The Time I Wasn't John Marston

The Time I Wasn't John Marston

There's what the player wants to do, and there's what the developers want the player to do.

Read Full Article

One might argue that the wandering around in red dead was part of John's character. He wants to be a better man, but his old self pushes him back to the exitment of being a cowboy.
I think that's why the last part of the game was so slow and awkward, no matter how much John tried and wanted to be a family man he is still bond to his outlaw nature.

Haha, great read. And very well thought out personal narrative.

I can relate a lot, especially about the sidequests. It annoys me when I'm in a game (most recently Bioshock Infinite) some story stuff is going on, and the game tries to give me the sense that its urgent, but at the same time I start thinking about that safe I didnt have lockpicks for that I can go get, or that coded message I found a book for and have to backtrack to.

The thing is, that games have the possibility to warn us about these places and vary between free roaming and story driven content. In a perfect world the sidequests would only appear when the games narrative is in free roam mode. Then we wouldnt have to break character or story-mode.

Alternately they could just screw the sidequests altogether and simply make more main mission stuff...

For what is a sidequest if not a worse and not so interesting mini-story in the middle of a big interesting one. Do we need them?

Dude you're so over thinking it, it's not funny. I mean it kinda was funny but still... Open world games like RDR exist for us to faff about and play the side missions and shoot some random dude in the head because he walked by you the wrong way etc... If I didn't have that ability I probably wouldn't have played RDR. Similarly Saints Row(2 and 3) were made for you to take a piss every once in a while. Get the cops riled up and see how long you can go until the swarms of tanks and choppers finally take you down. After all you're playing a murderous psycho gangster...

Ultimately the fault isn't with the player, nor is it intrinsic to videogames.

It's a problem of RDR, a problem of Rockstar's creation.

There's no viable middleground to be held between an openworld sandbox and a tight, story driven narrative. Games can very easily do one. They can very easily do the other. But doing both simultaneously is very tough - imposed waiting periods is the only device I can think of which would make it work. If Marsden knows there's nothing he can do for three days, he might as well use those days helping out some strangers, being a decent chap and earning some favours which might be useful down the road. Or, you know, drinking himself into oblivion.

To me, GTA IV is a far worse culprit than RDR. Niko's motivation is ostensibly to clear his brother's debts and live a quiet peaceful life away from the horrors he's seen back home, to live the American dream. So why doesn't he simply retire from his life of crime after he's got $500k stashed? GTA IV's plot should just be a race to a certain cash figure, followed by a beautiful cutscene of him and his brother setting up a cab company in Vice City, far away from Dimitri and co.

I am currently replaying RDR. My first play through I did every side quest / item hunt I could. I also played John as being a reluctant outlaw; ready to do the dirty work, but not looking for it. I put the Bandana over his face only once.

In the replay, I am passing up most of the side missions / item hunts, being a more hardened outlaw (a lot more random killing, money stealing, general 'black hat' stuff) who does wear the Bandana to hide his identity.

I have taken to heart the Honor mechanic in the game.

If you're playing John as super Honorable, he WOULD stop to help people aka go on the side missions / item hunts.

If you're playing John as less than Honorable, he WOULD shoot random people to satisfy his whims, he WOULD pass by folks in need of aid (unless there's a sizable reward and the possibility of double crossing / keeping all the money).

So, I disagree with this article's premise. Being John Marsten is in the eye of the player. The tone of each player's Marsden might have similarities, but the player inhabits the character, making the choices their own as to WHO John is for THEM.

No single player has a monopoly on the meaning / truth of Marsden's identity; all play styles have a place within that identity and in fact play styles craft that identity.

I do not believe there is a unitary character that one can hold up and say 'this is John Marsden'. Player's actions /choices fully flesh out Marsden's character; which I believe was done on purpose by the designers.

Play Marsden any way you like, you'll still be fulfilling the design goals of the game.

Dude you're so over thinking it, it's not funny. I mean it kinda was funny but still... Open world games like RDR exist for us to faff about and play the side missions and shoot some random dude in the head because he walked by you the wrong way etc... If I didn't have that ability I probably wouldn't have played RDR. Similarly Saints Row(2 and 3) were made for you to take a piss every once in a while. Get the cops riled up and see how long you can go until the swarms of tanks and choppers finally take you down. After all you're playing a murderous psycho gangster...

I don't get why people have an attitude like this about games. Some people really want to ave the opportunity to enjoy their games on a deeper level rater than just a piece of disposable entertainment, or a time sink. Red Dead Redemption's writing is arguably good enough to be enjoyed on that kind of level but the way the game is designed seems to get in the way of that.

Is it impossible to have both? Playing through Red Dead Redemption, I enjoyed the story quite a bit but I never felt like I was betraying the story if I did side quests or goofed around for a while. When I was eager to see what was going to happen next, I got myself into story mode, but if I felt like starting the game up and playing around for a while, I did. I didn't see my goofing off as affecting the overall story, it was just fun. For me it was a lot like reading a book. Maybe I'll read a chapter or two and then do something else. In this case the something else just happened to be right in the same game. I didn't see that as a problem, more a convenience.

Performing the sidequests didn't feel at all out of character for Marston, because to me, Marston always seemed like a gigantic pushover. In the main story, he's always putting his own goals on hold to help someone else out; why wouldn't he do that for the random person he happened across while he was out riding around? Now, the running around hunting, or picking wildflowers or whatever, that does seem a little incongruous, I'll grant that. But the encounters with other people hardly seem that way at all.

'Course, I never went on killing sprees, either, until I was trying to unlock an achievement. Heck, I probably wouldn't have if there hadn't been achievements for it; that's just not my style.


Exactly my thoughts, GTAIV basically had no story for me and Niko became annoying as a character. Some missions felt like some filler episode of a bad anime series. San Andreas pulled this off a bit better by forcing your hand a bit from time to time, although even there, by the time you assaulted some military base, you started wondering why you couldn't just pull your brother out of prison. RDR is also an offender, I guess all Rockstar games have this problem. They try to lure you in with a flashy story that you're then somehow supposed to just put aside and go nuts.

It's fun, I wouldn't criticize them just for that. I guess I never really even realized there was something WRONG with it, until reading this article (good read btw, kudos). I'd rather have this kind of game than say Bioshock Infinite that sticks you on a rail story, no matter how good that story is (or isn't). I enjoy a bit of freedom. And just for the record, I never went for a killing spree in Rockstar Games. I did jump of a few mountains tho...

That has to be a problem for all sandbox games stuck with a linear storyline and a particular character who needs 10 hours of missons to unlock every tutorial. Rockstar games force you to play the story so that you can unlock features for the character. GTA is a bad offender at this, RDR not so much, as some stuff, like flowers and challenges are unlocked separately from the storyline, plus minor encounters such as thieves and prostitute beating drunkards. Far Cry 3 also falls into this category, although you're no longer in a normal world but a fxxked up island. And you're not tied to a particular character motivation. I couldn't care less for my "friends", just wanted to sink my Rackyat (whatever it's spelled) blade into as many skulls and tigers as I could find.

The complete opposite to Rockstar's take is, I guess, Just Cause 2. It does have a story... it does unlock stuff for you (although much much faster). But many have criticized it for having a weak story, just because most main missions didn't LINK in any way. I disagree, as freeroam was part of that main story, causing as much chaos as you could. You were told every time to go out there and mess things up, and it was all in tune with your nutsy character. I still play that game... awesome freedom. But let's agree that you can't have a storyline of "go blow things up so that the bad guy will come out" every time. Are there any games that give you both freedom and linear story? Sure there are.

In Elder Scrolls games you can be anyone you want from the start, no strings attached. In most of them you're just some prisoner with no name so you don't really have a motivation except to enjoy your newly found freedom. The main storyline is avoidable most of the time, without locking out too much. Skyrim gives you some dragon powers fast but you can just role play as a sneaky thief who thinks "suckers!!!! I'm out of here, thanks for these shouts, mwahahaha". Oblivion? Do you actually have a motivation to go find Martin at the start? Roflmao, NO. Epic times for later, vampire fighting NOW! Morrowind did this even better back in the days, although the story at first did help you to encounter easy monsters, not get pulverized by the first Cliffracer. But there were many times when you could put the story aside and go nuts because there was no sense of fake urgency. The main story doesn't care if you're good or bad, it either waits patiently for you to continue it, or spams you with dragons and portals as if to say "you've asked for it Freedom Boy".

So I guess that's your answer mate. Rockstar should unlock every feature from the start. It should make up stories which either don't care about how morally wicked you are, or tie that story in with every civilian you've killed, every car you've stolen. Why must you always be the criminal? Why can't you be the good guy who never shoots police or innocents and then gets police support thanks to that? You motivation should be laxed. Niko was a missed opportunity, an immigrant out to see the city, the story tied in at first with what you as a player wanted to do, go out in the city and have fun... titties!!! But they messed it up fast. Why not make lulls in the story from time to time? Why not punish the player for failing to complete the critical missions fast so that he doesn't have time to go admire the roses and steal horses when some female you seem to care about hangs from a tree? All of these elements are already in these games, they should just make them more uniform and tie them into the gameplay and scenery.



Oh snip!

Problem with Niko is he's not even in it for the titties. Other than wanting to start a quiet new life in America, and to look after Roman, Niko doesn't seem to enjoy anything, be interested in anything. Obviously this means you can overlay whatever preferences you as the player like, but Niko's lack of joy at any of it jars you out of that reverie somewhat.

At least CJ has a bit more charm, a bit more passion and has a good reason to stick around in the area despite the monumental amounts of s**t he gets into. San Andreas wanders waaaay off track for a while, but CJ is always working back towards the final stages of the game, building up his gang and his neighbourhoods again. Vice City is arguably even better structured : Vercetti's plan is to get to the top and be the boss. And so that's what you do. Make cash. Use it to buy up bits of the city, use them and more missions to make more cash. Buy more of the city. It works.

For my experience, John was a man who would want to be a help to people in need. As a penance for his past indiscretions. So stopping to help an old lady find her husband was one more task on his road to his (red dead) redemption. And as for the hunting, gathering, side missions; all that kind of stuff fell under "living off the land". Which would be very very in character for a man like John Marston.

I think in your effort to understand the character, you pinned everything on his one main desire. But no one is a person of single desire. We, none of us, can be. We may have a primary desire, but there are always others. The desire to do good can and always be at odds with the desire to survive, to live on certain terms, to accomplish a task, etc etc ad infinitum. And John as a character was no different.

Yes he wants to quickly and efficiently accomplish his tasks to return to his wife and son. But he also wants to do the right thing. To stop living a selfish life of constantly taking and earn an honest wage, fairly through his own skills. Part of those skills is farming, living off the land, and when possible helping others.

At least that's how I played it.

The solution is consequences. The reason you don't do that stuff IRL is because there are consequences. If you run around shooting random people (which, as we all know, does actually happen sometimes IRL) you get locked up or killed. If you pick flowers instead of saving your wife (or whatever that RDR example was) then your wife dies.

In games there are no consequences. So just add some. Problem solved. Or am I missing something?

The one wee contrivance I came up with (and this took some imagination, I can tell you) was that I would put John to bed every night, save and then when the game restarted, pretend he was still asleep and having a nightmare.

The only nightmare I let John have was the undead kind...

I played the game as if I was John Marston... so I didn't run around shooting nuns for shits and giggles because my John wasn't the type of person who would do that.

I loved RDR, it is one of my favorite games of all time. I believe it is one of the BEST games of all time. I felt it was a game designed just for people like me.

They need to reign in the side quests. Sure they may be a fun diversion, a good way to get your cash/arsenal built up and serve as informal tutorials to some of the games more complex maneuvers, but look at the Elder Scrolls games as a comparison. Huge multi-tiered side quests that can be so complex that they rival the main quest. Make them quick to complete and less intense. If we are there to save "The World", we shouldn't spend 7 hours collecting flowers and shooting birds.

I found it extremely easy to retain a sense of "being in character" just playing as John Marshton, without any frustration from trying to do so. I'd ride into Armadillo, park at the bar, then walk (not run) across town to the sheriff's office, stopping at the shops on my way to pick up some ammo, drop off my latest hunting spoils, or what have you, all the while tipping my hat at the people I passed. When it got late, I had a few shots at the bar and played poker until it was late enough to sleep and wake up at dawn. I even caught a movie once.

The side quests are not so hard to justify in character, and in fact, they can often contribute to it. Saying his "whole motivation" as a character is getting his family back is dramatically understating it. He's also a man trying to redeem himself of his troubled past. He's driven by a sense of honor, torn by his familial attachments to his old gang partners, and sincerely empathetic to his fellow man. If you can't think of a reason he might be driven to stop and help a man being attacked by bandits, a reason he might want to momentarily distract himself from hunting down his old friends by breaking in some horses, a reason to at least have a look around for a woman's missing husband and child - you clearly don't know John Marshton.

That being said, the game does stumble in trying to give us too much choice to determine John's character. Or rather, it gives us inconsistent choice. More than allowing you to be a bandit, it encourages you (the perks are even way better than being good). And because the game doesn't want to define his character in such a way as to exclude the player's predilection for homicide and theft (it does, it just doesn't want to), a lot of scenes have John under-reacting to things he should be very concerned about, or not reacting at all, at the expense of consistency, or even development. There's nothing wrong with giving your players the choice to fuck around - in fact it's that capacity that can give the alternative choices a sense of meaningfulness. But you can still do that while encouraging them to act a certain way, and in so doing create a character that is both your design and the player's will. That's where the art of video games lies - not just giving players choices, but shaping players' choices.

Sorry if this has been said already - not had time to read all responses.

The fact that one can succumb to 'dicking about' says more about the player than it does about any discrepancies between the narrative and the gameplay. Sorry, it does.

You can - and I did - 100% the game without ever breaking character.

Fundamentally, however, I think Mr Smith has completely ignored the foundations of John's character arc, and the way that the narrative is structured.

The world of RDR is a cruel and unforgiving one, where good people are just trying to get by, but getting spat upon by those who think they're beyond the law. John in no small part contributed to some of the misery that these people suffered with his actions prior to the events of the game. He tries to settle down and put it behind him, but he's ripped away from that when his past comes back to haunt him. Brazenly, he tries to finish his task head-on, and gets a bullet to the chest for his troubles. Nurtured back to health by someone who is constantly hounded by the very sort of folk that John used to associate with, Bonnie makes him reconsider the true value of justice, and a simple life lived well. He subsequently sets about a path of REDEMPTION, righting the little injustices he sees in the world so he can earn the right to see his family again. The clue's in the title, and you can complete every side quest in-character with this in mind.

He's also forgetting that in the epilogue, you are playing an entirely different character. Jack is a blank slate, and you're meant to pour your reaction to the conclusion of the narrative into him (even if 'work, ya damn nag' starts to grate after the 100th time you've heard it). THIS is where you're supposed to dick about and maybe ruin your rep as a do-gooder as you pull crazy stunts, massacre town's-worth of lawmen and generally set about sticking it to the man however you can. All still (mostly) in-character. EDIT: You can also, I'm reliably informed, complete the majority of the side-quests as Jack, which further strengthens my point.

To take the Skyrim example cited in the Facebook comments - the gameplay facilitates gathering the heads of prostitutes and displaying them on shelves in your house. Does that mean you should do it? Does that mean the game's narrative encouraged it? No.

It's an extreme example, to be sure, but just because you're given the tools to do something doesn't mean you should do it, or that it was what the designers intended. I can get a fork into my nasal cavity all the way up to the wide bit. I'm fairly certain that's not what Mr Fork had in mind when he invented it...

FURTHER EDIT: Yup, ZZoMBiE13 said it already. I agree with you, buddy :)

If RDR wasn't a faffing-about type of game it wouldn't have the same support and the writing, voice-acting etc wouldn't be nearly as good.

So John's faffing about was in a sense a sort of compulsion forced into his psyche by extra-dimensional forces beyond his control and even beyond his understanding. So if he didn't have the ability to do these things, or the universe didn't offer him a benefit to delay his personal mission and faff about, his reality would lose its structure, the details of his world would blur, people and events would become less coherent, simple tasks would become impossible to accomplish because physical laws would break down, etc. Does that help? :)

Or try this from the other angle then, read a favorite book and pretend you're playing a video game character mimicking the actions of most active character in said book.

Okay third option is a little out there, you must create John Marsden, I suggest cloning a similar specimen from tissue, then placing said individual in a virtual reality that mimics Marsden's life in as complete a way as possible with available information, then bring him out at the appropriate moment and have him play Red Dead Redemption.

Are we having fun yet?

Sorry did I take this too far? What were we trying to accomplish again?

Hoo boy.

The key point you're missing is the fact that, inspite of the enormous amount of artistry that goes into *building* a video game, the most important artistic contribution is the input of the player. Video games are an *expressive* medium. They are not a fixed medium like a statue or a painting. When the developer is finished and the game goes gold, it's still not done yet. (No, not even after all the patches, har har.) The game is DONE when a player FINISHES it.

The thing is you're allowed to miss the point in Art. It is possible to look at Edvard Munch's The Scream and go "Wow, this guy sucks. It doesn't even look like a person. Why is this painting such a big deal?" So if you're allowed to miss the point in The Scream, you're also allowed to miss the point in Red Dead Redemption.

I would also argue that RDD is a bad example of a narrative-driven game in the first place. Most players don't come to open-world games for the tight narrative and compelling story. They *expect* those things to be present, but they're not the *reason* to play an open-world game. Fallout 3 also had a compelling and well-told main narrative, but it was suspended in a soup of exploration, randomness, and absurdist experimentation on the whims of the player. You know that hidden room with all the plungers on the wall? That's how you know Bethesda was, on some level, aware of this.

That kind of dicking around is HEALTHY AND NORMAL in the case of Red Dead Redemption, because it is an inherent side-effect of the open-world model.

If you want a game that "behaves," go play a JRPG. Or at least play an open world game like Deadly Premonition where the developer actually was more interested in delivering a narrative than in making the gameplay compelling.

"Video games" can deliver a coherent narrative and an emotionally charged experience. They cannot do this while remaining completely free-form. The way you force the artist's vision on the player is by either making a completely linear game in which the player never has the *option* to do something the PC wouldn't do, or else by making the PC's motivation so vague and the NPCs so few and far between that anything the player does, the game has a reasonable response to. (Personally, I would rather be allowed to break the narrative than forced not to, but that's just me. I play games for gameplay. Weird, I know.)

But let's compare Video Games to another medium: the Musical. People go around singing their deepest secrets out loud and none of the other characters respond to it. Enjoying a Musical thus requires a suspense of disbelief. Likewise, for video games.

Instead of bemoaning the state of the industry as somehow inherently incapable of telling you what to think as succinctly as a movie, you should just play some older, more obscure, less popular, less conventional, less obsessed-with-graphics games that did it right. Psychonauts was another great example. No matter what you were doing in that game, you always felt like a psychic teenager with parental issues. But it was still possible to run around punching bears ad nauseum. I don't know why you would want to, but it was possible.

You should probably go play Shenmue. Then, play your favorite GTA again. If you enjoy playing GTA more than you enjoyed playing Shenmue, then you know in your heart of hearts that freedom is more important to you than immersion.

As a side note: the dream thing is genius. I may steal that.

I do the same thing you do, not just in RDR, but in most games. That's not a problem with the game in my opinion, it's a strength. People like me who care about story can do that, and immerse themselves fully in the character. Others who just want to run around tying nuns to train tracks can do that too.

Do we embrace that uniqueness about games and continue to struggle with the fact that they will always be inherently artless, that they'll be authorless literature written by committee? Or do we ignore that and try to keep them as linear and as focused as possible? Make them more like films and plays and other things that are actually art?

This is BS, I had to check if David Cage wrote this article. Games don't have to be like movies to be art. I think the fact that you can chose how you want to experience them is what makes them the best form of art.

It is indeed a troubling point.

I really dislike the situation you describe, I am someone who prefers a well thought, structured approach rather than a thematic/ mechanic/ tonal scattershot that we see so often today. I personally generally play games interested in the conflicts and the narrative, but more often than not today, I feel that developers are actively trying to water down their narrative and artificially extend their games by purring in all sorts of unnecessary "because maybe you'd like to do that" components.

Bethesda games have terrible problems with this, there is no structure, no purpose, so all the possibly very well designed game mechanics lose any meaning or importance. That bullet / gun / weapon crafting? yeah , no need to use it. That npc with the quest? he doesn't really have any importance, just a few hours of side quest. That cave #47b it holds nothing, just prefabricated cave N°5 space to search. Cool! Freedom! but what does it mean? What advantage does it bring to the experience?
On the other hand games such as Silent Hill 2, The unfinished Swan, Journey, Spec-Ops, Shadow of the Colossus or the first Portal, fill everything with meaning. Sure, there is a lot to explore, even some sections that exist solely to deepen and broaden the world, but the experience is not padded, it is condensed, it never loses the focus of what the game is, or the direction the experience must have. They don't shy away from taking control away from you or telling you something that you might not enjoy. But they never become too broad as to loose flavor or stop you from experiencing the universe either. These present fantastic narratives that are quite clearly not "your own", but they allow you to connect nonetheless, there is no unnecessary simulated freedom.

This rather pathologic requirement for players to "fulfill their own story" that comes out repeatedly in PR briefs today really rubs me the wrong way. Why are players incapable of empathising with a story that is not their own? Seems that whenever anything is out of their control, the experience becomes foreign and unrelatable to them. In many ways, this sense of "agency" breeds the intolerant trollish responses of extremely defensive gamers that cannot understand experiences not catered to them... It also inhibits real creative output, since players lack the actual impulse to generate real narrative themselves, they cling (and demand) this simulated freedom to do what they can't in reality (and even complain when they don't like what happened). It could even be read as the response of a disempowered lost generation, trying to fullfill their illusions of freedom in a virtual world...

Hoo boy.

The key point you're missing is the fact that, inspite of the enormous amount of artistry that goes into *building* a video game, the most important artistic contribution is the input of the player. Video games are an *expressive* medium. They are not a fixed medium like a statue or a painting. When the developer is finished and the game goes gold, it's still not done yet. (No, not even after all the patches, har har.) The game is DONE when a player FINISHES it.

That is a very silly observation, Painting and Sculpture, and any other art form require someone to experience it, as games, without the input of the spectator they don't exist. You seem to be stuck on a 1900s definition of art as a static observation, today interaction is the basis of modern art: The spectator is no longer passive, he/she is an integral part of the art itself, art only exists through this communication.

Also, an open world doesn't automatically grant a game "compelling gameplay". In fact a more focused approach to what can and can't be done often offer a better tighter gameplay experience. A jrpg or other more tightly knit games feature more structured, well designed systems that enable for well designed gameplay... you play games for gameplay or for experimentation? Assuming a more controlled narrative approach is less gameplay is just a fallacy. More options do not mean better options, in fact given the nature of design, in general it is the other way around.

It's funny that you mention Psychonauts, because as much as I enjoy the game, I feel that the platforming/exploration is profoundly at odds with the clearly more adventure game that Double Fine wanted to do.

Also it is ridiculous to compare anything to Daikatana (really? what the hell)), since Gta is a pretty good game and Daikatana is probably one of the most generally accepted Horrible games in history.

This is why the games industry developed the idea of auto-leveling, so that people who want to rip through the central storyline for whichever reason are free to play the game like that. While people who want to investigate every nook and cranny of the game at their own pace are free to do that as well. But the heart of the matter is simply that without the economic contribution coming in from both types of players, Rockstar Games would not be able to offer the level of quality that it was able to offer.

I think you are coming at this all wrong. Your assumptions about what parts of a game are artistic and which are not is totally backwards.
"I want games to be art; I want artists to choose for me, like when they place the camera a certain way in a movie or write a certain word in a book."
The primary creative force behind a game is the designer. Sure, games wouldn't be possible without other creative people, like musicians, artists, and writers, but the essence of a game is the set of mechanics it employs. The artist IS choosing for you. He is choosing how strong the enemies are, what kind of challenges you'll face, the pacing. All those different activities and missions WERE the artist choosing for you, if those were not there the game would get boring rather quickly. Games need differences of kind and pace to keep our interest over multiple hours.
Story in a game is usually secondary to the mechanics of a game. Designers are getting better at integrating the two, I think Bioshock Infinite is a good example of this. You seem to be falling into the all to common and old trap of wanting your game to be a movie. Games don't do narrative that way.

Am I the only one who didn't have a hard time not starting massacres? I mean I did, but I never saved it, and come to think of it I didn't do it that often and just did it on the side. Heck, sometimes in games where I kill innocent civilians I actually feel kinda bad about it. It just feels more complicated than you make it out to be. If you want to be evil, be evil, if you want to be good, be good. If you want to fuck around for a little and break the rules, don't save. I play as a pure and utter paragon in Fallout, yet when I'm about to turn the game off I plant C4 everywhere and blow whoever is nearby up. The point is I can only be an ass and break the rules when context, consequences and....uh...cohesion are taken away? Wanted to go for 3 Cs. Whatever, I can only do it then.

What do we do with these bloody things? Anyone? Developers?

We could keep making games of all kinds.


I really dislike the situation you describe, I am someone who prefers a well thought, structured approach rather than a thematic/ mechanic/ tonal scattershot that we see so often today. I personally generally play games interested in the conflicts and the narrative, but more often than not today, I feel that developers are actively trying to water down their narrative and artificially extend their games by purring in all sorts of unnecessary "because maybe you'd like to do that" components.

[SNIP] Bethesda sucks. Fallout 3 sucks. I hate freedom in video games, therefore the few games that offer it have something wrong with them. Even if that's the main reason people play that game franchise. [/SNIP]

On second thought, I think I've figured it out. You don't want an RPG at all. What you want is a modern corridor shooter. All the plot, narrative and story you could possibly ask for, zero choices, nothing but a linear Hero's Journey with a single predictable arc, a protagonist who won't shut the hell up, and above all, absolutely no possibility of experimentation, exploration, choices, or surprises. You're playing a role! Exactly one role, which was prefabricated by the writer, so it's more like acting in a play that role-playing, but still! It's what you say you want. A game where you can't break the story by playing it wrong.

And sorry for bringing up Daikatana. That was a stupid mistake on my part. Couldn't remember the right name. I meant to say Shenmue. GTA and Shenmue are both open-world games, but GTA made allowances for gameplay at the expense of narrative, whereas Shenmue is notable in the lengths it went in exactly the opposite direction.

** What the hell?!! **

Hey now, don't bring me into your argument.

You put way too much thought into this to come to such wrong conclusions.

I played Red Dead Redemption however the hell I wanted to. I found I was a lot less malevolent than I am in GTA, and way more into hunting and cheating at cards.

But I doubt I spent much time playing John Marston as he was written, and I didn't think twice about it, cause it happens, especially in sandbox games. How are you going to give the player such a vast freedom of choice and expect it to reconcile at every turn with the scripted character? You don't. So who cares? I personally wouldn't have it any other way. Sure, tell your story, sometimes I'll play that, the other time I'll muck around with all these other fun things you gave me.

I was ready to merely dismiss this as too much thought put into something not worth thinking about, then you dropped this:

"Do we embrace that uniqueness about games and continue to struggle with the fact that they will always be inherently artless, that they'll be authorless literature written by committee"

Red Dead Redemption is art. It's got a beautiful representation of a vast swath of the American Southwest, wonderful weather cycles, decently complex AI creating fairly believable patterns of human and animal activity, and a slightly clumsy story that ultimately resolves more poetically than any videogame I can recall right now.

It blows my mind that we so easily accept Andy Warhol's color-treated photocopies and Picasso's inability to draw as art, yet even videogame enthusiasts have trouble identifying games like Red Dead Redemption as art.

RDR obviously has a shitty writing style if you had to do this. The game should contour to the player, and make your actions make sense in the context of the character. Railroading is always a bad idea.

I think the true art of videogaming is to put yourself in a half-focused narrative and enjoy giving it your edge, even if the story does make your character stubbornly difficult, it becomes good practice to ignore it and shoot stuff up anyhow.


Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
Register for a free account here