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Edited 3 months, 17 days ago

Poll: Preference: Mechanical or Narrative Focus? (154 votes)

I prefer mechanically driven games. 27%
I prefer games with a strong narrative. 23%
It's not mutually exclusive. So why not both? Both at the same time! 47%
Other. 1%
Results. 1%
#1 Edited by Seppli (10251 posts) -

I'm definitely most fond of mechanically strong games. Most of my time playing games is spent on online multiplayer experiences. If games rely soley on their strong narrative, it usually does little for me - like the upcoming Murdered: Soul Suspect. I don't see the appeal. At best, I can tolerate such games.

What about you guys?

#2 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

I imagine everybody's going to be split between Both and Other, so I'll vote for Narrative.

#3 Edited by Jeust (10650 posts) -

Narrative! I am only interested in games with a narrative focus.

#4 Posted by kerse (2114 posts) -

Both would be great, but honestly I'll take a great story and mediocre gameplay any day over something that has no story.

#5 Posted by HH (610 posts) -

i chose other because i prefer atmosphere above everything, even the best mechanics will be lost on me if the game is set somewhere dull, and i find that most narratives end up reducing the scope of game worlds dramatically.

#6 Posted by Nightriff (5084 posts) -

Strong narrative first in my book, both is obviously ideal but if I'm going to pick one it is the narrative.

#7 Posted by Bollard (5550 posts) -

I like games that are fun. I suppose I probably fall into "other" as the games I really get into like Elder Scrolls and so on is for an immersive world. That being said, games like FEZ and Antichamber which are 100% about mechanics are up there as my favourite games of all time.

Well, that wasn't the results I was expecting.

#8 Posted by StarvingGamer (8241 posts) -

Given that my #1 game of all time is FFT:WotL, I'd have to say both. That said, UMvC3 and SC2:WoL didn't make my top-3 on the strength of their narrative stylings.

#9 Edited by insane_shadowblade85 (1455 posts) -

I went with both. It doesn't matter if your game plays well if you don't give me a reason to keep moving forward, but if your game plays like shit then I don't want to see the rest of the story no matter how good people say it is.

#10 Posted by LawGamer (207 posts) -

@seppli said:

I'm definitely most fond of mechanically strong games. Most of my time playing games is spent on online multiplayer experiences. If games rely on soley on their strong narrative, it usually does little for me - like the upcoming Murdred: Soul Suspect. I don't see the appeal. At best, I can tolerate such games.

See, I'm exactly the opposite. While I can appreciate good level design and mechanics, I don't actually want to be thinking about them while I'm playing. That ruins the immersive experience and typically makes the game mind-numbingly repetitive pretty quickly. The narrative provides the "curtain" that stops me from seeing all that stuff while I'm playing.

That's why I tend to loathe online multiplayer. Those games typically don't have more than a wisp of story to them. In other words, there's no "curtain" to distract me. Instead, it becomes "well this environment is pretty and all, but it's really nothing more than yet another roughly square/circular arena in which to kill people. How original."

#11 Posted by joshwent (2207 posts) -

It's an irrelevant dichotomy in the first place. A game is good if it succeeds at its individual goals. I still haven't played Gone Home, but from what I've heard and seen it's pretty light on anything we'd usually call "mechanics", but it's still a satisfying interactive experience. Same goes for almost every interactive novel (or whatever things like 999 are called).

Conversely, I've never gotten immersed in the wealth of lore behind Tetris, Missile Command, or Asteroids, but the mechanics of the best versions of those games are flawless.

Then there are games that combine the two well, like the Witcher series, where the combat mechanics are derived from the character and the gameplay is heavily dependent on the story.

Sure some people have preferences one way or another, but I think games are just way too varied to be limited to these types of this vs. that discussion.

#12 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11739 posts) -

Once one gets past the obvious point where "both" is going to be everyone's pick, I like my video games to be games first and foremost.

#13 Edited by Karkarov (3102 posts) -

Another weird poll. Like your own poll says, they aren't mutually exclusive so both is obviously the best choice. That out of the way, just like that other poll about lore, it depends on the game. If we are talking say Wolfenstein you don't need a super great narrative. We got obvious bad guys, obvious conflict, and it is pretty much away we go. Some narrative in there is helpful but it doesn't have to be a Pulitzer contender. If we are talking say your own example Murdered: Soul Suspect or say Heavy Rain a strong narrative is basically required or the game will fall flat. When you get both though is when you see a real classic. Like Read Dead Redemption.

#14 Edited by Irvandus (2879 posts) -

I think you can strike a lot of both in games and that's what I prefer. Mechanically Dark Souls is very strong but also has really well thought out lore. Transistor is another fine example. Really great story with a unique deep combat system. Also back in Halo 3 the multiplayer maps actually had a lot of hidden background to them but were still just well thought out multiplayer levels. I think it's best when a game does both. No reason it can't.

#15 Edited by Seppli (10251 posts) -

@arbitrarywater said:

Once one gets past the obvious point where "both" is going to be everyone's pick, I like my video games to be games first and foremost.

I don't think *Both* is that obvious a choice. Narrative will always dillute the density of a game's mechanics, at least in the temporal sense. If you want mechanics, all the time, narrative can get in the way.

Look at Max Payne 3. One of the most common complaints is that one cannot skip most cutscenes. I love Max Payne, and replayed it quite a bit, but after the first go-around, its narrative was nothing but a huge hinderance of my further enjoyment of the game - and I loved Max Payne 3 for its narrative too, that love was just much shorter lived than my enjoyment of its mechanics.

In my opinion, narrative is best when it is the dynamic result of the player's interactions with the game, not something that has been written in stone beforehand. Oh, I could tell you warstories from playing Battlefield all these years. Like real warstories. Nobody wrote them for me. I lived them. They happend to me. They are my very own warstories, and nobody else's.

#16 Edited by pyromagnestir (4324 posts) -

A game doesn't need a good narrative for me to play it, but if a game is said to have a particularly good narrative I'll try to play it regardless of whether I like the mechanics.

However, that statement doesn't hold true for me if you switch it around.

However, however... Looking at the games I've played so far this year, it seems surprisingly that more of them are mechanics focused, rather than narrative focused.

So... I don't know!

#17 Posted by Blomakrans (149 posts) -

I think narrative really makes or breaks a game. Most games I love have great stories and characters. That however doesn't mean I will play a game with rubbish mechanics and bad controls for the story, no sir! There are way too many games out there that nail the narrative and mechanics for me too spend my precious time on bad mechanics.

#18 Edited by Soapy86 (2621 posts) -

Both is obviously ideal, but I feel like most games don't actually walk that tightrope very well. Given a choice, I'll take mechanics over narrative any day of the week.

#19 Posted by wemibelec90 (1666 posts) -

As long as it has one or the other, I'm interested. Sometimes I like to play a game with a great story or interesting characters; other times, I just want to play a great game.

#20 Posted by fisk0 (4113 posts) -

I think I have an easier time excusing shit mechanics if there's an interesting narrative than the other way around, but I do think both are pretty important.

#21 Posted by LiquidPrince (15949 posts) -

Obviously both would be the easy answer, but if I had to choose one, it will always be a game with an amazing story.

#22 Edited by Jeust (10650 posts) -

@seppli said:

@arbitrarywater said:

Once one gets past the obvious point where "both" is going to be everyone's pick, I like my video games to be games first and foremost.

I don't think *Both* is that obvious a choice. Narrative will always dillute the density of a game's mechanics, at least in the temporal sense. If you want mechanics, all the time, narrative can get in the way.

Look at Max Payne 3. One of the most common complaints is that one cannot skip most cutscenes. I love Max Payne, and replayed it quite a bit, but after the first go-around, its narrative was nothing but a huge hinderance of my further enjoyment of the game.

That is a well thought out opinion, and like

@lawgamer said:

@seppli said:

I'm definitely most fond of mechanically strong games. Most of my time playing games is spent on online multiplayer experiences. If games rely on soley on their strong narrative, it usually does little for me - like the upcoming Murdred: Soul Suspect. I don't see the appeal. At best, I can tolerate such games.

See, I'm exactly the opposite. While I can appreciate good level design and mechanics, I don't actually want to be thinking about them while I'm playing. That ruins the immersive experience and typically makes the game mind-numbingly repetitive pretty quickly. The narrative provides the "curtain" that stops me from seeing all that stuff while I'm playing.

That's why I tend to loathe online multiplayer. Those games typically don't have more than a wisp of story to them. In other words, there's no "curtain" to distract me. Instead, it becomes "well this environment is pretty and all, but it's really nothing more than yet another roughly square/circular arena in which to kill people. How original."

I'm in the opposite side of the spectrum. I prefer games that distract me with their story, than shallow or deep mechanical games that bore me with their striking repetitive nature.

#23 Posted by tourgen (4500 posts) -

I don't think it's an either-or situation for anyone. A narrative is nice to have in a game. I think many conventional writers come to game writing with a bunch of baggage and bad ideas though.

Game makers who think they don't need good mechanics, level design, and that these things aren't responsible for creating atmosphere and immersion are doing it wrong. Yes it's cheaper and easier. It's what most writers are familiar and comfortable with. It's also a misguided effort and a waste of everyone's time.

#24 Posted by T_wester (192 posts) -

I look at it this way.

I will play a game with bad narrative if is saved by solid mechanics.

But for me to play a game with bad mechanics the narrative have to be brilliant.

This is probably why favorite genre is strategy games not rpg's

#25 Edited by Fredchuckdave (5483 posts) -

@starvinggamer: Such a respectable first choice and then such "huh?" other choices. In what universe is Brood War not better than SC2 in every way shape and form o.O SC2 is literally Brood War. Like, change a few units here or there; it's the same exact game; just minus the top 3 ever (alongside Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament) community. Delita would be saddened to have such peers. UMVC3 is fine but it's not Street Fighter 2.

Mechanics are what matters, this is why Super Metroid is always going to be a top 2 or 3 game all-time; that said there's games that are really awesome mechanically and also have excellent stories; like Vagrant Story, Valkyrie Profile 2, and even Metroid Prime (amusingly enough, considering Super Metroid has very little story to speak of).

If your mechanics suck and your story is absolutely incredible people will hate the game (Deadly Premonition), so focus on mechanics. If you're The Last of Us and have a pretty good mechanics and the best story ever then you'll wind up in the top 10 but not in the top 2 or 3. On the other hand if Dark Souls II had even an above average story it could easily vault into the top 5 instead of being a top 10 game. And say the first Dark Souls had the best story ever, it could also be a top 5 game instead of loitering in the dregs of merely top 20.

Of course if your game has no mechanics whatsoever then it will receive an inordinate amount of praise for the sheer brilliance of not having any gameplay.

#26 Posted by HistoryInRust (6315 posts) -

Used to be the narrative-focused guy. Then I was fine with a split between solid mechanics and a solid story.

Now, I simply don't have the time to invest in games. And video game narratives, for whatever reason, are mostly lost on me. So I'm firmly and concretely in the must-have-great-mechanics camp. If I can't sit down for < 30 minutes and be stimulated by the actual playing of the game, I can't be asked to devote dozens of hours to brave a narrative I will, in all likelihood, barely pay mind to.

#27 Posted by StarvingGamer (8241 posts) -

@fredchuckdave: Simply speaking WoL came at a time in my life where I was able to appreciate it fully, and in a much broader sense with eSports etc, and I enjoyed it not just for the multiplayer but also for the single-player. And I like UMvC3 because of the infinite range of expression the game's combo system provides me. Probably 95% or more of my time spent with that game was in training mode, trying out different teams and different combos and seeing what sorts of crazy synergies I could come up with.

#28 Posted by Spoonman671 (4637 posts) -

#1 with a little bit of #3.

#29 Posted by Steadying (1245 posts) -

I guess narrative. At least in the case of RPG's.

If you're asking me to devote a huge chunk of my time into your game, then you better have something to keep me coming back for more. Otherwise I usually just get my " fill " of the gameplay and move on.

#30 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -
#31 Posted by Fredchuckdave (5483 posts) -

@starvinggamer: Fair enough, I was actually about to edit that out of my post since it seemed bizarre in retrospect (also we might have had this discussion already). SC2's (and HotS) singleplayer is definitely the best in RTS history, can't argue with that. There might be more variety in Forged Alliance but the absolutely ridiculous production values carry it a lot higher; which makes it all the more strange that the Diablo 3 storyline is so poorly implemented.

#32 Posted by believer258 (11911 posts) -

Not to mention that the example he gave was Deadly Premonition and a lot of people liked that game.

I think that "gameplay" is a better word than mechanics. Actually, "interactivity" is a better word than "gameplay. OK, sure, I like mechanics heavy games, but a game whose world tries to be full of things I can mess around with tends to be one I like more. This is probably why I like Elder Scrolls games so much - mechanics are functional at best but there's something you can do with anything not nailed down in that game, even if it just amounts to picking it up and dropping it somewhere. I also really like poking my nose in every corner to see what (useful) goodies I can find.

The games I find least interesting are the ones that are just super tight corridors with very specific methods of continuing. My dislike for games that take control away from you to show your player getting knocked around in first person are an especial pet peeve of mine - it's OK occasionally but when it happens all the time (Call of Duty campaigns!), it gets annoying. I don't have a problem with linearity as long as I'm given some options in approaching situations.

Games that place an emphasis on their interactivity or mechanics can also have pretty great stories, and you can tie story details into mechanics well. I should never feel like a game is being restricted by the story, though, and given the choice between a mediocre game with a good story and a good game with a mediocre story, I'll take the latter.

But there are more than enough good games with good stories to go around. Mechanics-focused and narrative-focused don't need to be mutually exclusive. I'm finally getting around to Final Fantasy VI and it's got both pretty well downpat so far. Wolfenstein The New Order had both. Persona 3 and 4 had both. Half-Life 1 and 2 had both. Metroid Prime had both.

Worth mentioning that as much as I like good mechanics, I don't like most multiplayer games. I really like playing Titanfall, but part of the reason I bought and liked it was how easy it is to lone-wolf it.

Online
#33 Posted by Crypt135 (68 posts) -

Voted both, but if I had to pick one or the other it'd be narrative > mechanics.

#34 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

I think that "gameplay" is a better word than mechanics. Actually, "interactivity" is a better word than "gameplay.

I don't know. I feel like those words bring us closer to narrative overlap. Maybe the word "play" would work better here. Or something else.

Video games really need to fix their terminology.

The games I find least interesting are the ones that are just super tight corridors with very specific methods of continuing. My dislike for games that take control away from you to show your player getting knocked around in first person are an especial pet peeve of mine - it's OK occasionally but when it happens all the time (Call of Duty campaigns!), it gets annoying. I don't have a problem with linearity as long as I'm given some options in approaching situations.

Also, I feel like there are games that make good use of this, or that games could at least make good use of this. Either the narrative would do interesting things with this constricting linearity, or the linearity would not matter so much, because the game could justify its mechanics (again with the terminology) in other ways. Actually, rail shooters already accomplish that just fine. Sega rail shooters (Panzer Dragoon, Rez) justify themselves just fine by focusing more on a visceral, sensory embodiment sort of thing than on open choice and player agency (terminology).

Games that do what you're describing for a cinematic focus, however, never get it right. I'm looking your way, Assassin's Creed III.

But there are more than enough good games with good stories to go around. Mechanics-focused and narrative-focused don't need to be mutually exclusive. I'm finally getting around to Final Fantasy VI and it's got both pretty well downpat so far. Wolfenstein The New Order had both. Persona 3 and 4 had both. Half-Life 1 and 2 had both. Metroid Prime had both.

Finally, with these examples, are you saying that the game achieves both separately, or that it integrates both into each other? Of the examples I know, you could make arguments either way.

#35 Posted by Fredchuckdave (5483 posts) -

@video_game_king: Absence of mechanics is not the same as "bad mechanics," see the bottom of the post.

@believer258: "A lot" meaning a cult following after the fact; when that game came out there was nary a sound. It's a great game.. to watch someone else play.

#36 Edited by CorruptedEvil (3342 posts) -

I love some games with bad gameplay and a great story like Mass Effect 1 and I like some games that are almost entirely mechanics like GOD HAND. Whatever works for the game works for me.

If they put out a character action game that had bad gameplay and a focus on story I would hate it, and that's one of the reasons I didn't like Bravely Default, it's an RPG with a completely generic story.

Online
#37 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@video_game_king: Absence of mechanics is not the same as "bad mechanics," see the bottom of the post.

But:

  1. The Walking Dead does have mechanics. It's a clear throwback to 90s adventure games.
  2. The bottom of your post phrases your point in a very condescending way, as if to elevate mechanics by putting down narrative.
#38 Posted by Clonedzero (4200 posts) -

I mean both are great. But i can enjoy a game that focuses on one or the other. They're not mutually exclusive. I do prefer great narratives, but great mechanics are what make me return to a game.

#39 Edited by Fredchuckdave (5483 posts) -

@video_game_king: Adventure games used to have bad mechanics that became charming due to how asinine they were, but The Walking Dead is much more along the lines of not having mechanics altogether. If there's no extraordinary element of trial and error that takes hours and hours of frustration to figure out it sort of ceases to be a throwback and just becomes a storyline inside something that could be very loosely called a "game." Or it could just be called a story. I suppose if you want an actual game that The Walking Dead is similar to from the 90's look no further than Cobra: Space Adventure.

#40 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@fredchuckdave:

Those games still have mechanics, though. You're still interacting with the game and solving logic puzzles, no matter the focus on the story. That's also present in Cobra (along with other Japanese adventure games); the only difference is that Cobra's puzzles focus more on inter-personal dialogue rather than on environmental affairs.

If there's no extraordinary element of trial and error that takes hours and hours of frustration to figure out it sort of ceases to be a throwback and just becomes a storyline inside something that could be very loosely called a "game."

Why is it loosely a game, though? Games don't have to be challenging to be games. Hell, look at Epic Yarn.

There seems to be this trade-off fallacy that might originate with the word "game" itself.

#41 Posted by TheManWithNoPlan (5512 posts) -

I definitely value both equally, but whether or not I'd take one over the other at any given time depends on what kind of mood I'm in. Right now it's narrative.

#42 Posted by believer258 (11911 posts) -

@believer258 said:

I think that "gameplay" is a better word than mechanics. Actually, "interactivity" is a better word than "gameplay.

I don't know. I feel like those words bring us closer to narrative overlap. Maybe the word "play" would work better here. Or something else.

Video games really need to fix their terminology.

The games I find least interesting are the ones that are just super tight corridors with very specific methods of continuing. My dislike for games that take control away from you to show your player getting knocked around in first person are an especial pet peeve of mine - it's OK occasionally but when it happens all the time (Call of Duty campaigns!), it gets annoying. I don't have a problem with linearity as long as I'm given some options in approaching situations.

Also, I feel like there are games that make good use of this, or that games could at least make good use of this. Either the narrative would do interesting things with this constricting linearity, or the linearity would not matter so much, because the game could justify its mechanics (again with the terminology) in other ways. Actually, rail shooters already accomplish that just fine. Sega rail shooters (Panzer Dragoon, Rez) justify themselves just fine by focusing more on a visceral, sensory embodiment sort of thing than on open choice and player agency (terminology).

Games that do what you're describing for a cinematic focus, however, never get it right. I'm looking your way, Assassin's Creed III.

But there are more than enough good games with good stories to go around. Mechanics-focused and narrative-focused don't need to be mutually exclusive. I'm finally getting around to Final Fantasy VI and it's got both pretty well downpat so far. Wolfenstein The New Order had both. Persona 3 and 4 had both. Half-Life 1 and 2 had both. Metroid Prime had both.

Finally, with these examples, are you saying that the game achieves both separately, or that it integrates both into each other? Of the examples I know, you could make arguments either way.

Most of these were just preferences of mine. There's the often-used phrase "I prefer my games to be games first and foremost", and that pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter. If I preferred story, I'd read a book. The only leg-up on books that video games have so far are their choice systems, but those have a long way to go before they're as compelling as they need to be. The Walking Dead certainly fits into that conversation, though, and if TWD has any value as a game, it's in the part where you influence the story.

Games that have no choice systems and almost no variety in how things happen have no interest to me. The last few Call of Duty games have felt more and more constricting and they're a prime example of what I'm talking about. It's like there's less gameplay and more... well, "scenes" of things happening. Modern Warfare 3 felt like a movie where sometimes you shoot things. And we're talking about a series that was more constricted than most in the first place. When someone says "narrative-focused", this constriction of player agency is what comes to my mind.

Those examples I gave do achieve both an interesting story and good gameplay separately and could stand up without either part (given some modifications to make each work divorced of the other). However, each example also intertwines story and gameplay together pretty well to make something better than either part on its own.

@fredchuckdave:

Those games still have mechanics, though. You're still interacting with the game and solving logic puzzles, no matter the focus on the story. That's also present in Cobra (along with other Japanese adventure games); the only difference is that Cobra's puzzles focus more on inter-personal dialogue rather than on environmental affairs.

If there's no extraordinary element of trial and error that takes hours and hours of frustration to figure out it sort of ceases to be a throwback and just becomes a storyline inside something that could be very loosely called a "game."

Why is it loosely a game, though? Games don't have to be challenging to be games. Hell, look at Epic Yarn.

There seems to be this trade-off fallacy that might originate with the word "game" itself.

And then we get back around to semantics. "Play" does not equal "challenge", and we do "play" video games. The Walking Dead is definitely not perfect as a video game, but isn't making a choice when given the option a form of agency, and therefore a form of mechanic, and therefore a form of gameplay? And The Walking Dead is full of that. The Walking Dead isn't "loosely" a game, it is a game as much as any other. Not the kind I particularly like, but a game nonetheless.

At some point proper academics will sit down and get a few hundred pages worth of theory out on this.

Online
#43 Posted by MormonWarrior (2593 posts) -

Both is kind of a cop out answer to me and defeats the point of the thread. I picked mechanical. Honestly, that's where a game's "narrative" shines for me. The narrative of Super Mario Galaxy is really strong not because of character moments or writing, but because of the downright symphonic medley of sights, sounds, controls and objectives. But besides that, my favorite games are those with strong atmosphere and strong mechanics, regardless of the story. Dark Souls, Zelda, Super Meat Boy...I'm way more into the gameplay than the storytelling. Though I can enjoy a good game narrative now and again. I like visual novel-type games sometimes and the recent Telltale games.

#44 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@believer258:

As always, I will keep my responses brief because....I'm not sure, actually. Why do I? Anyway...

Most of these were just preferences of mine. There's the often-used phrase "I prefer my games to be games first and foremost", and that pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter. If I preferred story, I'd read a book. The only leg-up on books that video games have so far are their choice systems, but those have a long way to go before they're as compelling as they need to be. The Walking Dead certainly fits into that conversation, though, and if TWD has any value as a game, it's in the part where you influence the story.

I'm of the opposite school, then, coming to video games for their narrative potential. There's a lot more to games than their sense of freedom and agency and player significance. The ability to constr-wait a second.

Games that have no choice systems and almost no variety in how things happen have no interest to me. The last few Call of Duty games have felt more and more constricting and they're a prime example of what I'm talking about. It's like there's less gameplay and more... well, "scenes" of things happening. Modern Warfare 3 felt like a movie where sometimes you shoot things. And we're talking about a series that was more constricted than most in the first place. When someone says "narrative-focused", this constriction of player agency is what comes to my mind.

I'm all for the constricting shit! Well, at least when it's done right, I'm for it. In fact, I've actually been wanting to write a blog about this for a small amount of time; I just haven't gotten around to it. Part of the problem is defining "what done right" means and what that entails. I will agree that the movie feeling a lot of games have is non-conducive to games, but again, the language feels too slippery.

At some point proper academics will sit down and get a few hundred pages worth of theory out on this.

(Obviously) I feel like we should start doing that now. (Also, I've hit on another "I've been wanting to blog about this for a while" topic.)

#45 Posted by believer258 (11911 posts) -

@video_game_king: Man, I really screwed up one sentence

Games that have no choice systems and almost no variety in how things happen have no interest to me.

"Choice systems", meaning "you're in the middle of a conversation, choose your response", are hardly necessary to my enjoyment of a game. In fact, I find myself kinda refreshed when a game doesn't have any sort of choice system. I meant variety in gameplay, and variety in how each situation can play out. Still, I think that dialogue choice systems are an interesting concept, they just need work. A lot of work. Tons of work, in fact, to be effective at all, and never give me a choice when the answer doesn't fucking matter.

Man, I should finish The Walking Dead someday, it seems integral to this conversation (which is why I probably shouldn't take it any further).

What do you mean by "constricting", exactly? By "constricting", I mean, "limiting a player's agency". Of course no game is absolutely free, and linear shooters are very constricted, but I don't like to be lead along and told exactly what to do and how to get through every part of the game. Wolfenstein: The New Order is linear and tells you what you need to know, but it never tells you how to get past every part. You've got guns, there are dudes shooting with guns, you can move on when you're the only dude with a gun left. Those are the rules, generally speaking, and you're free to clear a room however you can. You know, basic shooter stuff. Call of Duty games (I keep using these, sorry) give you a waypoint everywhere and they have some motherfucker yell in your ear how to do things and where to go everywhere. That is, when control isn't taken from you to show you something, or to have an explosion knock you backwards, or you're forced to pick up a turret. Wolfenstein isn't completely free of these complaints but it does minimize them to points where they feel necessary. For instance, there's a boss fight late in the game that a character tells you how to beat, but it's still a pretty awesome moment and there's still some variety in how things can pan out (and later on, the game doesn't tell you how to beat a few bosses in a row.

I feel like your definition and my definition of "constricting" are a little different here. If the story is going to play out the same way every time, fine by me. In fact, we have ample evidence that a static and unchanging story can provoke plenty of conversation in The Last of Us ending discussion thread - the ending of that game is pretty solid but its morality was the subject of much discussion.

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#46 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@believer258:

So a wider system of choice then?......The devil's advocate in me feel compelled to find a counter-example of a game where no such choice system exists, but the examples I have don't hold up too well. Adventure games aren't fun on closely paired together playthroughs (IE playing the game a month after the last time), are they? For now, I will accept that more general choice in games is largely good.

Something tells me you wouldn't like Spec Ops: The Line. (Or Rin's route in Katawa Shoujo, kind of. Shame on you, maybe!)

I don't think I mean that, at least not primarily. By "constricting", I mean specifically limiting the player in such a way that they think as their character thinks and feel as their character feels. (The wording's iffy, but hopefully, the meaning got through.) That's part of why I'd defend Quick Time Events: when done well, the staging and input simulate what your character's doing on screen. There's more to it than that, but again, saving it for a blog.

In any case, it seems like our definitions operate on two complete different spectrums. They're compatible, but largely because they're looking at very different things.

#47 Edited by animathias (1186 posts) -

Mechanics and gameplay all the way. While I love a good story, I love a game that is simply fun to play waaay more. Games like Spelunky and FTL immediately jumped to mind here. Then a dozen more games like Minecraft and Terraria came up, and I realized that a majority of my gaming nowadays are games with little-to-no focus on narrative.

Even Dark Souls, which I'm quite interested in the lore of, has little narrative focus and strives to get by strictly on its mechanics.

I also never realized I had drifted so far in that direction until this poll. Weird... but I'm not complaining.

I think I'll play some FTL.

#48 Edited by believer258 (11911 posts) -

@video_game_king said:

@believer258:

So a wider system of choice then?......The devil's advocate in me feel compelled to find a counter-example of a game where no such choice system exists, but the examples I have don't hold up too well. Adventure games aren't fun on closely paired together playthroughs (IE playing the game a month after the last time), are they? For now, I will accept that more general choice in games is largely good.

Something tells me you wouldn't like Spec Ops: The Line. (Or Rin's route in Katawa Shoujo, kind of. Shame on you, maybe!)

I don't think I mean that, at least not primarily. By "constricting", I mean specifically limiting the player in such a way that they think as their character thinks and feel as their character feels. (The wording's iffy, but hopefully, the meaning got through.) That's part of why I'd defend Quick Time Events: when done well, the staging and input simulate what your character's doing on screen. There's more to it than that, but again, saving it for a blog.

In any case, it seems like our definitions operate on two complete different spectrums. They're compatible, but largely because they're looking at very different things.

Well, that assumes that I am the character on screen. Not so, at least not in all cases. I'm not Joel and I'm not Booker DeWitt and I'm not Terra and I'm not Tidus, those are just the people whose eyes I see the story through. Dragon Age Origins, Skyrim, Mass Effect... Western RPG's in general are a muddier discussion point, but I still think they're at best puppets with which I interact with a world. My problem with your definition is that you're asking me to be the character on screen when I'm not. I might sympathize with their plights or agree with their views, but I am not them. They are fictional characters in a story, figments of someone else's imagination. Even in the case of Western RPG's and their dialogue trees, everything in the game was written by someone else.

This probably just signifies that I'm far more detached from characters than you, but I don't think that a story should ask you to align yourself with its protagonist. That's not how storytelling works. EDIT: Align yourself meaning "become", "agree with absolutely", "would do absolutely everything in the same way were you in his or her position". I don't mean that you would be on their side of a conflict./EDIT

In the case of Quick Time Events, I'm strongly against them partly because I feel like they're never used for anything more than flashy cutscenes where you push a button to keep things going (why not just let me watch? Please? Even you, Pandora's Tower), but mostly because I fucking hate having to mash random buttons during a cutscene and I especially hate it when I mash the wrong button and have to watch the bloody fucking cutscene again.

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#49 Edited by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@believer258:

Video games are a little weird in that they're far more susceptible to the audience seeing themselves as the character on screen than they are in any other medium. Sometimes, it's on purpose (generally any game that seeks to criticize games), but sometimes, it seems ingrained in how we talk about games. Which of the following do you hear more often: "I beat Bowser and rescued the princess" or "Mario beat Bowser and rescued the princess?" Even if you don't go into the discussion thinking that you were performing those actions, your language stands a chance of shaping your language toward that end. But whatever the reason, it remains that video games are special in that regard. Best to know about this and use it to our advantage in crafting narratives, right?

Align yourself meaning "become", "agree with absolutely", "would do absolutely everything in the same way were you in his or her position". I don't mean that you would be on their side of a conflict./EDIT

Sounds a bit extreme, and I might have been speaking in impressions, but still, I can imagine the sentiment I quote being put to good use. Maybe. Even with resistant readings.

Or maybe I just need more nuanced definitions of constriction. Go read up on that narratology shit.

In the case of Quick Time Events, I'm strongly against them partly because I feel like they're never used for anything more than flashy cutscenes where you push a button to keep things going (why not just let me watch? Please? Even you, Pandora's Tower), but mostly because I fucking hate having to mash random buttons during a cutscene and I especially hate it when I mash the wrong button and have to watch the bloody fucking cutscene again.

*mentions blog aspirations again, lets you draw the conclusion*

#50 Edited by Fredchuckdave (5483 posts) -

@video_game_king: Well, are choose-your-own-adventure books video games? That's basically what it comes down to. The big issue is that people try to compare something like XCOM to the Walking Dead and give one an award over the other; it just doesn't work; there is no basis for comparison. They aren't even the same thing to begin with; thus one must be one thing and the other must be another distinct thing. It's not like 2 divergent movies, novels, or even board games; they are not the same type of product.