Sunday, December 14, 2008

Consequence: Follow up.

While writing the last blog I came across some interesting reading related to my topic. However, for the sake of brevity and focus, I chose to save them for a follow up.

If you'll remember, I was ranting about gaming as an interactive medium. The interactivity is what makes video games unique from movies, TV, etc. Chris Bateman's article, A Game Has Never Made You Cry, discusses further the separation between telling a story through cinema and gameplay mechanics. For the sake of conversation, he takes the concept of separating the medium of games and cinema to an extreme. That games can only be "systems". Thus, emotionally touching stories in games have only happened on the cinema/movie side of things. Game play itself cannot make you cry.

Whether or not you agree with the thesis and the assumption that a game is only a "system", the article highlights the separation between game play and story I've seen in games. Especially in the JRPG genre, I think there is a reliance on cinema/movie techniques to tell a story that is detached from game play. It works but ultimately the story told through these means does not tap the full potential of this medium.


Sam said...

I think you will find emotional inolvement through cut scenes and gameplay.

In my own experiences, JRPG games do most of the emotional involvement through cut scenes. I remember just watching a friend play through Persona 4, and I was very involved in the story portrayed through cut scenes and dialogue among the various characters. At the same time, I was dead bored watching my friend go through the dungeon levels. The dungeon battles were filled with the same over-the-top attacks we all are used to by now. Every enemy was another object with hit points to reduce. Every ally was another object to keep alive with potions and healing attacks. Team mates died, but neither my friend nor I felt anything emotion. Revival was just a few buttons away. Immediately after the dungeon was completed and the game went back to the interactive cut scenes, I was involved again.

Although Persona 4 relies on cut scenes to create emotion, another JRPG used gameplay to do so. Fire Emblem for the GBA made me feel guilty when one of my characters died. Their deaths were not predetermined, but rather a result of my strategic decisions in the battle field. Unlike other RPGs, once the character died, the character is gone forever. This one gameplay mechanic caused an emotional attachment to every single character.

In the end, people may experience emotions with video games. Both passive methods such as cut scenes and active methods such as game play mechanics will deliver such an experience.

Norman said...

But that's my point. When you were only interested in the cinemas, wasn't that the same experience as watching an anime with your friend? The fact that he was playing a game didn't add anything to your experience of the story. Persona's story is very detached from its gameplay. I haven't played it myself, but I can assume this detachment keeps the gameplay itself from being very immersive and involving.

nerdstar said...

(The Chris Bateman link is not working for me.)

What a coincidence, I just sent you an email that contains something related to this post. And I hope you read that first, but for the benefit of your blog readers...

Jason Rohrer