Culture in games

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asinies

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What games can you think of that really do a great job at establishing or conveying a culture, fictional or non-fictional? It'll probably be one mentioned a lot so I'll get it out of the way, but The Witcher (any of them) does a really great job at this through the writing, the art direction, etc.

What games can you guys think of?

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BeachThunder

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Dishonored comes to mind.

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Redhotchilimist

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Mass Effect 1 worldbuilds to a tiring degree. Dragon Age Origins had a bunch of unique starting locations/opening chapters for each race, which I liked.

Games like Persona 4 and 5 and Yakuza 0 are great at giving a feeling of actually being in Japan.

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asinies

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@redhotchilimist: I think I've been playing so much damn Persona 5, that it slipped my mind haha.

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Dray2k

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I always thought Shadow of the Collosus did a great job depicting cultures in a way no other games dared to try. The environmental storytelling and the few bits and pieces of story that gets tossed around in that game are excellent.

Also Star Control 2 is amazing, expecially in the ways the Slylandro and Orz were written.

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mellotronrules

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it can feel stiff at times, but at release i thought skyrim felt very lived-in.

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dr_monocle

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Mass Effect is pretty good at making you feel like you're surrounded by tons of established culture. And you can make your way through those games without engaging in a lot of it if you don't want to. There sure is some interesting stuff in the codex.

Red Dead Redemption is probably one of the finer examples of world-building. Sure, it has actual history to draw upon, but little touches like a movie theater, trading outposts, and the quality of the writing/acting in the Strangers missions make it feel wonderfully authentic.

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asinies

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#9  Edited By asinies

@mellotronrules:I was just thinking about this earlier. My problem with Skyrim is how samey a lot of the towns feel. The inns all look the same, the jarls all have that same stupid pose, etc. I think the next game really needs to hammer down how different each town is.

@dr_monocle: I feel any Rockstar game applies to this thread heavily haha. But yeah, you're very much right about the little touches elevating it above and beyond. I think Austin's points about the last 1/3 of the game being very "peaceful" also help this. You get a sense of what it's actually like to actually live in this world as opposed to just shooting through it.

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mellotronrules

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#10  Edited By mellotronrules

@asinies said:

@mellotronrules:I was just thinking about this earlier. My problem with Skyrim is how samey a lot of the towns feel. The inns all look the same, the jarls all have that same stupid pose, etc. I think the next game really needs to hammer down how different each town is.

yeah i'd agree for the most part. i thought they did a nice job with the larger cities (Markarth, Whiterun, Solitude, etc.) because they all feel architecturally fairly distinct (and informed by their respective ruling class and ideals)- but it's true once you got into the outskirts or into the boonies, there's a lot of prefab going on.

and i'd say main mode of conveyance for the 'culture' in that game is the books- some of which are great- but a lot of them are just really dry blocks of text that would be better served by clever dialogue and questlines.

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deactivated-5a00c029ab7c1

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GTA series on America culture they nailed it especially the way the country is now I almost feel sometimes I'm living in a GTA 5 world.

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asinies

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@mellotronrules: Playing The Witcher 3 recently, and then going back to Skyrim hasn't helped. It's a very shitty comparison, but I can literally get lost in Novigrad from its size. It's mind-boggling and I instantly fell in love with it because I was getting lost. A big city is defined on how well you can get lost in my opinion haha.

It kinda goes back to Jeff and Austin's debate about Bethesda games, but I wish they maybe scaled things back a bit. As cool as it is that you can talk to every character in the game, it sucks that when I go to Markarth, one of the largest cities in Skyrim, there's only 22 buildings. At this point, I'm hoping the next Elder Scrolls will lean more towards The Witcher 3 than past Elder Scrolls Games. I really love The Witcher 3, but making it more open-ended in terms of the characters role in the game (like an Elder Scrolls game) would make it go above and beyond.

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ZolRoyce

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@dray2k said:

I always thought Shadow of the Collosus did a great job depicting cultures in a way no other games dared to try. The environmental storytelling and the few bits and pieces of story that gets tossed around in that game are excellent.

Agreed, that game is a great example of how to make you feel like the world you are in is steeped in culture without even saying a word (not too many words anyways) it doesn't feel like you are taking down all these giants just because hey, video games, there is a certain feeling that you are affecting the culture/religion of this world as well. Great stuff.

I've always been partial the culture/world building Fallout 1 set up, the tribes that dot the wasteland feel very organic, like they belong there. I like the Brotherhood especially, just that 'we have the tech, therefore we are better then the rest of you' holier than thou feeling they give off is really well done.
And in a game where the baddies (mutants, raiders, etc) could just be thrown in because that's expect in a post apocalyptic game, they actually feel like they belong in that world and evolved and changed over time.


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sweep

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#14 sweep  Moderator

Praise the sun

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ArtisanBreads

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#15  Edited By ArtisanBreads

King of Dragon Pass is probably the best game at doing this in my mind. It is a very interesting and nuanced tribal type of culture that defies expectations (for example, women as equals or even superior to men, total disdain for dogs, revelry seen as a more positive thing, ability to engage in lawsuits and legal action even when dealing with monsters and things like that). You must consider custom in how you act (just one of the ways this game mechanically rewards knowing lore, culture, and other things it builds up) and certain actions are seen as unforgivable. No one will like you for raiding during harvest season on either side for example but you have to know that first. You engage in raiding but the game is mostly anti conflict and pro uniting people together.

The art is brilliant and it shows for me a really interesting culture that is a mish mash of some throughout history perhaps or if more of its own creation, one that very much seems real. I think this game is special and the culture and world it creates through that is one of the reasons why. To me it feels fleshed out in the way more than any other game.

The Witcher series is probably next in line.

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mronly

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For a fictional example, the Monster Hunter games do a great job. Everything from the animations of the player characters and NPCs to the environmental design to the weapon and armor mechanics hammers home a feeling of a scrappy human society that uses everything it can from the natural world, while maintaining a balance with it.

Plus, each game focuses on a different set of towns which feel very distinct from game to game. The games don't spend as much time with the culture as something like the Witcher, but the pieces that are there paint a cohesive picture. Also this is a culture that thinks putting a shotgun in a giant lance to fight dragons is a good idea, so it is a pretty evocative start.

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TheHT

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Hmm, I actually thought Dragon Age: Inquisition was good with all of their Orlais stuff. Origins was good with the dwarven stuff. I also always thought they did the whole mage/templar thing really well.

Mass Effect was good with the Asari, but the rest was sort of whatever.

King of Dragon Pass is probably the best game at doing this in my mind. It is a very interesting and nuanced tribal type of culture that defies expectations (for example, women as equals or even superior to men, total disdain for dogs, ability to engage in lawsuits and legal action even when dealing with monsters and things like that). You must consider custom in how you act (just one of the ways this game mechanically rewards knowing lore, culture, and other things it builds up) and certain actions are seen as unforgivable. You engage in raiding but the game is mostly anti conflict and pro uniting people together.

The art is brilliant and it shows for me a really interesting culture that is a mish mash of some throughout history perhaps or if more of its own creation, one that very much seems real. I think this game is special and the culture and world it creates through that is one of the reasons why. To me it feels fleshed out in the way more than any other game.

The Witcher series is probably next in line.

Wow, that sounds neat. Particularly the lawsuits thing. Makes me want a game that's just Phoenix Wright or Layton Brothers Mystery Room but Warhammer or something.

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ArtisanBreads

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@theht: Highly recommended game. The mobile version is good too. The idea of law and different custom is interesting and overlooked in fantasy.

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@theht: I agree with you that Origins did a really good job with the Dwarves. That Dwarven noble origin story was one of the few instances where a game got me to play against type. Usually I end up projecting a lot of myself onto characters, which results in me usually trying to be a generally "nice" guy with most people. But that Dwarf Noble story line had me acting like an arrogant prick and ordering people killed for minor offenses.

I half agree with you about the other Dragon Age instances. I thought Orlais was a cool concept, but that the gameplay representation let it down a little bit, as "The Game" got reduced to a meter on the screen. And as for the mage-templar thing, I really loved it in Origins, because it actually took the time to explain why the mages haven't revolted yet due to factionalization, and let the head Templar have a fairly logical argument about why they need to exterminate everyone in the Tower while also making it clear he wasn't endorsing that as a good thing - just a necessary one. Then DA:2 kind of threw all that out the window and oversimplified it - all the Templars turned into jack-booted fantasy Nazis and all the mages turned into demon-possessed psychopaths. And then DA:I decided that wasn't the story it wanted to tell and so literally blew it up. On the title screen, no less.

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deactivated-5d1d502761653

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Witcher 3 manages to create an world grounded in reality - best eastern European middle age folklore portray to date.

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Morrowind I think is the benchmark for this. No game I have played before or since has fleshed out a culture as well as that game did for the Velothi\Chimer\Dunmer.