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February 7, 2005 at 11:13 am #3763
Last week, I enjoyed ‘2046’.
Yesterday, I went to see ‘A Very Long Engagement’. For those who don’t know, it’s a French movie set in the 20’s about a girls’ search for her husband, who disappeared during the First World War. Although the action sequences are horrific and spectacular, this is balanced with a tender and emotional story of the lover, and the trench brutalities are shielded within ‘flashback’. In my opinion, the film is intelligent, tender and poignant – and it touched me.
This set me thinking: ‘How many games could be said to be any one of those things?’, ‘When was the last time a game touched me?’
It also made me think that that particular film – for example – might make a great game, albeit a new ‘type’ of game. Indeed, I started thinking about how it would be fascinating to see ‘arty’ games, utilising current technologies and strong narratives, asking more of the player. The use of flashbacks, plot turns, REAL character development, interspersed with action (in this particular case, gritty trench warfare) would surely be a fascinating new direction for games.
Why shouldn’t titles have a love theme, for example, or an emotional thrust other than ‘Avenge death of family’, ‘Save the planet’ or ‘Isn’t war horrible?’ Why not entwine a character / period drama with our current standard game mechanic? Why not play a level in flashback? Why not use complex stories about ‘people’, where feelings are paramount? To continue the cinematic comparisons, even a ‘simple’ Hollywood blockbuster like Die-Hard tries to add an emotional depth (via the protagonists’ ex-wife), doesn’t it?
Of course, titles like Half-Life 2 and Mafia could be said to be ‘the dawn of maturity’ (didn’t we all relish the arty and abstract ending in the case of the former?), but what I’m suggesting is adding some ambiguity to our action. Not necessarily to be as arty as The Seventh Seal, or Three Colors Red, but let’s get away from the overtly linear and transparent formula, the oh-so-obvious story-twists, and the one-dimensional heroes, that have been so common during recent years.
I know the knee-jerk response to this vague rambling might be: ‘We need simple games to capture the mainstream’.
I don’t agree with this response, however, and would suggest that neither American Beauty or The Sixth Sense would be considered ‘art-house’, and yet they asked of the viewer a concentration and attention that, perhaps, Beverly Hill Cop didn’t.
Is there not a market for games that, similarly, can tell a multi-dimensional story to an intelligent audience? Why not ask more of the players intellect, as well as hand-to-eye coordination – not in a ‘puzzle’ sense, or an RTS sense, but in an ability to response emotionally to a story with depth?
To liken the industry to our own aging process, let me reflect on my changing tastes in films:
When I was younger, like many people, I’m sure, my films had to be dramatic and action-packed. Then, as I entered my teenage years, I needed the urban and gritty tales of angst. Finally, around my late 20’s / early 30’s I demanded a certain sophistication, an emotional quality away from all the sound and fury – I want a film to challenge me, aesthetically, musically, ethically. Make me come away feeling a new emotion.
When – or if – a video game achieves this diversification, can it be said that ‘the industry’ has finally grown-up?
February 7, 2005 at 11:15 am #17619
Hope that didn’t sound pretentious guys? I also love Star Wars :)
February 7, 2005 at 11:29 am #17620
Yes, absolutely. Longer post to come later.
February 7, 2005 at 11:31 am #17621
I agree that some games should go down this route, but not the majority at the moment. The majority of games should be exactly that, a game, something quick and fun in my opinion.
When games become more realistic, in terms of graphics etc then maybe we can look at creating more character driven, emotional games. But at the moment, its kinda hard to become attached to a character when you see his hand made up of a block with fingers painted on it, or when you see a glitch in the shadows which causes a triangle of shadow to appear on his neck.
In other words, when games become more cinematic, then I think developers can start really thinking about adding cinemaesque style story telling and character driven plotlines.
Until then, its best to stick to stick to plain old fun!
PS: A good example of how improved graphics, direction etc can add to a games emotional impact is “The Chronicles of Riddick” where great graphics(if a bit glitchy), direction and voice acting can really add to the atmosphere giving it a more cinematic feel.
Its a pointer to where things are going with regards to technology giving developers better scope to create more cinematic style games.
February 7, 2005 at 11:36 am #17622
Take your time Skyclad – I don’t imagine this thread will be hugely participated in :)
February 7, 2005 at 12:31 pm #17624
Take your time Skyclad – I don’t imagine this thread will be hugely participated in[/quote:37fa727b71]
Actually, I’d be willing to bet that a lot of people would feel quite strongly on this topic…
Most discussions like this seem to turn into a ‘games as pure games’ vs. ‘games as story’ debate. I like both, so I want to avoid that in my reply. Therefore, I want to say that what you’ve described is exactly what I would like ‘story driven games’ to become.
What you’re talking about is really the maturing of games as a story telling medium, and isn’t something we see near enough of.
That said, there are definitely some games that already exist which fulfill the criteria you’ve described.
One title that jumps out at me at the moment, and screams to be mentioned, because it does so much of what you describe is “Planescape: Torment” (use of flashbacks, complicated plot turns, a sophiscated plot, with complex characters, use of nonlinearity…) but there have definitely been other attempts to make games as you’ve described, probably mainly in the RPG sector.
Final Fantasy 6 and 7 were (obviously) story driven, and tried, in their own way to add depth and colour to some of their characters – certainly equivalent to those, of the “Die Hard” movie, which you mention.
I think the quality of story telling degraded a lot later in the series, but that’s an opinion. Square have done a lot of work trying to bring games with proper characters and stories to the mass market though; arguably at the expense of gameplay in recent years.
I know the knee-jerk response to this vague rambling might be: ‘We need simple games to capture the mainstream’. [/quote:37fa727b71]
And this would be a fair response (assuming we want the mainstream :-) I know we do as an industry, but as an individual, I’d rather people made more intelligent story based games, rather than shallower, mass market ones.)
A lot of movies cater to the mainstream, but arthouse pictures are still made. However, this did not start to happen until movies were quite mature (even getting boring?) as a form of expression. I am sure we will see a similar thing happen in games, sooner or later…
Why not ask more of the players intellect, as well as hand-to-eye coordination – not in a ‘puzzle’ sense, or an RTS sense, but in an ability to response emotionally to a story with depth?[/quote:37fa727b71]
Well, some would argue you are describing Role Playing Games, as a genre, here… (when we exclude games like Diablo, which I would class as more Hack ‘n’ Slash)
I know people that would play pencil and paper RPGs may have strong feelings here.
In other words, when games become more cinematic, then I think developers can start really thinking about adding cinemaesque style story telling and character driven plotlines.[/quote:37fa727b71]
I disagree with this.
Games are plenty real enough to tell a story. SNES games told stories. Text based games tell stories. I mean, novels tell stories, and they don’t have great graphics. Characterisation, and plot, can exist independent of, and orthoganal to, graphics.
You do have a point in that there are many cinematic techniques only available recently (“depth of field”, commonly used to great effect in cinema, springs to mind) available to use as story telling devices.
However, I see these as adding to, but not a prerequisite for character driven plotlines.
When Shakespearean plays used to be performed, all the characters were men, and props weren’t used that much. To say nothing of the lack of special effects.
Bad graphics? Yes.
But did they have character driven plotlines? Hell, yeah.
I don’t think it’s because of technological limitations, but because games are still maturing as an art-form, that we don’t yet see the stories and art that we should.
But I think we will, in time.
Games have a long way to go… but amazing potential.
Oh yeah – look at the indie game scene sometimes.
I remember playing a game a few years back, that might be interesting to people who like this thread – google for “last rose in a desert garden”.
February 7, 2005 at 2:30 pm #17628
I disagree with this.
Games are plenty real enough to tell a story. SNES games told stories. Text based games tell stories. I mean, novels tell stories, and they don’t have great graphics. Characterisation, and plot, can exist independent of, and orthoganal to, graphics.[/quote:4b2fdc5e2b]
Drawing a player in emotionally takes a lot more than a good story.
Novels open up the best “graphics” around, our imagination. We are forced to use it with novels because it isn’t a visual medium.
Games and Movies are, so therefore one of their most important aspects is the visual look of them. Storylines/plot is one thing, but adding some sort of an emotional attachment to characters comes down to us believing they exist and are real, otherwise…..who cares! We won’t let our emotions become a major part of the experience, because all we see are polygons and effects.
For example, humans gleam so much information from faces its unreal, when we are talking to someone our sub-concious is reeling in so much information about the person and what they are saying, from the tiny muscle movements around the mouth and eyes, to the eyes themselves.
Games have a long way to go yet in my opinion before they illicit the same emotional response that good films can.
February 8, 2005 at 1:58 pm #17655
To sufficiently draw people into a game emotionally as you describe, you would need to be sure that the player is going to play the game for a time period for enough things to happen to evoke a response. This period of time is going to be quite long when you consider modern games. Assuming several things need to happen to evoke a response and game-play need to be interspered in there.
Assume you require to show the character in happy times, cue intro fmv. Now, either A) go to sad sequence to hope to evoke some emotion – too quick, no effect, or B) (ala Fable) bring in some game-play for this time period to get you used to current settings and then bring in an event. How long should this game-play be? What if some players are quick or some are slow? To get a strong emotional feeling you are going to have to have several “events”, whether they be fmvs, dialogue with characters or other… Timing in movies is crucial and this is why is not really possible to do in games.
Another problem with this is that for the most part I think when a player sees an fmv playing, their attention to the game detacts a little. You’re just defeated a tough foe or completed a level, this is the time to relax and enjoy, not to think deep thoughts.
I’d love to see what you suggest happen as I have been known to play games for long periods at one sitting and some feeling other than, “phew, did it, pat on back” would be really good, but I don’t think it would work. Selling it to a publisher would be a nightmare I reckon.
Also, I think XIII did the flashback thing quiet nicely.
February 8, 2005 at 4:12 pm #17664
February 8, 2005 at 4:15 pm #17666
Agreed on Knights of the Old Republic. That was the game which drew me in the most. I ended up playing through the whole game 4 times.
Zelda: Ocarina of Time is another one that drew me into the story.
However, I have never drawn the same emotional impact from a game as I have from really good movies.
February 8, 2005 at 6:13 pm #17674
Both of those games are long games and allow you build some emotional involvement at 40+ hours each.
The only shorter game I can think of would be Beyond Good & Evil.
One of the main reasons for this I think is for the evokative music score in the game.
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