The structure of Ocarina's finale follows the final phases of Vogler's journey note-for-note. After first confronting Ganondorf in an Ordeal, Link is Rewarded with Zelda's freedom, then must escape the castle on The Road Back. The moment of Resurrection occurs when Link delivers the decisive blow to Ganon following the final battle of courage versus power, good versus evil. The end.

Or is it?


Well, obviously not, no. There is a second moment of Resurrection earned by the first. Link and Zelda are characterized as those indirectly responsible for unleashing the evil in the first place, and in order to return peace to Hyrule they must undo their experiences together by sacrificing their adult lives. Through the epic battle the player learns power can be conquered by courage and wisdom, but only through redemption and sacrifice may we have peace.

However, the Resurrection does not necessarily need to be a conscious choice, or even a choice at all. So finally we come to Braid.

Following a series of illogically numbered chapters, Tim enters the attic and faces the Ordeal of the fire chase and is Rewarded with the Princess' freedom. But the Princess runs from him and a terrible realization dawns as she thwarts his pursuit during The Road Back. Here the character change is only one of perspective, occurring the very moment Tim and the player realize the Princess' captor from the beginning of the sequence is actually her savior. The change in the flow of time has Resurrected Tim from the delusion of his own virtue: He is - and has always been - the villain. The purpose of Tim's journey was never to rescue the Princess, but to learn this crucial truth about himself. Tim is forever changed.

In Silent Hill 2, James is Resurrected from his repressed self when he confronts his involvement in Mary's death and climactically fights Maria - the sexy, vivacious embodiment of everything his wife never was. In Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, the Prince is Resurrected from his former egotism when he accepts his adventure really was "just a story" to Farah and the wider world. Internal conflict and character development create the stories we remember the most.

There are myriad reasons why game narrative quality is so disparate from other forms of entertainment, and countless more why that fact goes largely ignored. Perhaps, through our quest for immersion and desire to project ourselves onto our heroes, we assume a character that begins as an amnesiac blank canvas must end the same way. Perhaps developers believe players would rather hang around with a jingoistic, superhuman muscle sack than anything less-than-perfect. Perhaps they're right. Or perhaps as an industry we've become so involved with action and gameplay, we've forgotten the purpose of storytelling: To say something meaningful in an entertaining way.

Haven't we let this problem slide long enough? Regardless of medium, the interesting part of any story isn't how or indeed if the good guy wins, but what rather we learn about ourselves from their experience. Otherwise we're just killing time. Like our heroes, we're Waiting for Godot.

Jon Davies is a screenwriter, novelist and games tester from the Midlands, UK.

Comments on