92: I'd Rather Game than Read a Book

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j-e-f-f-e-r-s:

Unfortunately, even in complex games like Morrowind, all the outcomes have been pre-planned by the developers. You can't make your own ending, or even your own path, just follow one of the (admittedly very many) paths that the devs have laid out for you. You're given the illusion of freedom, but that's all it is. It's not really too different to those 'choose your own path' books they pop out every now and then. You know, the ones where if you do this you have to flick to page 85, if you do that you have to go all the way to page 163.

That's part of the reason (I think, 'cause I don't play 'em) MMORPGs are so popular. There are parts that have a distinct beginning-middle-end, but the whole experience is open ended. The story is as each player wants it to be, within his or her ability to impact the world. I think the future of gaming will include worlds where the players can impact the direction of the world in some way, but I'm not sure how that'll happen. Developers have been slow to give players the tools to make an direct impact for several reasons. One reason is pride. Developers tend to think they are smarter than their fans. Also there is a legit fear of vandalism in their world. I read in the Spore thread about a player who wants to make a race of penises. Another concern is ownership. Intellectual property is a huge deal to publishers and if the fans are building the best stuff, it's hard to own it. All of these walls (and the many others) will fall eventually. When they do, the comparison won't be between gaming and reading a book, it'll be between gaming and writing a book.

Videogames vs Books: Apples vs Oranges, and then some.

Personally I disagreed with the article - which wasnt helped by a flawed (and somewhat jumbled?) argument and an arguably poor choice of case studies.

This said, Games and Books are comparable in the sense that they both can be (sometimes, not always) forms of storytelling. although it wasn't stated in the article, this comparason is limited to the Storytelling aspect of both game and the written word. we shouldn't be comparing Peggle with Encyclopaedia Britannica. and The Sims is pushing it too, that game is a life simulation, rather than a story.

with that in mind, lets look at these two popular mediums of conveying story (three if we count film which is a more comparable medium to game, the only difference being interactivity).
As has been mentioned, the most obvious features* (*benefits AND downfalls depending on your position and/or the case in question) of each genre are typically as follows:

Games are interactive. To a point: although the player is given choices or alternate routes to complete a given task, the major events that tell the story are pre-determined by the developers. often these arent even part of the gameplay itself but occur in FMV sequences. Very few games that I'm aware of (and I cant think of any directly) feature a completely open plan story. some games have featured choices in story arcs or alternate endings, (True Crime: Streets of LA, S.T.A.L.K.E.R, FABLE) but these are still pre-determined. the interactivity is a somewhat illusive freedom. one way or another, the story must progress, the character must achieve his goals. if the player tries to fight this, he or she will typically fail the game, die and have to restart from the last checkpoint, or just not progress in the game.

Books aren't interactive (disregarding the choose-your-own-adventure subgenre). The story is entirely dictated by the author, he doesn't allow the reader to choose their own way to overcome an obstacle or solve a problem, but rather tells the reader exactly how the character does (or doesn't) achieve his objectives.

Games and films are visual media. the player/viewer sees the action taking place exactly as it was designed by the creator. cliched as it is, the adage 'A picture tells 1000 words' is true. through visual stimulation, a lot more information can be imparted a lot quicker, and in some cases a lot less cumbersome. but I think the difference is, it's a different type of information. on-screen stories are better facilitated to describe what things look like, how people look, act and speak, the ambience of the setting can be conveyed instantly so the story can move forward quickly. however this speed of information transfer is neccessary for these mediums, film in particular because of the time restrictions faced by the genre. audiences wont sit for more than about 3 hours watching a screen. usually about 2. Games can be saved and returned to somewhat easier, although the action here rarely lasts more than 25-30 hours in story type games.

Literature, on the other hand, relies on the imagination of the reader to deliver a visual picture of what's going on. the author uses techniques such as adjectives, imagery and other descriptors to guide the readers minds eye, but ultimately, each reader's image of a certain character or scene will be slightly different based on what they imagine and their context. This is why many people argue that novel-derived films spoil the books (eg harry potter), because they'll invariably differ from how the reader imagines the characters, settings and events to look.
on one hand, the reader must make an effort to draw understanding from written word, he or she must interperet descriptions to develop an image. however it also allows for creativity on the part of the reader, and thus an arguably deeper involvement with the story.

Another fairly unique trait of written word is it's ability to place the reader inside the mind of the protagonist (Psychonauts doesnt count, I'm speaking metaphorically) The author can tell the reader what the characters are thinking. describe their motivations, emotions, reasons behind their decisions and actions. also books are able to give a lot more background information on a story (eg. Black Hawk Down the book vs. the movie- the book goes a lot more in depth). Games mostly fail to do this: allow the player to understand the thoughts of their character, other than when given vocal or text cues.

There are pros and cons to all media, and it is up to the creator to decide how he wants to tell his story. In each of the three formats there are both shining examples of storytelling, and at the other end of the scale, utter tripe. also there are many games that tell a fantastic story that just wouldnt concievably work as a written story, and vice versa. (Shadow Of The Colossus is a prime example)

(I'm in a hurry, got to finish up)
Other titles to consider in this argument might be A Bards Tale, Portal, Black in games
Books: The Bourne Trilogy by Robert Ludlum (very engaging as an action-thriller novel, with the large amount of description necessary being conveyed efficiently and non-obtrusively); The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, (always engaging page turners, while delivering humour and satire brilliantly). Fight Club the book & movie. 'Twisted' short stories by the guy who wrote the bone collector, as with other short story anthologies often use the limited view of the reader to deliver surprises and plot twists that wouldnt be possible with a visual medium.

In conclusion both forms are different, both are good :D

Personally I agree with Gummi and his double posting ;)

trying to engage in a comparison between film, games, and the printed page is an exercise in futility. Each of the different forms of media are built to stimulate different parts of the brain. I enjoy all three forms of media, but I recognize that each is a different experience and I come away with different rewards for indulging in each one.

Gummi is correct in his assertion that its all about the telling of a story. One of the reasons the gaming industry and hollywood has grown to be a tad bleak and brain-dead of late is because many have forgotten the point of thier endeavor. There are a few exceptions however, and that is not to say games who have embraced the "fun" aspect of thier existance are not worth doing. Its just you can't go into a game of peggle and expect the same kind of imaginative stimulation as reading a really good book.

Thanks Worgun (and his typos :D )
dbl post deleted. and replaced by this waste of space

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