Games and Stories
Posted on Monday, October 11 2010 @ 14:12:43 PST
I just finished reading an article on Cracked.com. For the uninitiated, Cracked.com is a comedy website which allows its readers to supply the site with comedic lists. Not only does this supply them with a very decent sized audience, it also supplies them with some cash. The writing has a very specific style and the website as a whole is pretty awesome and fact-based. However, that I do have something to dispute.
The humorous styling on 24th May came from David Wong (editor of the site) and centres on reasons it’s not cool to be a gamer (http://www.cracked.com/article_18571_5-reasons-its-still-not-cool-to-admit-youre-gamer.html). There are five reasons in total and four of them make as much sense as Rosie Jones being a sex icon. I’ll wait until you’re finished drooling...
Ok, wipe that mess up. My point is that one of his reasons, while being true to an extent, is not nearly as valid as Rosie. Reason #3 asserts that video game storytelling is at B movie level. There are several things I disagree with here. Firstly it is wrong to compare games and movies, sure they share some qualities: both are used as storytelling mediums; both are used for visual ecstasy; both deprive us of our money. But comparing games with movies is like comparing movies with books; a movie with 300 pages worth of dialogue, inconsequential scenes, side-story and back-story would quickly become an epic even Lord of the Rings would be intimidated by. No one wants ass massages halfway through a film to become a health and safety requirement... well, maybe, but we’ve got families to go home to, you know? My point is that games are different to movies and should be judged by different measures. Spending too long during an interactive medium to convey story gives us something like Metal Gear Solid (http://kotaku.com/392923/mgs4-has-90+minute-cutscenes-%5Bupdate%5D)4which is rarely the right setup for a game.
I’ll be the first to defend MGS4’s 90 minute long cutscene (yes, that’s one and a half hours) but damn, that sort of thing is not supposed to be in every game just like every film is not meant to be 3 hours long and every book is not meant to be another Atlas Shrugged. Of course the required brevity is no excuse for a sucky plot and **** like Army of Two won’t fly often but if there’s space for an Evan Almighty then surely some games can be given some leeway. It’s a big industry and there’s room for games with simple stories just as there’s room for movies with simple stories. Just as I said above, not every movie should be a multi-hour epic and if that was the case I don’t think the potential audience would be as large as it is at the moment. The same goes for games where much of the audience wouldn’t put up with a complicated, convoluted and long storyline when they could be getting right into the action.
It’s true that games do not have their Citizen Kane yet, but it’s also true that video games in their current form are only a couple of decades old whereas film has had over a century to mature to its current state (and we still end up with the shockingly long lasting Saw series and tripe hitting the cinemas every single year). Having said that we are certainly making headway; BioShock is a well crafted journey through a stunning environment, Mass Effect has created enough information to craft a universe for three incredibly detailed games to occupy and, even though the games themselves aren’t the deepest, the Halo series have provided enough material to flesh out six games, several books, an anime, comics and a potential film. If Halo is an example of the potential games have for storytelling then Mass Effect is what happens when that potential is fulfilled.
So sure, games may not be at their apex and there are a lot of awful stories out there wedged in just to provide an excuse for the shooting but that doesn’t mean all games are like that and even though the film industry already has Forrest Gumps and Apocalypse Nows doesn’t mean it’s immune from train wrecks like Big Mama’s House and Freddy Got Fingered.