Good storytelling in games

 
Just thought I would write a little bit about some video games that I think have effective ways of immersing me as a player into the story. It's not a huge essay or anything, but I felt a need to mention these games.
 

Mirror's Edge

 
 
Firstly, there's just something about the first-person viewpoint that really puts me into the game experience. Maybe it is because life is played in first-person. :-) Not all games that are first-person naturally succeed at this though. The character model of Faith in Mirror's Edge is built well enough that it feels like she is all there, even if you don't see most of her. Running feels quite natural and the connection between player and character feels solid. Mostly what I like about ME is how engaged in the story you are, right from the begining. There are some weird guys after you and you are running. That's all there is too it, but the fear of getting caught and shot is so strong that I can't get past the fourth area. I find it a terrifying experience. Mirror's Edge is great because it manages pretty successfully to dissolve any barrier between its game and story elements. It's a shame then that it's too difficult (And fiddly, control-wise) for me to play. 
 
 

Metroid: Other M

 


I know this game got a lot of complaints from gamers about the content of its story, and the interface/controls, um, and the level design, but I really think it does a fantastic job at immersing me into the character of samus and into the world she is in. Other M is so dramatic and intense that I felt things were happening around me in real-time. I guess this is mostly direction, which it is great at. What makes the direction stick is the character of Adam who gives you orders from his computer room base, and authorizes 'updates' to your power suit. I felt like there was a clear dialogue between me and the game; this was a mission of restraint and surgical observation. You're clearly in a dangerous situation and the game communicates that immediacy very well. What I love is that this is Metroid game that dares to be different, and plays on Samus/the player's history of being a sort of rogue agent that can go anywhere and has little to no responsibility. Funny how most gamers simply threw their toys out of the pram.
 
 

Bioshock

 

I'm not going to say much about this, but the world design is just fantastic. The environment tells me as the player, so much. The audio logs were a fantastic way of conveying background information that felt part of the world. The twist in the story at the end was amazing, not just because of the twist itself but how I as a player was implicated - without feeling as if there was any distinction between myself and the character. It's just a shame that I found the moral choice system to be flawed and uncompelling.
 
 

Noby Noby Boy

 
 
This is a brilliant little sandbox world, and my favourite to date. I felt really connected to BOY, a massive wiggly worm. BOY appears to be an alien life form from far far away, and you basically spend most of the game invading other planets and going on massive trolling sessions in a quest to derail civilization. I just spent ages exploring and testing things out in the world. 
 
 

Animal Crossing

 

It's a simple set-up. You're moving away to a new life and everything is going to be fine and dandy, until you actually get there and realize you're in a lot of debt and have to run around doing chores for people. However, the main reason I love this game is how much depth there is to customizing your house. I'm amazed at how people have been able to make their villages feel so individual. This is the player creating their own world, and contrasts with a game like Mirror's Edge where you take on the role of a character.
 
 

So those are just a variety of games that I think successfully merged story with gameplay in a way I felt comfortable with and enjoyed.
38 Comments
39 Comments
Posted by just_nonplussed

 
Just thought I would write a little bit about some video games that I think have effective ways of immersing me as a player into the story. It's not a huge essay or anything, but I felt a need to mention these games.
 

Mirror's Edge

 
 
Firstly, there's just something about the first-person viewpoint that really puts me into the game experience. Maybe it is because life is played in first-person. :-) Not all games that are first-person naturally succeed at this though. The character model of Faith in Mirror's Edge is built well enough that it feels like she is all there, even if you don't see most of her. Running feels quite natural and the connection between player and character feels solid. Mostly what I like about ME is how engaged in the story you are, right from the begining. There are some weird guys after you and you are running. That's all there is too it, but the fear of getting caught and shot is so strong that I can't get past the fourth area. I find it a terrifying experience. Mirror's Edge is great because it manages pretty successfully to dissolve any barrier between its game and story elements. It's a shame then that it's too difficult (And fiddly, control-wise) for me to play. 
 
 

Metroid: Other M

 


I know this game got a lot of complaints from gamers about the content of its story, and the interface/controls, um, and the level design, but I really think it does a fantastic job at immersing me into the character of samus and into the world she is in. Other M is so dramatic and intense that I felt things were happening around me in real-time. I guess this is mostly direction, which it is great at. What makes the direction stick is the character of Adam who gives you orders from his computer room base, and authorizes 'updates' to your power suit. I felt like there was a clear dialogue between me and the game; this was a mission of restraint and surgical observation. You're clearly in a dangerous situation and the game communicates that immediacy very well. What I love is that this is Metroid game that dares to be different, and plays on Samus/the player's history of being a sort of rogue agent that can go anywhere and has little to no responsibility. Funny how most gamers simply threw their toys out of the pram.
 
 

Bioshock

 

I'm not going to say much about this, but the world design is just fantastic. The environment tells me as the player, so much. The audio logs were a fantastic way of conveying background information that felt part of the world. The twist in the story at the end was amazing, not just because of the twist itself but how I as a player was implicated - without feeling as if there was any distinction between myself and the character. It's just a shame that I found the moral choice system to be flawed and uncompelling.
 
 

Noby Noby Boy

 
 
This is a brilliant little sandbox world, and my favourite to date. I felt really connected to BOY, a massive wiggly worm. BOY appears to be an alien life form from far far away, and you basically spend most of the game invading other planets and going on massive trolling sessions in a quest to derail civilization. I just spent ages exploring and testing things out in the world. 
 
 

Animal Crossing

 

It's a simple set-up. You're moving away to a new life and everything is going to be fine and dandy, until you actually get there and realize you're in a lot of debt and have to run around doing chores for people. However, the main reason I love this game is how much depth there is to customizing your house. I'm amazed at how people have been able to make their villages feel so individual. This is the player creating their own world, and contrasts with a game like Mirror's Edge where you take on the role of a character.
 
 

So those are just a variety of games that I think successfully merged story with gameplay in a way I felt comfortable with and enjoyed.
Posted by kelbear

Storytelling in games often struggle under the burden of being "games" rather staying true to a narrative vision.  
 
One of the most obvious recent examples is Uncharted 2 where an otherwise fantastic narrative is forced to overextend action sequences, and turns into a massacre of thousands of badguys dying at the feet of what was supposed to be a "john everyman" on his hero's journey.  
 
Another common problem is the gun. Once the game pitch starts with a gun, all interaction with the world tends to flow from "the gun", and only deviating in rare circumstances. I recall Patrick marvelling at Prey 2 where he was given the "choices" of paying a guy off for information, or pulling a gun and shooting his bodyguard to get him to talk. The player's only means of making things happen in that world is with his gun? There's nothing new or interesting about that. There's nothing wrong with giving players a gun, but once it gets into the game, it tends to monopolize design effort and attention, and really starts to hem in the possible ways they could have the player change the world around them. 
 
 I liked LA Noire, let's have some first-person political strategy games! Campaign your way into the white house from a first-person perspective. Coordinate political strategy with aides, decide who to trust with key positions and political pacts, and analyze the public and balance their desires against your personal moral compass in taking up positions on your platform. Want to change the country for the better? Then you'll need to learn how to compromise. How much good can you accomplish in your political career? How many good causes do you have to sacrifice to get enough support for more important good causes? Maybe you don't care about "good" and want to see how far you can abuse your growing power. Maybe you need to abuse the power a little to get the funding you need to get the political power for social reform. Truly grey moral decisions emerging from the player, with less need for the developer to present cut and dried "this or that" scenarios when the player can decide what their own "big picture" is going to look like. The "game" here flows through strategy and polling for the results of your decisions, plenty of mechanics there to fill out the necessary game length.
 
We've been seeing a lot of shooter creep in gaming, and hopefully we'll see the far slope of this climb soon. 

Posted by just_nonplussed
@kelbear:
 
Yeah, just think for a moment...How a gun is actually so alien to the average person. It's a scary thing; I've never held one before, let alone shot one. But it feels so normal in the virtual world. Maybe we're just so used to it that it feels normal, but in reality it isn't the usual thing. So I completely agree. There are so many other ways to interact.
 
Your political strategy game actually sounds kind of fun, but for me to enjoy it I think there would have to be something surreal or weird about the experience - like, maybe replace all the people with talking dogs. 
Edited by just_nonplussed

But yeah, I think the key to getting over the hurdle of the game/story contention is of course having interesting ideas, but also realizing that life itself is a kind of game that has rules and limitations and play, and life is full of drama and interesting things. So the fact that there is still this misconception that you can't have a good story + interactions & playing is silly. A few developers and designers seem to realize this, but most are not opening their minds to this potential or can't due to publishers or the market.

Posted by xaLieNxGrEyx

This is a joke right
Edited by kingzetta
@xaLieNxGrEyx said:

This is a joke right

It must be
Posted by mrangryface

Planescape Torment

Posted by Ragdrazi

Balder's Gate's better.

Posted by mrangryface

Thems fightin words- but im too tired and I have work tomorrow. I think we can agree that both games trump Other M

Posted by Animasta

Nier is the best

Posted by Ragdrazi
@mrangryface: Absolutely. This guy's list is utterly horrible.
Posted by JayDee
@xaLieNxGrEyx: why would it be a joke?
Online
Posted by Lukaz
@JayDee: Because it was subjective and paper thin.
Posted by JayDee
@Lukaz: each of those points had good elaboration
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Posted by Lukaz
@JayDee: I disagree.
Edited by xaLieNxGrEyx

@JayDee said:

@xaLieNxGrEyx: why would it be a joke?


 
Animal Crossing has no story, niether does Noby Noby boy.  Mirror's Edge and Metroid are nothing special. Bioshock is the only game on the list with a decent story. And all his descriptions are just descriping why he feels the games story "keeps them in it's world" whiich means he kept playing. This isn't storytelling it's immersion and and drving the player to keep playing.  
 
It's like saying Pokemon had great story telling because I wanted to catch them all. It just doesn't make sense.

Edited by JayDee
@xaLieNxGrEyx: those points are fair, but i just don't see how you could think this thread was just a joke.
 
also op very clearly pointed out in the op that it was about games that are effective at immersing him in the story
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Posted by Gamer_152
@just_nonplussed: I feel like this post is a little all over the place. I understand why you think these are good games, but in a lot of cases here you're not referencing good storytelling which is what you originally claimed to be speaking about, but rather good gameplay and good world design, in fact Noby Noby Boy doesn't really do any storytelling and Animal Crossing does an absolutely minimal amount. Just because a game immerses you doesn't mean it's telling a good story, in fact far more often than not immersion in games comes from the game mechanics. Addtionally, while the audio logs and environments in Bioshock are certainly fantastic, surely you have to mention the Randian and Orwellian political subtext, that was one of the absolute best thigns about that game. Once again I find myself disagreeing with you on the narrative merits of a lot of simpler games, I just don't see how you match something like Animal Crossing up to something like Bioshock. While I think his posts are pretty rude, in some respects I have to agree with xaLiEnxGrEyx here.
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Posted by Grumbel
@Ragdrazi said:
@mrangryface: Absolutely. This guy's list is utterly horrible.
The list is fine, but it looks to be about player immersion, not storytelling in games like the subject claims.
Posted by AhmadMetallic
@kelbear said:
Storytelling in games often struggle under the burden of being "games" rather staying true to a narrative vision.   
...... 
 
are we hear to play video games or what ?
Edited by just_nonplussed
@xaLieNxGrEyx said:

@JayDee said:

@xaLieNxGrEyx: why would it be a joke?


 
Animal Crossing has no story, niether does Noby Noby boy.  Mirror's Edge and Metroid are nothing special. Bioshock is the only game on the list with a decent story. And all his descriptions are just descriping why he feels the games story "keeps them in it's world" whiich means he kept playing. This isn't storytelling it's immersion and and drving the player to keep playing.  
 
It's like saying Pokemon had great story telling because I wanted to catch them all. It just doesn't make sense.


 
 
Noby Noby Boy has a story, it's just that the player is telling the story through acting in that world and interacting with the characters and the environment. It just doesn't seem like a story (In a theatrical or literary sense) because it's all happening in real-time. You would be correct in saying that there is no script (In a strictly filmic sense of the term script), so this just means that the player makes up their own. 
 
Regarding Animal Crossing, if you decorate your house with all the things that you love, does this not tell a story? It's similar to how art installations tell stories through a collection of objects arranged in a particular composition that expresses the feelings or ideas of the person who created it. There is also the story of the mortgage and your quest to pay it off, which is proof of a more traditional script. 
 
In both cases, there are tons of videos online of players' journeys in these worlds. Saying these games are not good stories is missing the point that the player in these cases is the storyteller.  
 
Furthermore, my personal experience of Noby Noby Boy was filled with many emotions ranging from joy and suprise, to melancholy. Also, if you actually observe that game, there are many 'emergent' stories that can be told through the gameplay. 
 
With ME and Other M, I think you're arguing about the content of the story rather than the storytelling. Sure they are simple stories, but the way they put the player into the narrative is much more important than the actual content or script. This point is debatable, because it's down to opinion, but to me a good story has to combine both a great storytelling framework, in addition to an interesting script. 
 
Immersion is one with the story. And regarding Pokemon...That was an epic journey. :-)
Edited by just_nonplussed
@Grumbel said:

@Ragdrazi said:

@mrangryface: Absolutely. This guy's list is utterly horrible.
The list is fine, but it looks to be about player immersion, not storytelling in games like the subject claims.
Immersion is storytelling; it's a result of good storytelling.
Posted by mrangryface

@just_nonplussed: You're trying to communicate an idea in a way that no one seems to understand. If immersion is going to be the focus of your discussion- start with that. Dont get all artsyfartsy with everyone then act confused when no one likes your choices. If you want this discussion to go somewhere you'll have to meet your audience halfway here.

Posted by Gamer_152
@just_nonplussed: There's a big difference between telling a story and giving the player the tools to create a story, but even then the "story" created in games like Noby Noby Boy and Animal Crossing is almost an incidental bi-product of the gameplay and visuals. Even then deep stories just don't emerge from these games; placing furniture in a house in Animal Crossing just doesn't begin to compare narrative-wise to learning the story of the political rise and fall of Andrew Ryan's objectivist utopia. Once again, just because a game evoked certain emotions in you doesn't mean that it did so through story.
 
I, like most people, also believe that you have to have good content and/or script to tell a good story, it doesn't matter how I'm being placed into the narrative if the narrative is absolute crap. The game could have fantastic level design, strategically placed audio diaries, seamless transition between story and gameplay, but if the story is bland, generic and boring there's very little point in it from a narrative perspective. Even then immersion is not storytelling, I'm sorry but this one isn't even debatable. Can immersion in video games be the product of good storytelling? Sure, but that doesn't mean they're one and the same. As I've said before immersion far more often than not comes from good gameplay as opposed to good narrative. Pokemon may have been an epic journey but that doesn't mean it had an epic story.
 
@mrangryface: I don't think actually think the problem here is anything to do with how high-concept or complex his arguments are. If you look at the comments people have broken his argument down into simple points which they've found legitimate flaws with. This isn't a case of misunderstanding, it's a case of people believing he's wrong.
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Posted by ikwal

I have a feeling you don't know what storytelling means.

My favorite storytelling in games, or any other media, is found in Alan Wake. The way the player finds manuscript pages that either gives a hint about what is about to happen or gives insight into what the other characters in the game are thinking/doing, is a brilliant way of telling a story.

Posted by just_nonplussed
@mrangryface said:

@just_nonplussed: You're trying to communicate an idea in a way that no one seems to understand. If immersion is going to be the focus of your discussion- start with that. Dont get all artsyfartsy with everyone then act confused when no one likes your choices. If you want this discussion to go somewhere you'll have to meet your audience halfway here.

Well, 'Mr Angry', I can see why you're called that. I don't know what you mean by 'artsyfartsy'.
I also don't know what you mean by 'immersion'. I created a blog about story, and that's what I've been talking about.
Posted by Grumbel
@just_nonplussed said:
Immersion is storytelling; it's a result of good storytelling.
Not really, while there is certainly some overlap, they aren't really the same thing. Good immersion can help create great storytelling, but it can't really replace it. Take Mirror's Edge, the immersion in the running and jumping and the whole design of the world is fantastic. The way the game handles its cutscenes on the other side to tell the actual plot is completely awful and the plot itself is also not so great to begin and ends in a rather wide open cliff hanger ending.
Edited by just_nonplussed
@Gamer_152 said:

@just_nonplussed: There's a big difference between telling a story and giving the player the tools to create a story, but even then the "story" created in games like Noby Noby Boy and Animal Crossing is almost an incidental bi-product of the gameplay and visuals. Even then deep stories just don't emerge from these games; placing furniture in a house in Animal Crossing just doesn't begin to compare narrative-wise to learning the story of the political rise and fall of Andrew Ryan's objectivist utopia. Once again, just because a game evoked certain emotions in you doesn't mean that it did so through story.
 
I, like most people, also believe that you have to have good content and/or script to tell a good story, it doesn't matter how I'm being placed into the narrative if the narrative is absolute crap. The game could have fantastic level design, strategically placed audio diaries, seamless transition between story and gameplay, but if the story is bland, generic and boring there's very little point in it from a narrative perspective. Even then immersion is not storytelling, I'm sorry but this one isn't even debatable. Can immersion in video games be the product of good storytelling? Sure, but that doesn't mean they're one and the same. As I've said before immersion far more often than not comes from good gameplay as opposed to good narrative. Pokemon may have been an epic journey but that doesn't mean it had an epic story.
 
@mrangryface: I don't think actually think the problem here is anything to do with how high-concept or complex his arguments are. If you look at the comments people have broken his argument down into simple points which they've found legitimate flaws with. This isn't a case of misunderstanding, it's a case of people believing he's wrong.

 
 
 "There's a big difference between telling a story and giving the player the tools to create a story"

 
There is a difference, but only in the way the story is told and experienced. Telling a story is generally about someone experiencing a pre-defined tale. Creating a story is the real-time act of the narrative being played out and being discovered (And if someone is watching, they are being told a story; this could be telling it to a friend, or yourself). We create stories each day of our lives because we go around doing stuff, and then we might relay these events to others.
Maybe the term 'storycreating' is a new term you wish to use? I guess that is all fine and dandy, but I've already outlined how story creation is also story telling at the same time. There's also the YouTube videos that people can play back to watch these stories. Now, maybe a lot of these YouTube videos look kind of similar in content, but it is up to the game designer to create enough potential for a variety of scenarios to be played out. So actually you can level your criticisms at the designer for not enabling players to create and tell more complex stories. Personally, I think games such as GTA: San Andreas and Garry's Mod have quite a bit of potential.
 

"Animal Crossing just doesn't begin to compare narrative-wise to learning the story of the political rise and fall of Andrew Ryan's objectivist utopia"
   
You are too concerned with status and comparissons. I'm not bothered with what is 'best' (Which is mostly down to opinion). This wasn't a top 10, it was a selection of games that did storytelling/offered storytelling in different ways that I also quite enjoyed.
 
 
"I, like most people, also believe that you have to have good content and/or script to tell a good story"

 
Sure, a combination is the best of both worlds. It's the same with open worlds; if there aren't enough options available to create, you're quite limited in terms of what stories you can create and to what extent you can take them. I think it's a big problem with many of the open worlds in that they give players many ways to destroy things...But what if you don't want to destroy stuff? Is it open then? You end up only really being able to create sort of...Different directions of the same film.
 
What I don't agree with are your distinctions. I've had these arguments with others in the past. You see division between seperate elements of a game. I just see the product; the story; the idea. Sure, there are different elements that constitute a game design, and different skillsets accordingly. But I just don't see them in the final product...Nor do I see division between Designer/Writer/Artist etc. It's just the experience to me. It's all one thing. This is why I get annoyed at video games that seperate the different elements. Players shouldn't see the seperations. It should be very simple (To approach) and cohesive, both conceptually and with regards to the experience. Obviously, most of the times it is not, but that's my 'philosophy' anyway (And what I think is excellent design). The reality is obviously a bit different. Japanese game designers 'get it', more than Western designers. I'm sure Miyamoto would agree with me.
 
So you can call it gameplay or you can call it story. It doesn't matter to me.
Edited by just_nonplussed
@Grumbel said:

@just_nonplussed said:

Immersion is storytelling; it's a result of good storytelling.

Not really, while there is certainly some overlap, they aren't really the same thing. Good immersion can help create great storytelling, but it can't really replace it. Take Mirror's Edge, the immersion in the running and jumping and the whole design of the world is fantastic. The way the game handles its cutscenes on the other side to tell the actual plot is completely awful and the plot itself is also not so great to begin and ends in a rather wide open cliff hanger ending.
 
Oh, thanks for explaining that. I understand what you mean. You see a distinction between the action, the world and the scripted events. I just see it as, "Some parts of the story are lacking, while others are acomplished". Action films are a good way to get across what I'm saying. When I watch an action movie, I don't seperate the action sequences with the bits where characters are talking to each other. These are just two different scenes right? So with video games comes the problem of interactivity and the problem of the concept of the game in a traditional sense (Chess, Football etc.). But I personally see physical interaction as just the unique way that people experience the game as story. I don't see it as an obstacle, put there in spite of the narrative, or at odds with it. 
Gamers tend to see these obstructions because the medium is so early in its evolution, and most developers in the modern realities of game development tend to rely on gamey elements, pad them out to make the experience replayable and then if they can be bothered add a bit of story on top as if they are adding sprinkles to a cake. That to me is a bad design, because players can see all the seams; they are not concentrating on the experience.
 
I think that even Chess has a story. It is an abstract game, but with the players' imaginations a story takes place. There is also the story of the rivalry between the actual players.
Historically speaking, the culture and society have constructed rules about what is a game, and what is art, and what makes a good game. etc. etc. but it doesn't mean we can't create new realities and new rules. For instance, I don't think that a game needs to be fun (It could potentially be a depressing game or a thought-provoking game) to play it just like I don't think a game needs to have a high score for it to be called a game. Games are now officially recognized as an art form, so I think it's about time people began opening their minds...Not always to the current reality, but to the potential.
Posted by Gamer_152
@just_nonplussed: That doesn't make any sense though, if we're attempting to analyse games then we need to be able to compare them and we need to break them down into the elements that make them up. I say the following not to be insulting but because I think it's the truth; if you cannot separate the various aspects that make up a video game and genuinely can't see the divides between the different jobs on the development team you either have a lack of analytical ability, a lack of knowledge about the medium, or both. If you can't or won't deconstruct something then you're not analysing it well. Games are generally good when their various parts work together well, but that doesn't mean we can use the words "story" or "gameplay" as descriptors for any experience the game conveys, those are words that already mean things and refer to specific parts of the game as a whole. If you're not willing to properly categorise story, gameplay, writing, etc. then there can be no logical discussion of what makes a game good/bad.
Moderator
Edited by just_nonplussed
@Gamer_152 said:

@just_nonplussed: That doesn't make any sense though, if we're attempting to analyse games then we need to be able to compare them and we need to break them down into the elements that make them up. I say the following not to be insulting but because I think it's the truth; if you cannot separate the various aspects that make up a video game and genuinely can't see the divides between the different jobs on the development team you either have a lack of analytical ability, a lack of knowledge about the medium, or both. If you can't or won't deconstruct something then you're not analysing it well. Games are generally good when their various parts work together well, but that doesn't mean we can use the words "story" or "gameplay" as descriptors for any experience the game conveys, those are words that already mean things and refer to specific parts of the game as a whole. If you're not willing to properly categorise story, gameplay, writing, etc. then there can be no logical discussion of what makes a game good/bad.

 
Sure, it's a useful tool. I think the blog I wrote on Kaboom! demonstrates that I can successfully deconstruct a game text if I want to.
I'm not saying you can't use seperate descriptors for the different parts of a game design. It's just that personally I tend to feel the overall experience to get a valuation of what the game means to me. I analyze as well, and have written nearly 400 blogs on game aesthetics. But I'm coming to terms with what is important to me today, and finding my own language to describe my experiences rather than borrowing from video game theory. And I think, unless you're in tester mode or critic/reviewer mode, it is less important to pick out parts of the design, and more valuable to grasp the bigger picture and to feel what it says.
 
Actually, I do believe that the language we use to analyze games should undergo an evolution anyway. If the medium is to evolve artistically then players and designers should have some way to re-aproach designing (And playing) experiences that doesn't exclude interactivity as this abnormal thing that is often percieved to be counter-productive to story. I try not to use the 'gameplay vs. story vs. graphics' way of thought too much. I find it slightly antagonistic, confusing, and convoluted. It's not very elegant.
 
I do think that one can compare experiences without having to resort to those particular terms (story/graphics/gameplay/mechanics/music). It's just that I'm thinking on a different level which is more simple. So for example, I just see the player/game relationship (Or player/creator) and how all of the limits structure the world; this is the narrative. So sometimes I think about how successfully each game achieves this, and I tend to replay the games that achieve this clarity well.
 
I am not in the games industry, and I have no requirement to subscribe to the language that developers often use. 
 
 
EDIT: 
 
Take the Starbucks experience for example. The overall narrative revolves around, and comes from the relationship between the company and the consumer. The way the cafe is designed, the way the coffee and food is produced and served, how the barista greets you; it's all part of the Starbucks consumer narrative. Within this narrative you also have the individual stories of the people who go there, and whatever they are chatting about. It's not just the people inside the cafe either. Often you can look out the window, which has been specifically designed to advertise the Starbucks social experience, and the coffee product. So there is the relationship between the inside and the outside; what people are doing and how they see you. You see, it's all gameplay and it's all narrative. 
 
Also, you're free to judge the Starbucks experience and compare it to other coffee places...For example, the worst offenders for me would be a poorly made coffee and obnoxious/loud music; this observation has its place, and it allows us to modify our choice of cafe, or whatever. But to some extent...It is what it is. I try not to be reactionary, but simply observe the differences.
Posted by Gamer_152
@just_nonplussed: So, the way I see it, there are two different things you're putting forward here; the rejection of deconstructing a game into different components to analyse it and the use of your own language to describe video games, as opposed to the one that's already in place. As far as the former goes, I believe you can talk about a game without breaking it down into its individual parts but you just can't have any sort of in-depth discussion about it.
 
As you no doubt know it's not just developers who insist on splitting a game up into its component parts to talk about it, it's the pretty much anyone who wants to talk about video games in a meaningful way, from critics, to academics, to many games enthusiasts. No, not everyone here needs to be concerned with how the industry is to make better games (although I believe this is something you yourself were asking people to be concerned with in an earlier post), but it's undeniable that the graphics, gameplay, sound, and all other elements of a game have a different effect on the people playing them. I absolutely agree that games should be good at bringing elements together in a way that lets them all compliment each other, but that in no way provides a basis for rejecting the idea of recognising the different components themselves. This concept of looking at the different components of something in order to analyse it wasn't born out of games development, it's what people do when they analyse anything from cars to paintings to movies, it's something that's existed for the majority of human civilisation, maybe longer.  Without it we can only say if a game is good, we can't say why it's good.
 
As for the language of game analysis I can see no valid reason to reject it. Like any language it's there for two reasons; firstly, because over all the time that this thing has existed, this is collectively the best way that people have found of describing it, and secondly, because it provides people with a common ground on which they can discuss this thing. You can't just change the meaning of any word to be what you want it to be because in the eyes of anyone else what you've written looks meaningless and nonsensical. It doesn't matter what you've written because it's in a language nobody can read and in this specific case in a language which is built on rejecting some of the fundamentals of the usual vocabulary used to discuss video games. In fact it's the combination of that and what I discussed in my first point which makes the whole Starbucks analogy so confusing.
 
If you asked me about what affected my visit to Starbucks I'd tell you it was about how nice the person who served me was, the warmth of the coffee, the taste of the coffee, how good the conversation with my friend was and so on. Likewise you've done a little of the same kind of deconstruction here, you talk about how well the coffee is made and the loudness of the music, but the rest of the example is about the "narrative" of Starbucks. I don't honestly see why the narrative of Starbucks matters here because as it kind of has one, it's not like a video game, the narrative of Starbucks doesn't directly lead to any kind of tangible positivity and narrative isn't what the people behind Starbucks or even in Starbucks are aiming to craft in the first place. Of course this whole thing is made more confusing by the fact that when you say "narrative" I think it's possible that you might be using your own entire definition of "narrative" where the word means "experience" or something like that, but I just don't know.
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Posted by reddin
Posted by Loose
@ikwal said:
I have a feeling you don't know what storytelling means.
Edited by just_nonplussed
@Gamer_152 said:

@just_nonplussed: So, the way I see it, there are two different things you're putting forward here; the rejection of deconstructing a game into different components to analyse it and the use of your own language to describe video games, as opposed to the one that's already in place. As far as the former goes, I believe you can talk about a game without breaking it down into its individual parts but you just can't have any sort of in-depth discussion about it.  As you no doubt know it's not just developers who insist on splitting a game up into its component parts to talk about it, it's the pretty much anyone who wants to talk about video games in a meaningful way, from critics, to academics, to many games enthusiasts. No, not everyone here needs to be concerned with how the industry is to make better games (although I believe this is something you yourself were asking people to be concerned with in an earlier post), but it's undeniable that the graphics, gameplay, sound, and all other elements of a game have a different effect on the people playing them. I absolutely agree that games should be good at bringing elements together in a way that lets them all compliment each other, but that in no way provides a basis for rejecting the idea of recognising the different components themselves. This concept of looking at the different components of something in order to analyse it wasn't born out of games development, it's what people do when they analyse anything from cars to paintings to movies, it's something that's existed for the majority of human civilisation, maybe longer.  Without it we can only say if a game is good, we can't say why it's good.  As for the language of game analysis I can see no valid reason to reject it. Like any language it's there for two reasons; firstly, because over all the time that this thing has existed, this is collectively the best way that people have found of describing it, and secondly, because it provides people with a common ground on which they can discuss this thing. You can't just change the meaning of any word to be what you want it to be because in the eyes of anyone else what you've written looks meaningless and nonsensical. It doesn't matter what you've written because it's in a language nobody can read and in this specific case in a language which is built on rejecting some of the fundamentals of the usual vocabulary used to discuss video games. In fact it's the combination of that and what I discussed in my first point which makes the whole Starbucks analogy so confusing.  If you asked me about what affected my visit to Starbucks I'd tell you it was about how nice the person who served me was, the warmth of the coffee, the taste of the coffee, how good the conversation with my friend was and so on. Likewise you've done a little of the same kind of deconstruction here, you talk about how well the coffee is made and the loudness of the music, but the rest of the example is about the "narrative" of Starbucks. I don't honestly see why the narrative of Starbucks matters here because as it kind of has one, it's not like a video game, the narrative of Starbucks doesn't directly lead to any kind of tangible positivity and narrative isn't what the people behind Starbucks or even in Starbucks are aiming to craft in the first place. Of course this whole thing is made more confusing by the fact that when you say "narrative" I think it's possible that you might be using your own entire definition of "narrative" where the word means "experience" or something like that, but I just don't know. 

 
'the rejection of deconstructing a game into different components to analyse it'
 
I don't reject this. I just don't like to begin with that mind set...(Just like I don't enjoy reviews that read like a boring checklist) But It's contextual right? When I'm sitting down to enjoy a game, I don't always want to pick it apart. But sometimes I want to know why I like a game and why I don't. The online game community has been very helpful for me to understand what is important to me, and what is unimportant. It gives me the ability to pick the experiences I will enjoy, and reject what doesn't work for me. With games such as Shadow of the Colossus and Super Metroid, and of course my own life experiences, I've been able to form a frame of reference for a type of design that works very well for me as a player. And if I was a designer I would probably make games like SotC or Metroid because they're well designed, and offer experiences that I enjoy. It should also be noted that those games fill a very niche market...But they're still loved.
 
'the use of your own language to describe video games, as opposed to the one that's already in place'
 
There is no one type of language. Each game designer uses different references and terms to think about games. There's some middle ground, but I believe the sheer diversity of game design is down to each designer thinking differently. Do you think we would have Psychonauts if Tim Shafer didn't think for himself..?
My language is part of the way I think and exist, not just a group of words to describe games. I don't see games or art in a vacuum, so when I use language to describe things I make sure that it connects to everything else so it has personal meaning. 'Mechanics' for example sounds quite alien to me; I don't want to use that jargon unless I have to. I don't go around thinking about the 'mechanics' of life. There should exist a way to understand (For everyone) without resorting to jargon. It's like how Scientists speak right? Can you understand quantum mechanics? Not many people can...But I believe underneath the jargon, things are simple. Obviously to make all those discoveries in the way Science has chosen, it had to evolve a complex language, just like coding a game...But to play a game you don't need the jargon. And to experience and talk about how a game had a relevant impact on you, you don't need jargon. For consumer advice purposes, it is useful for reviewers to highlight whether a game is broken or poor and in what area, but I would rather not experience the games I enjoy like a check list. It's about context. 
 
 
'You can't just change the meaning of any word to be what you want it to be because in the eyes of anyone else what you've written looks meaningless and nonsensical.'


People are completely free to invent, modify and use language in the way they see fit. They invented language in the first place, so of course they can change it.
 

'I don't honestly see why the narrative of Starbucks matters here because as it kind of has one, it's not like a video game, the narrative of Starbucks doesn't directly lead to any kind of tangible positivity and narrative isn't what the people behind Starbucks or even in Starbucks are aiming to craft in the first place.' 
 
Well, I bet those Starbucks COOs sit around at big tables and talk about consumer narratives... ;-) It's how they sell their product. It is game design in a way. They're designing your experience, and they make a lot of money out of it.
 
~
 
Anyway, we are getting beyond the point here...And we're in danger of losing touch with the original context. I personally see no problem with how I describe things, and I have no problem with how you describe things. They don't conflict. We're just on different sides of the same fence. I always want to feel unity and clarity, but sometimes I go to the other side to use my intellect to break things down. I don't think the intellect wants unity and clarity though - It's always obsessive about putting things into boxes and judging and seperating. I think the intellectual faculty is over-rated, but useful at particular times. True intelligence and understanding has nothing to do with the intellect.
Posted by Gamer_152
@just_nonplussed: Firstly, this may be a trivial issue but I absolutely believe that intellect factors into someone's intelligence and understanding. Anyway, I'm not saying that games constantly have to be picked apart and analysed or that when they are, it even need be a big intellectual process, but again, you've obviously started here with what is an analysis; you talk about environments, narrative, etc. As such you are picking apart these games and so you need a logical way of doing that which makes sense to the people you're trying to communicate this too. I apologise for wandering a little far off point here but I do so because I think until we have these rather fundamental things pinned down about how to describe a video game, they can't otherwise be properly discussed. I'm not trying to create a boring checklist here, I'm just trying to create an environment where games can be properly analysed, because when you treat them as one big amorphous lump of parts and start using words for individual parts of them to describe the whole, it doesn't really help us look at them.
 
Yes, everyone has the right to use language however they want, providing they're not actively insulting anyone else, and as I said before I'm entirely in support of the evolution of language. For example I think that the word "storycreating" could be very useful in a discussion about game narratives, but as you say there's a middle-ground and language only works if it's constructed in a way that people can understand and if it's constructed in the interests of people talking about things in a meaningful way. When you start taking the word "narrative" and using it to mean "experience", or start using the words "designer", "artist", and "writer" interchangeably, it doesn't make sense to your audience and it robs both you and them of the ability to properly deconstruct and discuss games. We're not talking about complex jargon here, we're talking about words like "graphics", "sound", and "gameplay", a food connoisseur wouldn't take words like "taste" and "texture" to be jargon or use the word "flavour" when they mean "meal", they know that they need these words in some standard form to even begin to describe anything that they're consuming. Tim Schafer may very well have his own way of thinking and talking about the games he designs, but I doubt he talks to his staff without trying to use words like "audio" or "visuals", or while making up his own definitions for words like "plot".
 
I really don't think the mechanics analogy works either; of course you can't apply the rules of analysing games to the rules of analysing your own life, it's like saying that any deconstructive analysis of cars is invalid because I don't go around thinking about the drive mechanism of life. Then we have quantum mechanics which is in absolutely no way related to game mechanics, except via the fact that they both contain the word "mechanics". Now I don't think the average person finds the base terminology used to describe games as complex as those used to describe quantum mechanics, but let's pretend for a moment that they did; we still wouldn't dodge around deconstructing and analysing things because they were complex for most people, we wouldn't confusingly use one piece of "jargon" to replace another, and we still wouldn't refrain from using our terminology to describe these complex things within our own circles, but it's all irrelevant because we're not talking about "quarks" and "hadrons", we're talking about simple concepts like "graphics" and "gameplay". Again, you don't need a checklist, you don't need to analyse whatever you are playing, but when it actually comes to discussing it, like the scientists or the car mechanics or the food connoisseurs, we need a way to deconstruct these things and we need to at least begin to use basic, standardised terminology to talk about them.
 
Finally, the Starbucks analogy. Yes, COOs up in Starbucks HQ may talk about a consumer narrative, but the narrative itself isn't the point, nobody goes to Starbucks for the plot, it's simply a means for the corporate higher-ups to analyse the experience of the customers; the coffee taste, customer service stuff that I was talking about earlier. As I said before just because something can be told as a narrative doesn't mean that the experiences within that narrative were the direct result of the narrative itself.
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Posted by just_nonplussed
@Gamer_152 said:

 
It's a bit pedantic to be trying to say that the experience/how you experience/what you experience/what you're experiencing is not the story. Then what is? The experience is the total 'thing'. I think you are grasping at straws here. Perhaps by story you mean events in the script. Well, for example, Mario has events in the script. In the game the player is pushed forward and can jump on the shell and then has an option to throw it somewhere; maybe into a goomba or maybe down a hole. There's your script and your event, and the total nature of that game-play is the experience (Or narrative).
 
I'm done talking about this. :-)
Posted by Gamer_152
@just_nonplussed said:
@Gamer_152 said:

 It's a bit pedantic to be trying to say that the experience/how you experience/what you experience/what you're experiencing is not the story. Then what is? The experience is the total 'thing'. I think you are grasping at straws here. Perhaps by story you mean events in the script. Well, for example, Mario has events in the script. In the game the player is pushed forward and can jump on the shell and then has an option to throw it somewhere; maybe into a goomba or maybe down a hole. There's your script and your event, and the total nature of that game-play is the experience (Or narrative).  I'm done talking about this. :-)
Well if you're really not going to talk about this any longer then okay. I'll just leave you by saying that I don't think the idea that experiences and stories are not the same thing is by any means clutching at straws.
Moderator
Edited by just_nonplussed
@Gamer_152 said:

@just_nonplussed said:

@Gamer_152 said:

 It's a bit pedantic to be trying to say that the experience/how you experience/what you experience/what you're experiencing is not the story. Then what is? The experience is the total 'thing'. I think you are grasping at straws here. Perhaps by story you mean events in the script. Well, for example, Mario has events in the script. In the game the player is pushed forward and can jump on the shell and then has an option to throw it somewhere; maybe into a goomba or maybe down a hole. There's your script and your event, and the total nature of that game-play is the experience (Or narrative).  I'm done talking about this. :-)
Well if you're really not going to talk about this any longer then okay. I'll just leave you by saying that I don't think the idea that experiences and stories are not the same thing is by any means clutching at straws.
 
Thanks, what did you leave here..? Lingering doubt. You should just end by admitting that Mario Bros. tells a story through gameplay. Might not be the most thrilling story in the universe, but it's still a valid example of interactive narrative. :-)