Posted by Devise22 (222 posts) -

Video games are becoming more adult. That is to say, developers and publishers are working on trying to have video games as a medium be more well respected, deal with more adult themes, and be represented in more of an artistic light than they used to be. However with that mission as we age into a newer generation of consoles are seeing several issues.

The most notable issue from my perspective is the idea of tone versus gameplay. A recent example of this is the rebooted version of Tomb Raider. You play a character with very little combat experience, who is not accustomed to seeing a lot of death. The developers hyped up the tone of this game to no end. How this character would evolve over the game, but still be resilient in only doing the actions she was doing due to the circumstance.

Where this tone hits the wall is when it meets gameplay. In the game while you do a decent amount of puzzle solving, general adventuring, you also do a lot of killing. It makes the personal development of the character feel really hollow when after murdering 15 enemies, you get forced dialogue about how she questions her actions.

Tomb Raider is not the only game suffering this conundrum. Whether it is Nathan Drake questioning his motives and wanting to turn back only to still go on forward, Grand Theft Auto where your character converys interest in getting out of the crime life only to continue the crime life, and Assassins Creed where you are put into forced missions trying to imply the "scale" of battle only to be able to murder 20 guys in a single combat.

There is no mistaking that gameplay is at odds with the tones and themes of our video games more and more as we go on. While independent titles have the luxury to explore other avenues, such as Braid which tricks the user into misunderstanding the tone of the game, others sometimes explore whole new avenues of gameplay to try and match the tone or theme they are trying to convey.

The only recent AAA title I can recall that at least attempted to tackle this issue was Dishonored. You were given the tools to play the game your way, the more of a murdering psychopath you were the more they tried to reflect that in the game and world around you. While it was not executed in the perfect solution, all this left me wondering what is the answer?

I personally don't have it. But I do think this is a question developers should be asking themselves. When making a modern game that is attempting to deal with more mature themes they should always consider if the context of the gameplay matches with the themes they are trying. More and more we are seeing that gamers are getting sick of iterative gameplay as it is. I think now is as good as time as any to evolve the impact of gameplay onto the tone of a game while we continue to evolve the tone of our games.

What are your guys thoughts on this?

#1 Posted by Ravenlight (8040 posts) -

More like Tomb MURDERER, amirite?

It's the ages-old problem of giving players a game that is fun (murdering fools) while trying to tell an interesting story at the same time. Sometimes they don't go hand in hand.

Based entirely on a fact I just pulled out of my ass, it seems like games that aren't as heavy on explicit narrative (Half-Life 2) suffer less from this problem than games which present the story up-front (Uncharted, Far Cry 3). Does that even make sense?

#2 Posted by mtcantor (948 posts) -

Blah blah blah. You can't fault games for being games.

#3 Edited by believer258 (11897 posts) -

The only recent AAA title I can recall that at least attempted to tackle this issue was Dishonored. You were given the tools to play the game your way, the more of a murdering psychopath you were the more they tried to reflect that in the game and world around you. While it was not executed in the perfect solution, all this left me wondering what is the answer

Yes, and that game was almost at odds with itself in terms of gameplay and story. See, the story really pushes you toward the "good" ending by asking that you not kill anybody and chastising you if you do so, but the gameplay doesn't give you many tools for getting through the game without doing so. You can choke a dude and drag him into a hiding spot, you can shoot a dude with a sleeping dart and drag him to a hiding spot, and you can't do a whole lot else for getting rid of enemies. Maybe if you're insanely good you can completely avoid them for the entire game (yeah, right). However, it does give you several different entertaining ways to kill everyone in the level, which I did by the end of the game because I was fucking tired of choking everyone (also, how does that work, physiologically?)

EDIT: Also, Deus Ex Human Revolution. /EDIT

As far as Tomb Raider goes, I can accept that someone who has both the will to live and all the training she would need - very athletic, knows her way around a gun (except the actual killing dudes part) could get used to ninja-ing their way around. I haven't played it yet, but from my understanding the only real flaw is that it should have been more gradual. Unless the game clearly denies that she had any sort of instruction on how to use a gun.

Online
#4 Edited by Devise22 (222 posts) -

@ravenlight said:

More like Tomb MURDERER, amirite?

It's the ages-old problem of giving players a game that is fun (murdering fools) while trying to tell an interesting story at the same time. Sometimes they don't go hand in hand.

Based entirely on a fact I just pulled out of my ass, it seems like games that aren't as heavy on explicit narrative (Half-Life 2) suffer less from this problem than games which present the story up-front (Uncharted, Far Cry 3). Does that even make sense?

I think that comes from certain developers in the example your references like Valve, understanding that a game is still a game. Their focus isn't to tell a story that is not a "game" story. Thus they aren't trying to say something in the story that is automatically ruled away by what you are actually doing in the game. They are a good developer to look at for this as well. Portal 2 is a great example of a game story that is developed from the ground up with the players actions in the game in mind for how the story plays out.

@believer258 Agreed with your take on Dishonored. If you really want to play no kill you can sneak around everywhere and if you get caught slow time down and hide. The powers are creative enough to play in a more realistic roleplay environment. What I was more referring to though was, if you go around killing everyone. Guards talk about it in the game, the world recognizes you are this murdering psychopath. It isn't like in says Assassins Creed you walk straight up and hand to hand murder 25 guards and then enter a cutscene with someone who tries to make a joke about you being able to handle a simple mission where you have to kill 5 people. There is absolutely zero connection from what you do in the game to do what the game world "thinks" of your character in a game like that.

@mtcantor I am not trying to fault games for being games. I am more putting the fault on the game makers for trying to make game stories something that directly contrasts with what you actually do in the game. I honestly think certain developers are a bit ashamed that they are making games. They would rather be making say, a movie. I think that shows in some of the more modern day themes and stories we see in our games. I just think that more work needs to be put in, whether it is from the story or gameplay side to match the theme and tone in games such as that.

#5 Posted by Nottle (1914 posts) -

I think gameplay should always come before narrative, most times trying to fit in gameplay for the sake of making the story make sense takes some of the fun out of it and is usually half assed.

Sometimes it's ok that Drake is this fun loving guy that knows how to demolish squadrons of mercenaries because it is escapism. Just like the movies Commando or Indiana Jones, you are just supposed to have a good time.

I think I've always had a strong tolerance for tonal shifts. The difference between cutscene and gameplay reality has never bothered me.

#6 Edited by MikkaQ (10288 posts) -

I think it's just a result of games trying to overreach on story. We have a million different media for telling stories, games are one of the least interesting in that regard. Gameplay is the distinguishing factor for video games as a medium and it shouldn't be a slave to narrative. If you want to make a game about killing 500 guys over the course of a shooter campaign, I don't think it really matters whether the story reflects it or not.

I think the fact is that interesting stories rarely make for interesting interactive experiences. It's incredibly rare we see a game story that makes an actual point, carries a moral, or possesses a theme that it doesn't get shit on completely by the gameplay. I have very little faith in games as a storytelling medium because it's almost always a matter of give and take between the gameplay and the story. I'm loving the story in The Walking Dead, but it's an adventure game. It's boring from a strictly gameplay perspective, you just kinda walk around and talk to people, occasionally play some QTEs. Same applies in reverse for something like Tetris. One of the most fun games ever made, and there's no story to be found whatsoever.

To get to the point, people are really good at suspending their disbelief so the dissonance between story and gameplay doesn't really matter too much. As long as the gameplay doesn't suffer for the sake of the story, I'm happy.