Author Topic: 5 reasons it's still not cool to admit you're a gamer  (Read 690 times)

Offline EOJ

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Offline adverse

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Re: 5 reasons it's still not cool to admit you're a gamer
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2010, 09:46:50 PM »
The part about atrocious stories in games is of course spot-on.

I do think it's a good thing to support good storytelling in the medium though, and I think there have been some great examples:

1.  Heavy Rain
2.  Hotel Dusk
3.  Last Window
4.  Valkyria Chronicles (yes, ultimately it is in some ways the typical rebel vs. Empire story, but there's so many well-done twists and great characterization that I feel it's one of the best games I've played in terms of overall story-telling direction)

Then there have been non-narrative games like Flower which I thought was beautiful if a bit fleeting.
I also thought The World Ends with You, while the scripting may not be amazing, has a fun plot, great design in a non-traditional setting.

Offline gsl

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Re: 5 reasons it's still not cool to admit you're a gamer
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2010, 10:38:37 PM »
If you happen to be a mature adult whose vision isn't clouded by some kind of lame fanboy smog, you pretty much can't argue against any of that.

I love the howls of rage that Ebert's latest dismissal of video games has produced across the Internet.  Some of the great character assassinations that have sprung out of comments threads on Kotaku et al. do an excellent job of illustrating the typical 'gamer': "You don't like games?  Well then, you're a douchy-douche and are stupid!!1"  Despite taking the topic a bit farther than needed (What's the point, really?  Where's the victory?) and starting to sound like some crotchety old "rock and roll is the devil's music, get off my lawn" crank, Ebert makes an amazingly good point that I think is overshadowed with some of his rhetoric.  The article manages to sum it up quite well, though: narrative in games is pretty much crap.  The article is a bit more charitable in saying they're at the level of B-movies, but I think that's even giving them too much credit 90% of the time.  For all the people that whine about the medium not being taken seriously, it's like if film were born and jumped straight from Steamboat Willie to Avatar within a span of 25 years, completely missing the golden ages of narrative and working within the technological constraints of the 40s-60s as well as the -isms of later decades when people wanted to rebel against/subvert/parody/etc. the classic conventions.  There's nearly unlimited technical power available to game makers, but they've generally received little-to-no education in regards to storytelling or even cinematography (and if you can't see how that is important in gaming you need to trade in your Pong console for something a bit more modern).  Especially offensive to me is the whole indie games movement of people trying desperately to create artsy hipster titles that they then can hold aloft in triumph as proving their games-are-art argument.  The narrative and designs are sophomoric at best, as though the creators went through an art or English degree long enough to get to the section on postmodernism then dropped out, convinced they learned everything they need to know about making, you know, Art.

It's pretty much (speaking in broad strokes, here) an immature medium catering to a generally immature audience (Boobs! Guns!) and helmed by people who grew up reading comic books and pulp science fiction in their parents' basements, gifted with the tools to make their most ridiculous fantasies playable.  Don't get me wrong here: I'd probably go nuts if I always watched movies like Tokyo Story or The Seventh Seal, or sat around reading books like The Great Gatsby or Norwegian wood.  Iron Man 2 was an enjoyable bit of eye-candy, and Dead or Alive: Hanzaisha is one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasures; in the same way sometimes I just want to chew through stuff by Roger Zelazny or John D. MacDonald.  It's just that games, as they are right now, haven't really been challenged to rise above the conventions they're currently mired in, in terms of characterization and strength of their writing or storytelling.

Just off the top of my head, I think Half-Life 2 did an amazing job of turning the least-intelligent of gaming genres into a vehicle for fairly competent storytelling and reasonably well-rounded characters, especially as you get into the two add-on episodes.  Of course, it helps when you hire a professional author as your primary writer for the project.  And while I can't comment on the fourth one, I've always enjoyed the way the Metal Gear Solid series has approached its own interesting brand of political sci-fi.  Granted, it gets a bit Tom Clancy at times, but the consistent nuclear proliferation/psychology of war theme is definitely a cut above the sort of narrative material most games try to slip in.