Storytelling in Video Games
Posted on Wednesday, October 17 2007 @ 00:31:15 Eastern
Storytelling in videogames. Stories told in games seem to be only seen by those who like to play videogames. We, the gamers. Nobody outside the gaming world notices that games are anything more than just shiny 3-D interactive distractions.
Ultimately that is a pretty good description of a basic videogame: an interactive distraction. But games these days have evolved far beyond the simple diversions that they were in the 70's and 80's. Games can tell stories. In the following, I make lots of reference to Halo, but simply as it is a good example of what I'm trying to get across.
I was recently arguing with my sister about this subject, who believes that a game like Halo couldn't possibly have enough story to make a movie out of it. She's also very biased, and still strongly believe that videogames amount to absolutely nothing beyond looking pretty while you bust skulls all over the place in a digital escapist's fantasy. I tell her that Halo has a story to it, she denies its any good. Of course I couldn't just give her the basic rundown of Halo's plot, since she would simply dismiss it as a silly excuse to go shoot things. While that is true, part of the whole point of Halo is not only to go shooting things, but look at the story, and see why you're on a ring-world, shooting at aliens with big guns. I do explain to my sister that Halo actually has a great story to it. Most of it isn't in the game itself though. The games just tell a part of the story, the story from the Master Chief's perspective (or the Arbiter if you're playing Halo 2). There is an ongoing series of novels based on the world of Halo, and they are very well written science fiction novels. When you read the books, the games become more like a way to enter the world of Halo, and be a part of it. I tell this to my sister, she dismisses it, once again, as nothing but silly tripe that doesn't mean a damn thing.
This may or may not have to do with my bias as a gamer, but I think my sister is disillusioned. She just thinks nothing great can ever rise from a game. But there's more to it than just looking cool. Games are a form of art, just like movies, painting and sculpture, and the literature my sister so dearly praises. The art form is not in playing the game. That's not art, that's just playing a game. The art is in the game itself. The art is in what the developers did to make the game a collection of arts ranging from the visual aspects, the sounds and music, to the story and beyond.
Some games are made with the sole purpose of telling a story, or at least some games seem that way. Some of the Final Fantasy games tell good tales. Halo, again, is a good example of a game that is made to tell the story of the Spartan super-soldiers and their place in a war between Earth and the Covenant, which just happens to also be really fun to play.
Another good example would be in The Legend of Zelda series. Ever since the first game, Zelda has told many stories. Most of them, yes, are usually variations of one another, almost always revolving around the concept of a young boy who travels the world to save the princess Zelda from the evil hand of Ganon, but those stories are always very well made, and are one of the reasons I love the series so much.
Of course, ultimately most games have stories simply as a reason for why you do what you're doing in the games. But isn't that the whole point of a story in other forms of art? In movies, oftentimes the story is just a reason to make the movie. Snakes on a Plane was given a story as an excuse to have people attacked by snakes... on a plane. Titanic, the whole romance between what's-her-face and what's-his-name was just an excuse to make girls swoon over Leonardo Dicaprio while the ship hits an iceberg and sinks. In Harry Potter, both the books and the film, it seems the whole story of Harry Potter is an excuse (albeit a damned good one) to let kids fantasize a world of magic and wonder.
I'm not sure I'm making all the right points here... But what I'm trying to say is that is video games can tell a story just as well any movie or book. People, such as my sister, bring up that "If videogames can tell stories, why is it that almost every movie based on a game is terrible?" The answer is obvious. The people who made the movie suck at making movies. That's the most obvious answer. Though there is also the fact that some games really weren't suited to be movies, like Street Fighter or pretty much any game that Uwe Boll thought would be fit for the theaters (once again in the department of 'the people who made the movie suck at making movies').
Games can have some fantastic stories to them, serious stories, funny stories, sad stories, scary stories. You just have to let the game tell the story. I hope I made my point, and I do realize going on about something in a videogame on a gaming website is like preaching to the choir, but I post it here in the hopes that maybe someone can see this and tell it better than I can, or suggest how I may be able to tell it better.
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Pokemon: Rated AO
Posted on Tuesday, July 24 2007 @ 04:54:10 Eastern
Many parents these days are very concerned for the well being of their children. They protect their kids from violent or sexual material on TV, only buy and rent games that are suitable for their kids age group, and wouldn't think twice to make sure a game is okay for their kids.
In many places in America, and in fact all across the rest of the world, there is a parent buying a game for their kids. What game, it varies, but many still are buying one of the latest versions of a heralded series of roleplaying games. Looking at the box, the game looks perfectly harmless. It has an E for Everyone rating from the ESRB, has fun art, and cool creatures that their kids will love. They have no idea what they're getting into, however. They are buying what is possibly the worst game for a child to play.
This game is Pokémon.
"What could be so harmful about Pokémon," you ask, "it is a harmless RPG?" No, my anonymous friend, Pokémon is much worse than any of you may have ever realized.
Let's begin, shall we? We'll be using the Red, Blue, and Yellow versions (or FireRed and LeafGreen, for those who prefer the updated remakes) for this little report of mine.
To start, Pokémon is one of the most subliminally violent games you'll ever play. You scour the land in search of animals, force them into slavery and make them do your bidding, even pitting them against their own kind to fight.
Next up, we have the Game Corner. I don't know about other countries, but here in the USA, gambling is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 (21 if there is alcohol being served). But here is this ten-year-old boy or girl, simply walking into the Game Corner, and starts playing at the slots. That's gambling, last time I checked. The only thing Nintendo ever did to try and censor this was in FireRed and LeafGreen, where all of the trainers in Red, Blue, and Yellow that were called Gamblers (memorable quote: "I'm a rambling, gambling dude!"), were re-named. They are now Gamers. They don't gamble, no, they game (memorably censorship: I'm a rambling, gaming dude!"). Despite this change, gambling is highly encouraged to the youth of today's world.
That's nothing, though. It can't possibly prepare you for what I am about to unveil.
Pokémon is filled to the brim with hidden sexual references. Seriously. This is the general Pokémon formula in a nutshell (remember, Pokémon is short for Pocket Monster. keep that in mind):
"Oh boy, an old man let me hold his pocket monster! I'm so excited! Oh wow, a Pokédex! I'm gonna travel the whole region on an adventure to handle every new animal I see!
Uh-oh, my rival has challenged me to a battle! We're gonna see who has the bigger pocket monsters! Hooray, I won, I was too hard for him!
Now I get to continue flinging my balls at the wildlife! Who knew it could be so easy?
Oh no, an evil gang! But that's okay. It doesn't make a bit of difference. Their balls are inert.
Woo, I saved a big corporation, the owner gave me his prized balls!
Now I'm the champion! I handled every pocket monster, and defeated my hard rival once again!"
So what I'm getting at? But wait, there's more. Take a big look at some of those Pokédex entries you've been working so hard on. Look reeeal closely. Let's look at the Fire-type starter from the Game Boy Advance generation, Torchic.
Its evolved forms, Combusken and Blaziken, are dual fire and fighting type. Keep the fighting type in mind. Combusken and Blaziken are short for Combusting or Blazing Chicken. Not Chicken. A fighting type Chicken. Yes, you're thinking correctly. Nintendo supports **** fights. Pretty violent, huh? While we're at it, take a look at Combusken. Its wrong just looking at it.
To make matters worse, here's a picture of Cloyster, the evolved form of Shellder. This pokémon has been poisoning the minds of our youth since its original release with the other one-hundred and fifty pokemon in the Red, Blue, and Yellow generation. Mind poison is probably the cause for my noticing everything I've written about in this blog.
I am not finished yet. Another thing nobody has ever noticed, also from the original pokémon games, is on the old S.S. Anne. On this ship are many trainers who will challenge you to battle while you walk the decks in search of the Captains 'hidden move' (gross in and of itself). Several of them are sailors. Most of those sailors are actually (as far as I know) innocent, all except for one. This specific sailor is on the lowest deck of the ship. This sailor's greeting before he battles you. This is the exact course of events from the game
Sailor notices you. "! " *walks up to you* "I like feisty kids like you!" *cue battle*
Nothing was done in the FireRed and LeafGreen remakes to correct this. It is as much still there as the infamous truck (seriously, go look, the truck is really there. Doesn't do anything, but it's still there).
That... pretty much covers it. Pokémon is the worst game you can possibly buy for your kids. This beats Grand Theft Auto's Hot Coffee by lightyears.
But remember, a lightyear isn't time... it measures distance.
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