it’s important to make the distinction to move things forward.

      @Skinlo
      No? You don’t remember all the times you were either locked in a room or physically held while made to listen to something be explained to you or watch something happen. Episode 2 especially is filled with some rather poor tropes and conventions – while it’s probably the most story-heavy element of the HL franchise, I also think it’s the weakest in an awful lot of related areas. It saves itself by being an absolute blast to play, but shows that the HL series has already left behind what made the original such a standout experience.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      There was an article linked a while ago in the Sunday Papers that talked about different levels of writing, from concept to storyline to character to dialogue. (Can’t find the exact link right now.) That seems to be what you’re working towards. Writing on the level of storyline is different from writing on the level of dialogue.

  6. GT3000 says:

    Make extensive degrees in classical literature a requirement to game development. Problem solved. Next.

    • AndrewC says:

      Make extensive degrees in classical literature a requirement to game playing.

      Easy!

    • GT3000 says:

      Andrew, my boy you’re going to go far. [-Puffs on cigar.-]

    • Brumisator says:

      Once again, you’re confusing story with storytelling.
      Half-Life’s story isn’t really that great, aliens attack, kill them, some shadowy figure is watching you. But how the story was told entirely through gameplay was, hell, *is* amazing.

    • Lack_26 says:

      Yeah, you could have a great story in a game but if the way it’s portrayed is bloated and dry then people are going to end up skipping cut-scenes and ignoring it. Unlike a book, which can have a fairly poor writing style but if it raises important issues and has a compelling story then it can still be regarded as a great. Games however require story-telling over story (presumably due to the ability to skip bits and still progress meaningfully and the interactivity of the medium), half-life is brought up a lot because it’s an excellent example, the story isn’t really that advanced but the way it’s shown is amongst the best around.

      Also, on a Slaughter House 5 note, it’s being played on Radio 7 at the moment.
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00c8rb5

  7. Cinnamon says:

    I think that, maybe unsurprisingly, Steve Meretzky spoke the most sense. Play, don’t show or tell. Many of the other talking heads were all “tell this, tell that, why don’t they listen when we tell.” But a rule of good storytelling is show don’t tell and since the verb of games is play then it should be play instead of show.

  8. Butler says:

    I’ll cite the same thing I always cite when this subject rears its head: games, particularly online games, allow you to do far more than experience a superficial narrative imposed on you by its creators. They give you a platform and the freedom to make your very own.

  9. Brumisator says:

    If there’s one thing to learn from Day9′s 100th daily (his Starcraft autobiography, basically), it’s that a long video of just a man sitting in a chair and talking to a webcam can be very compelling without having to resort to cheap camera tricks and background techno music.

  10. R J K says:

    It’s not just a matter of mastering storytelling. Unless there’s synergy between the game’s basic design and the narrative, it is all too easy for an uncooperative player to completely undermine any emotional or dramatic heft the game might have. The same problem doesn’t really crop up in more traditional storytelling media. Books don’t invite readers to only read every second word, for example. Storytelling as craft tends to rely heavily on leaving control of all aspects of presentation in the hands of the creator, and none in the hands of the audience. Unfortunately, what makes games compelling is the agency felt by the player, and it’s not at all clear how best resolve that tension.

    I haven’t had a chance to watch the video yet, so maybe I’m repeating a point already made, but it’s an important one so I won’t feel too bad about it.

    • deejayem says:

      I’m not sure I agree with this. It’s always been possible to completely miss the point of a subtly told narrative, in novels, plays, films, whatever. There’s always a degree of interactivity in that the story relies on reader interpretation in order to be told (goes back to Barthes, I guess, if you want a litry critick to ascribe this to).

      Random example, it’s entirely possible to read Poe’s “Ulalume” as a story about a guy going for a stroll with his girlfriend; you don’t get the most out of the poem by doing so, but the option is there.

    • Archonsod says:

      Pen & Paper RPG’s have been handling it for years.

      Part of it is the writing. I think a lot of game writers still approach it as they would a novel or script, and describe the action. Instead, for something like a game you need to take a step or two back in the writing process and describe the characters and scenes.
      It’s hard to describe without getting into the technicality of writing, but basically most good books/scripts start off as a collection of characters, locations and events in the writers head which they chuck together and then write what happened. What you need for an interactive medium is to step back to the part where you just have the characters, locations and key events and leave it to the player to describe what happened.

      It’s a bit like what Bethesda were shooting for with Radiance; you don’t write a script, you write characters with motivations, idiosyncrasies et al and put them in the world, then let events run their course.

    • plugmonkey says:

      If you write a book (or a film), you rely on the reader willingly suspending their disbelief. If they repeated the mantra “Yeah, but that didn’t really happen” at the end of every sentence, they are unlikely to get the best out of it.

      I would have similarly little sympathy for anyone who goes out of their way to break a game narrative and then is disappointed that the narrative has broken.

      The audience has to meet you half way.

    • R J K says:

      @deejayem: I may not have been clear. It is true that there is always going to be a degree of interpretive interactivity. Traditionally, however, storytellers have controlled the narrative content and presentation. The audience can have opinions about what was presented, but they have no control overthe source of those opinions or the manner of its presentation.

      @Archonsod: What you’re describing is more akin to worldbuilding than storytelling. I think there’s value to games that get out of the way and let players craft their own experiences, but that value is different from the value of a well-crafted, deliberate narrative that sets out to make a specific point, evoke a particular set of emotions, or otherwise reflect the author’s take on something.

      @plugmonkey: The problem is that a lot of the time people don’t have to go “out of their way” to undermine the main thrust of the story. Running fetch quests, grinding XP, or slaughtering wild animals for their useful crafting materials kind of detracts from any sense of urgency you may be supposed to feel with regards to the great evil your character is destined to battle, for example.

    • deejayem says:

      R J K: “The audience can have opinions about what was presented, but they have no control overthe source of those opinions or the manner of its presentation.”

      The same is true of a game, surely? Hard as I try, I can’t make Deus Ex be a love story starring space dinosaurs, or a turn-based card trading game, without dramatically reconfiguring it (the equivalent of cutting up a book and sticking the pages back together in a different order). In both cases, the source material is supplied by an author/developer, but the way that material is interpreted and explored is left up to the reader/player.

      Sorry, you made a very good point initially and I’m largely quibbling here. I’m obviously not trying to argue the two are equivalent – the mechanism for audience interaction is clearly much nearer the surface in games than in books or films – but I think the difference is less dramatic than it’s often made out to be. Good storytelling in books is not about standing on a stage dictating what the reader thinks and feels, but about carefully managing the play of interaction with the reader – in a manner surprisingly similar to the subtle directions of gameplay used by developers like Valve.

    • plugmonkey says:

      @ R J K:

      If you don’t have to go out of your way to break it, then it’s not very well done. In the same way that if a book is sufficiently badly written, I won’t keep my disbelief suspended, and that’s bad.

      I agree with you, being told you need to rescue someone and then heading off on 3 months worth of side quests while they patiently wait is absurd. Dead Rising’s approach of “now means NOW” was a massive breath of fresh air.

      The problem there is that a large proportion of the gaming community are a bunch of whiney bitches who have little desire to move from their comfort zone, or challenge their opinion of a video game being something that you start at the beginning, play through and ultimately ‘beat’.

      It’s odd, but you see a lot of games players saying that they don’t want to be told how to play their game. You rarely get that attitude towards films or books.

    • Archonsod says:

      @RJK
      ” What you’re describing is more akin to worldbuilding than storytelling.”

      I think part of that is essential for an interactive medium. Deliberately going out of the way to break the story isn’t really a problem, while some players will do that it’s a moot point since it’s deliberate action, I don’t think people would complain too much about it.
      The problem usually arises because the player is doing something not anticipated by the designer. Not necessarily through malice, but simply because their interpretation of the character, story or event differs from the one the designer predicted.
      By going in with the world building approach rather than the more tightly scripted one, you’ve got a little more flexibility when it comes to allowing different player interpretations. Rather than assuming a player is going to feel the way intended, you can instead utilise what you know of a character to determine events.

      Alpha Protocol is a good example in some ways. The story ultimately has the same conclusion, but the paths the narrative can take to get there are many and varied, even to the extent that friends and enemies can change depending on the player’s actions. It’s incredibly hard to break the story even if you deliberately try to. I wouldn’t say it was necessarily a good story, but it’s a good way of presenting it.

  11. Richard Beer says:

    What is a story?

    When you read a book or watch a film, you’re experiencing a series of events vicariously. Is the ‘story’ just this sequence of events? Or is it a sum of experiences that you forget yourself in?

    If it’s a sum of experiences, including emotions and a sense of ‘being there’, then games really have the potential to tell great stories by involving us, the players, without constructing a complex web of narrative (which is what scares most game writers).

    Take Amnesia. On paper, the story is a bit pony. You wake up with no memory of who you are, and your quest is to rediscover your identity in a scary castle. It sounds rubbish and cliched. But in reality, you ARE the story. The sound design and mechanics of fear suck you into the game in a way I’ve almost never experienced. I challenge anyone to run from the water monster, listening to its awful screeching getting closer and closer as every hair from the nape of your neck to the small of your back stands up on end, and tell me they haven’t experienced some kind of narrative. I was in that story like no other.

    In contrast, there was a moment in Black Ops where “Click LMB to punch this fucker in the face” popped up on my screen as I was ‘asking someone a few questions’. Somewhat appalled, I took my hands from the controls and refused to do anything to endorse this Americanised, ‘Jack Bauer’ version of ‘enhanced interrogation’. A few seconds later, the game punched that fucker in the face for me anyway. Way to go, immersion!

    Two examples of game stories. The first, whilst traditionally not much of a story, became my world for the duration of my interaction with it. The second shattered the 4th wall at every opportunity by totally misunderstanding what interactive storytelling is. Were you to judge both games based on the budget spent on their story, including cut scenes and voice-overs, it would tell you the opposite.

    How can major studios still be getting it so badly wrong? A good game story is a million miles away from a good movie story. When are we going to stop measuring what makes a good story the same way for both?

    • GT3000 says:

      Your resolute pacifism aside (serious how can you not enjoy punching a digital being in the face while he has a piece of equally digital glass in his digital jaw?) you’re comparing apples and oranges. Amnesia forces you to take a halls of mirrors approach to playing. You’re still being guided down a path but it’s the atmosphere that truly takes you away. BLOPS is simply taking you on a rollercoaster ride complete with pyrotechnics. The difference is in style of storytelling. Amnesia draws you in with atmosphere and suspense. BLOPS draws you in with loud noises and explosions. Both have terrible stories. The money is in how they’re told.

    • John Walker says:

      I think Amnesia’s story was overly predictable and weakly delivered.

      However, the experience of Amnesia’s atmosphere and horror was fantastic. Amnesia was a great game. But I think it had a poor narrative.

    • Richard Beer says:

      No, I disagree. My point is that Amnesia’s story ISN’T terrible. It’s great because of the way it tells it. After all, is there any such thing as an original story any more once you reduce it to its components?

      The Black Ops team were very proud of their story, but it’s told in an appalling, trite fashion that precludes any real immersion.

      You could argue that, on paper, the Black Ops plot was more thought through and more intricate, but it felt awful because Treyarch don’t understand how to tell a story in a game.

    • John Walker says:

      I think Half-Life 2 is an excellent example of a game’s core story being told through the experience of playing. I don’t think Amnesia’s is. I think Amnesia is good at being scary through the experience of playing.

    • TheApologist says:

      Yeah – I like Richard Beer’s point that in the moment we make an equivalence of story and narrative two problems arise. First, game stories become almost always shit. More importantly, the category of ‘story’ stops serving any useful purpose because it excludes the most important aspects of our experience interacting with/in the game – for example the emotions the player experiences during their interaction, the events the player causes in the game, the ethical dimensions of those interactions that arise, the possibility of extension or alteration of the self in interaction with the game etc.

      If story is just the sequence of scripted events that compose a narrative told through the game, then who cares about story?

    • DeathHamsterDude says:

      I agree with John.

      @Richard – Amnesia’s narrative WAS terrible, it was trite, confused, and sloppy. The fact that everyone loved it DESPITE all of that is what makes it such a good game.

      In the art of storytelling, there are two main fields; Style, and substance. Amnesia had style in abundance, it had little substance. It had parts of the storytelling down, but it did NOT have all the boxes ticked.

      Half-Life 2 was definitely better written. The story unfolds around you, it uses a minimum of exposition, and it also captivated me emotionally at times. I have to say I have the weirdest school-boy crush on Alex! That’s how well her character was developed, that by the end of episode 2, I really felt for her. I cried when she cried (QQ Eli), I laughed when she laughed (Zombine!), and I think my heart probably gave a little flutter when she hugged me in Episode 1. I know EXACTLY how sad that is, but it’s the truth of it. That Alex is by far the most believable female in gaming really goes to show Valve’s strengths story-wise. However, really, Half-Life, by any other medias’ standards, had a relatively weak story.

    • deejayem says:

      Richard’s got to the heart of it, I think. Story isn’t just about events, it’s about the context of those events and how we as readers/gamers are made to experience it.

      Look at something like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Taken as a series of events, the narrative isn’t stunning – it’s perfectly good, it drags you on as a reader, but it’s not what makes the book great. The genius of the book is in the way that the bare narrative of survival creates a story of a dying world which is only very barely described and never explained, and through that encounters a lot of ideas about people and what they are and why they do what they do. It’s an incredible novel, with the simplest of bare-bones plots.

      In terms of technique, Half Life 2 is actually pretty similar. The “story”, if you like, is less about Gordon Freeman going over here, driving that there, pushing this button here – it’s about a familiar world suddenly turned upside-down, why and how it happened, and about agency of change (the right man in the wrong place, etc.etc.)

      Taking this broader definition of storytelling – rather than just plot – games can actually do pretty well, I think.

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      *tink*

      A miserable little pile of secrets!

      But enough talk. Have at you!

  12. Ghost of Grey Cap says:

    Well, some games have really impressed me with their storytelling- especially Portal and Dear Esther… I’d liken them to the film Memento, in that one works hard, throughout the experience, to make sence of what’s going on, but it just makes the payoff more stunning (and makes the plot feel, well, personal).

    Games seem capable of performing that trick well, at least?

    Edit: Mr Beer, I think that if the story of Amnesia made a lasting impression on you (you have thought about it after having finished the game) then it had a good story, otherwise I’d think more of the word immersion. (Note: I haven’t played Amnesia)

    • Richard Beer says:

      I agree it was immersion, but I think it’s insufficient to dismiss it that way. I wasn’t just immersed in a series of emotions or a sandbox world where I was free to write my own story, I was immersed in something that became MY story. Hearing my breathing get heavy and my skin begin to crawl as I burst into a recently vacated torture chamber, fresh blood still dripping from that terrible wheel, became a subliminal prompt for my emotions to mirror those of my in-game character: disgust, fear, horror, a dread of how much involvement I’d had in this scene…

      I would argue that this kind of immersion is one of the major prerequisites of in-game storytelling, not an optional extra.

    • Tokamak says:

      Personally, I think Amnesia went too far with some of that stuff. There’s too much of a disconnect when the in-game character is scared off his feet, barely able to remain in control while I’m feeling either not scared at all or merely only slightly disturbed. Or forcing me to suddenly turn at an supposed sound/sight that I didn’t initially pick up upon – really, is that all too much different from your Black Ops experience? There was just so many moments that ultimately made me dislike the game more than I liked it for it’s rare more subtle scares.

  13. Archonsod says:

    “I passionately believe that the way we can experience story through games is unique, distinguishable from that of film, television or books”

    Yes. But before that can happen designers will need to stop writing their stories as if they were in a film, television show or book. And the major obstacle there is the guys they need to sell their ideas to tend to only think of stories in terms of film, television or books.

    • plugmonkey says:

      Bioshock is a good example of this, in that I don’t think you actually play the protagonist in the main narrative, and it tells the narrative in a way that no book or film could.

      The story is about the rise and fall of Rapture. If you were making a film, that’s what you would want to make it about, not some crazy amnesiac picking through the wreckage. Your character doesn’t have a ‘story’ in a movie writing sense. He’s basically only there to give you a set of eyes to look through.

      But as you pick through the wreckage, you can piece together the story for yourself through exploration. Exploration is much underused in videogames nowadays. I think it is the main weapon in videogames’ story telling arsenal that film and books don’t have. But as long as we keep trying to replicate films instead of trying to do things that films can’t, I can see us continuing to suck at this.

    • Archonsod says:

      I’d say the same for Stalker and Metro 2033 too. I think the key there is rather than focusing on telling a story they gave you a great sense of place. In fact, you could say they didn’t even try to tell a story, they simply presented an environment and let you get on with it.

  14. Hoaxfish says:

    He’s just upset Table Raspberry didn’t work out well

  15. Pijama says:

    I believe once we start wrapping together the mechanical (as in, the elements of gameplay) and narrative aspects of the game, we might start seeing some progress.

    IMHO, they are put and treated as separates, to be mashed together without too much care or attention – devs think too much of films or books than seeking to use the power of interactivity for the benefit of story, something that makes the “Maxis approach” seem pretty good – SimCity gives you the tools to play and you make the story as you go.

    However, that should not be the only way. Perhaps we are technologically limited to engage grand ideas such as procedural features and storytelling, but it must be tried. I sincerely believe that is the future for gaming – dynamic worlds that react to the players stimuli and create on the spot the consequences and ramifications for it.

    • SoupDuJour says:

      I think one of the biggest limitations to making game worlds dynamic is the need for voice acting. The fact that pre-fab voice acting is still (unfortunately!) necessary to make game characters sound believable. This makes spontaneous dialogue impossible. So everything has to be recorded up-front, which means game characters can’t respond to player actions, except with phrases that the developer happened to think of.

      Even if synthesizing dialog (i.e, the text) will be impossible for a long time to come, due to the almost infinite complexity of language, it would be nice to have really good voice synth, which seems much more doable. (I’ve heard some very good ones, so far, but they are still just a bit too robotic to be useful in games…).

      I think that writing a very large amount of text for the characters is actually much more doable than doing a large amount of voice recording, especially because the dialog writing could be done by 1, or a hand full of people, over the course of a year or 2-3. This likely makes the story much more coherent too, compared to using tons of actors who haven’t got much idea of what the story they are part of is actually all about.

      Most of the other problems preventing truly dynamic game worlds seem much more… surmountable? It’s really just the social aspect of gamer vs npc that’s the big problem.

  16. CMaster says:

    @Kobzon
    You sound like Carmarack.

  17. Richard Beer says:

    Black Ops is porn, sure. Achievements and progression are the giant boobs and hot action that will keep people coming back for more.

    But that doesn’t mean all games have to be porn. It means some games can be porn and don’t need a story.

  18. BigJonno says:

    The current A-standard of video game storytelling is “Tell the player a story while they’re playing,” as seen in the likes of Portal and Bioshock. To be brutally honest, it isn’t a huge step up from cutscenes as the story itself isn’t interactive. Portal is wonderful, but it’s still just a single character talking at you while you play a linear game.

    A large part of the problem is that the lack of real progress in this area isn’t a big deal from a typical consumer guide type review perspective. I doubt anyone had the above thought about Portal while they were playing it, it’s only in analysing it afterwards that it comes up. As a result, games that have a very limited set of storytelling tools but use them incredibly well are held up as amazing, immersive experiences while being about as innovative and envelope-pushing as unsliced bread. Uncharted 2 is pretty much the poster child for this.

    • plugmonkey says:

      The story in Bioshock isn’t interactive, but a lot of it is told in a way that is unique to the medium – through exploration rather than exposition.

  19. soulblur says:

    [Not a PC game - don't know if these comments are permitted]

    Red Dead Redemption is an example of a game which lives up to its cinema Western roots. Good story which involved me, while maintaining distance – Marston was a well-realised character, distinct from me as the person who might “play” him. I thought it was as good a story as Tombstone, or Open Range (and better than any number of John Wayne films – and I like John Wayne). Admittedly, the Western is a small genre, and a tightly defined one. But within those boundaries, RDR was a great story.

  20. Hoaxfish says:

    Tetris is all about getting long straight one into the gap

  21. Njordsk says:

    he does not master game-making either.

    I still recall tabula rasa ! And where are ultima now?

  22. bonjovi says:

    How about employing Role Play Game Masters as scrip writers.

    I think there are two ways to approach story in game:
    1)movie like
    2) role-play like

    1) you lead a player by hand through out. but then why not make a movie and be done with it :-)

    2) you create world and opportunities for a player, for him/her to create his own journey.

    In my high school days I used to be a GM for a group of friends. And my conclusion is: the most important to the player is his character and how world reacts to him/her. the player is a story. Look at WOW, any player who’s been playing for a while will tell you that the drama is on Guild chat not while doing quests :-) The best Role-Plays I’ve done involved players going against each other. Give people a lot freedom to be whoever they want to be (in a given setting of course). Now if there was a way to get it in single player game.

    • Severian says:

      “Now if there was a way to get it in single player game.”

      I think there is, if, say, an RPG somehow tapped into the whole Spore player-created world thing. Each time I jump into the world, it’s populated with NPC’s not created by developers but by other players.

    • The Dude says:

      You will love Sleep is Death.

  23. WMain00 says:

    I’d argue that the reason there aren’t good stories or writing in video games is due to the fact that games development groups consist of designers, artists and developers. There is no dedicated writing section for video games. Even in games development methodologies there isn’t particularly a section devoted to writing. Instead the industry either brings in third party writers “on the cheap” or does it itself through the flow of design.

    I’d also argue that the most popular of games rely less on story and more on action, ie the Call of Duty franchise, among others. Sadly in order for this to change the industry and the demographics that the industry produces to would need to mature, which is unlikely. Proper storytelling the likes of which we have seen in Planescape described are likely to be a niche produced for the more adult player. To put it bluntly, kids and young adults don’t care whether there’s a good story to it, as long as there’s plenty of action. This is unlikely to change as the current generation of gamers continues to mature and is replaced by the next generation.

  24. AndrewC says:

    Doom is about making sure you haven’t spent all your bullets before the boss has come.

  25. fenriz says:

    so the problem when you hire a writer is that he/she will write a good plot but doesn’t know that interaction has to be IN it, not around it. The story is gonna be fantastic but you don’t interact with it. It’s like the story flows and stops to let you kill some bad guys, you do the dirty work for the story. When you do that stuff the story is not progressing, it “stretches” like a distorted timeloop of foes coming at you.

    And it’s not just about choices either, cause a player can choose some dialogue lines and the plot will go on in a certain way, but you’re still not interacting a lot, you only have a story with crossroads.

    So there has to be more than combat and dialogue about interactivity. You have to choose your path by actually doing something valuable. How?

    I think the answer is in providing difficult puzzles and a sophisticated interface that lets you touch, inspect, pick up, use, push, pull everything in the environment, and that kind of interaction will let you feel more of the protagonist, ESPECIALLY if, when you are manipulating objects, you KNOW that what you do affects the plot. I think the only way to give deeper interactive storytelling is good old adventure games. Because it’s the only type of gameplay(or genre) that doesn’t involve killing, because killing is not real interaction, it’s destruction.

  26. Sarlix says:

    edit

    OK toss it, lets just turn this into a cheap one liner – Pacman is all about getting as many balls into your mouth as possible.

  27. drewski says:

    I think the thing that interests me is that, without a great story, it’s pretty hard to have a genuinely good book – or even film, although less so with film. They are fundamentally story telling mediums and the best of them tell great stories.

    Games are different in that you can have a great game if the gameplay is brilliant. There may also be a great story, which may make a great game outstanding, or a good game great (etc.) but unlike a lot of other media, games can stand alone on their own without necessarily having a great story.

    We may not have had our Annie Hall moment from a story perspective, but from an overall quality of experience I’d argue we’ve had games which are just as enjoyable as watching particularly memorable story based films.

  28. deejayem says:

    “Even if a narrative is completely linear, it is dependent upon our progression to proceed.”

    That’s always been an interesting point. Part of cultural experience is to allow you to examine your own responses to abnormal situations – what would I do if this was happening to me? The fact is that most of us confronted with an invasion of brutal alien killer death zombies would find a cupboard to hide in and stay there. Game mechanics, however (with the honourable exception of Amnesia), tend to frown on hiding in cupboards, so force us to continually move forward – and hence empower us to fantasise that our real-life responses would be different. (If you ignore the fact that you’re required to act like a badass in order for the game to work/be fun, you can fantasise – at least as long as you play – that you actually are that bad.) Christ, I am now so far up my own arse I can see my tonsils.

    I suppose the holy grail is narrative that is good enough to draw you in and make you want to advance it, but flexible enough to allow for your actions to influence it. And a game mechanic that never breaks the narrative immersion necessary for this to hold together. The games that have most impressed me in the last year or so in terms of story*telling* (rather than straight story necessarily) have been Metro 2033 and Alpha Protocol – both flawed games, but both making an effort to tie together player action and narrative consequence in some depth.

    On that note, Blade Runner was an awesome game.

  29. Dismus says:

    I did a quick survey of our scriptwriting department, and the conclusion was that Scott Steinberg is the self-appointed king of bad opinions, his videos are terrible, and his interviewees were probably tricked into thinking they were helping an orphanage or something.

    No wait, storytelling.

    To put forth the dissenting opinion : there are good stories in games, and there have been for decades. The trouble is that Sturgeons Law applies here just as anywhere, plus the medium is so disparate (platform exclusivity, hardware conflicts, region locking) that finding that 10% of good stuff is a lot harder than the equivalents in film or novel.

    To compound the problem, there also isn’t a decent culture of criticism that would partner with the medium in order to debate exactly which titles are “its 1984, its Slaughterhouse 5, its Annie Hall”. (Something like the Culture Show, maybe, but not terrible. Lauren Laverne can stay.)

    I guess it all depends on what you want – do you want a strong linear narrative (Deadly Premonition, Ghost Trick), do you want branching narrative with player agency as to the outcome (Alpha Protocol, Silent Hill 2), or do you want a full-on emergent sandbox (Dwarf Fortress, Minecraft)?

    • Consumatopia says:

      What I’d want is for the creator of the game to create a number of believable simulated characters and let me interact with them as I would actual people.

      The choice you give me–linear narrative, branching narrative, or a sandbox full of simple automatons (rather than believable agents)–is not a choice of what I want, it’s a choice of what I’m willing to accept given that what I want isn’t available. And that’s no one’s fault but my own–what I want is ridiculously difficult, if not impossible (at the very least there’s a sort of inherent economic barrier to it–if we could simulate an agent good enough to pass for human, that agent would have better things to do with its time than entertain me.)

  30. Zwebbie says:

    By far most of the video games shown in the video have the exact same story: player overcomes hardships by trying hard enough. And hey, that’s a pretty good story for games; that’s how the best chess experiences go, or sports events, or whatever. If you want anything more sophisticated than that, you’ll have to think more out of the box; I suppose Dwarf Fortress could’ve been an excellent story on the “all is vanity” theme. RPS’s Neptune’s Pride diary had a good story to it about the nature of war. But as long as you keep to the basic game structure of ‘player wins by overcoming trials’, it’ll all be the same thing. Half-life made an innovation in immersion, not in story. At the end of the day, its point was the same as Doom’s; as long as you use enough violence, and use it skillfully enough, you’ll overcome every obstacle.

    • Richard Beer says:

      What you’ve described there is The Hero’s Journey, something that is, theoretically, at the heart of all human story-telling and always has been, from classical times to present. Rise, fall, mentorship, love interest, personal challenge, awakening etc etc. They’re all just part of the Hero’s Journey. You can’t really accuse video games of being ‘all the same’ for using that, because you would damn everything from Crime and Punishment to The Da Vinci Code in the same broad accusation.

    • Zwebbie says:

      Richard: Is structure really that important when compared to meaning? Sure, a lot of stories have a structure in which things happen and people change. That doesn’t make them similar at all.
      Anyway, quick example on my argument. Games versus Gilgamesh. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the protagonist goes on a journey to find a way to become immortal. He fails and learns, in the end, that he’s just a man, and that he’ll have to accept that.
      In a typical game, the protagonist goes on his way to complete the game. As long as he tries hard enough, he will. He’ll have learned nothing in the process, except the value of perseverence, but I think we kind of know that already after 60 years of video games.

      As long as there’s an end to a game – the “you win”, even if the game ends in a sombre note – they can’t be tragic, because you’ll have succeeded.

      And there’s nothing wrong with that. Games are, after all, challenges. They’re not Gilgamesh’s retard cousins, they’re related to traditional games, like chess and hide and seek and sports. Games ought focus on their strengths, the exploration of environments and rules, rather than seek to become comparable to literature.
      Consider this: I think the bums and homeless people in Deus Ex are more important than Bob Page, even though not a single one of them plays any part in the story. They do, however, make it a better game, they set the tone, and they provide a means for me to interact with the world. I haven’t played any game with a good story; I’ve played plenty with good environments.

      Lastly, I haven’t had the chance to read Crime and Punishment yet, but I dare say the Da Vinci Code is a bad story ;) .

  31. wiper says:

    Gaming is seemingly still years away from its 1984, its Slaughterhouse 5, its Annie Hall.

    Careful now, that seems to suggest that gaming might have reached its Hunger, or its Don Quixote, or even its Oedipus Rex. I’m not entirely sure gaming has passed the Homeric stage just yet.

  32. Dervish says:

    Wow, the editing effects on that video are really annoying.

    • stahlwerk says:

      Yes, along with the energetic music it made watching it (and following what was being said) near impossible for me. Sorry, but my brain buzzes enough on it’s own, I don’t need glitches prebuilt in the video.
      Terrible, terrible editing.

  33. CMaster says:

    John Carmack once famously said that “Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important”

    And just look at how many people are looking to him for game design advice today…

  34. Freud says:

    Story is so overrated in gaming. It is all about immersion. Outcast had an average story but the entire game was dripping in immersive goodness, creating the most atmospheric game I have ever played. If it looks right, feels right, sounds right and plays right I could care less about whatever McGuffin they want to have me retrieve.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Yes but your not caring less about McGuffins and fetch quests is not an example of why story doesn’t matter. It’s an example of how story telling in games is not really very good!

    • deejayem says:

      … or of how story*telling* is about more than plot.

  35. Sarlix says:

    They should put that quote on the Rage box.

  36. Soon says:

    It’s tough being a game. Combining a number of disciplines and being expected to master them all. We want visuals worthy of the greatest artist, music worthy of the greatest composers, stories worthy of the greatest authors, dialogue and acting worthy of the greatest films. And that’s before we’re asking for immersion, atmosphere, entertainment, smooth animations, bug-free code, complex but accessible mechanics, realistic AI….

    But, yeah. I think games more than any other medium are about how we experience it. Interaction is the greatest asset we have, and it’s sad to be wasted by dragging the player through a sequence of events. Telling the story through the environment and mechanics, letting the player explore and discover it for themselves (and equally, allowing them to miss things out) is unique to games and we should use it. It’s rarely the plot of a story which is special, but how it’s told.

  37. Navagon says:

    It would be difficult to find fault with that argument, really. Even adventure games, which tend to focus on the story and characters more than anything else have seldom really pushed to further the art of storytelling. It usually results in a more traditional means of storytelling (written or spoken) being heavily employed to get the job done.

  38. Severian says:

    To me, the biggest killer of good story in modern gaming is being stuck in the whole genre-trope thing. Our fantasies are still feeding off of Tolkein and ancient mythologies. Our sci-fi is still feeding off of Asimov and Alien.

    I bet we could make a real short list of truly novel and unique settings for FPS’s, hack & slash RPG’s and RTS’s (Rise of Legends?).

    As others have noted, I don’t necessarily need a powerful story to get me involved in a game – I need a powerful SETTING. I’ll cite Bioshock as a recent example of a game that really turned my crank because its setting (and not necessarily its story) was so provocative.

  39. Sarlix says:

    I liked those adventure books we had when I was a kid. ‘to carry on past the volatile volcano of doom, turn to page 7 – to cross the swamp of a thousand sand rats, turn to page 11 – Yeah, someone should make games like that.

  40. wererogue says:

    Angst, cliche and so forth aside, I love the storytelling technique used in Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. The way they bring down the game sounds and just let Kain tell the story *while* you’re playing just works for me.

    They used the same trick in Aquaria, and it drew me right in all over again.

  41. Axez D. Nyde says:

    You totally forgot aout Gothic. Characters so compellingly carved, I still remember Diego and Gorn after years.

  42. daphne says:

    I agree with Garriott and I’d like to point out that games are uniquely saddled with an additional, technical brand of burden that films, TV, and books don’t really need to bother with: adequate representation of the visual within the computer domain. No one will ever complain about sloggy movement animations when considering a film and its actors, for instance, but some of gaming’s most prized accomplishments in player immersion and storytelling, such as the Elder Scrolls series, have been traditionally plagued with bad animation. I mean this as a simple example off the top of my head, not an all-in vindication.

    Of course you may object to this by saying that a game engages the gamer in the same way a book engages its reader, and you would be right (up to a point, since most games do possess an unavoidable visuality)… but the fact is that it’s still a great burden on game development, and it does have an influence on how other aspects of games that we consider in our spare time, such as good storytelling, end up lagging behind when all’s said and done.

    This is not to say that I’m advocating unequaled photorealism or anything (though I recently played Crysis on the highest settings with a nice frame rate, and in a sense it was an eye-opener). IMO, Braid is a prime example of how the unique form of games, and storytelling could be merged to create an uplifted synthesis of both. And I say it would blow all the titles cited by John Walker out of the water regarding storytelling, although they are among my very favourite games.

    I haven’t actually watched the video yet, so I apologize if some of this is a repetition of what Garriott is saying in it. I just reacted to the headline and the general idea presented in Walker’s text.

  43. thegooseking says:

    I think it’s a bit unfair to say we haven’t made any progress on storytelling. In terms of released titles, that may be true, but I think when we discuss storytelling in games, we understand it a lot better than we did ten years ago. Maybe that’s biased from my point of view in academia, but I am constantly seeing vague concepts refined into robust models; hand-wringing challenges of interactive storytelling converted into confident solutions. And that’s not just from other academics: in fact, it’s mostly not. Mostly it comes from video game blogs that I’m following on Google Reader.

    I don’t want to dismiss the enormous hurdle of putting that understanding into implementation (not least because it’s a challenge I’m facing with my PhD), but I think we’re moving in the right direction.

  44. BooleanBob says:

    Leisure Suit Larry is about having sex with as many women as you possibly can.

    Wait.

  45. thesundaybest says:

    I think what’s interesting about the current problems with videogame narrative is that they are entirely new types of problems. We’ve been struggling with aspects of storytelling since the first grunts, but it’s finally reasonable to ask what would happen if the person consuming the narrative was also largely responsible for its construction? The question of balance between the constraints and freedoms afforded to players is one with no simple answer, and I think one that, as videogame producers come from more diverse disciplines, will produce very interesting answers moving forward.

    One that I’ve been thinking about lately is what would happen in a game if you could kill any character? Usually if you kill the wrong person the game grinds to a halt. But what if you could kill anyone, or destroy anything, and the game kept moving forward?

  46. green_genes says:

    Extra Credits on the Escapist had a really good video about story structure in games recently.

    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/extra-credits/2681-Amnesia-and-Story-Structure

  47. mlaskus says:

    Great storytelling in games, eh? I don’t see anyone mentioning Another World. That thing was immersive and with not a single word spoken or written during the entire game.

  48. Poet says:

    The best stories have always been organically created from within the multiplayer games I have played through the years. As much as I loved System Shock , the story of Adam Ant hunting me when I was an Ultima Online noob is still far and away more exciting then anything I have ever experienced in a written game story.

    Creating and being part of the story seems like the natural progression to me. In 30 years won’t we all be in the movies instead of at them?

  49. JackShandy says:

    Games are the only medium where you can stop, stand still, and have the world go on around you. That’s always been the draw for me. Whenever I really fall in love with a movie, I feel like I can’t get any closer to it, y’know? No matter how much you love a character, they’ll still just be saying the same lines in the same way every time you watch it – and every time you watch it, it loses some of it’s meaning. That’s what makes people write fan-fiction, or dive into the extended universe and directors commentaries and making-of and assorted flim-flammery.

    Don’t hold it against me, but one day when I was a tiny kid I watched shrek over and over again, almost crying as it got less and less funny each time. I knew I’d never again be able to recapture the experience of watching it for the first time.

    • Gpig says:

      @JackShandy That’s awesome. I always find that pull and the limits of it fascinating. It’s why I loved knytt, Shadow of the Colossus, Stalker and other games that just let you explore and area. What you’re not allowed to do in a game is always the part that I brush up against and wish I could do more, and it evokes the same feeling falling in love with a movie or book does where you realize you’ve completely exhausted the material and have to move on. I mean look at videos on youtube of people beating the absolute shit out of Shadow of the Colossus. They’ve exhausted the game and wish there was more, so they just keep playing long past where they should have stopped. I can’t blame them, I loved that place. It’s just a media nostalgia, really, and games suffer from it just as much. It’s great.

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