, ,


Buttons, you make some awesome points (see previous post). It’s good to be reminded that behind every seemingly ill-fitting game moment is someone doing the best they can with the limited options available to them.

I’m intrigued by your point that games are a different medium than we’re used to. In addition to mechanics, I think maybe the extent to which you feel as if you ‘own’ a story comes into play.

For example, novels are usually perceived as being a solo effort by one, named entity, rather than a faceless mass of ‘devs’ towards whom one might direct generalized ire. The author is seen as the ‘owner’ of the story and characters, and even if a reader doesn’t like the direction the plot is taking or the way a character is developing, you don’t really take it personally.  “I didn’t like the ending of that series, but whatever, I didn’t write it.”

Movies feel more similar to games in that they both require a team effort, and many members of the team will necessarily appear to viewers as nothing more than a name in the credits. Still, the director is often seen as the author of a movie, and allowed a certain ownership of the story, and actors may own characters to some extent, and take much of the criticism for perceived flaws (“Halle Berry should never have been Storm, that should have been Angela Bassett”).

In both cases, someone else is in charge, so movies have in common with books the fact that the consumer never has an illusion of control over the progression or outcome of the story.

On the other hand, the participatory nature of games makes players feel like part of the story in a way that a reader or viewer won’t. Even though I’m not actually creating anything in the game, I feel like an active participant in the unspooling of the narrative, and this might give players a particular sense of ownership of a game’s characters, story and presentation that readers and viewers might not have.

I also agree that, as you say, the fact that there’s not just one standard way to make a game, and that after finishing a few games players will have all kinds of different methods for accomplishing things in their heads, probably makes it easier to criticize the visible mechanics of games than it is for non-film-experts to criticize the fine points of why a shot was filmed from a certain angle or whether that cut to Character B was the best way to get across the point that he’s the target of A’s murderous rage.

The visual language of films and TV is familiar enough to viewers that we can accept a lot of conventions without needing them spelled out for us, and there’s not a comparable ‘language of doing things in games.’ Maybe this makes players especially likely to speak up about things that don’t match their own ideas for a game’s narrative: why did they do this thing that way, it would have made more sense to use some other means of getting to that point, etc.

It’s hard to imagine getting to a point where traditions have solidified to the point that such a uniform language exists across games (blue-highlighted object always means helpful item, red means weapon, or whatever, and if it’s different you know it’s an artistic statement), but as you say, the medium is young.

I look forward to checking out Assassin’s Creed 80 on my implantable PS-BrainChip in the old folks home to see how things look by then.