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Author Topic: Tragicomic: 1up feature on video game stories  (Read 2151 times)
Eusis
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« on: March 23, 2007, 10:56:27 PM »

URL here.

Discuss.
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Ramza
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« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2007, 01:15:43 AM »

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He might be excited enough to try and include nongaming family members and friends, forgetting they won't be able to measure the "good" story against any other games. It's like presenting your own toddler to guests. You might clap and cheer over little Johnny's ability to stack blocks, but the guests, who have seen more impressive things from dogs, will just smile and nod politely.


This is a good metaphor. And, as a gamer and father, I am generally disappointed (even disgusted) by the lack of enthusiasm by my associates who only "smile and nod" over something that ought to be considered exciting.

Cultural elitism can suck dese.

Interesting article, but I wouldn't call Locke an "emo thief."

Ramza

Edit: Also, they talk about visual novels (such as Hotel Dusk) as if they're some sort of new phenomenon. ...shows how one-sided the coverage is. I understand they're writing for an English audience, but a one-sentence "visual novels have been around for decades in Japan" would have meant a lot to the discerning reader.
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Dice
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« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2007, 05:21:45 PM »

Meh.

I used to play games for the stories, and they sure are a fine perk when the story is good to make you want to find out what will happen next (kinda like some books).

Lately, its been about the gameplay.  Maybe game stories just haven't impressed me as much lately, so I'm looking a bit more into gameplay, or maybe I'm sick of JRPG plots with some high school student saving the world or aliens senselessly killing everything.  In that case, I tire of focusing on the plots, they're becomes silly, and repetitive, and just focus for what sets games apart.
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Ramza
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« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2007, 10:16:19 PM »

Quote from: "Dice"
maybe I'm sick of JRPG plots with some high school student saving the world or aliens senselessly killing everything.  In that case, I tire of focusing on the plots, they're becomes silly, and repetitive, and just focus for what sets games apart.


When talking about a game's story, there are different things to focus on. Yeah..the "overall" plot (typically saving the world, or someone near and dear to you) may be repetitive. It's more about the journey TOWARDS this goal. If *these* story elements are either completely irrelevant or completely bland, or if it's clear that it was borrowing from other recent story techniques in the VG world, then that's bad.

Taking into account character development, dialogue in general, and that sort of thing, may help you see the freshness in what is an otherwise drab game (at least concerning plot).

Ramza
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Eusis
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« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2007, 10:49:45 PM »

Quote from: "Ramza"
Taking into account character development, dialogue in general, and that sort of thing, may help you see the freshness in what is an otherwise drab game (at least concerning plot).

I think most are, at best, moderately entertaining there. It's usually the same characters, in the same types of situations, in the same overall story.

Hell, I don't like to let a bad story stop me from playing a game if I'm having enough fun with it, but since I'm reading the Book of the New Sun, I can't really get into Rogue Galaxy since it's too dramatic a shift from something that's really damn good to, just... Cliche and corny to a degree where I'm getting irritated.
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Willy Elektrix
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« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2007, 10:24:50 PM »

Games aren't an ideal storytelling medium. Since player interaction and game elements are mandatory in a game, that means that the writer of the story can never be in complete control because he must share the act of creation of the story with the person playing the game (unless it's one of those terribly boring, overly scripted games). Therefore, the writer of a game story can't enforce his unified vision of the tale because he has to make room for the game elements and for the player to improvise...if that makes any sense.

Ultimately, I think game stories should be entirely interactive. Watching a cut scene is the same is reading a novel or watching a movie. It's a different art form, taken and crammed into the frame of a game...where it totally doesn't belong. In a game, the story should be told through player interaction.

Other than core gameplay elements, what makes me interested in games are their settings. An immersive or interesting or atmospheric setting can be just as emotionally involving as a story.
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Dice
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« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2007, 01:12:05 AM »

I know what you mean, Ramza.

I understand there are also so many problems the world can be plunged into and so many different ways to save it (in which, some story elements become re-used, and therefore repetitive).
But, fuck, gimme some ineteresting characters!!
Star Ocean 2's Ashton had a FETISH FOR BARRELS... I love it!
But I swear to god, I think I'm gonna die if I hear "An 16 year old orphan from the country with a strong sense of justice" one more time.
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« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2007, 11:22:09 AM »

The problem with game stories as they are typically presented, is that the playable characters are owned by the plot, not the player.  They are loaned out to you periodically, until deus ex machina wrenches them from you at the next scheduled milestone.  The game wants to convince you that you're guiding these people to their destiny, or even that you're assuming the role of a particular character, but it can never be you.

Because most novels aren't interactive, you're free to imagine yourself in that setting in any capacity you choose.  It doesn't begin as your story, but reading it makes you a part of it.  That's a special relationship that traditional video RPGs can't replicate, because they're trying to combine you and the protagonist into one entity -- both of you being slaves to the story.  You the player don't appreciate that too much (if only subconsciously).

One of the best game stories I've seen (in terms of both player freedom and story continuity) introduced a degree of separation between the playable characters and the plot.  In Diablo II, the players pursue Diablo through each region, while a prisoner in the cut scenes recaps the progress of the dark lord himself.  The player of course has to pursue Diablo, but he does it as himself, and in his own way.  The game doesn't try to tell you who you are in its world.

That's not to say that the traditional approach can't work out.  The fact that we all enjoy playing RPGs is a testament to that.  But it does mean that the ways in which we can immerse ourselves in the game are largely independent of the plot, and this is no more obvious than when the plot isn't very good.  (I like to beat up on Grandia III a lot as the poster child of the above.)  If a battle system is challenging, we feel excitement.  We can ooh and ahh over how pretty some of these game worlds are (again, Grandia III -- I do have some praise for it).  If the soundtrack is a good fit to the imagery, then we can even feel like we're part of the scene, if only for moments at a time.  These things speak well for video games, in that movies don't really let us take in scenery as though we're there.
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« Reply #8 on: March 27, 2007, 02:34:11 AM »

Lets not forget about player expectations...

When you pick up a book, the author has the power to take an entire chapter and dedicate it to the development of a character. No fighting, no action, no running away from demons, no magic flying around and swords clashing. And, we are readers, accept and enjoy that. We expect character development through other means than conflict.

In a game, conflict is all we have. 90% of all games is based on physical conflict. And there are only so many things, ways and genres you can do that in. That, compared to all else, is why VG stories feel repetitive. Because it is.

What the industry needs (and its already working on trying to solve it) is fresh story tellers that are not from a game background. Movie directors and novel authors picking up the pencil and writing something for the game industry. We'll see what comes of it. I know EA is trying a lot of things to create new IP for itself through various outsider input from top movie industry figures.
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Tlonuqbar
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« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2007, 08:33:37 AM »

Ah, it's refreshing to see a topic where I don't have to say much of anything at all, since everything I WOULD have said has already been well-stated by several people (several of those posts (as well as certain parts of the original article) sound EXACTLY like posts I've made on other message boards). Kudos!  But, just for the Hell of it, I'm going to respond with something anyways:

As one gifted (or cursed) with a highly analytical mind, I think it is important to point out that just because a story is entertaining or memorable doesn't mean it NECESSARILY succeeds aesthetically.  When people refer to a game's "story", they almost invariably are using the word "story" to mean more than just "the content of the plot"; they are also implictly referencing strength of characterization, thematic concerns and presentation, tone and atmosphere, structural balance, etc. whether they are aware of it or not.  When evaluating a game's story by aesthetic standards, all of these elements have to be considered.

One area where the article was off-base was comparing a melodramatic scene in FFVI to a Harlequin romance...as if that was what all melodrama ammounted to from a literary standpoint.  This is BS.  An absolutely ENORMOUS number of novelists considered to be literary masters dealt almost exclusively with the melodramatic plot: Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Hugo, etc.  The content of the plot, in literature anyway, is mainly a springboard for two things: the author's development of the novel's themes and characters, and...well, you have to have SOMETHING to write about....

...man, I got up too early...if anyone reads this, sorry for not measuring up to my usual level of relevance and coherence.
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