Posted by TaliciaDragonsong (8698 posts) -

I haven't yet had my fricking coffee.
 
The thought is supposed to urge me to get up and down the stairs but today it doesn't hit home. Nothing seems to the last couple of days, everything feels a bit down and dark. I blame that bad romance, I blame my girlish giddy desire for what turned out to be a bad guy again. So back to my first love I go. Fingers typing on automatic and I'm three clicks away from a virtual escape. But do I want to? The thought suddenly hits me and I'm not so sure my escape is as close as it seemed just seconds ago. I'm getting older, I realize as I spend too much time thinking over the implications of virtual escape, a thing I never before attributed to myself but now it seems to be pretty fitting, is this what they mean by it? Nah, I won't go that far and place myself in that corner but I do know I am lucky to know my passions. To know which things keep my mind sane and busy, not worried with what others think or do with their own lives.
 
I can fully understand people having an interest in what keeps others busy, I do as well to an extent, but there's this fine line of curiosity and the cat being killed by it. To know things is fine, to try and understand people and their motives is a very informative experience but I've learned there's not always a reason for everything. There can't be, we don't work that way. Sometimes people hurt us and do it for no good reason, or none we are perhaps willing to accept. Can we live with that? I know its hard for me, I seem to have grown expectations of always getting a reason for actions. Should I blame books or games for that? A lot of created universes are perfect, offering insights into the motives of the bad guy, lifting the veil of mystery that makes (or breaks) gods and not to mention the reason that little nobody from a farm town decided to save the world. Games work crazy like that because we like to understand things, gain a grasp and explain others how we experienced it or how all of those things lead to something awesome. Don't we all want something awesome, or at least fulfilling, to happen? It is that reason that pulls me to games as much as it pushes me away. But this goes as well for series and books too, reasons why (or lack of, like the Joker is evident of) often define characters and their ideals.
 
So there's that, and I realize half the day is already gone. I still have things that need doing, which range from fixing my tire, preparing my story for NaNoWriMo and jumping into a siege from the ramparts of my realm's fort in Guild Wars 2. Activities I all look forward to so I better get to them.
 
This might be my shortest serious blog ever.

#1 Edited by TaliciaDragonsong (8698 posts) -

I haven't yet had my fricking coffee.
 
The thought is supposed to urge me to get up and down the stairs but today it doesn't hit home. Nothing seems to the last couple of days, everything feels a bit down and dark. I blame that bad romance, I blame my girlish giddy desire for what turned out to be a bad guy again. So back to my first love I go. Fingers typing on automatic and I'm three clicks away from a virtual escape. But do I want to? The thought suddenly hits me and I'm not so sure my escape is as close as it seemed just seconds ago. I'm getting older, I realize as I spend too much time thinking over the implications of virtual escape, a thing I never before attributed to myself but now it seems to be pretty fitting, is this what they mean by it? Nah, I won't go that far and place myself in that corner but I do know I am lucky to know my passions. To know which things keep my mind sane and busy, not worried with what others think or do with their own lives.
 
I can fully understand people having an interest in what keeps others busy, I do as well to an extent, but there's this fine line of curiosity and the cat being killed by it. To know things is fine, to try and understand people and their motives is a very informative experience but I've learned there's not always a reason for everything. There can't be, we don't work that way. Sometimes people hurt us and do it for no good reason, or none we are perhaps willing to accept. Can we live with that? I know its hard for me, I seem to have grown expectations of always getting a reason for actions. Should I blame books or games for that? A lot of created universes are perfect, offering insights into the motives of the bad guy, lifting the veil of mystery that makes (or breaks) gods and not to mention the reason that little nobody from a farm town decided to save the world. Games work crazy like that because we like to understand things, gain a grasp and explain others how we experienced it or how all of those things lead to something awesome. Don't we all want something awesome, or at least fulfilling, to happen? It is that reason that pulls me to games as much as it pushes me away. But this goes as well for series and books too, reasons why (or lack of, like the Joker is evident of) often define characters and their ideals.
 
So there's that, and I realize half the day is already gone. I still have things that need doing, which range from fixing my tire, preparing my story for NaNoWriMo and jumping into a siege from the ramparts of my realm's fort in Guild Wars 2. Activities I all look forward to so I better get to them.
 
This might be my shortest serious blog ever.

#2 Posted by HH (609 posts) -

i grew up watching too many movies, and there were times when my expectations clashed hard with reality because they were founded on classic narratives and three act structures. it is strange, relying on something unreal, it does add to the hurdles, it is one more thing you have to forcibly separate in your mind from what is real, but life is brutal no-matter what way you look at it, even, in the end, for people that choose to pretend it's not, and people that are seemingly hardened to it, and it is good to have something else, something removed, you can depend on.

#3 Edited by Lysergica33 (523 posts) -

Apologies in advance for any rambling... My brain isn't workng particularly well this morning either and some of the points I end up making may only be tangentally related, but eh.. :)

Are game universes too perfect? In some cases, I could argue yes, in others I'd argue no. There are games like Uncharted 3 which are shining examples of age old narrative tropes laid out perfectly, all the character archetypes are in place, you have the variety of locations to string the heroes and heroines along on a jetsetting journey, and if you give yourself to it wholly, it is a gripping, immersive, heart warming tale. In such cases, the game transcends its own tropes and becomes a form of narrative perfection.

There are other games where they feel more like a slave of the tropes they employ. An example I'd use to demonstrate this is something like Gears of War. Musclebound, knuckleheaded space marines occasionally trying to have big emotional sequencies in a malformed attempt at earning the audience's sympathy. That Gears even tried to have emotional sequences considering the style of characterisation and writing it established is just laughable, and based on the assumption that you can shoehorn any characters into this current paradigm of mainstream narrative structure and have it work. The trailers for the Gears games say a lot more about that universe than any of the games do for me. The juxtaposition of solemnity and desperate space-marine ultra-violence really attracted me to those games, but the actual stories in the games had none of that solemnity, very little of the desperation, and plenty of the space-marine ultra-violence since they tried to stick to a typical narrative structure rather than trying to go for a subversion, like in their trailers.

Then there's games like Dark Souls which abandon this pretense of typical narrative perfection and achieve their own form of transcendance. As soon as I saw this topic title I knew I could use Dark Souls as an example. You are dumped into a world which is essentially completely indifferent to your presence, where the dimensional make up of this universe is such that you aren't the first "Chosen Undead" and you certainly won't be the last, and thus you are treated by most characters either as a fool, a pawn, a threat, or lunch. Part of why I think Dark Souls really caught on with such a big audience is because it's such a perfect manifestation of a complete subversion of the current narrative paradigm. Every facet of that game leads back to the core themes it is trying to express (which at its heart, is a tale as old as time itself.. A clash between the forces of light and dark.) The game mechanics, the difficulty, the characters and writing, the music, the design of the world, the tidbits of lore that are handed to you through item descriptions and architecture that eventually form a bigger picture of the game's world... It all serves to re-inforce those core themes, but it does so in a way that totally flies in the face of how things are typically done when it comes to narrative structure.

Essentially, what I'm saying, is that I feel it's about being consistent. Make sure you have something to say, and then make sure everything in the game helps to hammer the point home, or maybe gently chisel it, or whatever.

Having said that, I think it's easy to become jaded with the current paradigm of narrative structure. It's formulaic by nature. You establish protagonists, give reasons as to why they are the "good guys," you establish antagonists and subsequently explain why they are the "bad guys" and then maybe you throw a joker card in there for good measure. You play enough games or see enough films that adhere to that and eventually you're going to start predicting story beats since you're too familiar with the meta-narrative that's being employed, and why wouldn't you? Then the realisation comes that not only the art is stagnating but your enjoyment of the art is stagnating along with it.

That's the point I got to, and now I mostly try and stick to playing games that subvert that narrative structure. There's plenty of very subversive games coming out right now considering we find ourself at that golden age that seems to come every 6 or 7 years, at the end of a console's life cycle, where whatever trend dominated the current generation begins to get boring. Typically you end up getting technological leaps on the PC that clearly outstrip anything a console is capable of, and the indie scene gets pushed a bit more into the limelight. 2012 has been a really great year for games that I would personally classify as high art, games that I would rank amongst the unrepentant insane genius of film directors such as David Lynch and Francis Coppola. We've had Journey, we've had Dark Souls PC (I wrote a blog about that release, mostly to rave about how much the increased resolution offered by the PC version enables the art direction, and thus the core themes themselves, to shine through brighter than ever.. Praise the sun!!!) We've had Tokyo Jungle, we've had Black Mesa (Half-Life is a game that I feel has a very subversive narrative, and the changes in presentation made by the Black Mesa team really help flesh out the universe that only really started getting some real life and depth in Half-Life 2) .. Etc.

It's a great time to be a gamer. If you're bored of perfect universes where the guy gets the girl, the bad guy is vanquished and the world is saved, then put down those Triple-A titles and step into the grand cosmological order of subversive, unique, forward thinking game universes that are flourishing right now!

Edit: PHEW! Sorry for such a wall of text, but your blog filled me with ideas. Didn't intend to hijack it or anything :)

#4 Posted by TaliciaDragonsong (8698 posts) -
@Lysergica33: Haha you wrote more than I did! But I very much appreciate your thoughts! And I've had my coffee so I can take it now! 
 
I agree that Dark Souls is a good example but its all up to taste in that regard, some people love massive universes like Mass Effect, Warcraft or Star Wars, almost every question can be answered and there's a lot of things to know. Which can be good but the other side of the coin, Dark Souls, is also amazing but at the same time might be asking too much from the general audience. Telling a story requires it to be told, not passively shown on the sidelines. It works nonetheless and I won't doubt that sideline storytelling has its place too but compared to the perfect universes I'd say there's not much difference in these two examples.
My personal favorites are often the Bioware games, to just think of stuff like Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Dragon Age and Mass Effect. They came up with entire universes out of nowhere and (to some people's dislike) wrote the story as it went along. Coming up with a story and answering all the questions is hard to do, and to resist. But the thing that I love the most about games is the mystery.
 
As much in story as in gameplay, because I'll admit I often download MMO's I never heard off before and I love diving into its mechanics, story and other systems. 
We are in a golden time for sure, gameplay, graphics, music and story are all very high quality nowadays and I find that often its more a question of taste than a quality issue that plagues communities/reviewers.
 
@HH: Exactly that, combine that with school teaching you how its all going to be (or your parents laying out your future already) it can only lead to some major shocks. But live and learn is the key here. I wouldn't want to trade my experiences for anything, save for a few, because those made me into who I am today and taught me a lot.
#5 Posted by TruthTellah (8754 posts) -

@TaliciaDragonsong: I think many game universes are indeed too perfect, with everything wrapped up with a bow. Though, it hasn't always been that way, and there are still plenty of games today which don't tie off everything. Games have always embraced a kind of abstraction, and ironically, in an attempt to go toward realism, many went toward explaining everything. Yet, that is a kind of false realism. The kind of comforting realism of a computer program with nothing but what has been coded in. Yet, life is messy and often awful for reasons unapparent to us. Randomness is nearly impossible in games, but mystery is very alive and well.

I was going to mention Dark Souls, but Lysergica already said it well. I might also mention the long history of gaming, which for decades has hamburgers fighting aliens and plumbers fighting a Kafka-esque war through a sea of tubes littered with unending reptilian threats. Games are weird, and often the mechanics are the only thing that truly makes sense. While many games today may appear to be too put together and explained, it's often the illusion of a skin-deep impression. Games are still weird and imperfect in an absurd way if you look at them long enough. And some games still take just a glance to see the unexplainable. It simply depends. There is no neat and perfect answer to your question when it comes to gaming at large, and in a way, that's rather perfect.

#6 Posted by Lysergica33 (523 posts) -

@TaliciaDragonsong said:

@Lysergica33: Haha you wrote more than I did! But I very much appreciate your thoughts! And I've had my coffee so I can take it now!

I agree that Dark Souls is a good example but its all up to taste in that regard, some people love massive universes like Mass Effect, Warcraft or Star Wars, almost every question can be answered and there's a lot of things to know. Which can be good but the other side of the coin, Dark Souls, is also amazing but at the same time might be asking too much from the general audience. Telling a story requires it to be told, not passively shown on the sidelines. It works nonetheless and I won't doubt that sideline storytelling has its place too but compared to the perfect universes I'd say there's not much difference in these two examples.
My personal favorites are often the Bioware games, to just think of stuff like Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Dragon Age and Mass Effect. They came up with entire universes out of nowhere and (to some people's dislike) wrote the story as it went along. Coming up with a story and answering all the questions is hard to do, and to resist. But the thing that I love the most about games is the mystery.

As much in story as in gameplay, because I'll admit I often download MMO's I never heard off before and I love diving into its mechanics, story and other systems.
We are in a golden time for sure, gameplay, graphics, music and story are all very high quality nowadays and I find that often its more a question of taste than a quality issue that plagues communities/reviewers.

@HH: Exactly that, combine that with school teaching you how its all going to be (or your parents laying out your future already) it can only lead to some major shocks. But live and learn is the key here. I wouldn't want to trade my experiences for anything, save for a few, because those made me into who I am today and taught me a lot.

Yeah, Dark Souls is one of those games that could be easily mistaken for not having a story at all. It does ask a lot of the player in so many ways and once you've delved deep into the lore, the picture that's painted isn't that much different than most other fantasy tales at its core. Like I said, it's the age old tale of Light Vs Dark, it's the way in which its presented that differs. And whether that specific style of presentation is for better or worse is definitely down to personal taste!

As for Bioware, I'm not much of a fan, and I could probably write another post as long as my previous one explaining why I feel Mass Effect is an example of subpar narrative structuring (and not just Mass Effect 3..) but Dragon Age: Origins was fucking excellent and a shining example of age old tropes and archetypal narrative structure and justifications put together in such a way that it achieves transcendance. So I totally feel you there.

I also agree with your point about MMO's, except for me you can replace "MMO" with "Obscure, batshit insane Japanese titles." Tokyo Jungle has had me enthralled as of late. What others would call jank, I would call finely tuned but distinctly japanese mechanics. My love affair with Japanese games is one that I have rekindled recently. I grew up playing pretty much nothing but games from the east and thus that specific style of stat heavy, menu driven, numbers galore archaicism still really appeals to me, it is engrained within my very consciousness. I've spent the last 5-6 years or so devouring mainly Western games, and the few Japanese games I have played have turned me off, mostly because they all seem to be trying too hard to follow the Western trend of trying to rip off cinematic techniques, which the Japanese just simply can't fucking do quite like we can. This is similar to the perfect vs imperfect narrative dichotomy we've been discussing to me. You have the seamless, hyper-immersive experiences of the West where any number crunching is done off screen and the stat-heavy archaicism of the East. "Perfect" vs "Imperfect."

Anyway, I don't even know what I'm trying to say anymore. Free association for the win! Once again, great topic OP. Nice to see some decent discussions going down on Giant Bomb rather than childish shit slinging :)

#7 Posted by ArtisanBreads (3794 posts) -

Wow great post. This is an issue I've had and I had never seen others say. Dark Souls is a perfect example of doing the "mystery" angle right too. I think Dragon's Dogma did as well.

I always find say Bioware RPGs annoying how they have a codex that knows simply everything, especially in Dragons Age this felt out of place.

I feel like the issue may be with the IP driven nature of games now, they feel like they need to flesh out every facet of these games to have possible comics, animated movies, etc. But that's just a possibility.

Just glad to see the OP have the same thought as me.

#8 Posted by believer258 (11785 posts) -

@Lysergica33 said:

Apologies in advance for any rambling... My brain isn't workng particularly well this morning either and some of the points I end up making may only be tangentally related, but eh.. :)

Are game universes too perfect? In some cases, I could argue yes, in others I'd argue no. There are games like Uncharted 3 which are shining examples of age old narrative tropes laid out perfectly, all the character archetypes are in place, you have the variety of locations to string the heroes and heroines along on a jetsetting journey, and if you give yourself to it wholly, it is a gripping, immersive, heart warming tale. In such cases, the game transcends its own tropes and becomes a form of narrative perfection.

There are other games where they feel more like a slave of the tropes they employ. An example I'd use to demonstrate this is something like Gears of War. Musclebound, knuckleheaded space marines occasionally trying to have big emotional sequencies in a malformed attempt at earning the audience's sympathy. That Gears even tried to have emotional sequences considering the style of characterisation and writing it established is just laughable, and based on the assumption that you can shoehorn any characters into this current paradigm of mainstream narrative structure and have it work. The trailers for the Gears games say a lot more about that universe than any of the games do for me. The juxtaposition of solemnity and desperate space-marine ultra-violence really attracted me to those games, but the actual stories in the games had none of that solemnity, very little of the desperation, and plenty of the space-marine ultra-violence since they tried to stick to a typical narrative structure rather than trying to go for a subversion, like in their trailers.

Then there's games like Dark Souls which abandon this pretense of typical narrative perfection and achieve their own form of transcendance. As soon as I saw this topic title I knew I could use Dark Souls as an example. You are dumped into a world which is essentially completely indifferent to your presence, where the dimensional make up of this universe is such that you aren't the first "Chosen Undead" and you certainly won't be the last, and thus you are treated by most characters either as a fool, a pawn, a threat, or lunch. Part of why I think Dark Souls really caught on with such a big audience is because it's such a perfect manifestation of a complete subversion of the current narrative paradigm. Every facet of that game leads back to the core themes it is trying to express (which at its heart, is a tale as old as time itself.. A clash between the forces of light and dark.) The game mechanics, the difficulty, the characters and writing, the music, the design of the world, the tidbits of lore that are handed to you through item descriptions and architecture that eventually form a bigger picture of the game's world... It all serves to re-inforce those core themes, but it does so in a way that totally flies in the face of how things are typically done when it comes to narrative structure.

Essentially, what I'm saying, is that I feel it's about being consistent. Make sure you have something to say, and then make sure everything in the game helps to hammer the point home, or maybe gently chisel it, or whatever.

Having said that, I think it's easy to become jaded with the current paradigm of narrative structure. It's formulaic by nature. You establish protagonists, give reasons as to why they are the "good guys," you establish antagonists and subsequently explain why they are the "bad guys" and then maybe you throw a joker card in there for good measure. You play enough games or see enough films that adhere to that and eventually you're going to start predicting story beats since you're too familiar with the meta-narrative that's being employed, and why wouldn't you? Then the realisation comes that not only the art is stagnating but your enjoyment of the art is stagnating along with it.

That's the point I got to, and now I mostly try and stick to playing games that subvert that narrative structure. There's plenty of very subversive games coming out right now considering we find ourself at that golden age that seems to come every 6 or 7 years, at the end of a console's life cycle, where whatever trend dominated the current generation begins to get boring. Typically you end up getting technological leaps on the PC that clearly outstrip anything a console is capable of, and the indie scene gets pushed a bit more into the limelight. 2012 has been a really great year for games that I would personally classify as high art, games that I would rank amongst the unrepentant insane genius of film directors such as David Lynch and Francis Coppola. We've had Journey, we've had Dark Souls PC (I wrote a blog about that release, mostly to rave about how much the increased resolution offered by the PC version enables the art direction, and thus the core themes themselves, to shine through brighter than ever.. Praise the sun!!!) We've had Tokyo Jungle, we've had Black Mesa (Half-Life is a game that I feel has a very subversive narrative, and the changes in presentation made by the Black Mesa team really help flesh out the universe that only really started getting some real life and depth in Half-Life 2) .. Etc.

It's a great time to be a gamer. If you're bored of perfect universes where the guy gets the girl, the bad guy is vanquished and the world is saved, then put down those Triple-A titles and step into the grand cosmological order of subversive, unique, forward thinking game universes that are flourishing right now!

Edit: PHEW! Sorry for such a wall of text, but your blog filled me with ideas. Didn't intend to hijack it or anything :)

Just a bit of food for thought:

1) Bulletstorm had muscle-bound meat-head space marines in it. The dialog seemed like it was going to be laughably bad (and enjoyable by a certain group of people), the characters seemed like cardboard cutouts, etc. I'm not going to say it was perfect, but when I looked back on that game after beating it I found that the characters it developed, especially the protagonist, were actually really good and they all fit pretty well into this twisted, cartoonishly violent macho universe. I'm just saying that a macho meat-head space-marine story can have a bit of emotion and desperation in it, it just has to have a bit of humility to go along with it.

2) I don't necessarily think the current paradigm of narrative structure is completely tired. Portal 2 fits very well into the narrative structure you described but it's still a very entertaining and original story. Hell, so does Dragon Age Origins but a lot of people loved that.

On a final note, I don't really think that "perfect universes" are something that fictional scenarios can escape. Events will happen and characters will develop in the ways that their creators tell them to, and it can't possibly be any different. A good story gives an illusion that things are out of control, but they never really aren't because every story has an end goal that will be reached if it's finished - if it didn't, it wouldn't be much of a story.

#9 Posted by adam1808 (1448 posts) -

I often find game universes too self-explanatory rather than too perfect. Although I'm playing through Deus Ex Human Revolution and loving it, part of why I love William Gibson and Phillip. K. Dick novels is because they're so densely packed with weird jargon and memorably awful people whose motives don't always get explained. In Deus Ex 3, the story is well told but it lacks the "I don't know what this guy is talking about because it's the crazy future but okay, I get that he sucks" feeling I still get from reading Neuromancer.

Games need to be more real in the sense that they should make worlds where you don't get answers, so much so that the real world feels clear-cut in comparison.

Hell games are a form of escapism. I may have my own feelings on how game worlds should be less self-explanatory, but I get the feeling people enjoy being fed every aspect of the world and fiction. I think a lot of the sense of discovery one gets from games like Skyrim or Dragon Age is because so much of the fiction is always on the nose, leaving you to question the things that the writers have placed to create mystery rather than have it be generated organically.

#10 Posted by Lysergica33 (523 posts) -

@believer258 said:

Just a bit of food for thought:

1) Bulletstorm had muscle-bound meat-head space marines in it. The dialog seemed like it was going to be laughably bad (and enjoyable by a certain group of people), the characters seemed like cardboard cutouts, etc. I'm not going to say it was perfect, but when I looked back on that game after beating it I found that the characters it developed, especially the protagonist, were actually really good and they all fit pretty well into this twisted, cartoonishly violent macho universe. I'm just saying that a macho meat-head space-marine story can have a bit of emotion and desperation in it, it just has to have a bit of humility to go along with it.

2) I don't necessarily think the current paradigm of narrative structure is completely tired. Portal 2 fits very well into the narrative structure you described but it's still a very entertaining and original story. Hell, so does Dragon Age Origins but a lot of people loved that.

On a final note, I don't really think that "perfect universes" are something that fictional scenarios can escape. Events will happen and characters will develop in the ways that their creators tell them to, and it can't possibly be any different. A good story gives an illusion that things are out of control, but they never really aren't because every story has an end goal that will be reached if it's finished - if it didn't, it wouldn't be much of a story.

I heard good things about Bulletstorm's story actually. I'll get around to playing it one of these days.

And as for your second point, I totally agree. Like I said, I love me some Uncharted and that's pretty much as Hollywood-esque and formulaic as game plots get. I will argue just as much for the occasionally transcendant nature of the current paradigm of narrative structure just as much as I will argue that it is partly a cause of a deep stagnation. It goes both ways.

#11 Posted by TaliciaDragonsong (8698 posts) -
@TruthTellah: Yep, not generalising it all but there's a information overflow which probably just came from the consumer wanting to know/absorb more game content. I find though that I tend to lose interest if things go to far. Like Star Wars that just brims with orders, species, people...it makes for a problem of luxury and I cringe everytime I saw a new species introduced in the Clone Wars cartoon for example. There's so much potential out there but instead we get the same stuff over and over again or they come up with another type of new alien. All cool but this way the universe keeps expanding and the stories get thinner. Seeing a new race like Batarian in the first Mass Effect 1 DLC was mystical! Its that feeling of newness I often miss in stories, the whole theater has become a known thing and expectations can become a little insane which was evident by some of the fan lashings at ME2 or ME3. So, I guess I mean why continue spreading out and make things simpler/harder if there's still so much ground to cover with what we have? I'm a huge Batarian fan btw so I really feel bad about some of the chances we never got but perhaps should have had. I really think there was more to be done with the race's spotlight (they're all freaking terrorists in almost everyone's eyes now) and we could have even explored more of them with say a squadmate. But same can be said for a lot of species in a lot of games. Shame.
 
@Lysergica33: That's the beauty of people though, to each their own! The way Mass Effect 1 was set up as a game as well as a universe it could have been the next Star Wars in my eyes. But this is coming from a girl with a N7 tattoo so I might be a little biased. I loved ME1 so much, it was a eye opener for me. But yeah, each their own.
 
I agree with the random ass titles, some of my favorite games were games I never heard about but I somehow felt the need to buy them. I'll say Borderlands 1 and Mass Effect 1 but to keep it in the obscure theme I'll say Monster Hunter and Phantasy Star Online. I knew nothing but I knew these games had to be mine and I love their imperfections. I still wish we had a decent Xbox Monster Hunter, I would never stop playing probably, I still play Tri weekly.
 
And thank you, but I wasn't even trying, it was little more than a musing! Haha! But glad to be of service nonetheless, discussions are always awesome on this site!
 
@ArtisanBreads: I wouldn't play the merch/etc angle because Bioware's done this ever since Kotor/Jade Empire too (I'd kill for a Death's Hand action figure though). They are (were?) masters of their own genre and I always liked the codex being there although I admit only having read the Mass Effect ones because I'm just quite taken with the series and its universe. I like how some games can just push you out there with no (meaningful) story but solely thrive on their mechanics or player interaction. While others live and die by their story, sometimes the story is the only thing driving me forward through a game that's more tedious than fun! But I've skipped series episodes, music tracks and book chapters as well so that shouldn't be unexpected for any kind of media.
 
@believer258: What I meant with perfect universes is often that every piece of information is known and that not a whole lot is left up to the mystery of exploration but you're not wrong anyway. Things are often pretty streamlined but I guess in a way they have to be for them to stay videogames and not visual novels with button commands. If you'd think about the amount of people you kill in some games you'd just lose all logic. But when it fits, like the Bulletstorm example, it fits perfectly and I really felt inspired by the typical macho/gun mania that got turned into something more story and character wise. I was actually more interested in the characters/story than I was in the whole combo gunplay.
 
@adam1808: Your response reminded me of Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. Look at how much player generated myths there are just because of glitches or developer jokes. The empty car that spawns on the hills and drives down or the hunt for Bigfoot? Even recently with Red Dead Redemption there have been a lot of such things with the cabin in the woods or the 'ghosts' of Tumbleweed. Players/developers can create a huge sense of world and mystery by offering the player enough pieces to make their own puzzle instead of laying them out perfectly, ready to be given when the player demands them. If that makes any sense, I'm halfway through my wine bottle and high on old rock music.
#12 Posted by pyromagnestir (4291 posts) -

Well, fuck. This may be @TaliciaDragonsong: 's shortest blog ever but look at all the fucking long replies! As someone who likes to read the replies, I find myself intimidated by these ones.

And look at that, the word fricking. Don't see that word used very often.

Oh, this topic strikes a particular chord with me. The very reason I love stories (be they books, movies, tv shows, video games, whatever) is because everything has clear motivations, and makes some sort of sense. There's a logic that can be parsed, or there usually is. And when there isn't, or when the logic doesn't fit the character or the story in question, people complain and say it's bad writing or something. The real world? Not always the case. I wish that I had some insights into this, but, as usual, I don't. Still I find myself thinking about it every now and then.

I suppose I'll peruse the replies later. Oh man. So many paragraphs!

#13 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

Man, I am too tired to get past the personal bits. Sorry for those, and I'll probably read the rest later after work and sleep... Because this is certainly a topic that I find interesting and have 'feelings' on.

Also, love sucks v.v

#14 Posted by Hunter5024 (5612 posts) -

Preparing for NaNoWriMo? Why that's practically cheating. Great read anyways, I always thought that not giving motivations to characters was just kind of lazy writing, and I'd never even considered how this can cause a discrepancy between the real world and a fictional universe. Interesting food for thought.

#15 Posted by TaliciaDragonsong (8698 posts) -
@pyromagnestir: Yeah stuff like fricking happens a lot when I didn't have my coffee yet.
The logic in it is great though, no doubt about it, but too much of a thing can be overkill. A lot of people would say Jedi's used to be cooler when it was mystical and rare. Stuff like that.
 
@MordeaniisChaos: No worries, take your time, I appreciate the response already! And yeah, I hate love.
 
@Hunter5024: Not really cheating. I'm writing 2 stories this year, one by myself and one together with my writing buddy. So I've gotta get our dates, plan and such ready beforehand so I can plan my own writing around my work/events/etc so I don't fuck my schedule up. Last year, my first NaNo year, I jumped in without thought 2 days before it started. Good times.
#16 Posted by pyromagnestir (4291 posts) -

@TaliciaDragonsong: You are talking to (err... writing to? internetting with?) one of those people. Over explaining minute details can definitely lead to problems in stories. That's a big difference between the first Star Wars trilogy and the prequels, midichlorians being a glaring example. Lucas had to explain everything. Although I understand where the impulse comes from, as my shitty attempts at writing often include bits where I overly explaining things that probably don't matter, just because I fucking thought this shit through and it's gotta be in there somewhere, damn it! And also to distract the theoretical reader from the uninteresting plots.

I'm pro fricking. It's a fun word and should be used more.

#17 Posted by Hunter5024 (5612 posts) -

@TaliciaDragonsong: I prefer to forget about it until the last minute and then barrel through, not that it's worked so well for me in the past, but it's more fun. Good luck!

#18 Posted by Tim_the_Corsair (3065 posts) -
@TaliciaDragonsong shit, you just reminded me to sign up to NaNoWriMo.

Damn it!
#19 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11618 posts) -

It's not just games. Really, any given high-profile fantasy fiction series will give you the entire history of its peoples and cultures by the end of its 8 book run or whatever. But I see what you mean. Bioware and it's love of clubbing you over the head with lore via supporting characters is a mixed blessing. On one hand, the parts in the Mass Effect sequels where they directly show something cool that was referenced in the codex are totally cool to anyone who was interested in that stuff. On the other... why should I care at all about the world of Dragon Age when all that deliberate world-building has led to a world that clearly wants to be A Song of Ice and Fire but more high-fantasy and without the rawness that makes Game of Thrones so interesting?

To use an example of where lore ambiguity is good (and not saying Dark Souls because everyone has said that but I agree with them): Star Wars is way better when the world is this fantastic setting where specific facts are left ambiguous for the viewer to imagine the various facets of the world. Once everything is explained, either via extended universe junk or the prequel trilogy, it trades on that wonder for a bolted on explanation that turns it into mediocre world-building. If we want to tie into Video Games, that is one of the reasons I don't particularly care for KotOR 2. It's so barely connected to both its source material and the game it is ostensibly a sequel to that I think it would be better if it was neither of those things (also the story is a mess, but that's another talk for another day).

#20 Posted by Slag (4236 posts) -

Pretty brilliantly said.

I guess it goes into why people play games in the first place. I think most do for escapism to feel good and to have fun. Most games do a pretty good job of making you feel good about yourself.

I kind of doubt people would buy games with universes that are too realistic. I've seen studies that show easier games sell better than hard ones.

And well real is life is hard. You don't have multiple lives, getting shot really friggin hurts, to be athletic you have continually train, you don't ever find out the truth sometimes, love is more complicated than making a few correct multiple choice dialogue choices with someone you like etc etc,

I don't think people want hyper realism in games. I do think people might like some darker stories in games with some more ambiguity than we have now, especially in games aimed at adults.I know I loved Dragon's Dogma precisely because it dabbled with that.

I think you brought up another good point.. Maybe these perfect universes are training us to have unrealistic expectation in life though. I've heard people complain that the current new generation of workers don't want to do their time moving up the ladder especially they all expect to be the "hero" from the start. Not everybody gets to be the hero, somebody has to be the janitor.

#21 Posted by TaliciaDragonsong (8698 posts) -
@pyromagnestir: It's not bad to explain everything but it can detract from the experience, Star Wars being that prime example. 
 
@Hunter5024: I wish I could but writing's become my life, and my life is rather full!^^
 
@Tim_the_Corsair: You're welcome! Good luck! 

@ArbitraryWater: Well said, I agree with most of it. What you're describing is why I'm so reluctant to buy DLC for story based games such as Mass Effect, it might feel too disconnected or even just uninteresting compared to the rest of the story.
 
@Slag: That last part somehow reminded me of the Janitor from Scrubs. Sounds like something he would say!
You're right though, a lot of this generation feels entitled (there's that word again) to a good job, salary or other benefits without barely wetting their feet. While I'm usually up to giving everyone a fair chance I would prefer people with experience. When I was going to physical therapy I got assigned to a new young guy who had been there for two weeks, as an intern. I had to ask for someone more experienced to treat me because I'm not putting my health into untrained hands. Although I do understand he has to learn somehow I had to think of myself in this case. Which is an example which has little to do with what you said but hey, vague connections ho!
#22 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

@TaliciaDragonsong: AH, Garbage, that band I never believed existed for a long time, until I finally heard some song of theirs as a theme to some silly BBC show. Good to hear some Garbage, been a while.

Fuck you for reminding me NaNoWriMo is a thing, by the way. As if I need that to attempt on top of 40 hours of graveyard shifts a week v.v

As for game worlds being too perfect, I'd say that the real issue is just when things don't only not have an evident cause, but actively go AGAINST logic or whatever the hell was going on before. Real life is pretty random. A soldier on the field usually doesn't get hit because he is less awesome at bullet dodging, but because one of the potshots the enemy fired off managed to find him, by pure luck. In this way, I think some games can be a bit lacking. It'd be nice to see a bit more randomness, for lack of a better word. Basically when things went "wrong" in GTA IV because it was an open world is a good way to think of it.

I don't think the game worlds are perfect, I think they are just too simple, not organic enough. When I write, the honest and natural "feel" is pretty much paramount in my mind for the first draft. It's what makes things work for me, and it is kind of something games often lack. Games are very... confined. They exist only to serve the purpose of a path, and rarely feel like there is anything beyond that. Even Mass Effect rarely managed to elicit that feeling from me, the way that Lord of the Rings did the first time I read it.

I dunno. I still haven't slept yet, and I hurt all over from work.

#23 Posted by TaliciaDragonsong (8698 posts) -
@MordeaniisChaos: Garbage <3 can't wait to see them live (for the first time too!) this november. I'm going mental by the thought alone! I'm so trying to get a photo with Shirley because...well, life complete then! 
Just go for NaNo, even the attempt is great! Its all practice!
 
I think Mass Effect had a pretty narrow path (but again, they're videogames, they've a certain story to be told) but the universe it was set in was so...so...endless! It was Star Wars all over again! You knew the basics and you wanted a fricking lightsaber! You wanted force powers! Which were cool pushes back then but nowadays I'd kill for a Jedi Mind Trick. There's something to be said for both side of the coin, but I kind of dislike seeing a universe lose its magic like Star Wars did (its pretty hard to get that feeling back, even a lightsaber gets boring it seems). I still hope there's more they're going to do with Mass Effect before it ends up any worse than it is now.
#24 Posted by MordeaniisChaos (5730 posts) -

@TaliciaDragonsong: The first Mass Effect is my second favorite game of all time, and it did create one hell of a video game universe, but I still felt like it was weirdly lacking outside of the context of the game. The Codex stuff was pretty awesome, but it wasn't as in-depth or far reaching enough to make me feel like it was a true living breathing world. Just a really good approximation of that for a video game world.

But then, again, that bar is set incredibly high for me, because the Middle Earth fiction is so ridiculously deep, you can't really come close to it. Short of being EVE Online, and at that point you're kind of cheating because then it's basically just mini civilization.

#25 Posted by ComradeKhan (687 posts) -

I do wish that there was a wider variety of games to choose from with mature themes, complex characters with ambiguous motives, and headier subject matter. I've used games as a form of therapy when I've been hurt or on the rebound from a failed relationship and I found the same problem that you did; most games aren't complex or realistic enough for me to draw parallels to my current situation and relate to on a personal level. Most games are so fantastical and "perfect" that they work only as an escape from my emotional predicament... But sometimes what I really want or really need at the moment is a realistically enigmatic story with characters who deal with a complex range of emotions (not just cocky superheros) so that I can find parallels to my situation and take comfort in the game's similarities to my real world problems. When games achieve this they can be truly therapeutic and cathartic for me... and then I can go back to playing games as a childish escape.