Posts Tagged ‘story’

Games Are The Ideal Place For Telling Great Stories

By John Walker on June 12th, 2013.

There are some who have argued that games just aren’t the right medium for telling stories. Pointing out that scant few games have ever produced literary works comparable with other forms, the suggestion is that gaming just isn’t a suitable place for such narrative experiences. But this argument is entirely flawed, failing to understand that gaming is home to a completely new form of storytelling, and one that is perhaps more potent and powerful than any other.

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Maybe Games Just Aren’t For Telling Great Stories?

By John Walker on June 11th, 2013.

During all of the recent conferences for the forthcoming consoles, a refrain is repeated by all involved. When they boast of their new technology, their graphical improvements, their breakthrough achievements, it always seems to be said that it will provide enchancements in storytelling. New ways to connect emotionally with the player. “To tell stories in a far more powerful way.”

I’m fascinated that this is the angle they choose. Not just because it’s the most disingenuous, but because it seems like it’s the last thing their core audience appears to care about. It seems like trying to sell a speedboat based on its lovely coffee holders. Yes, it has coffee holders, but most people are buying it because it goes fast over waves without sinking. Who of the Modern Warfare generation is buying games for their groundbreaking ability to tell stories?

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Garriott Says We’ve Not Mastered Storytelling

By John Walker on February 1st, 2011.

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.

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The Longest Journey – A Retrospective

By John Walker on August 21st, 2007.

My earlier post about story reminds me of a piece I wrote for PC Gamer a few years back, looking at The Longest Journey, and its lasting effect on me. There was never room for my full thoughts then, and the full length ‘director’s cut’ version has sat on my hard drive since. Clearly Dreamfall has been released since, telling us more about April Ryan, and another retrospective is due for that. Meanwhile, here’s the full-length version of the original piece.

“Mystery is important. To know everything, to know the whole truth, is dull. There is no magic in that. Magic is not knowing, magic is wondering about what and how and where.”

Arcadian docks.

The Longest Journey almost vanished away unnoticed, another obscurity ranted about by a few, but never reaching any acclaim. In the mire of pre-millennial adventure gaming, it could so easily have been drowned by the density of its peers, ignored by pessimism, never given the chance it so strongly deserved. How it was joyously liberated from this fate is mysterious. And in mystery, there is magic. In The Longest Journey, there is magic.

As a point and click adventure, The Longest Journey already defied conventions, ignoring the genre’s desperately floundering attempts at “catching up”. Developer and writer Ragnar Tørnquist and his team at Funcom understood that “catching up” was meaningless – they had a story to tell, and a world in which it needed to be told, and so this was the game they made. The natural instinct to say how it recaptured the adventure’s previous glory is strong, but this just simply isn’t true. Adventure gaming had never been as glorious as The Longest Journey – it hadn’t ever even come close.

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GCDC: Stories Vs. Games

By John Walker on August 21st, 2007.

GCDC provides another interesting debate, this time on the subject of story in games. Specifically, that games shouldn’t even try to make them more complex, as they’re simply no good at it. Say the writers of stories in games.

Find her. Save her.

Bethesda’s Ken Rolston and adventure veteran (and man responsible for the frattish Spellcasting series in the early 90s), Bob Bates, both agreed that, “our inability to pay off on all the choices that there should be available. It’s so difficult to make a genuinely complex dramatic choice,” in the words of Rolston. Which is, essentially, an argument against non-linearity in games. Which I strongly argue is a good thing.

In the world of storytelling, non-linearity has only ever existed as a novelty, perhaps a choose-your-own-adventure, or idiotic stunt on the BBC to let viewers call in and “decide” what happens next. But books, television and film have always survived rather well without letting the consumer dictate the story for them. Frankly, if you’ve got a story worth telling, the last thing you should be doing is letting anyone else get in the way. Games find themselves in a more awkward position, as progression becomes rather dependent on the player interacting in some way. And for most elements of a game, from killing to constructing, this interaction is necessary. But leave the story in the hands of the storyteller.

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