Cracking The Cliché: Amnesia

This is a fairly recycled complaint, but it still exists so let the whining commence.

Having the main character experience amnesia is the easiest way to start up a story.   It allows characters the need to explain things to you in the game, such as tutorial missions and introductory conversations, and it is a great way to throw in lame plot twists or sudden memory retrieval moments.   The whole thing makes me sick.   That is not to say I have not had some fun playing games with this crutch, but it definitely is not making better games.
 
A textbook game for this is Chaser.   You may or may not have heard of this one.   It was a decently satisfying shooter with poor level design and mediocre everything else.   Still, I enjoyed the weapons and character designs to an extent.   Anyways, your character has amnesia.   You wake up on a ship and besides the slew of baddies trying to kill you, you are alone.   From there, you are basically just playing cat and mouse with guns while having flashbacks every now and then.   Near the end of the game, a predictable plot twist ensues.
 
A few other amnesia games include Star Wars: Knights of the , Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of , and Bioshock.   While these games might not all feature textbook amnesia, they do all share the common point of ‘I do not remember’ for the main character.   For example in Bioshock, *SPOILER* you are under mind control and have been given false memories.   It is handled in an interesting way but I still feel it is a bit of a backup option for storytelling.   Then there is a game like Mass Effect.   Your character does not suffer memory loss, but does not seem to know anything about the universe he/she is in.   You can gain knowledge in the game, but making Commander Shepard ask questions he should already know the answer to takes you out of the experience.   A better approach should be taken.
 
I would like to see more games where your character is already knowledgeable on their own universe and part of the fun for you is to learn it as you go along while realizing your character already knows.   It is kind of like reverse dramatic irony; the character knows something you do not instead of you knowing something that the main character does not.  A good way to reveal knowledge to you, the player, is through in-game conversations (sans cutscenes) in a Gear of War-esque style.   I do not like walking slower during the chit chat though.   Either your character reveals the information to another character or, more interestingly, another character makes references to your character and you have to piece bits of information together.   The more involved you are forced to be, the more into the experience you will become.   There are other alternatives as well.   Intercom/speaker systems can give general information in places you would expect to hear it, such as a lobby, elevator, transportation station, etc.   Other options include the ability to find the information in the world around you as if your character did not know.   An example could be pamphlets, kiosks, books, or computers.   Some games do have book and/or computer inclusions which are good, but should not force you to them either.   Designing under the pretense that bits of information are available to outside or even nonexistent characters and are still accessible to you through your character will make for a better experience.   I am sure there are plenty of other ways to reveal story or information to you without your character suffering memory loss, it just requires some creativity and *gasp* a little innovation to figure out.
 
 
EDIT:   This is an old blog.   It was written in early 2008.   I wanted to start up my GB blog again after a year of hiatus, but have been hurting for time lately.   Feel free to comment your complaints about amnesia in games or list some games that you think have successfully pulled away from this trend by offering an effective alternative. 

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Posted by Origina1Penguin

This is a fairly recycled complaint, but it still exists so let the whining commence.

Having the main character experience amnesia is the easiest way to start up a story.   It allows characters the need to explain things to you in the game, such as tutorial missions and introductory conversations, and it is a great way to throw in lame plot twists or sudden memory retrieval moments.   The whole thing makes me sick.   That is not to say I have not had some fun playing games with this crutch, but it definitely is not making better games.
 
A textbook game for this is Chaser.   You may or may not have heard of this one.   It was a decently satisfying shooter with poor level design and mediocre everything else.   Still, I enjoyed the weapons and character designs to an extent.   Anyways, your character has amnesia.   You wake up on a ship and besides the slew of baddies trying to kill you, you are alone.   From there, you are basically just playing cat and mouse with guns while having flashbacks every now and then.   Near the end of the game, a predictable plot twist ensues.
 
A few other amnesia games include Star Wars: Knights of the , Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of , and Bioshock.   While these games might not all feature textbook amnesia, they do all share the common point of ‘I do not remember’ for the main character.   For example in Bioshock, *SPOILER* you are under mind control and have been given false memories.   It is handled in an interesting way but I still feel it is a bit of a backup option for storytelling.   Then there is a game like Mass Effect.   Your character does not suffer memory loss, but does not seem to know anything about the universe he/she is in.   You can gain knowledge in the game, but making Commander Shepard ask questions he should already know the answer to takes you out of the experience.   A better approach should be taken.
 
I would like to see more games where your character is already knowledgeable on their own universe and part of the fun for you is to learn it as you go along while realizing your character already knows.   It is kind of like reverse dramatic irony; the character knows something you do not instead of you knowing something that the main character does not.  A good way to reveal knowledge to you, the player, is through in-game conversations (sans cutscenes) in a Gear of War-esque style.   I do not like walking slower during the chit chat though.   Either your character reveals the information to another character or, more interestingly, another character makes references to your character and you have to piece bits of information together.   The more involved you are forced to be, the more into the experience you will become.   There are other alternatives as well.   Intercom/speaker systems can give general information in places you would expect to hear it, such as a lobby, elevator, transportation station, etc.   Other options include the ability to find the information in the world around you as if your character did not know.   An example could be pamphlets, kiosks, books, or computers.   Some games do have book and/or computer inclusions which are good, but should not force you to them either.   Designing under the pretense that bits of information are available to outside or even nonexistent characters and are still accessible to you through your character will make for a better experience.   I am sure there are plenty of other ways to reveal story or information to you without your character suffering memory loss, it just requires some creativity and *gasp* a little innovation to figure out.
 
 
EDIT:   This is an old blog.   It was written in early 2008.   I wanted to start up my GB blog again after a year of hiatus, but have been hurting for time lately.   Feel free to comment your complaints about amnesia in games or list some games that you think have successfully pulled away from this trend by offering an effective alternative.