Posted by Humanity (9242 posts) -

I've been playing games for a quite a while now. I remember my family's first computer around 1994 and all those amazing games I was introduced to back then but was way too young to appreciate. The Legend of Kyrandia: Malcolm's Revenge, Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle, Crusader: No Remorse, Descent and so many more! Since then I've been playing on all sorts of different systems including the PS3 and 360 as well as some PC gaming here and there. To me games have always been about having fun and enjoying yourself first and foremost.

So it has really bummed me out to see people, game reviewers included, take these cynical and harsh tone with a lot of games these days. It almost seems like a lot of people have lost focus about what this is all about - you know, having fun. While I disagree with Jeff on a lot of things, I really appreciate his no-nonsense approach to enjoying himself on a very basic and "raw" level. He played that new Syndicate reboot, had a ton of fun and gave it a high score. There wasn't a lot of hands wringing and whining about how the story is barely fleshed out and theres no character development or hows theres dubstep music in literally two spots - because the gameplay introduces a lot of fresh concepts and is highly enjoyable. Yet I keep reading stories or hearing comments that will nitpick at a lot of titles without giving them a proper chance. A lot of people wrote off Dead Space 3 completely before having even played it. If you decided that you've had enough of the franchise I can completely understand that. On the other hand if you denied yourself the conclusion to this series which you've enjoyed in the past because of the newly added micro transactions then that seems absurd. I enjoyed both Dead Space 1 and 2 and consider it one of my favorite new IP's of this generation. I wasn't about to say no to the third game just because of some business model out of my control. But you're part of the problem! - you might say, because I help fund the product that propagates this vile business practice. I don't know, I just remember a time when there wasn't a problem to begin with - companies made games, people bought them and there wasn't some holy war of fighting off these asshole publishers with my wallet because they keep trying to earn a profit from the multi million dollar titles they develop for gamers to play.

Video games pretty much

More recently it's this whole Tomb Raider conversation about narrative disconnect between story and gameplay that had me scratching my head. The idea of a "narrative dissonance" ruining gameplay seems strange to me. The developer advertised Lara as your typical female who is thrust into the belly of the beast and must learn to cope with a lot of terrible situations, growing along the way as a person. Yet a lot of people seem to be dismayed by the fact that, while that is a great story angle, at some point this thing will have to turn into a videogame which means killing a whole lot of things in a fun and mechanically enjoyable way. Most big name titles are centered around mass slaughter of baddies. Games like Uncharted, Gears of War, Assassin's Creed, inFamous, Saints Row and many others are basically big killing simulators, some which go to great lengths with their robust kill animations. Thats how games have been for ages. Sure in Uncharted you would climb something and flip an ancient stone lever from time to time but a lot of the gameplay was focused on killing literally hordes of people. In the latest Bombcast Brad and Patrick both bemoan the absence of a believable thread between the story and the gameplay aspects of Tomb Raider. Instead of touting the extremely fun and fluid game mechanics, they instead concentrate on the completely insignificat fact that Lara is sad at having killed someone and then the cutscene ends and you kill 15 more people. Granted they both, almost begrudgingly, agreed that it's a good game - but it's this laser focus on small details that really "held the game back" for them which seems so baffling and makes them appear like cynical, grumpy old guys instead of the fun and playful doods I know them to be. At the end of the day, that narrative dissonance is not going to make the game any more fun to play. It may be just me, but 9 out of 10 times I will take gameplay over narrative because I buy these things to play them, and if I get a great story coupled with awesome gameplay I consider that a huge bonus.

After meeting a creep like this you'd want to kill a thousand doods too

Back in the day no one cared how this Mario plumber went down a green tube or what that meant on a grander scale of the Super Mario Bros Timeline. Times have gone forward and expectations have changed obviously, but I think what has remained the same is that it's the fun that matters most. If you're going to have fun actually playing a title, everything else shouldn't really affect it. This is why a lot of the time you'll have people say "oh that happened? I totally forgot.." yet they'll remember that they had a lot of fun playing the game. Where has all the fun gone for most people? Why do they get so bogged down with the details that they can't see the bigger picture of just enjoying themselves. I read a person write that if the new Tomb Raider was an original IP without any association to the existing Tomb Raider franchise they'd be a lot more interested but as it stands they doesn't really care about it, because it's Tomb Raider. How insane is that? What difference does a name on the box make? When The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim came out, a game with gigantic narrative dissonance, no one cared because they just had fun playing it, even despite the fact that many agreed the combat wasn't that great. Jumping on top of a tablet and knocking off all the dishes in someones house didn't destroy any gameplay fun for me!

In closing I think a lot of people need to lighten up. These are videogames, it's not especially serious business. For the most part Jeff has the right idea - just have fun with it. I bought DmC Devil May Cry, Dead Space 3, Syndicate and the new Tomb Raider. Guess what? They were all a lot of fun in their own ways. Did Dead Space 3 have an amazing story? No but it wasn't hot garbage as many claim it to be - it was video game adequate and the act of shooting necromorphs was still fun. Was DmC crass as hell? Heck yes and it was awesome from beginning to end! So what I'm trying to say is, if people want to keep picking these games apart for insignificant details then I guess thats their gosh given right, in the meantime I'll be playing them and having a blast.

#1 Posted by ApocalypseWhen71 (3 posts) -

I think the issue is that video games are a huge medium, so it all depends on what you're looking for out of a game at a particular time. That's really true of any medium. Sometimes I'm in the mood to watch Breaking Bad and have myself a good think about morality and American drug culture, other times I just want to watch Parks and Rec and have a good time. It's the same way with videogames for me. I think the argument shouldn't be this duality between a good story and fun gameplay, ideally a game should have both.

However, if a game doesn't have both, it should really know well enough to play to its strengths. I've been playing Vanquish recently, and the gameplay is fluid and all around just ridiculous fun, but the story is TERRIBLE. Now, I've heard the argument many times that if the gameplay is fun why should I care if the plot is throwaway garbage? I care because they included that horrible story in the game. It is not fun to have my amazing gameplay interrupted every 10 minutes or so for awful dialogue and boring characters. On the other hand, something like The Walking Dead knows that it's strength is in its characters and story, so you barely spend much time in the actual "gameplay" sections (I would still count the dialogue trees as gameplay, but that's a discussion for another day). As such, I was never bored with Walking Dead trying to go around pixel hunting and combining items, because Telltale knew well enough that that wasn't the draw of the game.

Essentially I guess what I'm saying is that good gameplay is good, and a good story is good (obviously). Now, games with good stories with bad gameplay can be great, and many games have done pretty well with themselves just focusing on gameplay without a great story. But in my opinion a game with a great story and great gameplay is always better than one that compromises on either. And if a game can integrate those two aspects well into a meaningful whole, all the better. The issue comes when it can't do that, but the developers still spend a lot of time on something that isn't to the game's benefit, such as the Vanquish example above.

I know, a real controversial opinion of "why can't everything in games be great all the time???"

#2 Edited by gogosox82 (424 posts) -

I understand what your saying but at the same time I understand why people would be upset. Take for example Dark Souls. I'm a huge fan of the game and if they took Dark Souls 2 into a more linear, easier, and cinematic type of experience, I would be pretty upset about it since that's not what i want from that title. So I guess it all comes down to what your looking for in the game really. If your more interested in the narrative that a game like Tomb Raider is trying to tell and you find it lacking, well it may effect how much fun you have with the game.

#3 Posted by EXTomar (4727 posts) -

I'm confused by how people can take games seriously. I like playing games and like discussing things about them but getting upset over them is like getting upset over how my opinion doesn't match another over a video game is weird.

Also I have noticed that discussion including disagreement seems to cause overreaction. I have made multiple posts about how I find Dark Souls has problems and needs improvement where just the mere suggestion "...they could have done this instead..." is some insult and I loathe the game. If I hated something the last thing I would do is waste energy on message board discussing it.

I dunno...maybe this is all the dark fanaticism of any fandom. These days I get more out of listening to the Bomb-cast and other podcasts where people just discuss the game and how it made them feel instead of reading a snarky review.

#4 Posted by videogamesarenotart (121 posts) -

whats with the apparent need to tell your life story in order to validate your opinion

#5 Posted by SoPuety (1 posts) -

Just wanted to pop in and say I totally agree with you. I usually never post in forums but your post pretty much sums up what I've been noticing just listening to the bombcast and reading general comments on quicklooks over the past year.

#6 Edited by mellotronrules (1192 posts) -

for me it's a simple matter of sleeping in the bed that you've made. if tomb raider had starred the lara croft that we're used to, we probably wouldn't be having this conversation. but the fact of the matter is that the devs decided to pitch the game as a 'trial-by-fire,' and it trades on sympathy, human emotion and mature themes. it's very self-serious. and yet the gameplay isn't- there's nothing realistic or sympathetic about being a one-woman army singlehandedly decimating a population of individuals. there's nothing wrong with the game part of it- but you can't have it both ways. you can't ask the player to sympathize and believe the emotional distress of lara when she's able to do something inherently ridiculous. silly or unrealistic games are fine. but that doesn't mean they're well written.

#7 Posted by JordanK85 (140 posts) -

The difference is that the average age of those playing games has increased dramatically since the early days. With age comes thought, reflection and perspective. When you're young you don't really think about what you're experiencing or question it in any significant way and your standards are much lower because you haven't accumulated life experience. The real problem is that games haven't been around long enough to develop into a medium that can provide, at least on a regular basis, the experiences that some adults may want from time to time.

Fun isn't the only experience adults seek. You may argue that games, like roller coasters, shouldn't be the place where those adults look for these experiences but others would say differently and have plenty of a good examples in their defense.

#8 Posted by GERALTITUDE (3320 posts) -

The fact that ludonarrative dissonance exists at all, is something we feel - is worth discussing. Games are capable of inspiring far more emotions today than they could yesterday. We are living in a middle ground, where the mechanics of the past and the feelings of the future are colliding. If you, as an individual, don't feel it... cool. But we're over here having our minds blown. Join us!

Tomb Raider is one of many recent games where the fidelity of story and emotion is, periodically, at odds with the gameplay. Uncharted 1 is a great example of this: a likeable charming dude literally shoots 1500 people dead without batting an eyelash. It's only noticeable because Drake is so human and funny.

The point is that we notice this. And that's worth talking about.

Back to Tomb Raider. Not only does it have this "issue," but the violence is relatively extreme as well. Nathan Drake breaks necks, but he doesn't gut humans like fish. All of these elements are coming together (fidelity of violence, narrative/gameplay dissonance, story purpose vs. mechanical purpose). No one on the podcast says the dissonance ruins the gameplay, it just affects their enjoyment of the game as a whole.

Games Are Serious Business!

And as someone who has dedicated their life to making, playing and dreaming of games, it's, frankly, a little hilarious to hear anybody say "well just lighten up and enjoy it".

Just because game X is a fun, light, good time, doesn't mean that game Y can't be serious. And if, as has happened in Tomb Raider, GTAIV and Uncharted before it, X meets Y and a grey area is created - then great, we get discussion. Like @ApocalypseWhen71 said: there are many types of games, and many reasons to play games. If you enjoy gameplay and don't care for story then that's fine. But someone who enjoys story more isn't wrong. That's an old attitude some gamers have that's really limiting. I was listening to the Tested podcast recently and this is what Adam Savage is talking about in a way: he only enjoyed games where he could walk around and absorb atmosphere, absorb the world of the game. Gameplay, in the traditional sense, was incredibly boring to him. And that's ok. Games and gameplay are not 1:1, regardless of the parent-child relationship those words have. The "bigger picture" isn't gameplay, it's whatever the player wants from the game as a whole, the "experience".

Discussion furthers what games can be and who they're for and gives creators and gamers new ideas and new experiences.

That's my +1 for keeping this "serious" talk goin.

#9 Posted by Conzed92 (166 posts) -

@humanity:

Great blog post dude. Interesting opinion.

#10 Posted by twigger89 (278 posts) -

I don't understand why games can't grow as an entertainment medium. If all games can offer me these days is prettier and prettier ways to kill faceless thugs, than I'll pass. I want games that can mesh story and interactivity in a way that is immersive, so that I can enjoy it more. Some of us want games to grow, to be more than just tests of mechanical prowess or an ability to follow and understand patterns.

#11 Posted by Humanity (9242 posts) -

@geraltitude: @apocalypsewhen71: Don't get me wrong, I love a good story. Often times a great story can drive you forward when the gameplay takes a dip. At the same time I was trying to express an opinion that while a game with great gameplay and average story is an enjoyable experience, the reverse of great story and bland gameplay isn't nearly as enjoyable. Thats my opinion of course. Maybe some would rather slog through boring gameplay because the story is just so good but I personally wouldn't because I value the act of playing the game first and foremost.

#12 Edited by EXTomar (4727 posts) -

This happens in movies as well. What would people say if the director and producers of a movie like Die Hard were talking about "...how our movie is a serious exportation of international crime"? Although it doesn't excuse Uncharted from some of the cognitive dissonance I also don't think people should have gotten the wrong idea about what it considers serious thematically. They wanted a game about "an everyman who does what is right and gets the girl and gold!" which is comically not serious.

When art whether it be a book, movie or game says "We are being serious about this" then we should judge whether or not it achieved that. Otherwise, people are going overboard with seeing things that aren't there which happens with passonate fans.

#13 Edited by ElixirBronze (427 posts) -

I agree on many points, however I don't view the story as just a "bonus". In long games, the story is sometimes what keeps me playing, good and satisfying gameplay can only take you so far.

The first time I heard Brad talk about the disconnect in Lara's character I thought 'have you not played any video game ever?'. He later made the point that Crystal Dynamics specifically set out to make amore human character, so his critisism that Lara didn't feel human was according to him, a legitimate criticism. Fair enough.

It wasn't till later when I played the game for myself I thought that Brad and Patrick must be crazy. Sure it's a little weird disconnect but not weird at all in the context of a video game. Would he rather want you to be in a constant panic for the first half of the game and just hide from people for 6 hours? Also why did this make him regret the fact that he just spent time playing it? I don't understand! "I had a good time playing it but afterwards I thought about this and..." What?!

I imagine when you play games as a journalist, you put on you critic glasses, you need these glasses to do your job. You play and you look for something that you can criticize the game for. When you eventually find something that bugs you, you focus on it and become much more aware of the issue than maybe the average player. I also think the problem partially lies in the fact that you write the review after you're done playing the game. It's easier to remember something that bugged you about the story than it is to remember how good the controlls felt right? You can only be 100% sure how the gameplay felt right then and there when you're playing it, but the story is meant to stick with you after you're done.

They should learn how to play games and write reviews simultaneously.

#14 Posted by GERALTITUDE (3320 posts) -

@humanity said:

@geraltitude: @apocalypsewhen71: Don't get me wrong, I love a good story. Often times a great story can drive you forward when the gameplay takes a dip. At the same time I was trying to express an opinion that while a game with great gameplay and average story is an enjoyable experience, the reverse of great story and bland gameplay isn't nearly as enjoyable. Thats my opinion of course. Maybe some would rather slog through boring gameplay because the story is just so good but I personally wouldn't because I value the act of playing the game first and foremost.

That's cool - the answer is Yes, I would totally slog through OK gameplay for great story. I mean, and I know this is blasphemy to some, but I love BioShock for the atmosphere and story... not the gameplay. That last part is worth mentioning I think: atmosphere is a huge part of my enjoyment of a game, and I count that as story. If it just feels good to be in the world, I may not care how it plays.

To an extent.

If the controls are really bonked or the game really, really sucks, it's rare for story to keep me in. But I'm not sure I can remember any games with amazing story that I thought sucked super hard mechanically..

#15 Posted by Humanity (9242 posts) -

@geraltitude: That was actually the exact same case for me regarding Bioshock. I thought the gameplay was somewhat lackluster. Obviously it wasn't conceived to be an extremely responsive shooter and the strange choice to not implement regenerating health in lieu of Revita-Chambers both affected the gameplay quite negatively for me. I did like the story, I read Ayn Rands novels and it was quite astounding to see them so literally constructed inside this video game. The atmosphere was also amazing, quite often creepy as you heard noises and splicers skitter about - it's only when they did finally come out and you had to interact with them when everything took a turn for the worse.

Still at the end of the day, if asked if I enjoyed Bioshock I can't honestly say that I did. It was a nice story, but not a very fun game.

#16 Posted by Brodehouse (9949 posts) -

So I just started that podcast and had to turn it off when Patrick got into his Tomb Raider stuff. I feel like he's the only person in the world who could describe ludonarrative dissonance (also known as gameplay and story segregation) as 'egregious'. When people say you're hysterical and pretentious, stop feeding them ammunition.

Games have gameplay. If you're going to judge Tomb Raider by how closely it resembles Don't Starve, we'll have to judge Don't Starve by how good a Tomb Raider it is.

#17 Edited by Humanity (9242 posts) -

@brodehouse: There are some rather "interesting" opinions on Metal Gear down the road if you have the stomach for it.

#18 Posted by ImmortalSaiyan (4676 posts) -

I think it is a positive thing that now games reviewers and players are being so critical of games. In the Tomb Raider case there problem is that the gameplay and narrative clash. Making a inconsistent message. I have not played a lot of the game but I see where they are coming from. Personally I feel there is too much combat and the way the combat is in the game does undermine there story intent.

Not all games need to link them but for a game to have a good story that we take seriously it helps. Look at Persona 4 for an excellent example of on to blends it's mechanics and story.

#19 Edited by Mirado (993 posts) -

Your post is pretty long, so you'll excuse me if my rebuttal trends towards that as well.

@humanity said:

To me games have always been about having fun and enjoying yourself first and foremost.

They still are, when you think about it. I just think that what makes a game fun has become more complex than it used to be; now a good story, unique characters, and outstanding visuals factor into the experience and may help cover for deficinences in other, more traditional areas such as gameplay. A busted game is a busted game, but something that we'd used to call average may be elevated by stunning art design or good sound assets.

So it has really bummed me out to see people, game reviewers included, take these cynical and harsh tone with a lot of games these days. It almost seems like a lot of people have lost focus about what this is all about - you know, having fun. While I disagree with Jeff on a lot of things, I really appreciate his no-nonsense approach to enjoying himself on a very basic and "raw" level. He played that new Syndicate reboot, had a ton of fun and gave it a high score. There wasn't a lot of hands wringing and whining about how the story is barely fleshed out and theres no character development or hows theres dubstep music in literally two spots - because the gameplay introduces a lot of fresh concepts and is highly enjoyable. Yet I keep reading stories or hearing comments that will nitpick at a lot of titles without giving them a proper chance. A lot of people wrote off Dead Space 3 completely before having even played it. If you decided that you've had enough of the franchise I can completely understand that. On the other hand if you denied yourself the conclusion to this series which you've enjoyed in the past because of the newly added micro transactions then that seems absurd.

Well, you don't want them to lie, right? If someone's down on a game, series, or genre, I'd rather have them tell me so. Jeff's just as cynical and jaded as the rest sometimes, but that doesn't mean he's that way about every game, and I feel that people are misinterpreting valid criticisms about the industry and how stagnant it can sometimes feel as a general cry of "fuck video games!"

For my part, I wrote off Dead Space 3 because it is clearly following in DS2's trend of more action and less atmospheric tension and horror. I wasn't overly pleased with DS2 the way it was, so I'm saving my money on this game. I think that's a valid criticism of the series (obviously as I'm saying it, but I hope you get what I mean), and overall what we all need to keep in mind: games can be complex and have many diverse elements, and if you feel some aspect has let you down to the point that it isn't worth your time and money, you can't really fault someone for that, assuming their criticism is valid. As you said, that new Syndicate reboot had a thin plot and weak characters. I thought the gameplay helped elevate it above mediocrity, but if your cash is limited and you aren't the biggest fan of shooters, I could totally understand someone skipping that over for a game that is just as fun to play, but has those elements that might be lacking here. There's more to games than just running right and hitting A, and if you've got two games that play just as well, there's nothing wrong with looking at other aspects to decide what is worth your time.

Valid criticism isn't a bad thing. Your point about how some people are using microtransactions as an excuse to avoid the game is reasonable as I don't see that as valid, but don't lump that with legitimate concerns about story, characterization or other "nitpicks."

More recently it's this whole Tomb Raider conversation about narrative disconnect between story and gameplay that had me scratching my head. The idea of a "narrative dissonance" ruining gameplay seems strange to me. The developer advertised Lara as your typical female who is thrust into the belly of the beast and must learn to cope with a lot of terrible situations, growing along the way as a person. Yet a lot of people seem to be dismayed by the fact that, while that is a great story angle, at some point this thing will have to turn into a videogame which means killing a whole lot of things in a fun and mechanically enjoyable way.

Well, that means the story isn't so good, is it? That's the whole point as I see it; if you are going to spend your time talking about how great of a story you have and placing emphasis on the growth of the character and the story arc she goes through, you shouldn't have your cutscenes and narrative progression at odds with the gameplay, because that inevitably hurts what you are trying to tell. This "narrative dissonance" isn't a problem if the narrative isn't such a focus, but your damn right I'm going to have an issue when you switch from "shivering by the fire in a tank top" to "climbing that snowy mountain in a tank top."

When I play a game, I get the most fun out of the immersion of that act; it's escapism, pure and simple. I don't mean that in the sense that I need to feel like I'm in the game, but that the game should help me forget the outside world. You don't need to have a great story to do it; I've lost tons of hours to pure gameplay titles like Super Meat Boy because the concentration required to succeed was sufficient enough to block everything else out. Tomb Raider does not play as well as SMB (I get that it's not just a platformer, but bear with me); the mechanics it employs do not require that sense of concentration or timing. As such, I need something to supplement the gameplay in order to achieve that sensation, and if Tomb Raider is pushing its story as the main side dish, then "narrative dissonance" becomes a major factor working against my goal of immersion.


Sure in Uncharted you would climb something and flip an ancient stone lever from time to time but a lot of the gameplay was focused on killing literally hordes of people. In the latest Bombcast Brad and Patrick both bemoan the absence of a believable thread between the story and the gameplay aspects of Tomb Raider. Instead of touting the extremely fun and fluid game mechanics, they instead concentrate on the completely insignificat fact that Lara is sad at having killed someone and then the cutscene ends and you kill 15 more people. Granted they both, almost begrudgingly, agreed that it's a good game - but it's this laser focus on small details that really "held the game back" for them which seems so baffling and makes them appear like cynical, grumpy old guys instead of the fun and playful doods I know them to be.

The difference between Uncharted and Tomb Raider boils down to tone. Uncharted feels like an action movie, like you are playing Indiana Jones in all but name. You mow people down, Drake seems superhuman, and everything is done with a snarky one-liner and a wink. Tomb Raider is, ostensibly, about a girl learning to survive and her growth into the character we already know her as, and the mystery of the island that unfolds with that. There's nothing wrong with that premise, but your suspension of disbelief has to be pretty unshakable to enjoy the story as the developers intended. What they are showing me and what I am doing feels at odds, hence, that dissonance. However, that does not sink the game for me.

No, what sinks it for me is the gameplay itself. It's too reliant on quick time events, especially early on (four or five to kill a wolf?), and the skill system is quite shallow. The weapon upgrades are pretty cool and the platforming is decent, but otherwise it just feels like a competent shooter with some nice level design and a lot of throwaway elements. Since I couldn't find myself getting invested in the story on top of that, it didn't hold me like it otherwise would have, because I've got a pile of competent shooters to go through which also bring along great story beats or unique gameplay elements. You can argue that I'm trying to make an overabundance of decent games a negative, but my point is that I only have a certain amount of time to devote to video games, and I don't feel like the game was worth the time I put into it. It isn't terrible, but it's average, and it's small points like the above that bring the whole package down.

On Brad and Patrick; they are giving you their honest opinions about a game they played, which is more or less their jobs. Making everything seem like sunshine and rainbows would be doing people a disservice, because reviews are partially (or some would argue wholly) consumer advice, and their credibility rests on how well they validate and articulate their opinions. There are elements of the game that brought down their enjoyment of it. I'm not sure what more you want out of them.

Back in the day no one cared how this Mario plumber went down a green tube or what that meant on a grander scale of the Super Mario Bros Timeline. Times have gone forward and expectations have changed obviously, but I think what has remained the same is that it's the fun that matters most. If you're going to have fun actually playing a title, everything else shouldn't really affect it. This is why a lot of the time you'll have people say "oh that happened? I totally forgot.." yet they'll remember that they had a lot of fun playing the game. Where has all the fun gone for most people? Why do they get so bogged down with the details that they can't see the bigger picture of just enjoying themselves.

You seem to have this strange idea that story has overridden gameplay as the main source of enjoyment in games. That is not the case. What has happened, however, is that some games place a greater emphasis on story, and with greater emphasis comes greater penalties for failure. It isn't a new development; RPGs have been story focused almost since their inception, and if you remove the story from Final Fantasy, what are you left with? A grind, a mess of gameplay mechanics that aren't fun unless they serve the greater story and that drive to "Play a Role," as it were. Look at Persona; I hardly ever hear people talking about the gameplay elements, but you can't get them to shut up about the characters or the interactions between them. Fun is not synonymous with gameplay, and it never has been. Fun has always been about playing games, which is not the same thing; gameplay is a part of that, but not the whole thing. If it were, the simplicity and nebulous mechanics of old 2600 era games should have precluded any sense of fun from entering into the equation.

The devil is in the details. Super Mario Bros. isn't fun because it's a pure platformer, it's fun because of how tight and responsive those controls are, because of the sense of momentum. When Sega made Sonic 4, a pure platformer, it wasn't terrible because it was simple, it was terrible because they ruined the feel of it. "The details" always were what made a game great, it's just that the industry and its consumers have grown to the point that we can articulate and distill exactly what works and what doesn't.
As I've gotten older, it takes more to keep me entertained. I could watch hours of Power Rangers when I was 8, but that isn't the case now (ok, maybe I could still watch a bit...) with TV, movies, or games. I'm not looking for a literary masterpiece in every game, but if it has a story (especially if it makes a bullet point of its story) I want it to be a smart one. An engrossing one. My standards were lower when I was younger because I didn't have a lot of options to spend money on (not that I had a lot of it, mind you). Now, $60 is a decent bottle of scotch, or a night out, and so on. It's only natural that I want more for my money, now that my money can do more. That doesn't mean masterpieces like Mario 3 or Mega Man X are things to be outgrown, but if I were to go back and replay all of the games of my youth, I bet I'd say "I remember this being a lot better" a few times, especially when it comes to some of the borderline titles of yore.
In closing I think a lot of people need to lighten up. These are videogames, it's not especially serious business. For the most part Jeff has the right idea - just have fun with it. I bought DmC Devil May Cry, Dead Space 3, Syndicate and the new Tomb Raider. Guess what? They were all a lot of fun in their own ways. Did Dead Space 3 have an amazing story? No but it wasn't hot garbage as many claim it to be - it was video game adequate and the act of shooting necromorphs was still fun. Was DmC crass as hell? Heck yes and it was awesome from beginning to end! So what I'm trying to say is, if people want to keep picking these games apart for insignificant details then I guess thats their gosh given right, in the meantime I'll be playing them and having a blast.

In closing, I think you need to understand where some of us are coming from. For people on budgets or those of us with little time, it's imperative to feel like both have been well spent. Video games are as serious as movies to those who make them; a game that bombs can be like a box office failure. Even if you aren't a part of the industry, I know that you must get upset over a bad game, either due to the wasted money or the time you spent on it. With that in mind, bemoaning progress, even if it's just the progress of criticism, is wasted energy; we strive to "nitpick" because we want better games, and that can only mean better games for you, right? I didn't have fun with DS3 (well, the demo at least, I didn't bother to buy the full game) because I feel it's just a tepid action game now, but I enjoyed Syndicate (even with its flaws) and found Tomb Raider to be average. I like to think that I have pretty valid reasoning for all of the above, so I like to share that reasoning with others because they might be on the fence about a purchase, and telling them why you liked (or didn't like) something is far more useful than just saying "Woo hoo games!!" all the time.

If you are having a blast now, I hope you continue to do so. I just ask you don't dismiss the viewpoints of others, just because they didn't enjoy something as much as you did. In the end, we all want to have fun.
#20 Posted by Humanity (9242 posts) -

@mirado: I certainly don't dismiss the viewpoints of others, but rather caution them to adjust their expectations accordingly. We all want to have fun yes, but if you expect every movie to be Citizen Kane and be highly critical of it if it's not then you'll be in for a long hard road of disappointment. If you are on a budget then plan your purchases accordingly and be as picky as you need to be. If you have a regular income and can afford 2-3 games a month without denting your budget, then I'd say relax and have fun. Obviously everyone is a very specific individual with their own unique situation in life and I'm not one to dictate how all people of the world should enjoy their gaming time. My entire blog was concerned with the increase of cynicism in video games which has undeniably been on the rise. While I don't mind being critical of games, I do feel as if a lot of people go out of their way to look for issues that aren't really there or are not extremely pertinent to enjoying the game (like people being very put off by the dubstep in Syndicate to the point of dismissing the game - when as a person that played it you can imagine its' quite a silly complaint seeing as dubstep is featured all of two times in the entire game). It's obviously not about "woo hoo video games" all the time, thats not what I was really driving at, but rather that we don't turn it into "ugh video games.." all the time either. You raise a lot of valid points towards your own conclusions so I'm certain you can see where I'm coming from as well.

#21 Posted by Mirado (993 posts) -

@humanity said:

@mirado: We all want to have fun yes, but if you expect every movie to be Citizen Kane and be highly critical of it if it's not then you'll be in for a long hard road of disappointment.

I think I was very careful to avoid the notion that I was seeking perfection or "the best" in every experience. It's unreasonable to equate critical discourse with unreasonable criticism in every instance, just as it would be unreasonable to say how everyone should enjoy their time, as you noted.

While I don't mind being critical of games, I do feel as if a lot of people go out of their way to look for issues that aren't really there or are not extremely pertinent to enjoying the game (like people being very put off by the dubstep in Syndicate to the point of dismissing the game - when as a person that played it you can imagine its' quite a silly complaint seeing as dubstep is featured all of two times in the entire game).

I don't have an issue with that specific example; you're right that any frivolous criticism should be disregarded. In my post above, I even agreed with your point about DS3 and the microtransactions. My problem is that most of your examples (Tomb Raider's narrative, mainly) aren't a sign of needless cynicism but instead valid criticisms that shouldn't be dismissed out of hand, and I took issue with the perception that a game with an "adequate for a video game" story shouldn't be seen as a negative or impact a person's enjoyment.

You raise a lot of valid points towards your own conclusions so I'm certain you can see where I'm coming from as well.

I can, to a point. But I'm as tired of people lumping all criticism together, valid or otherwise, as I am of the bullshit reasoning that you are railing against. Cynicism is on the rise, but not all cynical thought is necessarily bad. I do my best to block out crap arguments about DLC and shit like dubstep in Syndicate as people who aren't being (ironically enough) too serious about what they are saying, versus something like what Brad or Patrick were saying about Tomb Raider, and I suggest you do the same.

It's the only way to stay sane anymore.

#22 Posted by GERALTITUDE (3320 posts) -

@humanity:

We differ in our fundamental descriptions of Game. The mechanics in BioShock aren't great, I agree. But the atmosphere still made it a great (amazing) game for me. Gameplay =/ game for me. I think for you, it does. 'nuff said!

#23 Edited by Blackout62 (1341 posts) -

@humanity said:

@geraltitude: @apocalypsewhen71: Don't get me wrong, I love a good story. Often times a great story can drive you forward when the gameplay takes a dip. At the same time I was trying to express an opinion that while a game with great gameplay and average story is an enjoyable experience, the reverse of great story and bland gameplay isn't nearly as enjoyable. Thats my opinion of course. Maybe some would rather slog through boring gameplay because the story is just so good but I personally wouldn't because I value the act of playing the game first and foremost.

Oh man you have no idea, Dragon Age II, Spec Ops: The Line, Fallout: New Vegas, apparently Bioshock can be bequeathed that qualification, and now I guess Tomb Raider. I mean in that list are my three of my top five games. As a writer I place so much value into the inquiry of what stories play well to games or how to tell stories in games and I will take that a what seems like a pretty strong detriment to gameplay. That said, dude Tomb Raider, It struck me that there are at least three different ludonarrative dissonances in the game, and the game could use a dose of minimalism. Those three other crew members, the ones you don't even happen upon again till late in the game, totally could go without those c-listers. Just Lara, her mentors, the villains, and Sam on the island would allow more focus on developing the characters and story through gameplay. Roth teaches Lara survival, Grim teaches Lara combat, Sam uplifts until she is absconded in the second act. But now I'm getting sidetracked, of course story is becoming more important in games, I just took the time to rethink the plot of Tomb Raider, people don't do that with stories they don't actually care about.

#24 Posted by Slag (4369 posts) -

@humanity:

I certainly agree people get way too negative about games. As someone who has played game for three decades I have to say Most modern games are pretty good and I have no desire to go back to earlier eras (save a few genres)

That being said , I think it's very limiting to the genre to say games should never be taken seriously. And probably insulting to their creators. I don't think Jenova Chen or Jonathan Blow would be appreciative of being told Games aren't meant to be taken seriously.

I think the player needs to take into account what the game is trying to do. Some games are just meant as stupid fun (and should be taken as such) and then there are other games that have much higher aspirations that are set by the developer voluntarily.

That's what happened to Tomb Raider (or better yet Mass Effect 3) , Crystal Dynamics has these various awesome and well known aspirations on how they want to handle Lara's character development in their story. That was the whole pitch of the reboot was the story aspect of the game, that was to make this game a fun and unique experience Seems more than fair to me to judge the game based on the standard the developer set themselves. I'm very glad they tried to do that, but are gamers not supposed to not notice if they have only sporadic success doing so?

Then you said

How insane is that? What difference does a name on the box make?

Everything.

When you put that name on the box you are communicating information to the consumer about what that experience is going to be for the consumer. With that brand comes certain expectations. And for a lot of people 60 bucks is a lot of money.

Things like Dead Space 3, or the DmC flap or the SimCity flap. Those franchises have fans for a reason, mainly that there is a core gameplay formula that their fans enjoy an when they see those names on the box they expect a experience that fits that gameplay. That is what makes those brands loved and perceived as fun. All three messed with that formula to varying disastrous results. I give the developers credit for daring to experiment , but I certainly don't blame fans for being upset to some degree when the games failed to deliver a experience they wanted for their 60 bucks.

One thing some franchises have done to allow themselves to experiment while still benefiting from a brand, is a have a sub-branded series. I.e. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles. I personally despise the FF: CC games, but since it's clearly not a mainline FF game it's not upsetting it exists.

#25 Edited by Humanity (9242 posts) -

@slag: Regarding Tomb Raider: they certainly set up this pitch through advertising that this is a sort of coming of age story for Lara and most people will hold them to that promised narrative. To illustrate my point, there are a lot of people on these forums who have played the game and don't see failure in that promise. This is mostly because they aren't being overly 'serious' or nitpicky about the story. I personally didn't find a lot of dissonance (that word is starting to lose all meaning) in the story, and just like others thought the balance between delivering the promised coming-of-age narrative AND still maintaining fluidity in terms of gameplay was completely achieved. In no way was I trying to say "NEVER BE SERIOUS" because sometimes games tell serious stories and thats great. As you have said yourself, people have gotten quite negative about videogames nowadays - and my entire post was simply saying everyone needs to loosen up just a bit, because otherwise this staunch attitude towards inevitable plotholes in lieu of unfun gameplay will drive you nuts.

As for the name on the box I can see your point, but if someone is at all informed about videogames then they should understand the difference between a sequel and a reboot. Most importantly the fact that reboots aren't sequels, but rather an amalgamation of characters, story beats and gameplay elements mixed in with something completely new to the franchise. While I can't speak for SimCity as I haven't played it, I think DmC is an enormous success even if it didn't sell well - Ninja Theory completely nailed it and it's unfortunate that maybe some questionable advertising dismayed old time fans from giving it a chance. Dead Space 3 didn't really mess with the formula that much - in my review on the site my main complaint is that it didn't do enough to differentiate itself from previous installments.

#26 Edited by LikeaSsur (1531 posts) -

I can't really add anything, because my points have already been made, but I'll just throw it in for emphasis.

Yes, games used to not require intricate storylines or character development to make it fun, and many modern games don't either. Left 4 Dead, Borderlands, Vanquish, and Dynasty Warriors are just a few modern games that come to mind that don't need story to be fun.

However, sometimes a good story is fun, and that's why Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Braid, and Lost Odyssey are successes. The gameplay in these aren't the greatest or most skill-based, but the story is what people come for. They want to see how the characters act and react to their environments and each other.

I guess it all boils down to how the developer wants this game to be seen. Crystal Dynamics wanted the new Tomb Raider to be more story/character-focused, so sometimes the gameplay felt out of place. Meanwhile, Gears of War swings too far the other way, it's so no-holds-barred, chainsaw-in-your-gut action that any kind of story feels out of place. It all depends on what you're looking for and what the developer wants to make. Can a video game have both good gameplay and a fantastic story? My opinion is yes, but it's very rare.

Online
#27 Posted by Slag (4369 posts) -

@humanity said:

@slag: In no way was I trying to say "NEVER BE SERIOUS" because sometimes games tell serious stories and thats great. As you have said yourself, people have gotten quite negative about videogames nowadays - and my entire post was simply saying everyone needs to loosen up just a bit, because otherwise this staunch attitude towards inevitable plotholes in lieu of unfun gameplay will drive you nuts.

I'm glad you clarified this for me, I misread your intent a bit in your initial post. sorry about that.

but back to Tomb Raider for a sec, I don't know if they really are being nitpicky (I haven't played it yet but I'm going to) as much this is an experience that isn't one that's the same for everybody.

The thing about the narrative Tomb Raider is going for is that it's one that's hard to do in any medium, precisely because it is the sort of thing that many people will interpret differently. Turning a character into a sympathetic mass killer is a difficult feat.

I don't know if you have ever done jury duty, but it can be real eye opening experience about how differently other people see the same people you do. Incredibly differently. I think that's the the trouble this sort of narrative can run into. What for one person seems like a believable progression in attitude can to another seem sudden and completely out of character. Some people need to see every minute detail, some people prefer implied development.

Sounds to me like Tomb Raider is more like the second in the places than the former, which is what cause problems for people like Brad who might want to see an explicit progression.

but if someone is at all informed about videogames then they should understand the difference between a sequel and a reboot

Unfortunately that's a pretty big if, if you deal with the consumer market at all you'll learn pretty quickly most people almost make purchases on an instinctual basis. That's kind of the point of brands anyway from a marketing perspective.

Even if they are informed and especially passionate about a game I think you'll find that often actually makes a person less tolerant of new ideas associated with a brand.

I know myself I am not exempt from this. Personally I saw the new DmC and figured it looked interesting. But I'm not a fan of the series so changes to core principles don't bother me at all.

But looking at the new simcity I could tell right away I would hate it. What I personally loved about simcity just basically isn't there anymore. I have no desire to play multiplayer, co-operate with anyone. I just want to try to min/max the heck out of huge cities. That's just not possible in this iteration.

As far as Dead Space goes I'm not a fan of the series, but in game reminders of microtransactions would absolutely lessen a game like that for me. Especially a horror-esque game where the atmosphere is so important. It just breaks the suspension of disbelief.

That's the risk developers run when they make changes to a brand people love. Of course the converse (of always staying the same) can be just as dangerous in it's own way.