In response to "The Stories We Tell Ourselves" from The Escapist Forum: I will disagree with this article, in that you can't say "a computer game does this, so all computer games does it". Just like movies, books, jokes and all other forms of human storytelling, diffrent games have diffrent goals. Counter-Strike is arguably a game of external storylines, what matters isn't if Seal Team Six disarms the bomb on De_Dust or not, what matters is that you have fun while playing it (and can gloat at your friends because they run into your headshots).

Think about what Heavy Rain promises, a game that explores how far you are willing to go to save those you love. I fully agree with Mr. Cage when he says that computer games should grow up. Games as a medium is a potentially powerful tool for directed storytelling. However, most games today end up on the same level of meaning as your average Wesley Snipes movie. You get some cool action and one-liners, but beyond the tesosterone and adrenaline there isn't much to collect there. There's no message, no moral dilemmas to explore or discourses on human psychology.

Does anyone remember Mafia? That game showed us, in part, how games can tell a story with a message and make the player involved. Is there anyone who played that game that didn't feel a sting of sorrow as Tommy's crimes eventually catches up with him? Was there anyone who missed the message that "Crime doesn't pay"?

The two examples above are games that tries to push the storytelling in games. There are many who doesn't, just as there are hundreds of TV-series' out there that only aim at delivering quick entertainment. Games are a powerful medium, and I think it would be silly to dismiss their potential to one day be just as good narrative devices as books or movies just because they haven't gotten there yet or that they have more uses than that.

- Gethsemani

I think the writer misses a really important point here: that Citizen Kane is not the greatest film ever made because it has the greatest story, but because it practically invented modern cinema as we know it. As the previous poster says, the story is told through the language of its own medium - a language which modern cinema takes for granted, but which didn't really exist before Citizen Kane.

I would argue that gaming has had plenty of 'Citizen Kane moments', where single games have broken new ground in the language of video game storytelling. Half Life and Half Life 2 are brilliant examples of how videogames can tell stories without using words; the history of the places you visit in both games are revealed simply by exploration, and the fact that the main character never speaks throughout the whole series is telling. Grand Theft Auto 3 showed us how you can tell a compelling story in a sandbox without losing focus. Play any Bioware RPG and tell me they haven't figured out how to create emotionally compelling characters in our stories. Not forgetting The Sims, any Civilisation or Total War game or even Animal Crossing, all of which give the player a framework to create their own stories (even if most of the stories turn out to be very very similar).

The 'language' of videogames isn't even confined to storytelling, and there have been plenty of Citizen Kane moments in other areas. Halo replaced health packs with regenerating shields and turned that into the default behaviour for first-person shooters. The toolbar at the bottom of the screen with spells corresponding to the numbered keys on a keyboard is part of the language of CRPGs now, but someone had to invent it. The idea that interactive objects in an RPG would glow in some way was, arguably, an accidental invention, but has nonetheless become part of the language.

There have been lots and lots of games that have advanced the art of videogames in a similar way to how Citizen Kane advanced film-making. There will never be a single Citizen Kane because games are too diverse, and what works in one genre would make no sense in another.

Oh, and game developers have no control over the pace or 'flow' of their games? Have you played Left 4 Dead? I think you do a disservice to the many talented developers out there by suggesting that a game can't manipulate a player's emotions in the way a film can. Play a Silent Hill game, or Alien vs Predator without being utterly terrified at some point, or Left 4 Dead without feeling any sense of urgency. Anyway you get point. Hopefully.

- carelesshx


Comments on