The Issue with Writing about Games- Part 2

For the past few months I have been attempting to write critical and mostly formal essays about games, hopefully to some success. I have been treating games as any other medium and I have tried to analyze them as I would any other work. However, the more essays I write and the more I attempt to use standard writing practices like quotations and citations, the more I have bumped into a number of problems that I feel must be addressed before writing about games can become more widespread. In each issue of this blog I will address one of the problems I think could arise and then offer some possible solutions.

Here is Part 1.

Side Quests

When writing about other forms of media there is no such thing as optional content. There is just the book or the movie, it begins at the beginning and ends at the end, there are no detours. There may be an epilogue here and a preface there with a few glossaries sprinkled in, but these mediums are largely linear experiences. Every portion of the work is considered of equal value and no one can claim to have finished a book or a movie and yet miss an entire scene or chapter. Yet, in games there can be hours of content, hundreds of scenes, and tens of chapters that are completely optional. This optional content creates a host of problems for critical writing. Here are a few such problems that I foresee. What is that? Why yes, it is list time.

This scene is really touching... if you actually see it.

1. Is optional content as significant as regular content?- This seems like an obvious yes, if a scene is in the game then it is as analytically significant as any other section of the game. However, consider this example: in Final Fantasy VIII there is a section after the garden gains the ability to move where Squall can go on a date with Rinoa. This calm character building moment, where Squall gives Rinoa a guided tour of the garden, allows the player to see some of the slow growth of Squall and Rinoa’s relationship. The tour culminates in a full cg cut-scene of Rinoa gazing out over the new deck of the garden, complete with a flock of doves to romanticize the moment. It seems like a perfectly charming date, and after it Squall and Rinoa seem to have found some chemistry. The only problem with this touching bit of character development is that it is completely optional. If Rinoa is not in Squall’s party when the garden gains the ability to move, this scene is completely skipped. The game of course trudges on with their relationship anyway, they will fall in love because they must, but can someone writing about Final Fantasy VIII really cite that scene as an example of the natural growth of love between Squall and Rinoa when it is completely optional? Does the optional nature of the scene actually undermine their relationship and expose it as a bit of Deus ex machina? There may be no standard way of dealing with this problem, and in this case I think there is an argument to be made both ways. One must be cautious when dealing with optional content because the mere fact that is skippable may devalue it considerably.

What? You're going to the center of the Earth? Sounds dope I'll come with you.

2. When did that happen?- When in the game’s time line do optional quests occur? If I recruit Yuffie in Final Fantasy VII as early as possible does that mean that I should analyze the game as if Yuffie is there the whole time? What about if I recruit her just before the final dungeon? The difference between a character who has been on a long journey with the main party, culminating in a final confrontation with Sephiroth in the center of the Earth, and a character who suddenly volunteers to venture into the center of the Earth with a bunch of strangers is pretty significant, but Yuffie can be either character depending on when she is recruited. Thus, should optional content be subjectively analyzed? I think it could be quite interesting if this were allowed for analytical essays, as two completely different and completely valid essays could be composed based on the sequence of events that each writer experienced. Another answer is to treat side-quests as side-quests and remove them from the chronology of the main story entirely for the purposes of analysis. This would mean that each side quest has an independently contained chronology which does not affect anything outside of the side-quest. Thus, character development and story progression which occurs in a side quest is contained within the side quest and cannot influence other moments. This may be the safer method, as no additional subjectivity is added to the writing (though non-linear games are going to throw a wrench into this, but that is a matter for another blog post). Treating optional content as an independent of the main game also does not work for games that actually tie the side quests in with the main story in meaningful ways.

3. Are optional characters as significant as regular characters?- Take the Yuffie example from earlier, should her input on story events be as relevant for analysis as the characters that have to be in the story? Does the fact that she could be absent from scenes make her input invalid for analysis? I am of the opinion that if a quote is possible to find, then it is fair game for analysis; however, the argument could be made that if a character’s input was really critical to the game’s story, then the character would have been made non-optional.

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15 Comments
Posted by thatpinguino

For the past few months I have been attempting to write critical and mostly formal essays about games, hopefully to some success. I have been treating games as any other medium and I have tried to analyze them as I would any other work. However, the more essays I write and the more I attempt to use standard writing practices like quotations and citations, the more I have bumped into a number of problems that I feel must be addressed before writing about games can become more widespread. In each issue of this blog I will address one of the problems I think could arise and then offer some possible solutions.

Here is Part 1.

Side Quests

When writing about other forms of media there is no such thing as optional content. There is just the book or the movie, it begins at the beginning and ends at the end, there are no detours. There may be an epilogue here and a preface there with a few glossaries sprinkled in, but these mediums are largely linear experiences. Every portion of the work is considered of equal value and no one can claim to have finished a book or a movie and yet miss an entire scene or chapter. Yet, in games there can be hours of content, hundreds of scenes, and tens of chapters that are completely optional. This optional content creates a host of problems for critical writing. Here are a few such problems that I foresee. What is that? Why yes, it is list time.

This scene is really touching... if you actually see it.

1. Is optional content as significant as regular content?- This seems like an obvious yes, if a scene is in the game then it is as analytically significant as any other section of the game. However, consider this example: in Final Fantasy VIII there is a section after the garden gains the ability to move where Squall can go on a date with Rinoa. This calm character building moment, where Squall gives Rinoa a guided tour of the garden, allows the player to see some of the slow growth of Squall and Rinoa’s relationship. The tour culminates in a full cg cut-scene of Rinoa gazing out over the new deck of the garden, complete with a flock of doves to romanticize the moment. It seems like a perfectly charming date, and after it Squall and Rinoa seem to have found some chemistry. The only problem with this touching bit of character development is that it is completely optional. If Rinoa is not in Squall’s party when the garden gains the ability to move, this scene is completely skipped. The game of course trudges on with their relationship anyway, they will fall in love because they must, but can someone writing about Final Fantasy VIII really cite that scene as an example of the natural growth of love between Squall and Rinoa when it is completely optional? Does the optional nature of the scene actually undermine their relationship and expose it as a bit of Deus ex machina? There may be no standard way of dealing with this problem, and in this case I think there is an argument to be made both ways. One must be cautious when dealing with optional content because the mere fact that is skippable may devalue it considerably.

What? You're going to the center of the Earth? Sounds dope I'll come with you.

2. When did that happen?- When in the game’s time line do optional quests occur? If I recruit Yuffie in Final Fantasy VII as early as possible does that mean that I should analyze the game as if Yuffie is there the whole time? What about if I recruit her just before the final dungeon? The difference between a character who has been on a long journey with the main party, culminating in a final confrontation with Sephiroth in the center of the Earth, and a character who suddenly volunteers to venture into the center of the Earth with a bunch of strangers is pretty significant, but Yuffie can be either character depending on when she is recruited. Thus, should optional content be subjectively analyzed? I think it could be quite interesting if this were allowed for analytical essays, as two completely different and completely valid essays could be composed based on the sequence of events that each writer experienced. Another answer is to treat side-quests as side-quests and remove them from the chronology of the main story entirely for the purposes of analysis. This would mean that each side quest has an independently contained chronology which does not affect anything outside of the side-quest. Thus, character development and story progression which occurs in a side quest is contained within the side quest and cannot influence other moments. This may be the safer method, as no additional subjectivity is added to the writing (though non-linear games are going to throw a wrench into this, but that is a matter for another blog post). Treating optional content as an independent of the main game also does not work for games that actually tie the side quests in with the main story in meaningful ways.

3. Are optional characters as significant as regular characters?- Take the Yuffie example from earlier, should her input on story events be as relevant for analysis as the characters that have to be in the story? Does the fact that she could be absent from scenes make her input invalid for analysis? I am of the opinion that if a quote is possible to find, then it is fair game for analysis; however, the argument could be made that if a character’s input was really critical to the game’s story, then the character would have been made non-optional.

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Posted by thatpinguino

P.S. Sorry for all of the FF examples, but they are the games I've played the most and have analyzed the most so those examples come easily. I'll try to work in some examples from other series next time.

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Posted by C2C

I think the significance of optional content (in terms of story, which is the focus you have in this piece) is gained from the main content in some form. Let's take Yuffie and her content as an example.

I don't believe that there are many scenarios that are just plain odd without Yuffie in the main storyline. The main story operates almost in the same manner regardless if you met Yuffie. I don't believe she reveals anything in the main story that wouldn't be gained from other characters. The content she does provide does provide a little bit more context and enriches the world/lore of FF7 as a result. Wutai would not carry the same importance to the player without Yuffie. So for the sake of analysis, Yuffie content can be treated as if it was in a vacuum. I think the same logic applies to the FF8 scene example; though I would just say that having this be an optional piece of content is just bad story design from Square. The inclusion of optional content seemingly is, funnily enough, completely optional.

An interesting case study for your third question is Kid from Chrono Cross. She is one of the main protagonists of that game's main story, but she is a completely optional character. It is a rather interesting thing watching that game unfold without the perspective of a character as central to the plot as Kid is. The point then is that a piece of content being optional does not necessarily mean that it is any less significant or less valuable to the story. Kid carries significance regardless of recruitment to your party.

Posted by thatpinguino

@C2C: What is your perspective on the second problem then? That is the one that I have the hardest time finding a solution to. Since the timing of events is completely up to the player, there can be two completely different, yet wholly valid timelines for a game or for a character.

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Posted by Rothgar

This is a well thought our post with compelling points. I feel your pain about optional scenes and optional characters. That irritates me. My reply focuses on secret levels and Easter eggs, but the nature of the complaint is the same. Getting 100% completion.

I like to play games with a dynamic, emotional storyline which takes the player on a journey. But these games cause me great amounts of pain sometimes. I absolutely must finish games with 100% completion. Metroid Prime had a completion counter. I had to get that to 100% so I could see Samus take her helmet off. I spent hours going back through every room in the entire game with the scan visor looking for that one wall panel I missed. In Kingdom Hearts, I had to fill Jiminy’s Journal completely. There are special marks around the game called “Trinity Marks”. You have to perform actions on them to trigger events. One of them was in a building in the Halloween Town level. I missed it and later, the building transformed into the boss of the level and I killed it. I found out towards the end of the game that I missed it and there was no way I could get back to it. I deleted my file and restarted the game. I didn’t want to. I HAD to. Call me crazy. Call me obsessive. Call me an overachiever. But I absolutely despise the fact that there is some content of any game that I might miss.

To some extent, I like the existence of secret parts of games. Easter eggs, bonus scenes, even some cheats add a new level of game experience. Not only that, but they provide a special reward for the dedicated gamer. It is almost like a special gift from the game creators, thanking you for exploring their game completely. All of these things are good, but the trouble I have to go through sometimes is excessive.

One perfect game comes to mind that offers a brilliant solution. Ratchet and Clank. It’s made by Insomniac Games, so you already know it’s worth its weight in gold. There are secret areas in levels that contain special item upgrades, trigger bonus scenes, etc. it is possible to completely miss these on your first play through. However, on your second play through of any Ratchet and Clank game, you get something more. A few games in the series, mostly the later ones, give you a map upgrade that shows you where the secret areas are. This is perfect. The casual gamer that only wants to beat the final boss can get exactly what they want, a beaten game. The 100% gamer gets a tool to use to help them achieve their goals. Bravo Insomniac Games, you always go above and beyond. Not to mention the fact that they included the “Insomniac Museum”, which is quite possibly the best Easter egg/secret level in any game, EVER.

Unfortunately, not every game is made by Insomniac. So I resort to the shame and embarrassment of using a walk-through guide. I hate using them. Typically I will get to the part of the game right before the final boss and stop. I will then go look up the walk-through and make sure I didn’t miss any bonus scene or special item or secret area. I wish there was a better way to get 100% completion in a game without having to either examine every pixel of the game in a painful marathon grind or use a walk-through guide. Let the casual gamers get to the end of the story, but HELP the dedicated gamers get to 100%. Don’t keep it a secret from everybody.

Might be TL;DR sorry for that.

-- Rothgar

Posted by thatpinguino

@Rothgar: Deliberately hidden content might be hardest thing to judge from an analytical standpoint. When writing about a game should stuff like easter eggs, which the developer put in to reward the most dedicated of fans, be given more or less regard than main story line events? I can think of one example from Final Fantasy IX: the female lead of that game is a princess named Garnet. However, she was adopted, so her real name is unknown to the player. However, in the final disc of the game the player can follow a series of convoluted steps to find out that her real name is Sara. Is something that is deliberately hidden from the player more or less valuable from an analytical perspective? I would say more based on the effort it takes to find these easter eggs, but I do think that the practice of hiding important information like character names and histories is really detrimental to a game's ease of analysis.

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Posted by FateOfNever

@thatpinguino: For point number two, I think the answer is either "go with whatever seems the most logical" (i.e. is it more logical that Yuffie joins you really early on in FF7 and is just with you the whole time, or is it more logical that she only showed up at the very, very end? The answer here is, probably, that she joined really early on. Considering that her relationship continues with the cast of FF7 after the game, it seems unlikely that she formed such a close bond with all of them just by doing the last dungeon in the game.) Obviously it gets harder on games that don't have an expanded universe beyond the single entry, but by default I think I would say when analyzing a game, the earliest time available to achieve it is probably the closest thing to 'canon' for what the writers intended on the character's influence on the game.

As for hidden content, like Garnet's name, I would include that. The reason for it is as follows; while movies and books don't have stuff that falls into 'side quest' or 'side content' territory, they do have things that are somewhat similar. For example, when you pick up a book and read it, you won't skip over any chapters that are in that book, however, that book may have a prequel book.

I look at it like this; let's say I pick up Lord of the Rings. I can read the three main books in the series and have that experience. I could, however, after reading Lord of the Rings, pick up The Hobbit. The Hobbit is not needed for me to understand or enjoy the Lord of the Rings. The difference here, obviously, is that I could also just read The Hobbit and not ever read Lord of the Rings, which is probably the biggest deviation from the comparison of side quest/content in different mediums. A similar issue also happens in movies where you can get a movie that is a prequel to a movie that already exists. There are even some movies, and probably books, where you can watch or read the second or later entry in a series without watching earlier entries and still get a complete experience. Terminator, for example, you could watch Terminator 2, and never watch Terminator. Or Star Wars, you could watch episodes 4, 5, and 6, and never watch episodes 1, 2, and 3. You would still have a complete experience of those three movies, but you would be missing a lot of stuff (of varying importance, and quality.) Star Wars also is probably one of the few franchises that actually has books that could be considered side content to the movies.

So I think my answer is you include it all. While side content is, by default, optional, the fact that it exists in the game says that the creators of the game intended for that stuff to be canon, but also just optional in such a way where if you don't know that information, it doesn't ruin anything either, if that makes sense. Going back to Star Wars; it is canon that Luke and Leia are the children of Anakin Skywalker and Princess Amidala. While it is important to know they are the children of Anakin, it is irrelevant that they are the children of Princess Amidala. It is still a fact that Amidala is their mother, and if you were to analyze the entire situation you would include that, but for a casual viewer, it's also not important enough for it to be brought up in episodes 4, 5, and 6. If that makes sense.

It is difficult because there aren't a lot of examples of this in other forms of media, at least not common or frequent ones. But I feel as though the answer is to analyze it all, unless it's something that obviously isn't meant to be canon (like a cameo appearance a la a dead "Ezio" in the Witcher 2) since it was all put into the game and the game's story.

Posted by Brodehouse

Consider the open nature of the recruitment and loyalty missions in Mass Effect 2, the choice of which order to travel through Dragon Age Origins, consider the nature of S.Links in the Persona games.

What a thorough scholarly dissection of a game would require is access or at least an understanding of the switches and results underneath the hood. As Mass Effect 2, everything in that retail package qualifies as 'the game', even if you don't see it. The exoneration or exile of Tali'Zorah vas Normandy exists in a Schroedinger's Cat situation; until the game has been played, she is both found innocent and guilty. In an examination of a game's optional content, all possibilities are true until proven false. All weapons are applicable, all stages are examined, even if a player may or may not choose to use them.

Posted by thatpinguino
@FateOfNever while i agree that treating the most logical situation as the "canon" reading is the simplest and most familiar way of handling side content; however i think that it is really compelling that one character could become two completely differnt people depending on how many side quests the player has completed. I would love to read an essay breaking down the different branching personalities a side character can have. In fact i think that would be the best way to treat a game like a game rather than a movie or a book. Games allow differing paths and so essays about them should acknowledge that fact. It may be harder but i think it could be a very compelling style of writing.

@Brodehouse i really love the implications of the wide web of possibilities in your tali example. My last blog in this series is going to be on nonlinear games so i am going to try to tackle that beast a little later. I'm saving the most difficult for last.
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Posted by Rothgar

@thatpinguino: I see your point about hidden content. I agree that hidden content makes it hard to analyze the game. Classic example, the Metroid game where Samus is revealed to be female. True, you can beat the game and learn about every character and bad guy and level and history and have every experience that the game has to offer. However, if you achieve a certain level of game completion, Samus will take off her helmet and be revealed as a woman. I would consider this hidden content as opposed to an optional mission or bonus level. This hidden content is a clear example of a piece of information that is critical for game analysis. "Wait, I was actually a woman that whole time?" seems important enough to be included in game analysis.

I must present my final assertion on the matter of bonus content/material in game analysis. I assert that every piece of information and content in the game is relevant for analysis. I propose the following three premises which lead me to that conclusion. 1- It is clear that there are some cases where bonus/optional content is critical for game analysis (as demonstrated by samus' hidden gender). 2 - If there is no method, system of algorithm which can exhaustively address each and every piece of bonus content/material, then all bonus content/material must be taken into consideration. 3 - I have no method, system, or algorithm which is exhaustive enough to address each and every instance of bonus material, hidden levels, optional missions, optional party members, Easter eggs, etc. From premises 1, 2 and 3 I come to the conclusion that when analyzing a game, all data included in the game must have some degree of equal relevance. Granted, the main plot may serve more primary importance, but excluding any bonus content/material from analysis would be inappropriate. One thing you said however, is definitely true. I don't mind if game developers make it challenging to get hidden information. But it is a detriment to the overall quality of the game and ease of analysis to make such content unnecessarily difficult - virtually impossible to attain.

-- Rothgar

Posted by thatpinguino
@Rothgar then what do you make of the temporal problem? Should a side quest just be considered to have happened in a story as soon as it is possible to complete or should all possible chronologies be accepted as valid readings? In otherwords, should a writer assume that characters are changed by their experiences during a side quest and those changes carry forward from that point on or should events that happen during a side quest fall into some temporal limbo of there own. Thus, they do not affect main story events or characters in a meaningful way.
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Posted by FateOfNever

@thatpinguino said:

@FateOfNever while i agree that treating the most logical situation as the "canon" reading is the simplest and most familiar way of handling side content; however i think that it is really compelling that one character could become two completely differnt people depending on how many side quests the player has completed. I would love to read an essay breaking down the different branching personalities a side character can have. In fact i think that would be the best way to treat a game like a game rather than a movie or a book. Games allow differing paths and so essays about them should acknowledge that fact. It may be harder but i think it could be a very compelling style of writing.

You know, you're probably right. If your goal is to examine games as games, as thoroughly as possible, the best thing to do is probably consider as many different outcomes and variables as possible when writing about it. Although it would mean needing to write the equivalent of several different essays, Yuffie for example needing a look at the character she is if she joins immediately, the character she is if she joins just before the final dungeon, the character that she is if she joins just before her side quest story (as I feel like that would also be a different look at her, since having her from the beginning, her betrayal of you seems considerably more 'shocking', but having her join your party and then almost immediately turning on the party and stealing their materia paints her in a different light than if she betrayed you while having been in your party since almost the beginning.) It would definitely be more difficult, but it would be interesting.

I think if you're trying to consider "what happened in a story", like if you're telling someone else the entire plot of a game for no reason other than to tell them the entire plot of the game, my default answer would just be that all side events are canon, they happen at their earliest moments in the story, and blah blah blah. But I think if you're taking more of an extensive look at a game, and are talking about it for the sake of holding a discussion, or what have you, or to examine the story of a video game for purposes of examining how video game stories different from stories in other forms of media, the right answer is probably to discuss how side events and stories effect a game, and how their timing can affect a story. Talking about Yuffie's personality as one of three (technically you could look at it in such a way where she sort of 'turns out' in more than one of three ways, but, you know) possible outcomes depending on when she shows up and joins the party could end up in a really interesting essay.

Things like Rinoa and Squall having a scene cut out seems more difficult to deal with. It also has less of an affect on the story though. One could argue that it happens regardless of whether or not Rinoa is in your party, but that it's only veiwable to the player if she's there. If it doesn't happen when she's not there though, I don't know that it affects enough for it to really effect who the characters are or their relationship (obviously it doesn't affect it as far as the game's concerned because they will always end up together, no matter what, so it's irrelevant if it ever happens or not.) The safe assumption would be to take it to just be that it happens one way or another, whether you view it or not, more like a "behind the scenes" feature, or something. Like if it was thought of as a director's commentary type deal during a movie where the director might inform you that "Oh, during this part, character C, who isn't in this shot, is actually off doing X, although it isn't explained here and you never see it, it explains why Y happens at point Z in the story." (If that makes sense.) It's a scene that should just be there, and should be viewable, but for whatever reason it's "hidden."

As for something like Garnet's real name, I guess things like that depend on how much it affects the story, or, how much you see a character grow during that period. It's definitely valid, I think, to discuss how that side event could change who she is as a character, and what that means for her character at the end of the game if you view her as having two possible personalities (one where she went on living life not knowing about her name and more of her back story, and one where she learns all of that.) Part of the problem is that since you typically don't get a ton of character development from video game characters due to the stories typically revolving less around the individual characters and more around some grand, epic scale event (characters still change and develop, but considerably more attention is paid to the world ending threat than to, say, how Garnet feels on the inside about learning about her past.) I don't remember all of FF9 that well (due to me forcing myself to beat the game on a single rental of it, means the whole back half of that game is pretty much a total blur) so I don't remember how much she actually goes into talking about her emotions or feelings on the whole matter, so, maybe she does go into it considerably more, but, I'm sure there are other events where a character is exposed to something that, in theory, should drastically change their character, but because of the limitations of it being in a video game, that's not really a thing that's possible to show.

I think a good game for sort of 'side events' and 'optional scenes' and how they do, and most often don't, interact with the story at large, is Persona 4. Really Persona 3 could probably work as well in its place, but there you have a game where you develop social links. But since social links are, in reality, quite optional, and the game can't be developed around the idea of knowing what social links you will or will not max, or at what point you will max them out, the story at large has to continue on and go as if none of them ever happen (except for those social links that level up automatically, so, Teddy and the Investigation Team link.) The game has to act as if none of the other social links ever happen because it cannot, just by the virtue of its limitations, know that you power leveled Chie's social link as quickly as you possibly good and made her your girlfriend as soon as possible in the story but completely abandoned Kanji's social link and never bothered to get it above rank 2. Which is sort of different than the initial things you're talking about (I think?) but still shares some things in common as well.

Posted by C2C

For the second question you raise, the more efficient method would be to separate optional content from the main chronology in the case of Yuffie. Some context as to when you can access the content should probably be given (and maybe a small write-up of when a player is likely to access the content if you're feeling daring), but ultimately it can be treated in a vacuum. If the game by design is not willing to put an adequate time frame on a series of events, I don't believe it is should lie on anyone else to do so.

I think it is important to define the scope of the analysis up front because of these issues as well. If the analysis just deals with the story themes of free will and self revelation in FF7, I could argue that one can easily solely focus on Cloud, Sephiroth and Hojo with Yuffie being nowhere in that analysis. However, if the analysis delves into Wutai's characteristics as a fictional post-war nation or a character study of Don Corneo, then the analysis is omitting important information if Yuffie is not mentioned.

If the scope of the analysis is too broad, then you run into the possibility of having to write about all the content in some form or another. At that point you may end up with a piece of writing that no longer looks like an essay, but more akin to the beasts known as plot faqs. A series of articles that have a sharp analytic focus are easily more digestible than the behemoth that plot faqs tend to be.

Posted by Rothgar

@thatpinguino: You bring up another excellent point. It is very difficult to nail down the chronology of events in games when there are side quests that can be completed at any time of the game or with a variety of party composition. I think my previously stated argument is still applicable. Since it is in the game, it must be taken into consideration for the games analysis. Sometimes, the analysis needs to be that the game makers screwed up. Take Assassin's Creed 2 for example. In the beginning of the game, the hero's mother is traumatized by the death of some family members. As a result, she sits in a room and silently mourns like a zombie with no way to interact with her. You have to collect 100 feathers to make a special scene happen with her, but the game goes on. In fact, decades pass in the story's timeline. When you unlock the last level where the final feathers are, something like 10+ years have passed, but you could find them at the end of the game when even more years pass. Whether I collect the feathers as early as possible or right before the final boss, there is still 10+ years when my mother is sitting silently in a room. I just don't buy it. I would analyze that part of the game as a poor chronological decision made by the creators. So to address your point specifically, I think it is an error in the design of the game to have problems with chronology for side quests. I cold deal with it if they placed a special scene in the timeline that you could miss if you dont meet the right conditions at the right time. It is acceptable if they make side quests have no relevance of who participates or when it happens(Like getting Golden Chocobo in FFVII). But to return to your Yuffie point, they should not have made it possible for her to join at the very last minute like that. In their defense, I think it was designed with the idea of putting story control in the hands of the player. Just poorly executed.

-- Rothgar

Posted by thatpinguino

@FateOfNever: @C2C: @Rothgar: Great responses all, I think this discussion has given me a few new ideas for papers. Thanks for all of the input!

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