305: The Story Sucks

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The Story Sucks

Videogame heroes routinely save the universe, win wars, and crush their enemies, but they seem particularly reluctant to experience any kind of internal change.

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An excellent and thoughtful argument. It does speak to a problem with games, but does make the overall assumption that games ought to do more than entertain, and should aim to educate the person through moral decision making.

I am still on the fence about whether this is actually true and/or fair. Sometimes we might demand too much of the media, or perhaps better said, we demand that games purport to be something they may or may not actually "be".

I don't play a game to experience moral change (like in Aristotle's Poetics) or to grow, sometimes I just want to check out and kill baddies.

In my mind, it isn't that we should expect more of all games, but rather, the beauty of games is that you choose the level of interaction. Waiting for Godot was interesting almost precisely because you had no choice but to stay in the theatre, immersed in the feelings of anxiety and unknowingness - if a game made me feel that way, I'd turn it off. Do I care about my characters? Yes. Do I often play exactly the same character? Yes. Fantasy is just that, MY story, not someone else's driven by the motivations of the story writer. If I wanted that type of passive experience, I would watch television, or read a book. Games let me create the experience (albeit within limited areas), and that is their beauty. It matters less what the artist wants, and more what I want.

something in common with videogame stories that, as an industry, we never seem to address: The characters don't change.

While that is MOSTLY true, i just have to throw in that it's not always true.
For example, i was caught off-guard that Bulletstorm, a game mostly recognized for dicks and dicks being tits and dicks being killed, actually features a character arc for both the protagonist and your half-robot buddy.

That said, the problem about character development in games it that most game plots, even good ones, usually play it in one of three ways:
(a) Characters actually develop off screen, mostly between sequels (see Half Life, Half Life 2 and it's episodes, Condemned)
(b) The whole plot revolves around a fairly developed character who has to discover who he is actually (KOTOR, Silent Hill 2)
(c) Actual character development gets thrown out and instead the game resorts to having everyone learning a valuable lesson by the end of the game, South Park Style (Psychonauts, GTA 4 and especially it's episode "The Lost and Damned")

For me, the problem is not as much the lack of character development, but that stories in games tend to go about it in the easiest but least involving way.

I'm a little skeptical of the given arguments, as the author seems to be forgetting two things:

1. Character development isn't necessarily progressive.
The revelation of hidden depths and other forms of retroactive development are just as much the sign of a good character as them changing during the story.

2. In video games, the player is a character.
The whole "the player is a character" as an excuse for having no (or next to no) characterization in the protagonist has been abused, but it isn't any less true.

Jonathan Davis:
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

Yet video game protagonists are always ultimately 'successful' in their objectives. Perhaps character development becomes something of a moot point if we know "yeah, whatever, at some point, whatever direction/choices/compromises I make I'm eventually going to 'win'"? I feel there's more scope for focus on internal character development if put up against an adversary, say a tyrannous but legitimate dictator, who we are unable to vanquish entirely but can only limit their impact. The idea that ultimately 'winning' is a given in games is a hard partner to have when you're trying to establish a character persona with emotional depth.

well I guess it doesnt matter...since aparently the industry is fucked

I hate to bring it up all the time but I always thought Ratchet from the original Ratchet and Clank showed a very good character ark that changed as different events happened in the game.

In a lot of cases, the game world is static in a general sense too. Not only does the protagonist stay the same, so does everything else. Sure, you might have vanquished evil after evil after evil, but the NPC in the first town will still act as if nothing ever happened. Everywhere you go, things are scripted to change only after you perform a certain action. Without the specific input from the player, the world stagnates. In some ways, the phenomenon you're describing is just an extension of that. Why have one person in the whole world have change when no one else does?

Interesting article. I think some games could certainly benefit from this, while others are fine the way they are.
Perhaps I'd be more of a fan of the Uncharted series if Drake actually learned any lessons, or underwent some change of character, suffered some humility, or was anything besides a gold-obsessed self-absorbed smartass douchebag.

I haven't played Ocarina of Time, Braid, or SH2... :/
all on my "to do" list

kind of OT, but why is there a picture of MGS4 Snake in the header? Are you suggesting that the story in MGS sucks? (hehehe)
(also why is it credited as being from MGS3?)

Waffle_Man:

In video games, the player is a character.
The whole "the player is a character" as an excuse for having no (or next to no) characterization in the protagonist has been abused, but it isn't any less true.

This is quite true, and it comes off as an excuse for a poor central character way too often in games these days.

The way I see it, most games just don't have good methods of providing ways to respond to emotional stimuli that a game may provide.

Take for (maybe a bad) example, Aeris's death in FF7. What do you do right after the scene? A boss battle with JENOVA. Maybe me, the player and character, wouldn't bother with such acts.

Something comes to mind though. How often do games let you write as a part of your capability as a character (think a big step-up from Bioware responses)? While probably virtually impossible on consoles, and may only affect other players, broad elements like a writing could give players the freedom to more accurately engage themselves in what's going on in the game (now how does the game itself respond...?).

In any case, an interesting read.

Was it bad that I was deeply disappointed by the fact that Metal Gear Solid provided the picture for the article, but had no mention in an article about STORY TELLING!?

Anyway.

Good article, and I agree, for the most part.

EDIT: Another good example of story telling would have to be The Darkness. Just wanted to throw the name out there.

This was a very good article. Thanks for writing it.

It makes me sad that the article is 'The Story Sucks' and it has a picture of Solid Snake...I love the MGS story. I think it's really engrossing. I cried at the end of MGS3 for chrissakes.

Content like this is why I come back here every week.

carpathic:
An excellent and thoughtful argument. It does speak to a problem with games, but does make the overall assumption that games ought to do more than entertain, and should aim to educate the person through moral decision making.

I am still on the fence about whether this is actually true and/or fair. Sometimes we might demand too much of the media, or perhaps better said, we demand that games purport to be something they may or may not actually "be".

I don't think there's such a thing as "demanding too much" from video games. Of course different people want different things from the media they consume. That's why some people watch Jerry Bruckheimer movies, and some watch Darren Aronofsky movies. It's why some read Douglas Adams, others read Jane Austen, and still others don't read fiction at all. It's why some people listen to Eminem, and others listen to Mozart and still other listen to Tool. Everyone is looking for something different. I think most people consume a variety of genres and artists because even the same person can want different things at different times.

I'm pretty sure there are various examples that show how games can be something more than just "fun." The examples given in the article are pertinent, and everyone has an example of a time that a game solicited an unexpected emotional or intellectual response.

To your other point, the creator's intent is important inasmuch as they convey that intent effectively to the audience. If they're ham-fisted in their attempts to convey emotion, then the emotional response from the audience will reflect that. If they craft something with cleverness and care, they'll likely receive the reaction they were looking for, and I believe the audience will get more from consuming it in turn.

I think that's what the author is trying to express. Developing characters using well-defined narrative conventions can mean a game has more impact than one in which little or no character development occurs. I for one, agree. Sure, sometimes you just want to blow some stuff up. But I find it hard to argue that having a well-constructed narrative, and great character development layered in, where it doesn't interfere with the interactive parts of the game, could do anything but make a game better.

You missed the resurrection moment in Bioshock. *Spoilers* It wasn't the character but the player that needed to change and that was supposed to come during the final escort quest. At this point the Little Sisters were no longer invulnerable but they also had nothing to offer. If a Little Sister died at this point you could just grab another from an infinite supply. There was no reason to defend them except the idea that you were there to protect them. Otherwise you were using the valuable resources that you had collected throughout the game to protect them instead of saving them for the final boss as you normally would in any game. This was a point in the game that called for selfless sacrifice from the player, and if you did protect the Little Sister you had passed through your resurrection moment.

To Jon Davies,

***Contains some big spoilers on recent and not so recent movies and a couple of relatively old games***

By "defining" a good story that way you exclude many more possible foundations for a memorable story. A good story can be built around characters with little development. Having little development doesn't necessarily mean a character is not memorable. What about larger than life heroes (anime example: Haruko from Fooly Cooly), lovable rogue heroes (another anime example: Isaac and Miriam from Baccano!), cynical heroes (Garreth from Thief 3: Deadly Shadows) and so on. A good story will still be a good story even if the characters in it are as one-dimensional as a photon.

However if you have a shitty storyline even great character development won't save it. And I mean a story has to be good from the very beginning to the very end. A simple story plus good character development can work though, that is true.

And the part about sacrifice is simply ridiculous: you really do think that by killing off a character at the end the drama becomes more engaging. It doesn't, unless that sacrifice is meaningful and has a massive weight, like say in Black Swan or The Myst. And in case of Zelda, of course, it wouldn't be meaningful at all.

In case of Braid, the game is as open to interpretations as your run off the mill Coen bros. movie (one of the most overrated directors imho). So you really can't say if the guy learned anything at all. I always saw Braid as a reflection, but a reflection doesn't mean a lesson well learned. Memories are interpretive as well (Memento was good in showing us that), so whether you learn something or not is entirely up to you. And what is a "lesson well learned anyways"? Or does everybody have to conform to the views of society: its distorted morals, ideals and visions on life?

I for one would like to see a character walk away from his demise whilst flashing a middle finger at the world, VTM: Bloodlines style.

I disagree with the arguement. I actually think that there are some good characters out there but I don't htink his use of Link and Zelda of all characters was well done. There are plenty of better characters out there that develop at a good rate. There are good stories and then there are games with no story and there are games with just bad stories. It's all about how you take it though I guess.

Some people like games with no story like Portal, and others (myself included) don't like games without stories.

There's a time and a place for everything though, a time for stories and a time for just brutal puzzle solving or NPC or PC killing.

An important point to make is that any decisions or lessons a video game character can learn is entirely arbitrary.

It is an interactive medium that depends entirely on the input of the people playing it. The narrative and character arc has to make sense, there needs to be some kind of reason as to why a character may change and it should be visible in game. Most importantly that change needs to be represented in an interactive way. Otherwise it's pointless. The difficulty that plagues games is trying to blend together a sense of dramatic narrative with a sense of interactivity, and it is incredibly difficult to do so.

For me, who does care about story, the weakness of games is not in characterization however, or the stagnation of said characters. It is the scope of story available. Games are working from a very minimal reference pool; I don't see story arcs becoming significantly more complicated until games can actually successfully branch away from their current limited scope.

It's a good thing someone wrote an article like this, because while part of me disagrees, another actually does.

Most internal conflicts are often left to the players' imaginations. They also involve the same two choices: 100% completion, and speed-running. Take a good look at Mario, Legend of Zelda, and Metroid, for example. Mario and Link are questing to save their princesses, while Samus is questing to destroy space-pirates. However, to do that, they need help in the form of allies and equipment, but then that would endanger their missions. So what should Mario, Link, and Samus do? Should they collect the necessary items and/or allies while wasting the time needed to complete their goals? Or should they head to the goals themself at a greater cost of their lives? Collecting sources of help would waste time, but earn players 100% completion. Abandoning those sources of help, meanwhile, would make things harder, but earns the player a fast time.

Sure, Mario, Link, and Samus doesn't gain anything from the choices between either completing their quests quickly or slowly. However, at least players like myself do. Games taught me about the differences between fast and slow, as well as their respective highs and lows. However, just imagine if those three characters learned about it from their experiences, how going fast can put them in danger, and going slow just wastes too much time.

[quote="drivel" post="6.282973.11112960"]Content like this is why I come back here every week.

[I don't think there's such a thing as "demanding too much" from video games. Of course different people want different things from the media they consume. That's why some people watch Jerry Bruckheimer movies, and some watch Darren Aronofsky movies. It's why some read Douglas Adams, others read Jane Austen, and still others don't read fiction at all. It's why some people listen to Eminem, and others listen to Mozart and still other listen to Tool. Everyone is looking for something different. I think most people consume a variety of genres and artists because even the same person can want different things at different times.

I'm pretty sure there are various examples that show how games can be something more than just "fun." The examples given in the article are pertinent, and everyone has an example of a time that a game solicited an unexpected emotional or intellectual response.

To your other point, the creator's intent is important inasmuch as they convey that intent effectively to the audience. If they're ham-fisted in their attempts to convey emotion, then the emotional response from the audience will reflect that. If they craft something with cleverness and care, they'll likely receive the reaction they were looking for, and I believe the audience will get more from consuming it in turn.
[quote]

The problem that I was trying to point out was more that we expect video games to be something they are not. Games are not books, they are not movies, if we want them to be the art that people claim they are, then we have to think more broadly about what they can be, rather than getting caught up in things we obsess over with other media. For me, the whole purpose of games is my intent, not what the author wants, and that is the joy creating my own experience and not having to live out someone else's moral lesson.

It wasn't a question of not understanding what the author was trying to say, but rather disagreeing with his point.

Perhaps when I said "demanding too much" I mispoke, what I was trying to say is that we are layering expectations of videogames that might not actually apply to the media itself. We are limiting its possibilities by comparing games to other mediums and then expecting that games conform. I genuinely don't care about authorial intent, the joy of a game is that I can tell the writer to stick it and draw my own experience. If the author and I agree on one thing, it is that Games can be so much more than they are - an infinitely personal experience that is still relatable to others. I don't agree that the creator's intent is important, nor should it be. Take visual art - the only person to whom the creator's intent is important is often the creator - not agreeing with Rothko about whether his pieces elicit anxiety in me does not make his point more or less valid, just important to him. Thom Yorke of Radiohead is famously anxious about people reading into the intent of his songs.

I guess in the end, I am worried about the layering of expectations upon videogames strangling their possibility as a medium and this article, excellent and thoughtful as it was, continues this potentially distructive process. We might end up with just another interactive book, and I think videogames deserve better.

Ack...got a little ranty there- sorry!

FFS, would the entire industry please stop using the Hero's Journey as if it is some sort of literary ideal? The Hero's Journey is limited, linear, archaic, and inflexible. Seriously, if we sat down and came up with adjectives that we would never want to apply to a game story it would be hard to beat those four.

The Hero's Journey, let's say it all together, was an exploration of Jungian psychology and the monomyth, and in particular a fascinating study of the similarities between certain archetypal tales from different cultures across the world. Taking it as some sort of ideal blueprint for a game narrative is not just wildly off-base; it's a lazy attempt to find convenient cut-and-paste shortcuts instead of doing the hard work of crafting a good story.

The Hero's Journey is great anthropology. Let's leave it there.

It's hard for me to take seriously an article that says Bioshock is lacking while at the same time propping up a Zelda game as acomplished storytelling.

Setting that aside, the larger issue connecting these two games is morality, dealing with the consequences of one's actions. And here is where videogames hit a roadblock. It's harder than ever to allow players to deviate from the standard story and allow them to decide their character's fate because it's prohibitely expensive to produce enough content to consider all posssibilities. With limited choices, morality becomes hollow.

Take Mass Effect for example: after repeated playthroughs I've become ever more certain that they build the Paragon route first, then allow for some heckling, but you never really stray from the set path, never get to go all the way.

carpathic:
An excellent and thoughtful argument. It does speak to a problem with games, but does make the overall assumption that games ought to do more than entertain, and should aim to educate the person through moral decision making.

He's not arguing that games "ought" to present only specific moral challenges in order to educate, he's just using specific examples that are familiar to him and probably represent something HE would enjoy playing. I wouldn't however, I'd find the messages cloying, inane, and deeply disturbing.

Some RPG's claim that they let you make choices--and they do offer choices, but they're all surface choices. They let you choose what goofy thing your character does, whether sycophantically letting people push you around or viciously murdering them. They don't EVER let you choose what message you take away, which I think would be the most interesting and powerful way to use the interactivity of a game to better tell a story.

What most games do, is have your choices matter very little: it'll change who is alive at the end of the quest. Eh. Some games will give you a canned consequence: if you kill everyone, some of your party members get mad at you. Others like you. At the end of the game you get a little epilogue blurb telling you about how nice/awful things turned out because of what you did. Whatever.

But what if the game was structured in such a way that your actions really affect the NATURE of the consequences? Not, some people like you, some people hate you, but instead, if you play as a ruthless money-grubbing bastard, the game becomes the story of a ruthless money-grubbing bastard. The sweetness and light "nice" people who sneered at you get shat on by fate (or you), whereas the hardassed wheeler-dealers actually do benefit.

Dragon Age did something similar to this in a couple of instances (Bhelen) but it was poorly implemented because your initial decision allowed you no *motivation* other than the blatantly obvious. You could tell Harrowmont you thought Bhelen was a twerp, or you could go with Bhelen apparently because he was offering you a better deal. This is an extremely shallow motivation that only a completely blank and pointless character would have. In order to allow you a distinct motivation, though, they would have only had to give you one or two more conversation options and some kind of midpoint option. What if you could tell Harrowmont you're going with him *despite* him being a narrow-minded traditionalist, because you really do think Bhelen's guilty? And then, what if at the midpoint decision of this chain, you could sabotage Harrowmont in such a way as to *force* him to act more liberally? Now you have FOUR character options, FOUR possible motivations, and having the ability to choose between them makes even the straightforward ones grant more characterization to your protagonist.

It is not really necessary that the protagonist go through some kind of Resurrection in a game. Just being able to CREATE an actual CHARACTERIZATION of your protagonist would be a huge thing. And it'd be far better than trying to ram some sort of lecture on sacrifice down the throats of people not interested in that kind of thing.

I found that article to be interesting and thought provoking as I compared my favorite games to this template of necessary internal conflict and most passed. I think that this is something, which all game developers must take into consideration. Thank you for this very interesting article.

Boober the Pig:
You missed the resurrection moment in Bioshock. *Spoilers* It wasn't the character but the player that needed to change and that was supposed to come during the final escort quest. At this point the Little Sisters were no longer invulnerable but they also had nothing to offer. If a Little Sister died at this point you could just grab another from an infinite supply. There was no reason to defend them except the idea that you were there to protect them. Otherwise you were using the valuable resources that you had collected throughout the game to protect them instead of saving them for the final boss as you normally would in any game. This was a point in the game that called for selfless sacrifice from the player, and if you did protect the Little Sister you had passed through your resurrection moment.

It's been a while since I played Bioshock, so I'll have to take your word for this. If its true, its a good point. I protected the Little Sisters throughout the game so for me this part of the story was actually no different. I guess in my case my "resurrection" came right after the first choice to save a Little Sister.

I don't think Bioshock fails as a story. You might go through the game looking at the Little Sisters as a means to an end to stop Fontaine, and if you use the Little Sisters as a resource you ultimately "lose" even if you defeat Fontaine. Maybe that's a too little to black and white of an ending to make a perfect story, but it still uses a bit of morality to give you one last "surprise" after you think you've won.

No, I don't believe Bioshock fails at the end of the story because of this. I think its a letdown more to gameplay because the final boss battle with Fontaine feels ordinary, like it should have been more impactful. Most things leading up to the final battle were interesting, but the final battle felt they said "Oh, wait, this is still a game... lets give them that usual final boss battle." That was my biggest letdown with Bioshock, not the story.

I do realize the article was meant to be about gaming in general, so sorry for the post specifically about one example.

I hate to sound so negative, but isn't the article's entire point undermined by the amount of literary acclaim Waiting for Godot has received despite the fact that the characters never change? If video games are "only" as deep as Beckett's play then I'd say they're actually doing pretty well.

IvoryTowerGamer:
I hate to sound so negative, but isn't the article's entire point undermined by the amount of literary acclaim Waiting for Godot has received despite the fact that the characters never change? If video games are "only" as deep as Beckett's play then I'd say they're actually doing pretty well.

What? No, Waiting does it deliberately. It's essentially a commentary on idleness. If you ended up writing Waiting while trying to write a 'regular' play you'd have failed.

For me, the whole purpose of games is my intent, not what the author wants, and that is the joy creating my own experience and not having to live out someone else's moral lesson.

You keep using that word, I don't think it means what you think it means and I find your repeated usage of it fascinating.

You appear to hold that a 'moral' lesson is a bad thing. But really, any kind of change that a character goes through is 'moral'. Even if it was one that was to be looked down upon by society, like say if the Hero started out kind and friendly and realized midway through he was a sucker and became too cool for school. It's still a 'moral' lesson, because whenever one writes a story, even if it's not what one intends to do, one ends up imparting one's moral compass upon it. Even if your story is about someone who has a moral compass entirely different from yours, and your climax is how that someone ends up having an even more different moral compass, then your story ends up being either a) an exploriation of an alternative you, secretly or no, wished you had internalized, even if out of morbid curiosity, or b) a dark or cyinical ending that while great for the character is supposed to be unsettling for the viewer. I am genuinely curious as to whether when you contest the concept of 'moral' lessons you mean them in the traditional sense - in the fable sense of 'see what happened to this guy, this means you should act in this socially accepted way or bad things will happen' - or in a general, 'this happens to this character because this is what I think about the world' way. That is, if you would protest it even if it was pushing something you'd agree it, presumably out of a desire for games to be completely neutral.

As for your broader argument, I see your point. There's a big divide between the 'make your own story' kind of game and the 'experience this great story from the shoes of the main charater' kind of game. It seems you favour the first kind, which is great - it's probably the point that has more room to grow and show what videogames are really capable of, greatly because of how little explored it is. But these arguments still stand if you're trying to make a narrative-centric videogame.

Very interesting article. If I may throw out a character that I thought had a strong development over the course of the game was Kratos in God of War 1. I mean, here's a man, who is clearly defined as an embodiment of rage, but as the story goes on, we find that his rage is simply his defense mechanism from the madness that haunts him from (SPOILER) murdering his family. He is, in fact, a man desperate for forgiveness so that he can no longer be tormented by his nightmares -- so desperate that he is willing to destroy any and all in his path to that goal. And (SPOILER) after his climatic battle with Ares, when he finally thinks that the gods will free him and the madness will end, they tell him that he's doomed to have these nightmares forever. And then Kratos, the character that we as the player have been using to murder just about everything in our path, the man who embodies rage and employs cold-blooded murder, becomes helpless, pathetic, and (SPOILER) throws himself from a cliff in attempted suicide: the only way he believes he can escape the madness.

Of course, God of War 2 and 3 didn't capture much of this, and it was mostly just the "death personified" part, but I think GOW1 really caught a glimpse of something special in fleshing out Kratos.

The Random One:
You appear to hold that a 'moral' lesson is a bad thing. But really, any kind of change that a character goes through is 'moral'. Even if it was one that was to be looked down upon by society, like say if the Hero started out kind and friendly and realized midway through he was a sucker and became too cool for school. It's still a 'moral' lesson, because whenever one writes a story, even if it's not what one intends to do, one ends up imparting one's moral compass upon it. Even if your story is about someone who has a moral compass entirely different from yours, and your climax is how that someone ends up having an even more different moral compass, then your story ends up being either a) an exploriation of an alternative you, secretly or no, wished you had internalized, even if out of morbid curiosity, or b) a dark or cyinical ending that while great for the character is supposed to be unsettling for the viewer. I am genuinely curious as to whether when you contest the concept of 'moral' lessons you mean them in the traditional sense - in the fable sense of 'see what happened to this guy, this means you should act in this socially accepted way or bad things will happen' - or in a general, 'this happens to this character because this is what I think about the world' way. That is, if you would protest it even if it was pushing something you'd agree it, presumably out of a desire for games to be completely neutral.

This is very true. It saddens me how many gamers are resistant to storytelling in games because they have a knee-jerk reaction and think any story that explores morals or character development must be "jamming a moral lesson down your throat," or that telling a story like this must be done at the cost of fun.

Games that are "just shooting baddies" e.g. Call of Duty can be entertaining, but I wouldn't want that to be the extent of my gaming experience. I want something more than that--I want something that makes me think, and makes me feel.

Jonathan Davis:
The Story Sucks

Videogame heroes routinely save the universe, win wars, and crush their enemies, but they seem particularly reluctant to experience any kind of internal change.

Read Full Article

A great article, whose position applies to far more than video games. It's exactly what makes sit-coms pretty damn bad. Main characters that never learn, grow, or change.

I do think I can see a rational reason writers may avoid this with video games: Audiences hate to be challenged. Why do more people go see movies about farts before they'll see a movie that deals with racism? Why do people enjoy reality TV in which people behave like total jackasses? Because they don't want to be challenged. They want to be distracted. They want cut-and-dry issues--farts are funny, those guys on Cops are worse people than you--that allow them to feel good about their own faults.

Video game heroes allow people to play out power fantasies. "If I had a superpower, I'd fix the whole world," kind of stuff. Playing as the hero lets them indulge that, imposing their will on this imaginary world without having to wrestle with whether that vision of right/wrong is the best one for that world.

If the hero has to grow and learn, it means the audience has to ask questions about why they were rooting for the hero to begin with. If the hero had something to learn, does that mean they do, too? If the hero was wrong about how to fix the world, could it be the answer isn't as simple as we thought? That connection to the hero is exactly what good stories exploit to emotionally stir an audience: connect you to the hero, then challenge and change the hero, and in doing so spur challenge/change in you. Or at least a strong emotional reaction.

Games are afraid to take that risk, for the same reason TV shows and movies are (and books aren't). Money. Games, shows, and movies are expensive to make--but also, their producers expect an increasingly unrealistic rate of return on that investment. They don't just want to make a killing. They want to make a killing on day one. If you challenge an audience, some of them might not "pass," and they might not come back. The $60 price lock on games can't abide that kind of risk.

Same goes for potentially great shows cancelled because their ratings were good... but not good enough. "We weren't doubling our money every 15 minutes, so we're going to put something cheaper to make in the same slot."

This is what happens when art becomes entwined with money. We just notice it more on electronic entertainment because production costs are higher.

While it may apply to most games, there ARE many games other there with characters that change. Except I don't really call it "change" as more of "character development" because change might result in a character becoming someone they are not (or act out-of-character) while development is more about the character growing.

Off the top of my head, I distinctly recall KOTR having this in Bastila, in BG2 u could romance and change the drow party member (from chaotic to neutral). And replaying it now... Final Fantasy 9 have great characters which grow and learn and mature.

TLDR version (<6 int ver): Change not always good. Growth better. Got games with growth/change. Go see KOTR,BG2,FF9

Jonathan Davis:
The Story Sucks

Videogame heroes routinely save the universe, win wars, and crush their enemies, but they seem particularly reluctant to experience any kind of internal change.

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I took two things away from this interesting little article, the first being that here's another person, another writer, another critic bashing video games for not being books or movies. Video games are still in their infancy, essentially, and while game developers should be able to take the lessons learned from other media, they haven't yet figured out how to implement those lessons well yet.

The second thing that struck me about this article is that it seems to say that there aren't any shitty movies or books. I bet if someone crunched the numbers we'd probably see that the ratio of shitty movies and books to good movies and books vs. shitty games vs. good games would probably be about the same. I'd actually hazard a guess that simply because there are so many more books published and movies released every year that in fact, those forms of entertainment probably suffer far more poorly written and told stories with lamer, less developed characters than do video games. Actually, I'll amend that; Video games probably do have far less fully realized characters, yet I'm sure there are still more terrible movies and books, statistically speaking.

Regardless, many video game characters are not seen as an "entity" per se, but instead as avatars of the player. The player is supposed to go through the growth and character change and Resurrection, not necessarily the video game character.

I don't really like the same criteria applied to literature and film applied to video games, simply because of the interactive nature of games. Granted, a story can still be told, but it actually requires some sort of input from the player and is not strictly a straight line narrative following a character's growth.

Damn it would people stop referencing post-modern writes just to be intellectual.Next movie-bob is gonna be comparing super Mario to Finnegan's Wake.

While you were talking about the 'Resurrection' part, I couldn't help but be reminded of Luke Fon Fabre from Tales of the Abyss.

EDIT: Also when you were talking about Bioshock, I couldn't help but remember my favourite ending from Bioshock 2.

hecticpicnic:
Damn it would people stop referencing post-modern writes just to be intellectual.Next movie-bob is gonna be comparing super Mario to Finnegan's Wake.

Why can't we get rid of post modernism period? It's fucking useless. Sure, we all build our own narratives of life, so what? It's still absurd to think that there are multiple realities for each person's perspectives. We might not ever know the nature of absolute reality as it is in-itself, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. None of post modernism's ideas are novel, they're all just pessimistic bastardizations of older, better thinkers like Kant and Nietzsche. And the cultural nonsense that has arisen from the philosophy is largely a bunch of pessimistic douchebaggery.

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