latest blog entry
May 31st, 2009, By Duncan Gough
Reading the recent game reviews for Velvet Assasin it’s hard not to feel roundly depressed. The story of Violette Szabo is compelling, but even in the well known territory of a World War Shooter the designers seem to have failed to make anything from such a good story. Given that the vast majority of games these days are war-based shooters, it’s somewhat surprising to see such a comprehensive failure to go beyond anything amounting to tittilation and violence.
With such a great story turned into so bland a game, it begs the question, are complex stories even suitable for a game? Or, more pertinently, is there a game genre that could have pulled it off, successfully and tastefully?
Well, perhaps. In the next-generation video gaming world, the growth of Adventuring Gaming seems to have been stunted. Interactive fiction appears to be a doomed genre, most probably because it is so hard to write or adapt complex stories in an acceptable, playable format.
Pleasingly, though, comes this quote from Chris Crawford:
I dreamed of the day when computer games would be a viable medium of artistic expression — an art form. I dreamed of computer games expressing the full breadth of human experience and emotion. I dreamed of computer games that were tragedies, games about duty and honor, self-sacrifice and patriotism. I dreamed of satirical games and political games; games about the passionate love between a boy and girl, and the serene and mature love of a husband and wife of decades; games about a boy becoming a man, and a man realizing that he is no longer young.
That’s right, it’s the ‘Are games Art?’ question again. Answer: they’re not. Of more plausible concern is whether games can be considered affecting. Games still pack less emotional resonance than tv soaps, after all. Wouldn’t the story of Violette Szabo have been better served as an adventure game? What you trade in for cutting edge graphics you reap in terms of an engaging story. Whilst you won’t be shooting people point-blank in the face, you might experience a well-paced, unfolding drama.
Looking at the explosion of Virtual Worlds fused with Casual ethics and mainstream, almost bland themes and locations, it’s hard not to feel that an opportunity has been missed. So many Virtual Worlds, so few stories between them? How can you create a massively multiplayer game and watch as little or no stories emerge? Adventure games could be just as ‘massively multiplayer’ but, moreover, they could be filled with stories.
The recent rise of Virtual Worlds was a pollution of the MMO genre with Casual Games. Given that so many exist with so few genuinely different succes stories, it’s time to try something new. Adventure games could be truly episodic, they would have season-long story arcs baked in. Adventure games would be casual without blandness, educational, interactive and fictive. If comics can try something different, if children’s books can tackle difficult themes and use the medium for education, then why can’t games?
Who cares about Duke Nukem, let’s play a game of Kes.