What examples of "Ludonarrative dissonance" have you found?

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SpaceInsomniac

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#1  Edited By SpaceInsomniac

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludonarrative

If you're unfamilar with the term, it essentially refers to anytime a video game's mechanics or gameplay betray the story that the game is trying to tell.

Just had a good one pretty early into Watch Dogs.

I'm visiting the grave of a loved one whose death basically sets up the game's story, and right after the cut scene ends, the game's context sensitive button prompts essentially ask me if I would like to climb on top of my niece's gravestone.

If you're going to discuss story points directly, please use spoiler tags when it makes sense. With that said, anyone else care to share some examples from their own experiences?

[edit] My intention was for this to be a "humorous moments in video games that betrayed the storytelling" thread, but that's not the direction where things have gone just yet.

Grand Theft Auto, Tomb Raider, BioShock, Uncharted. We've all heard it before, and I'd rather not hear it again. Unless you have some specific examples from those games that are unrelated to how most people associate them with ludonarrative dissonance, save it for another time.

Please see post 47 for examples of what I was hoping to see in this thread. Thank you.

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Jesus_Phish

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#2  Edited By Jesus_Phish
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I remember this topic from last year (not on this forum, but just in general). This is a good video on it and the misunderstanding a lot of people have.

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mosespippy

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GTA IV is the obvious easy answer. Come to America to get away from your life of crime and in the process start a life of crime.

Uncharted Golden Abyss is a love letter to ludonarrative dissonance. Near the end of it Drake exclaims that he just can't leave a man to die. That's after he's already shot roughly 800 people (seriously, the enemy count is like double the other Uncharted games).

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Corevi

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#4  Edited By Corevi

Pretty much every open world game except for the Trevor parts in GTA5. Pretty much a normal dude in the story, complete homicidal maniac in game.

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hollitz

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Gunpoint has a pretty excellent achievement centered around it, complete with fantastic description.

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RonGalaxy

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GTA IV is the obvious easy answer. Come to America to get away from your life of crime and in the process start a life of crime.

Uncharted Golden Abyss is a love letter to ludonarrative dissonance. Near the end of it Drake exclaims that he just can't leave a man to die. That's after he's already shot roughly 800 people (seriously, the enemy count is like double the other Uncharted games).

Niko didn't seek a life of crime in America, it just found him. Roman being incompetent and in debt to the wrong people is really what brought Niko back in. And the fact that he has the violent military past, it makes sense for him to relapse and continue leading a disjointed life of violence, and it eventually catches up with him. So yeah, that one I heavily argue against. It's not that cut and dry.

Uncharted is definitely a huge offender when it comes to this topic. But... It's still great. It's a pop story with pop gameplay. The 2 don't mesh on a thematic narrative level, but they do on a level in service to fun.

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mosespippy

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@narujoe93: He's actively seeking to get away from a life of crime, and he's doing it by robbing banks and kidnapping girls. He could of just worked at Roman's Taxi Depot if he wanted to avoid the life of crime. Or he could have been like Hassan and sold knock off purses on a street corner, or any other number of jobs that illegal immigrants do to make a living. But that's not the game. The game is killing fools, which is exactly what Nico seeks to get away from. It's a classic case of gameplay juxtaposing narrative.

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Zevvion

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Nearly every game ever. Which makes me really dislike it when someone brings it up to specifically criticize one game and never brings it up for others. A good example would be Tomb Raider for the Bombcast. Or Mass Effect 3's Leviathan DLC with Patrick.

It's an issue when a certain game does it, but it's fine when others do. It's hypocritical and I don't like it.

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RonGalaxy

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@narujoe93: He's actively seeking to get away from a life of crime, and he's doing it by robbing banks and kidnapping girls. He could of just worked at Roman's Taxi Depot if he wanted to avoid the life of crime. Or he could have been like Hassan and sold knock off purses on a street corner, or any other number of jobs that illegal immigrants do to make a living. But that's not the game. The game is killing fools, which is exactly what Nico seeks to get away from. It's a classic case of gameplay juxtaposing narrative.

You're acting like it was just "nico came to america to get away from crime, but then just said fuck it lets crime shit up". It wasnt as simple as get a different job or just drive taxis for roman. He came to america because of what roman promised him (a good job, apartment, etc). In reality, roman only said those things to get Nico there to get him out of trouble with the criminals he was indebt to.

After that theres a VERY clear sequence of events that force nico back into a criminal life. Roman was in trouble with the wrong people, people who wouldn't stop until they were killed. Nico killed these people to protect roman. Vlad comes in. Forces nico to do his dirty work for killing those people. Nico was forced to kill Vlad because he showed no signs of letting them them go scot free. Dimitri and Faustin come in. Same thing happens; forced to do their dirty work because he killed vlad.

Don't you see? Nico didn't willingly enter back into a life of crime. Roman inadvertently tricked him into it. Instead of giving him a proper job at the cab company like he promised (and what nico wanted), he got nico to clean up for him. Nico was belligerent about this the whole way, but what could he do? It was his cousin and he was the only person capable to get him out of all that shit. Along the way Nico got tangled up with a bunch of other crime organizations. It was totally out of his control.

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Fear_the_Booboo

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About most games with a serious story?

I mean, even The Last of Us which is supposed to "adress" it by having the main character be some sort of homicidal maniac don't make any sense. By the end of the game, I had killed over 400 people alone. Sure, for a videogame, it might not be that much (which is pretty fucking insane in its own right) but it still does not make sense in a world that is supposed to be believable.

I like Last of Us. I like videogames but, for me, as long as we don't have games that ask you to kill less than 10 persons in a single playthrough and that are still engaging in the gameplay terms, I'm going to prefer games that don't take themselves too seriously.

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Immortal_Guy

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#12  Edited By Immortal_Guy

I guess "ludonarrative dissonance" (what a term!) can cause more of a problem in some games than others. For some reason, I found it particularly bad in Max Payne 3 - during one of the flashbacks in New York, Max is in a quiet, mostly-empty bar with about 4 other people. He gets in a fight with one of them, who turns out to be a big mobster's son, and SUDDENLY the entire bar is full of mafiosos. Seriously, like 30 guys just start running in from all the rooms - it just felt ridiculous. Max then has to flee to his apartment, and by the time he gets there basically the entire mobster population of New York is onto him, with a 15 man killteam stationed on the roof outside his apartment, the head honcho parked outside, and countless goons in the building. All set up in the time it took Max to drive down the road! Now, as to why all that ruined my suspension of disbelief in Max Payne 3 when I was totally fine with simillar nonsense in Max Payne 2 is the real question - I guess it's more about the general tone a game establishes than the actual "magnitude" of the dissonance.

Also, pretty much any RPG with healing spells where a party character dies. These guys have always taken pretty much the worst injuries possible in their stride, and after a quick potion/healing spell they're fine again. But THIS injury is no-questions-asked perma-death, because it happened in a cutscene.

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Shortbreadtom

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@fear_the_booboo: It might be unbelievable that he killed that many people, but I don't think it's ludonarratively dissonant. Joel lost everything, and lives in a world gone to shit. His "kill or be killed", "dog eat dog" attitude totally made sense to me when you killed people.

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Fear_the_Booboo

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@shortbreadtom: Hum. You might be right. It might be more disbelief than ludonnarative dissonance.

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abendlaender

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#16  Edited By abendlaender

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludonarrative

If you're unfamilar with the term, it essentially refers to anytime a video game's mechanics or gameplay betray the story that the game is trying to tell.

Just had a good one pretty early into Watch Dogs.

I'm visiting the grave of a loved one whose death basically sets up the game's story, and right after the cut scene ends, the game's context sensitive button prompts essentially ask me if I would like to climb on top of my niece's grave.

If you're going to discuss story points directly, please use spoiler tags when it makes sense. With that said, anyone else care to share some examples from their own experiences?

Ha, I was smiling at the exact same thing today. So silly

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mosespippy

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@narujoe93: Long before Vlad and Dimitri are forcing Niko into shit he wants no part of he willingly shoots a bunch of dudes for Little Jacob just because he asked him to. His willingness to commit crime is also what introduces him to Elizabeta and the McRearys, whom he also kills for just because they asked him nicely.

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ProfessorEss

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It's basically a non-stop, ever present thing in all my favourite games. I blame my tastes and play-style more than anything.

If one game really stands out it's probably Arkham City. I was really starting to dislike that game before I decided to abandon all the open-world side shit - then it was great, got all Batmanny again.

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splodge

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Watch_Dogs is particularly guilty of this I think. He is a vigilante, yet a times it is impossible to control the vehicles properly without smashing headlong into other vehicles, running over croplands of people (That was meant to be 'crowds' but spellcheck changed it and I prefer the new word). He also straight up steals from them by hacking phones with no second thought. That game is a bit all over the place with it's narrative. The world in GTAV is less "real" in the sense that it is quite blown out and comic-book like. IT makes more sense there, as GTA has always felt like a living cartoon to me.

That said, I am enjoying W_D a lot and have managed to disconnect mass-murderer Aiden with story Aiden.

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veektarius

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@mosespippy: I think that Uncharted isn't an example of dissonance, because the lighthearted presentation jives with the lighthearted (depending on your perspective) portrayal of violence. This isn't a game about the consequences of your actions, it's a game with quips and overcoming unrealistic odds, very much in the style of Indiana Jones but with more waist-high-walls. Contrast this with other games that really are focused on trying to present a fairly emotionally deep experience, such as Bioshock Infinite/Tomb Raider/Arguably Max Payne 3 and the unreality of the action really strikes home. This is where the video linked by @jesus_phish missed the point - the problem with Infinite isn't that it was violent or even that it was graphically violent - it was that the scale of the battles and the number of dudes present to attack you were outlandish and cartoonish, and that didn't jive with its attempt to make a setting that was emotionally immersive.

This issue can be illustrated with fewer words by using movies as a reference. In a popcorn movie without any emotional resonance like Commando or Shoot 'Em Up, where you are at all times aware that you are watching a movie for amusement, it doesn't matter as much if the action is realistic. But typically, in movies that really are aimed at having more of a visceral impact, like, say, A History of Violence or Blade Runner, the fights are scaled down to more realistic proportions. Though games have been becoming more cinematic, they have failed to follow the movies that inspired them in this respect.

Now that I've spilled so much ink over this issue, IRT the original question, the game that's actually done this to me the most is CoD's (4 and onwards) single player campaigns. They're going for this super-cinematic, quasi-realistic, shoot first, a few bullets and you're dead kind of approach to combat, and yet you're the one person on the field who's constantly getting shot and just hiding behind cover to heal up. It really undercuts my feeling of being a badass because the advantage that is being granted to me as a player is totally inconsistent with the game's premise of me being a super-skilled special forces soldier with no supernatural advantages.

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Jesus_Phish

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#21  Edited By Jesus_Phish

@veektarius: To be fair, the video points out an example that happens in BI, just that the commonly quoted reason as to why BI has dissonance is because of the violence doesn't count.

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lylebot

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I don't think anything that happens in the story of GTA IV qualifies as ludonarrative disonance---it's just questionable writing. The dissonance is in between missions, when you're free to steal, kill, and blow things up for no reason whatsoever, explicitly going against what Nico keeps saying in the cutscenes. You can go blow up 10 cars, shoot down a helicopter, murder police officers, and escape, and the very next cutscene will have Nico saying he doesn't want to do this shit anymore.

To be fair, some have said that GTA IV's story actively made them not want to do those things. That was true for me in Red Dead--even though I could do lots of criminal things, I rarely did, as it just seemed out of character for John Marston.

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stryker1121

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All games may have this problem to some degree, but Tomb Raider is particularly egregious due to the kerfuffle over the attempted rape scene and the alleged dramatic punch of Lara killing for the first time. . then literally the very next scene you're murdering guys with impunity. I like the game well enough (playing it for the first time right now in fact) but making Lara into an accomplished killer was a mistake.

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Fredchuckdave

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@stryker1121: Once you start murdering it's like eating a sleeve of crackers, just never stops until there's no one left to murder.

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mosespippy

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@veektarius: Golden Abyss is a bit different than the other Uncharteds though. To start, it all takes place within one region, and the main villain is the leader of the rebels who control that region. They need money to fund their rebellion to they've brought in an archaeologist to find treasure. The archaeologist is also the grandfather of the lady sidekick who is looking for him after he's gone missing. It's a more serious and cohesive and believable story than the cobbled together disjointed bullshit from Uncharted 3. There aren't any campy and fun moments like there are in Indiana Jones. It also doesn't have any of that super natural shit in it. The golden abyss is highly radioactive and killed off the indigenous people via cancer so they sealed it away and hid it.

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HH

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this is not that, but what do you call it when a developer sets out to make an epic space opera and it ends up sounding like a military propaganda reel filtered through the dramatic sensibilities of saturday matinee tv.

i believe the current school of thought is - "great game writing"

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stryker1121

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@stryker1121: Once you start murdering it's like eating a sleeve of crackers, just never stops until there's no one left to murder.

Just ran into the worst example of this last night in the shantytown area where it turns into horde mode. I think you're just supposed to run through the area to a gate, but then it closes (natch) and you have to slaughter 10 guys before being able to open the gate. It's frustrating as hell because there's some good stuff in TR..it would be a much better game if it gave you the option to stealth through an area and pick off guys with arrows.

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The_Nubster

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@mosespippy said:

GTA IV is the obvious easy answer. Come to America to get away from your life of crime and in the process start a life of crime.

Uncharted Golden Abyss is a love letter to ludonarrative dissonance. Near the end of it Drake exclaims that he just can't leave a man to die. That's after he's already shot roughly 800 people (seriously, the enemy count is like double the other Uncharted games).

Niko didn't seek a life of crime in America, it just found him. Roman being incompetent and in debt to the wrong people is really what brought Niko back in. And the fact that he has the violent military past, it makes sense for him to relapse and continue leading a disjointed life of violence, and it eventually catches up with him. So yeah, that one I heavily argue against. It's not that cut and dry.

Uncharted is definitely a huge offender when it comes to this topic. But... It's still great. It's a pop story with pop gameplay. The 2 don't mesh on a thematic narrative level, but they do on a level in service to fun.

I think that Uncharted is a pretty poor example of ludonarrative dissonance. It's like any action movie where the good guys are shooting and blowing things up wantonly with no regard to the incredible body count they're amassing, both of the "bad guys" and innocent civilians no doubt caught in the crossfire, but it's so over-the-top and silly that it doesn't really matter. The Uncharted games are just summer blockbuster film games, with all of the silliness that entails. When it does try and delve into the repercussions of its mechanics, like at the end of Uncharted 2, it seems so wickedly ham-fisted and awkward that it's better no one thinks about it.

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Gruebacca

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"Jack, you got to get to the red glowy base of doom before the world is destroyed!" "Understood."

*Proceeds to inspect every nook and cranny in triplicate for secrets and bonuses.

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PopeAnonymous

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I remember this topic from last year (not on this forum, but just in general). This is a good video on it and the misunderstanding a lot of people have.

That was a good video. Thank God for Jim Sterling. GARME JURNALIZM.

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kishinfoulux

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That term...burn it in a fire.

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Clonedzero

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I dont think its as big a deal as some people make it out to be.

But ill throw out my answer "Dragonborn, the world is going to end soon unless you stop it!" "I'll get right on that after i do 200+ hours of sidequests and guild missions"

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cthomer5000

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GTA IV. I stopped playing after like 10-12 hours because the narrative they were trying to tell in cut-scenes had no relation at all the montrous activities you were being tasked with. Plus i just think Rockstar have a terrible sense of humor, which also totally undercut the serious story they thought they were telling.

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Hunter5024

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In Valkyria Chronicles there was this really tough mission where I lost a soldier. The following cutscene had all the characters happily joking about a cute little pig joining their army. Didn't take long to replace him I guess.

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generic_username

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#35  Edited By generic_username

I get that way with the Tales games, which is a series I really love. In a lot of cases, they make a big deal about "oh man, I just killed somebody! That's horrible!" but there are random encounters involving human enemies in every single one of those games, and you can sit there killing them for hours. Like, I'm pretty sure there was a cutscene in one of them where the lead guy talks about taking his first life, even though you have already murdered people by then. I could be misremembering it, but either way, the time between "I don't want to kill anyone if I don't have to" and "muder those fucks for experience" was extremely short.

Not to mention the problem I have with a lot of JRPGs, where the protagonists are supposed to be thrust into their adventure, yet they are already incredibly talented fighters. it gets even worse when story bits come in where the characters get called out on their inexperience by some incredibly talented swordsman who usually ends up joining your party and is equal in strength to every single person on the team.

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phantomzxro

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About most games with a serious story?

I mean, even The Last of Us which is supposed to "address" it by having the main character be some sort of homicidal maniac don't make any sense. By the end of the game, I had killed over 400 people alone. Sure, for a videogame, it might not be that much (which is pretty fucking insane in its own right) but it still does not make sense in a world that is supposed to be believable.

I like Last of Us. I like videogames but, for me, as long as we don't have games that ask you to kill less than 10 persons in a single playthrough and that are still engaging in the gameplay terms, I'm going to prefer games that don't take themselves too seriously.

I don't know if that logic hurts last of us. Not saying the game does not have any disconnect with story and game play but they set up that Joel is not a nice dude and the world is already in a dog eat dog state. Sure its not humanly possible to kill that many people and that is the disconnect but they don't make any bones about Joel killing.

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ArbitraryWater

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In Valkyria Chronicles there was this really tough mission where I lost a soldier. The following cutscene had all the characters happily joking about a cute little pig joining their army. Didn't take long to replace him I guess.

Forget the first game, the second game is way worse in that regard. Because of all the terrible anime high school antics happening, the part where your characters murder hundreds of troops (and the various story segments where they try to take the war seriously) are that much more jarring.

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TheHT

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Ludumdarrative Dissonnets.

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Fear_the_Booboo

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@phantomzxro: Yeah it's more that the story wasn't believable for me because of the gameplay. The story itself is well written but it did not work for me because of that. I do understand why it would work for others and in the end the disbelief threshold is subjective.

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fisk0

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#40 fisk0  Moderator

Pretty much all the GTA games with heavier story focus come to mind. I think GTA III worked, since the protagonist was a silent, blank slate kind of character who never expressed any discomfort with killing anybody, but in Vice City, San Andreas and onwards we got characters that supposedly were caring people in some aspect, but had no issues killing thousands of people, and not just rival gang members or cops, but also civilians.

It certainly could happen in Deus Ex, like @theht points out, but you did kinda have to go against what the game was telling you do to for it to happen, even though it let you do that kind of stuff, and then wouldn't acknowledge it.

I was going to mention Mass Effect, but I think my issues with that is strictly within the fixed narrative, not really a conflict between the gameplay and the writing, but rather how the general universe backstory is written in a way that doesn't mesh with the writing for the characters and narrative within the games.

Star Wars: The Old Republic fits better then, I guess. At first I really liked the sense of urgency in the narrative, it made me much more focused on following the story threads and to often sneak past optional enemy encounters or side quests which at first felt like they worked for building the world, but which it made sense for my character not to take on at that point. Then I hit a difficulty spike where the boss at the end of a very urgent quest either was scaled in a way where I had been expected to to have been grinding the enemies before, or have joined with other players despite the writing implying I should go on this mission alone and not involve anybody else.

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Aetheldod

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None , its a bullshit term made by hipsters journos to undermine any game they dont like.

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Party

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This particular topic reminds me of this...

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Brendan

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#43  Edited By Brendan

I dunno, every game ever? The amount of games that are purely free from that problem encompass such a small portion of large scale games that I would play almost none of them if I cared about it very much.

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Kaarloss

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#44  Edited By Kaarloss

@popeanonymous: cracked me up everytime Jim deliberately mispronounced londinum discobiscuits.

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StarvingGamer

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#45  Edited By StarvingGamer

Every motherfucking game ever fucksakes people need to get over it.

Or go to the theatre every once in a while and learn about suspension of disbelief.

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crithon

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but yeah, tomb raider is the prime example of this

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SpaceInsomniac

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#47  Edited By SpaceInsomniac

@crithon said:
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but yeah, tomb raider is the prime example of this

When I started this thread, I was hoping for a lot more of this, and a lot less of people just saying "Grand Theft Auto," "Uncharted," and "Tomb Raider."

I should have been more clear, but when I said examples, I didn't mean name some games.

"Jack, you got to get to the red glowy base of doom before the world is destroyed!" "Understood."

*Proceeds to inspect every nook and cranny in triplicate for secrets and bonuses.

That's another good example. I've done that before, and it always feels kind of wrong.

None , its a bullshit term made by hipsters journos to undermine any game they dont like.

If someone doesn't like Tomb Raider only because you kill more than two or three people and don't spend the majority of the time crying about how you had to end a life, then yeah. That's kind of a douchebag way of looking at video games.

But the thing is that no matter your opinion of the term, the feeling it refers to has been around for a lot longer than the term itself, and it is an interesting topic.

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crithon

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#48  Edited By crithon

@spaceinsomniac: to be honest, I'm tired to talking about Tomb Raider's "lubo bigguns". We are in this weird state where game designers really design set pieces and then hope voice actors and comic book writers patch everything up. Like for example Batman's williness to help out everyone in Arkham City. As skilled of a writer Paul Dini is, that game was never on par with a Batman comic or animated series he would have written. Instead we get mechanical batman talking to Bane about collecting venom cases to fight at the end.

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SpaceInsomniac

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@crithon said:

@spaceinsomniac: to be honest, I'm tired to talking about Tomb Raider's "lubo bigguns". We are in this weird state where game designers really design set pieces and then hope voice actors and comic book writers patch everything up. Like for example Batman's williness to help out everyone in Arkham City. As skilled of a writer Paul Dini is, that game was never on par with a Batman comic or animated series he would have written. Instead we get mechanical batman talking to Bane about collecting venom cases to fight at the end.

That actually sounds much closer to exposition, which is an issue for all storytelling mediums.

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71Ranchero

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Hey guys remember when we used to jump on turtle shells and run real fast? That was fun eh?