David Jaffe, David Cage and Videogame Stories

David Jaffe, David Cage and Videogame Stories

Bringing gaming techniques into the real world.

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Story has its place but for me it will always be second to gameplay and level layout I can not stand linear invisible wall riddled over simplified games and that is what everyone makes these days.

Last week at the DICE summit in Las Vegas, David Jaffe delivered a talk in which he argued that videogames shouldn't attempt to tell stories.

This week Dear Esther, an entirely story driven game, made a profit in under 6 hours.

Guess who I'm going with on this one.

It stands out to me that stories tend to be lame in games because game mechanics are still at a very weak state. To me, the problem isn't that in making one (gameplay or story), you lose track of the other, but rather that we separate them entirely. In the very best games, the story and the gameplay go hand in hand. In Bioshock, the very powers you learn to use and tearing apart the city and account for the story in the first place. In God of War, your character is losing a battle to repress his memory of his own actions even as he expands upon his own abilities. Perhaps more impressive is Shadow of the Colossus, where the gameplay and story are merged into a truly unique experience. The game is your attempt to overcome forces far larger than yourself to reach for a goal that is, at best, a misguided effort - yet the story and gameplay are so compelling as to move you forward despite. You're even kept in the dark as to what you are fighting until it is too late anyhow. I believe, from an artistic perspective, that the best option is to explore how gameplay determines story and how story determines gameplay.

The_root_of_all_evil:

Last week at the DICE summit in Las Vegas, David Jaffe delivered a talk in which he argued that videogames shouldn't attempt to tell stories.

This week Dear Esther, an entirely story driven game, made a profit in under 6 hours.

Guess who I'm going with on this one.

Beat me to it. It seems that what the author is trying to argue is that we need more human stories, rather than fantastical space adventures. Though I haven't played Dear Esther yet, it seem that it delivers a personal story about loss, tied directly into the mechanics of searching an island. Gamers can appreciate good story and good gameplay, but what they really want is something that can bring them both, where one complements the other.

Thunderous Cacophony:

Though I haven't played Dear Esther yet, it seem that it delivers a personal story about loss, tied directly into the mechanics of searching an island.

It's that...and so much more.

Honestly, give it a play if you like storytelling. It will profoundly touch you.

Thunderous Cacophony:

The_root_of_all_evil:

Last week at the DICE summit in Las Vegas, David Jaffe delivered a talk in which he argued that videogames shouldn't attempt to tell stories.

This week Dear Esther, an entirely story driven game, made a profit in under 6 hours.

Guess who I'm going with on this one.

Beat me to it. It seems that what the author is trying to argue is that we need more human stories, rather than fantastical space adventures. Though I haven't played Dear Esther yet, it seem that it delivers a personal story about loss, tied directly into the mechanics of searching an island. Gamers can appreciate good story and good gameplay, but what they really want is something that can bring them both, where one complements the other.

Seems more like gamers just want fancy graphics.

Esther can't even be called a game, for lack of gameplay.
There's modern interactive fiction with good stories (and no puzzles if you prefer), but those inform and tads games are just text and have always remained very niche because of that.

I'm just going to copy-paste something I wrote in another post. The summary idea is that the reason video games and story are having a difficult time is because stories are not being told in a mode that is appropriate to the medium. Books tell stories by exposition. Movies tell stories by montage. However, video games tells stories through experience.

Not every game has to have a story, but, for the games that do have a story, there are differing levels to which the story is made manifest. In some games, the story is central to the nature of the game, and, thus, the player is constantly immersed in it; in other games, the story is merely flavoring that provides some motivation to the game.

In "pure games", like chess, shogi, backgammon, etc., there is no need for a story because the entire point of the game is on the strategies and tactics necessary to achieve the winning condition or optimal outcome(this is why I call such games "pure games", because their design is much more mathematical and adherent to game theory).

But, even more to the point, I think much of the difficulty of dealing with stories in games is because many game developers don't seem to realize the mode by which the gaming medium expresses stories. There is too much a tendency to express story structure and progression in the same mode as one would do for a book or movie, and this is incorrect, in my opinion. Books express story structure and progression through exposition; movies do this through historical record. However, games express story structure and progression through experience. You don't read about or watch the life of the character. You live through it, and it is fully realizing that ability to live through the character's life in every detail that I think game developers are sometimes struggling with because they are trying to hard to make games like Hollywood blockbuster movies or best-seller books. It's just the wrong approach.

I think story execution and progression in a game has to focus on the choices and actions of the player, as the main character, and the consequences of those actions on the game's world. It is possible to strongly encourage or direct the player toward specific choices or actions at key moments(even to the point of putting it on rails), but the key thing is that the player is the one who causes the story to occur and progress forward, in that the player is actively engaged in the progression of story points(quick-time events is just one means of implementing this). The player should not spend a lot of time passively viewing events transpire before him or reading about them in some exposition; instead, the player should be actively involved in every moment of the story progression while being fully immersed into the game's environment. This is what I call the "Total Experience", the full combination of sensation and interaction. You don't read a game's story or watch it; you experience it.

Just my opinion. Feel free to flame.

ADDENDUM: I've recently been reading Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. In it, he talks about the principles and design of story structure. He exposes the four part story structure, setup, response, attack, and resolution, and the milestone plot points that build up the story's structure. It's been an enlightening, albeit sometimes tedious, read into how good stories are structured and built.

I think it may be possible that the reason some video game stories are so awful is that they fail to adhere to standard story structure, execution, and pacing.

Essentially, I feel the problem isn't that stories shouldn't be in games; it's just that stories are often being done wrong in video games.

Bah...we should just get it over with and have 'games' and 'interactables'. At least that way people like David Cage wouldn't have to go around defending their work as a pretension to being a game and just focus on doing what they do best.

There are attempts to do this, mostly among ARGs. A lot of this also gets back to the common sentiment these days, any game that is not a sports game or puzzle game (ie, pretty much any game with even the barest hint of story) focuses on combat or violence. Maybe if we see some good games that aren't about combat, that would be a foundation to build games that aren't about fantasy on.

geizr:
I'm just going to copy-paste something I wrote in another post. The summary idea is that the reason video games and story are having a difficult time is because stories are not being told in a mode that is appropriate to the medium. Books tell stories by exposition. Movies tell stories by montage. However, video games tells stories through experience.

I don't know what movies and books you've been reading and watching, but those examples are flat out -wrong-. More to the point, exposition, montage and experience refer to specific things both within their mediums and that are shared with others.

What's the last good book you read that relied entirely on a narrator explaining every little thing to you? Because that's what you're implying when you claim this is how books tell their stories.

As for movies and montages, again, from what I understand this a very specific tool used in film-making to create the illusion of the passage of time, i.e. the training montage in Rocky. And film made up entirely of montages would be unbearable.

Now, imagine that for the whole movie. x)

You are sort of right with games, about them delivering the majority of the story through player experience..however, if you want anything more than that I really think you need to incorporate elements from other mediums. IF you're just looking for a game to experience, okay, great, focus on your mechanics, but honestly, I've never thought to myself hmm, you know, I really would like Team Fortress 2 more if they chucked out all this superfluous backstory and humour and focused entirely on the gameplay.

geizr:
I'm just going to copy-paste something I wrote in another post. The summary idea is that the reason video games and story are having a difficult time is because stories are not being told in a mode that is appropriate to the medium. Books tell stories by exposition. Movies tell stories by montage. However, video games tells stories through experience.

Not every game has to have a story, but, for the games that do have a story, there are differing levels to which the story is made manifest. In some games, the story is central to the nature of the game, and, thus, the player is constantly immersed in it; in other games, the story is merely flavoring that provides some motivation to the game.

In "pure games", like chess, shogi, backgammon, etc., there is no need for a story because the entire point of the game is on the strategies and tactics necessary to achieve the winning condition or optimal outcome(this is why I call such games "pure games", because their design is much more mathematical and adherent to game theory).

But, even more to the point, I think much of the difficulty of dealing with stories in games is because many game developers don't seem to realize the mode by which the gaming medium expresses stories. There is too much a tendency to express story structure and progression in the same mode as one would do for a book or movie, and this is incorrect, in my opinion. Books express story structure and progression through exposition; movies do this through historical record. However, games express story structure and progression through experience. You don't read about or watch the life of the character. You live through it, and it is fully realizing that ability to live through the character's life in every detail that I think game developers are sometimes struggling with because they are trying to hard to make games like Hollywood blockbuster movies or best-seller books. It's just the wrong approach.

I think story execution and progression in a game has to focus on the choices and actions of the player, as the main character, and the consequences of those actions on the game's world. It is possible to strongly encourage or direct the player toward specific choices or actions at key moments(even to the point of putting it on rails), but the key thing is that the player is the one who causes the story to occur and progress forward, in that the player is actively engaged in the progression of story points(quick-time events is just one means of implementing this). The player should not spend a lot of time passively viewing events transpire before him or reading about them in some exposition; instead, the player should be actively involved in every moment of the story progression while being fully immersed into the game's environment. This is what I call the "Total Experience", the full combination of sensation and interaction. You don't read a game's story or watch it; you experience it.

Just my opinion. Feel free to flame.

ADDENDUM: I've recently been reading Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. In it, he talks about the principles and design of story structure. He exposes the four part story structure, setup, response, attack, and resolution, and the milestone plot points that build up the story's structure. It's been an enlightening, albeit sometimes tedious, read into how good stories are structured and built.

I think it may be possible that the reason some video game stories are so awful is that they fail to adhere to standard story structure, execution, and pacing.

Essentially, I feel the problem isn't that stories shouldn't be in games; it's just that stories are often being done wrong in video games.

I always held that sentiment for a long time, glad to see I'm not alone. Dark Souls and Demons Souls are great examples of story telling in games. The majority of there story is told through subtext and you have to actually look for it by reading item descriptions and taking in the vistas, each area has a story to tell. If you don't try to look for it you won't find it. It's unfortunate that so many reviewers are unable to pick up on subtle things like that. Twisted Metal is one of those, it has a really deep meta game and mechanics, but reviewers only compare it to what they know and don't take each game as an experience on its own.

Games like Dark Souls and Twisted Metal challenges the player to dig in deeper, it invites them but never holds there hands. Both great examples of mechanics and story telling in games.

I'm afraid you've lost me on this one, Dennis. Seems to me that the two Davids are saying the same things in different words. You seem to be disagreeing with them, but your counter-example (a game where you go on a different sort of "mission" to what we normally play) is bizarre, and sounds like a rather dull game, frankly.

To my mind, the reason for having stories in videogames is to give context and meaning to what we're doing. Sure, it's fun to just shoot a bunch of guys for no reason. But if there is a reason - one that we actually care about because we've become emotionally invested in a story created for just that purpose - well then for some (most?) of us that's even better. I can totally agree with you when you say that a requirement for shooting stuff (for example) limits the kinds of stories that can be told, but it doesn't limit them to bad stories per se. At least not in theory (in practice IMO it's another matter, so far, but I have hope).

In any case, from where I'm standing it doesn't look like AAA games are in any danger of losing their focus on gameplay in favour of focus on story any time soon. Focus on cinematography, on the other hand, is a whole other matter I think, and IMHO the gameplay of many AAA games has been lowered in favour of "interactive cinematics" or whatever you want to call it, ever since HL2. But as I said, it seems to me that's a separate issue.

GothmogII:

geizr:
I'm just going to copy-paste something I wrote in another post. The summary idea is that the reason video games and story are having a difficult time is because stories are not being told in a mode that is appropriate to the medium. Books tell stories by exposition. Movies tell stories by montage. However, video games tells stories through experience.

I don't know what movies and books you've been reading and watching, but those examples are flat out -wrong-. More to the point, exposition, montage and experience refer to specific things both within their mediums and that are shared with others.

What's the last good book you read that relied entirely on a narrator explaining every little thing to you? Because that's what you're implying when you claim this is how books tell their stories.

As for movies and montages, again, from what I understand this a very specific tool used in film-making to create the illusion of the passage of time, i.e. the training montage in Rocky. And film made up entirely of montages would be unbearable.

Now, imagine that for the whole movie. x)

You are sort of right with games, about them delivering the majority of the story through player experience..however, if you want anything more than that I really think you need to incorporate elements from other mediums. IF you're just looking for a game to experience, okay, great, focus on your mechanics, but honestly, I've never thought to myself hmm, you know, I really would like Team Fortress 2 more if they chucked out all this superfluous backstory and humour and focused entirely on the gameplay.

I think you may be misunderstanding what I mean. By exposition, I'm merely talking about the text in the book. You read a book, but you don't read a video game. By montage, I only mean the streaming together of the sequence of related images such to create a motion picture. You watch a motion picture, but you don't merely just watch a video game. In a video game, you actively experience, through interaction, and can even cause the events that transpire in the game. This is what I am proposing as the native mode of expression of a video game and that one should tell stories in the medium of video games using that mode, not the mode of books or movies. That was the intended meaning of my post. I apologize if it did not come across clearly.

The_root_of_all_evil:

Thunderous Cacophony:

Though I haven't played Dear Esther yet, it seem that it delivers a personal story about loss, tied directly into the mechanics of searching an island.

It's that...and so much more.

Honestly, give it a play if you like storytelling. It will profoundly touch you.

People (mostly Yahtzee, but still) gave Heavy Rain shit for being a movie you have to press buttons to interact with. Dear Esther is that without the buttons. You just sort of walk around and wait for the narrator to speak.

It might be a good experience, but a game? Not really. There is very little lost in just watching the thing on youtube. You, the player, are irrelevant in any of the decision making aside from where to go. And talking about it remaking its budget in 6 hours is not a point of greatness. I don't think the cost was even sextuple digits. And a 10 dollar price tag? For 60-120 minutes? That's ridiculous.

OT: Video game stories suck because they cater far too much to the player and not to the characters. This idiotic mentality of "You are *insert name*" is such an awful way of presenting emotionally charged interaction that has held back gaming for years. At present, we've hit a niche where you're the good guy, you shoot the bad guy, you're the hero, add contrivance, bake at 360 for 6 hours, serve. This is going to gimp the shit out of gaming until someone can break the mold and make both a game of emotional weight and affordable production price. And off topic, no, Esther didn't do this because they overshot the target and kept going to the point of making the character just a camera. It's far better to just lean towards Jaffe but circumvent his words by integrating the story into the mechanics.

Oh, and the supposed sweet spot is not dependent upon the here and now being realized in any fashion. Fiction is often a means of escapism. If I wanted more of reality, I'd stop playing games. Fantastical situations just means you have less exposition to dump on the audience.

Why is there a giant ant monster assaulting the castle made of cake? Because fuck yeah. Or because the ant was hungry.

While I'm not a fan of interactive movies, I personally hate anyone who thinks that games would be better without story.

Do you want to know games that would suffer without a story?

Most JRPGs, including some of the classic Final Fantasies like VI.

System Shock 1 and 2.

Red Dead Redemption.

Even a game like Saints Row the Third has a fairly solid narrative and has callbacks to its original two games in said narrative.

The point is that games have come a long way since the Atari days where it was impossible to tell a story. While some games (*cough*Battlefield*cough*) should never, ever attempt to make a story, some beautiful things like L.A. Noire and Silent Hill 2 would not even exist if it wasn't for some of the great stories told in said games.

Instead of blaming 'the story' for killing 'the gameplay', how about you admit that you're relying on some cheap tricks because you're too lazy (or it's too expensive) to innovate, and try making some quality products.

Freechoice:

People (mostly Yahtzee, but still) gave Heavy Rain shit for being a movie you have to press buttons to interact with.

I think it was the uncanny valley effect that got it the most shit. That and the full price tag.

Dear Esther is that without the buttons. You just sort of walk around and wait for the narrator to speak.

Yeah, here's someone who waited to be impressed. The magic comes from empathy.

It might be a good experience, but a game? Not really. There is very little lost in just watching the thing on youtube. You, the player, are irrelevant in any of the decision making aside from where to go. And talking about it remaking its budget in 6 hours is not a point of greatness. I don't think the cost was even sextuple digits. And a 10 dollar price tag? For 60-120 minutes? That's ridiculous.

I really don't know where to begin with this. Yes, it's a game. There's very little lost in watching I Wanna Be The Guy on YouTube (apart from massive anger). The player isn't irrelevant at all, which you'd know if you altered your path. And finally, measuring a pricetag by game length is so wrong that I can't even begin to pick it apart. Do you go to see movies based on their length?

Seriously, get the original mod. Play it through twice, changing what you do. Have headphones in as well.

If that doesn't show you how deep it is, you're officially dead.

Hipster speak

So Eastenders sets up a perfectly logical world beforehand? Where people come and go by the whims of the writers and their contracts? So Kafka's Metamorphosis provides a detailed insight into how someone turns into a bug? So Orwell shows how Pigs can stand on two legs?

Pish and twaddle. That's artiste speak and lazy viewing. You have to meet the creator half way, and that requires effort. People who dismiss DE as an experience rather than a game probably did look through it on YouTube and didn't stop to watch the butterflies.

If you don't like that sort of thing, then fine; but don't dismiss it as "a nice try", because that's snobbery of the highest bounds.

I wonder how Movie Bob would review DE.

DE is basicly just graphics and a monologue. Graphics we gamers can judge properly and then you get the Destructoid review. Judging DE as a game for gamers should never result in a recommendation.
Crap stories get dumped on us all the time as we play games, so we may be too forgiving in that area to judge the monologue properly.

The youtube video or even a high quality playthrough recording won't survive any professional scrutiny that we can be sure of, but maybe the sum of it's parts is better.

Is it art or pretense? I'd love to hear from a decent film critic who is familiar enough with games, so not to let the W-key holding and mouselook to discourage him or her right from the beginning, but who does know about his composition, pacing, etc. etc.

Guy Jackson:
I'm afraid you've lost me on this one, Dennis. Seems to me that the two Davids are saying the same things in different words. You seem to be disagreeing with them, but your counter-example (a game where you go on a different sort of "mission" to what we normally play) is bizarre, and sounds like a rather dull game, frankly.

To my mind, the reason for having stories in videogames is to give context and meaning to what we're doing. Sure, it's fun to just shoot a bunch of guys for no reason. But if there is a reason - one that we actually care about because we've become emotionally invested in a story created for just that purpose - well then for some (most?) of us that's even better. I can totally agree with you when you say that a requirement for shooting stuff (for example) limits the kinds of stories that can be told, but it doesn't limit them to bad stories per se. At least not in theory (in practice IMO it's another matter, so far, but I have hope).

In any case, from where I'm standing it doesn't look like AAA games are in any danger of losing their focus on gameplay in favour of focus on story any time soon. Focus on cinematography, on the other hand, is a whole other matter I think, and IMHO the gameplay of many AAA games has been lowered in favour of "interactive cinematics" or whatever you want to call it, ever since HL2. But as I said, it seems to me that's a separate issue.

Hi Guy,

Thank you for the comment. I'd like to respond, if I may. :)

Jaffe and Cage aren't agreeing with each other at all. I tried to find a video of Cage's GDC speech but couldn't. Cage went through a litany of traditional mechanics - shooting, jumping, driving, etc. - and basically said that game developers should abandon them, because they're all activities that were designed for teenage boys and don't represent our experiences as people. Those are precisely the mechanics that Jaffe was championing in his DICE speech, at least that's how I read his argument.

Instead, Cage argued, storytellers should be the chief architects and design leads of videogames, and that should be the focus of game development. I don't agree that storytellers should effectively be Creative Directors as a matter of course. My understanding is that Creative Directors can hold an editorial function as much as a creative one, and that necessitates a knowledge of mechanics and programming such that said Director knows what decisions make sense and which don't, but I think Cage is onto something per how traditional mechanics limit game development, which is part of the point I tried to make in this week's column.

Per the game I'm suggesting being dull...I wasn't suggesting a game mechanically. Like I said, the few examples of "mechanics" from a traditional understanding I could draw from my mission trip don't sound that exciting. I'm also not a game designer. Mechanics can be as simple as dexterity challenges or as complex as puzzle solving. Surely there are mechanics that can be designed around the real world.

That's my other point - the world we live in is filled with challenges and adventures that can be turned into video games. You don't need to travel to the planet Vermire to have an adventure. I had one in Jamaica that was loaded with challenges to overcome. If videogames can be set in the real world, that opens up the door to creating real, human characters and stories with much more potential for emotional "oomph."

The palate of emotions that videogames locked in fantasy can create is more limited, I feel, because there's always that clear separation. In Gears of War 3 I had a moment when Dom sacrificed himself, but I'd also played two previous Gears games and read the Karen Traviss novels. I had a lot of context for that moment, most of it drawn from *outside* the games. I don't think that moment would have had nearly the same impact had I only played the game tabla rasa, because in the end Dom is just a huge dude in space marine armor fighting glowing zombies and weird creatures that erupt out of the ground, and I have no real life touchstones for any of that.

This isn't a conversation about *good* stories or *bad* stories, but the *kinds* of stories videogames can tell. They deal in abstraction very well, like most literary and cinema science-fiction and fantasy do, but literature and film also delve into stories that exist in the real world and characters who *could* actually exist. I see no reason why videogames can't do *precisely* the same thing.

The trick is designing fun, engaging mechanics that work in the real world but also function effectively in an entertainment medium (we already have those sorts of mechanics but I mostly see them in "serious games" that are not designed for mass-market entertainment), and I would bet on the collective imagination of our game designers that the task can be accomplished.

The context for the game's mechanics, as you put it, could be decisions that we relate to as actually important. Does it really matter if Commander Shepard saves the galaxy or not? We can get just as much enjoyment out of seeing her fail. But if the goal of your current level is to commit actions that human beings in extreme situations might actually commit, like saving people in a disaster, and the win/loss results are the lives or deaths of characters you have come to know and love precisely because they are based on people who might actually exist somewhere, might you not have an entirely new level of motivation to make sure you succeed in those goals?

This isn't an argument for "all videogames should be like this," but rather "Some video games *could* be like this, and accomplish things that no other videogames had previously been able to accomplish." I think that's a fair suggestion. :)

Dennis,

Thanks for the clarifications. I obviously grabbed the wrong end of a few sticks, including, in particular, the actual point you were making.

Making a game such as you describe sounds like a challenge (not that I would know, but this is teh interwebz). A thought on the gameplay: if it involves doing anything that most of us can easily go and do in reality then there wouldn't be much point to doing an inevitably inferior version of the real thing in a game. In other words, what would we like to be able to do in reality that we can't or won't actually do?

If there are two game developers which I will never listen to it's David Jaffe and David Cage. Both of them can't get enough of the smell of their own farts and The world would be a better place if they just disappeared up their own ass holes.

I'm inclined to disagree. The issue is not so much fantastical worlds being used over the real one, but our ability to interact with them (which is ridiculously - almost offensively - limited in the majority of games these days), and to feel they are legitimate. If we are allowed to believe the worlds and situations we are in are consistent and reactive to us, then our investment in them is an order of magnitude larger instantly.

What you need then is good writing, and that's the same for setting it in the real world. If we feel invested, then the connection between ourselves and what is going on is at a base-level of human nature: do we feel guilty? Do we feel sad? Do we feel vengeful? Do we feel happy? As long as I care about those characters and find the world believable in and of itself, then there is no reason for my emotional investment to be lessened because of the setting, or the intricacies of the situation I am in.

Really, this is why storytelling in games was shot in the foot when Immserive Sims (Deus Ex, Thief) didn't take off in the way they really should have, as you can more fully explore background information; characters become rounded out with things they've written down or emailed, and their opinions of you change with your actions. If they actually react to you, the player, then it helps pull you in. Perhaps you start noticing things about them you wouldn't have if you hadn't, y'know, blown their office door off, hacked their computer and read their private emails; maybe you decide that you do want them to like you, so you behave a certain way, or that actually, no, they're arse holes, so you're going to piss them off.

Two great recent examples are DX: Human Revolution, and The Witcher 2. Even though the latter's not an Immersive Sim, it really makes you care about something, and what that something is - what Geralt's main motivation for carrying on is - it leaves up to you.

I also find it rather irritating when David Cage tries to talk about game narratives; the man's clearly a wanna-be film writer/director who didn't make it for whatever reason. The best part is that he's not even a particularly good writer.

geizr:
Snip

While I generally agree with you sentiment (many game developers have, by and large, not yet figured out how to effectively tell stories in games), I disagree with one point: that a story in a game is best told through total experience (which seems to imply that cutscenes and the like should not be used). I disagree with that. Cutscenes and such are just another tool in the designers toolbox. Each new medium builds upon the previous ones: film built upon plays, television built upon film, comics built upon novels, etc. each developing new styles to tell stories, but still using many of the techniques from previous mediums. It is more about striking a balance between the two; film did not abandon good writing just because visuals are so important to the medium, after all.

Also, why the hell are people getting so worked up about the difference between traditional games and "interactive narratives"? Why can't they both be under the same banner? I mean, film contains both "The Dark Knight" and "The Red Balloon"; why can't games have both "Call of Duty" and "The Path"?

I don't understand the conclusion of this article. Neither the stories nor the mechanics are based in "the here and now", and I have no idea why you would think that games based in "the here and now" would be a good thing. If "here and "now" is what people want (or would benefit from), why shouldn't people just go outside and experience actual life, instead of playing with electronic devices grounded in a fictional experience (provoking non-fictional reactions)?

Guy Jackson:
Dennis,

Thanks for the clarifications. I obviously grabbed the wrong end of a few sticks, including, in particular, the actual point you were making.

Making a game such as you describe sounds like a challenge (not that I would know, but this is teh interwebz). A thought on the gameplay: if it involves doing anything that most of us can easily go and do in reality then there wouldn't be much point to doing an inevitably inferior version of the real thing in a game. In other words, what would we like to be able to do in reality that we can't or won't actually do?

I look around at the world, and I see tons of people doing things I could never do, or can't imagine myself doing. Fireman. Policeman. Doctor. There are plenty of jobs that most of us could not easily go and do in reality because they require training, or a certain physique, or a certain mindset.

I can never imagine being a crab fisherman in Alaska. I can't imagine climbing mountains. Or throwing on a backpack and traveling the world. Again, I have no idea what the mechanics for these simulations would be...but a video game is more than just mechanics. There's the *reason* why we do things in video games, like you said, what the context is.

I thought about this earlier today: Imagine the mechanic is scrambling through a house that's flooding. That happens to real people in real life on a regular basis. You're trying to carry your little daughter up to the roof to escape the flood, and you have to jump from position to position, and read how the environment is changing so that you know where it's safe to go and where it isn't. It's a test of reflexes, and timing, and most of the hand-eye coordination stuff we do in video games on a regular basis. Only this time, you're not some hero running through a boat your Navy SEAL team is scuttling that's filling up with water, you're a regular person doing something that regular people actually do.

I find it hard to imagine that we can't come up with tons of examples of ordinary people doing extraordinary things that could be translated into game mechanics. And I think that with a maturing video game audience, there is or will be an audience for these sorts of games. I will always enjoy games where I'm the space marine fighting the aliens, but I've been doing that for three decades in various forms. I'm ready to add another flavor to my video game experiences. :)

jaketaz:
I don't understand the conclusion of this article. Neither the stories nor the mechanics are based in "the here and now", and I have no idea why you would think that games based in "the here and now" would be a good thing. If "here and "now" is what people want (or would benefit from), why shouldn't people just go outside and experience actual life, instead of playing with electronic devices grounded in a fictional experience (provoking non-fictional reactions)?

I'm not sure what you mean. The "story" and "mechanics" of my going to Jamaica were most certainly in the here and now. It happened. Last week. In 2012. On Earth.

Your statement supposes that everyone can just up and go partake in all the various adventures life offers. The older we get, the less mobility we tend to have. We get jobs with limited time off. We get married and have children. I have friends with multiple kids who guard their vacation and sick days like the most precious of resources. They can't ponce off to Jamaica to go on a mission trip for eight days. They can't strap on backpacks and travel the world like my sister did last year.

Stories set in the real world don't have to be boring tales of everyday activity. Surely you've seen movies set in the here and now which weren't fantastical. Read books about everyday people in the real world. There's tremendous dramatic potential for those sorts of stories. It's not a stretch to suggest that videogames could do the same thing.

Dennis Scimeca:

Guy Jackson:
Dennis,

Thanks for the clarifications. I obviously grabbed the wrong end of a few sticks, including, in particular, the actual point you were making.

Making a game such as you describe sounds like a challenge (not that I would know, but this is teh interwebz). A thought on the gameplay: if it involves doing anything that most of us can easily go and do in reality then there wouldn't be much point to doing an inevitably inferior version of the real thing in a game. In other words, what would we like to be able to do in reality that we can't or won't actually do?

I look around at the world, and I see tons of people doing things I could never do, or can't imagine myself doing. Fireman. Policeman. Doctor. There are plenty of jobs that most of us could not easily go and do in reality because they require training, or a certain physique, or a certain mindset.

I can never imagine being a crab fisherman in Alaska. I can't imagine climbing mountains. Or throwing on a backpack and traveling the world. Again, I have no idea what the mechanics for these simulations would be...but a video game is more than just mechanics. There's the *reason* why we do things in video games, like you said, what the context is.

I thought about this earlier today: Imagine the mechanic is scrambling through a house that's flooding. That happens to real people in real life on a regular basis. You're trying to carry your little daughter up to the roof to escape the flood, and you have to jump from position to position, and read how the environment is changing so that you know where it's safe to go and where it isn't. It's a test of reflexes, and timing, and most of the hand-eye coordination stuff we do in video games on a regular basis. Only this time, you're not some hero running through a boat your Navy SEAL team is scuttling that's filling up with water, you're a regular person doing something that regular people actually do.

I find it hard to imagine that we can't come up with tons of examples of ordinary people doing extraordinary things that could be translated into game mechanics. And I think that with a maturing video game audience, there is or will be an audience for these sorts of games. I will always enjoy games where I'm the space marine fighting the aliens, but I've been doing that for three decades in various forms. I'm ready to add another flavor to my video game experiences. :)

I'm right behind you when it comes to expanded story/context possibilities, I was just iffy on whether gameplay would be all that exciting without the, um, fantastical ? (if that's a word) element that most games have as standard (even the so-called "realistic" ones). But I take your point on the number of possibilities that RL offers, and games with fun gameplay can and do sell well even when they don't put the player in the shoes of a Justifiably Violent Hero, so maybe you're on to something.

 

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