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Video Games and Literature 78

An anonymous reader writes "Have the storytelling capabilities of the two already met? A New Yorker interview with Gears of War 4 writer Tom Bissell explores the question. Bissell says, 'More and more, I’m seeing that games are mining good, old-fashioned human anxieties for their drama, and that’s really promising. Games, more and more, are not just about shooting and fighting, and for that reason I’m optimistic and heartened about where the medium is heading, because I think game designers are getting more interested in making games that explore what it means to be alive. ... At the same time, though, pure storytelling is never going to be the thing that games do better than anything. Games are primarily about a connection between the player, the game world, and the central mechanic of the game. They’re about creating a space for the player to engage with that mechanic and have the world react in a way that feels interesting and absorbing but also creates a sense of agency. So writing, in games, is about creating mood and establishing a basic sense of intent. The player has some vague notion of what the intent of the so-called author is, but the power of authorship is ultimately for the player to seize for him or herself.'"
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Video Games and Literature

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  • Plot vs Story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cinder6 ( 894572 ) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @01:49AM (#43221101)

    Something a lot of people don't seem to get is that there's a difference between plot and story. Plot is what happens in a narrative; story is how it happens. Put another way, story is the combination of the raw plot and the characters' interactions with it.

    Video games are pretty good, sometimes great, at the plot bit. Most games, however, utterly fail at the character--story--side. You can find any number of examples of this in so-called RPGs, especially JRPGs. While these games are often a lot of fun, they typically have the character development and depth of a rock. Some exceptions certainly exist, such as the Witcher series, which give the character much more say in the narrative than most games. Heavy Rain also tried with some degree of success to instill greater character into the narrative (interestingly, it did a pretty good job with character development at the expense of plot).

    In the end, though, games have an inherently difficult time portraying character weakness, flaw, or depth. They try to cheat it through cutscenes, but that's only half successful. Take Metal Gear Solid 4. In cutscenes, Snake is pretty weak, even enfeebled. During actual gameplay, though, he controls even better than his younger self did in the first Metal Gear Solid. And can you blame the developers? Would you really want to play the game as an actual geriatric spy? Would such a game sell enough to recoup the millions of dollars it cost to make?

    Games, books, and movies each have strengths and weaknesses on the story-telling front. Games are good at immersion, plot, A/V elements, and immediacy. Movies are good for broad character character development and showing subtle nuances, such as a slight twitch or motion that a careless viewer might miss (this is something games are able to fake by way of cutscenes). Books are the best for really getting inside a character's head, but lack the immediacy or auditory/visual feedback of a movie or game.

    As games mature, I don't doubt we'll see something of a convergence of elements happening. I don't think we're there yet, and I don't think games will ever be on par, in this particular area, with books. Also note I'm talking about commercial games with the assumption that the producers are attempting to maximize profit. I don't doubt an indie developer could pull off an amazing story with enough dedication and talent (sadly, I have yet to see this; any suggestions?).

  • Re:Sad. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eennaarbrak ( 1089393 ) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @05:06AM (#43221745)

    Who wants to confront their anxieties as a form of relaxation?

    I think you have an interesting interpretation of what he meant by human anxieties. I think he simply meant story lines based on human situations. Like say Alan Wake, or Deus Ex, both of which are driven by a man's desperate search for his lost wife/girlfriend. Not so much about the IRS, or being pregnant.

    But hey, who does not enjoy seeing a straw man go up in flames once in a while?

  • by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @07:01AM (#43222135)

    The better story a game has, the more linear it is. It's a basic truth of game design. And while it's in no way bad that we have games with a decent plot, that's not the only way to entertain.

What is algebra, exactly? Is it one of those three-cornered things? -- J.M. Barrie