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Pushing the Boundaries of Video Games

While video games are still a new medium, Andy Robertson thinks it's high time we develop a richer way of discussing and analyzing them.

I fall firmly in the camp that thinks video games have serious creative potential.  The medium is young, yet I think that games have the ability to connect with individuals on a far more immersive and emotional level than almost any other medium out there.  Perhaps it's because gamers play such an important role in the narrative of a game--when you play a game, you are actively participating in the story, rather than passively watching events unfold.

When I see most of the big-budget games, though, they largely feel like cheap thrills and violence.  Violence definitely has its place in story-telling, don't get me wrong...But too many larger games use violence as the only way to tell their (often simplistic) story.

Indie studios are the ones pushing all the boundaries.  And does that really surprise anyone?  They're small enough that they don't need massive sales to cover employees' time and energy.  They're free to take risks that big publishers can't afford.

When I see most of the big-budget games, though, they largely feel like cheap thrills and violence.You can see this sort of thing mirrored in the film industry, the music industry, etc.  Many of the most interesting movies these days are made, not by giant production companies, but by indie studios or small subsidiaries of the bigger companies.  Some of the most talented musicians are signed to small record labels or just release their products independently.

The internet has made it possible to stir up buzz for lower-budget products, effectively stealing thunder from big publishers.  Now, I don't think that the CoD franchise is going anywhere any time soon, for the same reasons as why people will go out and buy a ticket for Titanic 3D.  There's definitely still demand out there for the familiar, the comfortable, the "safe" thrills.

I personally want to see more innovative games, though, and I want to see them discussed for their storyteling or for their substance, rather than simply for their graphics.  There are several games that I feel are moving in the right direction, and certainly work to fill interesting niches...

First of all, I can't have a post about artistic, emotional video games without mentioning Journey.  For those of you who haven't heard about it/seen in, here's the trailer:

This game gets storytelling...completely without words.  Seriously, there isn't a single word in the game.  All of the narrative is told through actions, song, and through your interactions with a random other player on the PSN.  This game handled multiplayer in a way I've never seen done before.  Players are anonymous (until you've beaten the game, then you're given the names of those with whom you journeyed), and they don't speak amongst each other, except in song.  I found that, even with such limited communication, I was able to tell that each different player had a distinct personality and playing style.  It was quite interesting to make a friend--or to clearly not get along--with someone with whom you've never spoken.

Another game I really admire for its inventiveness is Amnesia (and Penumbra...really, whatever Frictional Games comes up with).  I can't imagine any of you are unaware of Amnesia...but, just for good measure:

These games are highly immersive, and Frictional certainly knows how to set atmosphere... Unlike in most video games, your character is not some all-powerful, gun-weilding god.  You play a vulnerable, essentially helpless character.  Also, the way they implemented physics and interaction with objects in the world is pretty awesome.  You have much more control over, say, opening a door than you'd normally have in a game.

The Path is another interesting one:

It's not a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination, and there are some weird glitches and quirks to it, but it is undeniably atmospheric and raises all kinds of unsettling questions about femininity, coming of age, and morality. Its implementation is interesting, in that you essentially piece together the narrative by interacting with the world.  There's no real "win condition", and the only rule of the game (don't stray from the path) has to be broken in order for anything to happen.

There are certainly other games worth mentioning, but I admittedly have not played a ton of games lately (school, you know...plus, I'm still learning the tools to make my own...).  I encourage you to post with some games which made you think more than just "Boom! Headshot".

posted 1 year 11 months ago

I love games which engage your interest in a story or setting, but I think that first video is a bit silly. A video game is a product, something to do in a bit of free time, not something to base your life upon, or to start treating it as something spiritual. He was getting too wishy washy about it all.

Anyway, games which have intrigued me. Most notably, Machinarium, such a simple point and click game but yet so magical. Set in a wonderful rustic world, it was so beautiful.

I'm afraid I haven't played many indie games, I may be playing the wrong ones, but I don't get much satisfaction from them. Other immersive games I've played... Mirror's Edge and Metro 2033. If anyone else posts some good indie games, I'll be sure to have a look at them. I need to widen my interests.

posted 1 year 11 months ago

To respond to your first point: I think video games have the same capabilities as, say, movies.  You can watch movies in your spare time, yes...but some people get really into movies, they analyze them, they take meaning from them, etc.  Video games as a medium are at least as worthy of that treatment as film.

Machinarium was awesome.  I find most indie games to be kind "meh"...but there are the occasional gems.  And I think that some indie studios get it...ThatGameCompany and Frictional are really awesome.  Also, from PAX, both Demruth and Locked Door Puzzle seem to have some interesting games coming out soon...

I think indie game development get really easily pidgeonholed, like as soon as a person decides to make a game they go for a puzzle platformer or something, which can get really old really quickly.

posted 1 year 11 months ago

"I love games which engage your interest in a story or setting, but I think that first video is a bit silly. A video game is a product, something to do in a bit of free time, not something to base your life upon, or to start treating it as something spiritual. He was getting too wishy washy about it all."

+1

posted 1 year 11 months ago

 Dead Space had a very in-depth story revolving around fictional historical events upon Earth, which then led to leaving players immersed in a heavily involved story. Religious conspiracies, production problems, and an unrelenting fear of the unknown made it all the more real. It had suspense, tension, visceral gameplay, and was overall an incredible experience.

Bioshock had a political heavy story which made the unfolding of the game all the more interesting. Realistic real world problems conflicting between creativity, innovation, and industry. The run-down, yet beautifully architectural dystopian city in disrepair was waiting for the ocean to reclaim it every minute of the experience.

Both Dead Space and Bioshock are 2 of the greatest game experiences I've ever played. The both of them have one vital similarity that separates them from the crowd. Other than investing itself into their own styles and lore, the main character wasn't you, it was the Ship and the City. Not saying that's the only reason why they were so good, but how many other games have you seen do that? Not many.

In the end, gaming isn't always meant for strategies or competition. I for one look for an experience that I won't soon forget. Indie games on the other hand, even when considering their budget, are often lazy, not well developed or creative, and forgettable. Amnesia: The Dark Descent is by far the best Indie game I've played because it put itself up there with the bigger titles and very well succeeded. Graphics don't make a game, but we've come to the point in gaming where it is expected. Style is important, so make it shine.

posted 1 year 11 months ago

 One thing that makes me want to play and enjoy a video game is uniqueness. I want to be able to play a game that is nothing like anything before. Call Of Duty is currently in its "Call Of Duty: WeRanOutOfWarsSoWeMadeSomeUp" stage. I absolutely hate any game that runs on a similar engine or gameplay like World of Warcraft because almost every MMO i have PERSONALLY played is intently alike in some way. 

One game that I fell in love with was Dungeon Siege: Legends of Arrana. From anything else I had played, it was unique, had an engine all its own (at least the first of that engine that I had come across), and the storyline was not some odd and strange copy , like Pocahontis and the movie Avatar. I fell in love with that game the first 20 minutes and had sleeping problems for months to come.

Another series is on the famous PS2, and it was the Jak and Daxter series. Now, I understand how similar it is to Ratchet and Clank, but it was the story that caught my heart; the gameplay was just a bonus. It was, again, extremely unique in its own way, and gave up for me hours of imersive gameplay that I just couldn't stop.

Then there was Doom 2, but I am sure we ALL loved the doom games before Doom 3 :P

(is lazy and has decided to stop typing and go make some bacon for everyone)

posted 1 year 11 months ago
posted 1 year 10 months ago

 I don't believe anyone mentioned Cryostasis: The Sleep of Reason. That game was awesome. So was Metro 2033

posted 1 year 4 months ago

That's how I feel playing Metro 2033. Such a good game. I feel so into it, and the story is so unpredictable and has all sorts of plot twists. Like when your first partner just randomly gets shot and the new partner just drops down from the ceiling and is even more badass. With cod, it's like blablabla terrorists, blablabla cut scene.