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random_guy
07-09-2012, 02:14 AM
Playing through LA Noire has really got me thinking about how developers can effectively screw with players' expectations of being in control of and seeing the whole story of a player character. I've got to thinking about use of the unreliable narrator convention in gaming. There's a list (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/UnreliableNarrator)of games with unreliable narrators on TVTropes, but most aren't examples of what I'm thinking about - full-on, Lolita-style "the story being seen by the player is not what's really going on" unreliable narrator storytelling. The only one I can really think of is Braid. Are there any other examples you know of?

How I think this could be used effectively - I'm picturing a game where you start in the player character's house, but all the reflective surfaces are obscured. As you get outside, you see that reflections show you the real world, so as you progress through a typical "you're the hero" story you keep seeing glimpses of a whole different situation. Then later you start to see some of your actions, maybe through video recordings, photographs, etc... and it tells a whole different story. As a really crude, bad example, perhaps you go through a mission where you have to save somebody from gang members, but later you see a news story filmed by someone on a mobile phone camera, and you were actually beating up innocent strangers.

LTK
07-09-2012, 02:20 AM
Does it count if the player character doesn't know that he's an unreliable narrator? If so, then Prototype might qualify.

Wheelz
07-09-2012, 03:53 AM
Didn't "The Stanly Parabole" have somthing like this? I remember the narrator playing a reasonable sized part in the mod, and he often seemed to disagree with what you wanted to do/what you did.

Berzee
07-09-2012, 04:00 AM
TF2 with Pyro Vision Goggles.
(having trouble thinking of actual examples =P)

Bobtree
07-09-2012, 04:13 AM
Every game with an amnesiac main character. RPG's are notorious for this, like KOTOR or Planescape:Torment. Bioshock, Stalker, FarCry2, and many others lie about who the MC is and what role they really play. I don't know if any actively misrepresent events as they happen. Most are the "slow reveal" or "big twist" style.

SirKicksalot
07-09-2012, 04:24 AM
Spec Ops: The Line. The player character goes crazy and might even be dead the whole time lol

The Darkness II. Obviously the mental hospital scenes are suspicious from the start, but the more you play the more convincing it gets and I ended up staying with Jenny ;_;

Lukasz
07-09-2012, 04:39 AM
Sanitarium. What's the result of your insanity, what's real, what the hell is happening.

Alpha Protocol in a way. There is so much backstory hidden from you that you might miss a lot without much dedication and then you get betrayed without expecting it just because game told you a lie.

Vampire bloodlines in a way?

Koobazaur
07-09-2012, 04:43 AM
Also, Bastion does pull a few "this is what I think" rather than "this is what is" from the narrator, and few of the "dream" sequences even flat out jumble up recollection of events.

unruly
07-09-2012, 05:28 AM
I think the Manhunt games could have taken this as a theme that would have gotten people off their backs a little bit. Instead of just having the main character being some twisted bastard doing it for his own(or other people's) jollies, they should have had him believe himself to be some kind of vigilante ala Batman, only more like Frank Miller's All-Star "I'm the God Damned Batman" Batman & Robin. Have him not realize exactly how terrible he is, and somewhere along the line make it known that his "incapacitations" of criminals has left numerous dead from their injuries, more in comas or permanently paralyzed. And all for crimes as minor as homeless people washing car windows, shoplifting, or pickpocketing(which the narrator saw as carjackings, armed robberies, and violent muggings). At one point, I figure the game would have you pick up a newspaper or see some kind of news media decrying the rampaging of a madman who attacked petty criminals with savage brutality and you would go hunting for him until you realized it was actually you.

Now, granted, I never actually played Manhunt, but I have read a plot synopsis or two, and it didn't have any hint of an unreliable narrator. But it does seem like, from what I just read about it, Manhunt 2 would fall into the unreliable narrator trope though.

RakeShark
07-09-2012, 05:52 AM
Not so much a narrator, but I remember the text-adventure of HHG2TG often outright lied and fooled the player to do something that would kill them.

victory
07-09-2012, 06:40 AM
Tangentially related: are there any NPCs who lie to you in a non-obvious way, and the game doesn't guarantee a reveal later, so the player could realistically finish the game while still believing the lie?

Another: are there any NPCs who lie in a non-obvious way, and cannot be discovered to be liars with simple exploration for evidence or lucky hit in conversation? So to figure out the NPC lied, the player would have to use at least a bit of logic, like process of elimination?

And yet another: any NPCs who lie to the player, but are on the player's side all the way?

r3dknight
07-09-2012, 06:46 AM
Vampire Bloodlines probably.

unruly
07-09-2012, 07:11 AM
And yet another: any NPCs who lie to the player, but are on the player's side all the way?

Colonel Campbell, Naomi Hunter, and Revolver Ocelot from the MGS games.

arccos
07-09-2012, 07:44 AM
I would say in my experience, the best game based around an unreliable narrator is the Interactive Fiction masterpiece Spider and Web.

Alexius
07-09-2012, 08:43 AM
Heavy Rain does it for two player characters. However it doesn't handle it well.

r3dknight
07-09-2012, 08:47 AM
Heavy Rain. However it doesn't handle it well.

That's a terrible movie to watch really.

DaftPunk
07-09-2012, 09:09 AM
Spec Ops: The Line. The player character goes crazy and might even be dead the whole time lol

The Darkness II. Obviously the mental hospital scenes are suspicious from the start, but the more you play the more convincing it gets and I ended up staying with Jenny ;_;


Did you just spoil Spec ops for me right now,please say noo lol

r3dknight
07-09-2012, 09:20 AM
Here let me tell you: Spec Ops is a terrible game and I feel bad for recommending it to some people based on the initial gameplay.

Drake Sigar
07-09-2012, 09:51 AM
Did you just spoil Spec ops for me right now,please say noo lol

I'm surprised you managed to avoid spoiler comments about Spec Ops: The Line up until now. It's quite extensively discussed on the Internet as being one of the few serious shooters to go deeper and show stuff like the effects of war. I don't mind the odd mindless shooter, but sometimes it seems like ALL we have are mindless shooters. No wonder the media manages to twist them so easily into murder simulators.

DaftPunk
07-09-2012, 09:53 AM
Yeah i'm trying my best to avoid discussion about the game,its on my TO PLAY LIST.

b0rsuk
07-09-2012, 12:14 PM
I also want to recommend Sanitarium. The protagonist is mentally ill and you never know what's real and what isn't. And it's just a very fun adventure/puzzle game.

I heard Strife has characters who lie to you. So does Deus Ex (1).

If we're talking about books, people often mention Gene Wolfe's "Book of the New Sun", which is highly overrated in my opinion, especially in "unreliable narrator" department. Nothing really comes out of it, except for a few "maybe"'s and "what if"'s. Nothing definite. In contrast, The Song of Ice and Fire by George Martin is full of characters who don't know all the events, and information takes often weeks or more to travel. There are many characters who deceive and the reader doesn't know how they will behave. Information or lack of it is used to manipulate.

The First Door
07-09-2012, 04:21 PM
Also, Bastion does pull a few "this is what I think" rather than "this is what is" from the narrator, and few of the "dream" sequences even flat out jumble up recollection of events.

Yeah, this was the first game which came to mind for me too. I was really surprised how well Bastion handled prejudice and the way it clouds people's memories of events. Added an extra layer to the story which I wasn't expecting at all!

TomxJ
07-09-2012, 04:54 PM
I recommend Sanitarium too, but i found The second Penumbra game made you question the plausability of the situation the game layed before you alot better. By the end of the Game i was convinced the protagnonist went into a catatonic state after the events of the first game and the whole sequel was played out in his psyche.

Shooop
07-09-2012, 04:58 PM
The final Penumbra game, Requiem. Even at the end it's completely impossible to tell if Phillip has been hallucinating the whole thing or only parts of it.

TomxJ
07-09-2012, 06:29 PM
I'm still yet to play that part past about the thrid level. It all got a bit abstract. Worth trying again?

Sparkasaurusmex
07-09-2012, 06:43 PM
Tangentially related: are there any NPCs who lie to you in a non-obvious way, and the game doesn't guarantee a reveal later, so the player could realistically finish the game while still believing the lie?

Another: are there any NPCs who lie in a non-obvious way, and cannot be discovered to be liars with simple exploration for evidence or lucky hit in conversation? So to figure out the NPC lied, the player would have to use at least a bit of logic, like process of elimination?

And yet another: any NPCs who lie to the player, but are on the player's side all the way?
Morte from Planescape Torment
1873

Heliocentric
07-09-2012, 06:45 PM
Morte from Planescape Torment
1873

Don't trust the skull?

Sparkasaurusmex
07-09-2012, 07:06 PM
He's a brilliant character, actually. Right at the beginning you should start getting vibes that he's a lying liar. And then it causes you to question everything he tells you. Plus he's funny.

Basically Morte is Teddy in Memento.

Nalano
07-09-2012, 07:28 PM
Damn, what was that sidescroller game where you think you're the usual hero saving the girl but at the end you realize you're her tormentor?

applecup
07-09-2012, 07:30 PM
Damn, what was that sidescroller game where you think you're the usual hero saving the girl but at the end you realize you're her tormentor?

I've not played it, but wasn't that a section in Braid?

Nalano
07-09-2012, 07:32 PM
I've not played it, but wasn't that a section in Braid?

Dunno, never played Braid.

deano2099
07-09-2012, 08:02 PM
Resonance sort of does this. Spoiler: one of the four playable characters turns out to be the antagonist. Not in a "oh he suddenly has a change of heart way", nor a "he lost his memory" way but in a "he's been running this whole shebang from the start and you just never questioned his motives" way.

Nalano
07-09-2012, 08:06 PM
Sounds about right.

The First Door
07-09-2012, 08:18 PM
Damn, what was that sidescroller game where you think you're the usual hero saving the girl but at the end you realize you're her tormentor?

Braid has a final level very much like that, it's really rather clever and worth playing.

fiddlesticks
07-09-2012, 08:45 PM
If we're talking about books, people often mention Gene Wolfe's "Book of the New Sun", which is highly overrated in my opinion, especially in "unreliable narrator" department.
If we're considering unreliable narrators in books, I think Humbert from Lolita might be the pivotal example. He's fantastically written because he sounds so believable in the beginning, but the more you read the more you realize that there is something off about his version of the story.


Morte from Planescape Torment
1873
Chris Avellone really likes his unreliable narrators. Kreia from KotoR 2 basically fulfills the same role.


Damn, what was that sidescroller game where you think you're the usual hero saving the girl but at the end you realize you're her tormentor?
As mentioned above, Braid ends this way. Though since it's Braid no one is quite sure what the ending actually means.