Game People Calling

Game People Calling
Games and Movies, Apples and Pears

Game People | 24 Jan 2010 13:00
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But for all this, I have to admit that I'm less emerged in the story than I am for a good film. As the game switches between the controlled and watched segments the chance of that magical moment of immersion is diminished. Of course it is, Uncharted 2 is built around interaction rather than narrative. An emotional story wasn't the priority here it was engaging compelling game play.

As well as draw on the old traditions, I think games can also create something entirely new. A seed of this is found in another of my recent favorite games, Flower. In terms of story telling you couldn't get much further from the dialogue of Uncharted than the wide open undirected landscapes of That Game Company's game. But here is a game that engaged my emotions more than any other in recent memory.

Flower embraced the fact that I could dictate its pace, structure and direction. Keeping its traditional gaming mechanics under wraps, it got on with the job of granting me control. It was up to me to define who the hero and villain were in this world, what needed fixing and how to go about doing that.

The simple absence of direction removed a layer of interruptions and left me to play. Watching others encounter this world for the first time is an unsettling experience. Everything in me wants to tell them what they 'need' to do as they floundered around the world. But here, who can dictate the right way to play the game? Is it to collect the petals, find the hidden flowers, or simply to explore and enjoy the space?

Although Flower's mechanics don't hit the detailed high notes of Uncharted 2, Flower got to me on a much deeper level. Although it abandoned much we have learnt from books and films, there were moments when the interactions faded away and I felt a real emotional connection to what was happening in front of me.

The game's light hand on events granted me ownership of the story, and I was all the more engaged with it. My involvement in this way felt like I was co-authoring the story as it happened.

The irony here though is that underneath its open exterior Flower is a pretty traditional videogame with a familiar fetch quest conceit. It has levels, bosses, collectibles, and a scoring system they just aren't apparent at first. Flower could be much more of an emergent experience were it to offer some of the sandboxing and online play of games like Halo 3. Then consider how this could take its time to unfold rather than be just the few hours currently on offer and you have a pretty exciting proposition.

I'm excited to be living through these days when games come of age and find their own identity. Rather than being defined in relation to films or books, they are seen for what they are: entirely new interactive experiences. While I love games that capitalize on storytelling like Uncharted, I'm most excited about emerging fresh expressions that play to the interactive strengths of the medium. And for me, Flower is one of these that gets it right.

Games as 'interactive movies' or 'choose your own adventure' books are always going to struggle to compete. But thankfully they don't have to. They are a completely different animal. They contact the emotions through offering us control rather than by storytelling.

Game People is a rag tag bunch of artisans creating awesomely bizarre reviews from across the pond.

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