Games or Interactive Stories?

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Games or Interactive Stories?

Postby VideoGameCritic » November 17th, 2018, 11:18 am

I've been sharing Red Dead Redemption 2 stories with my coworker Alex, and noticing that the main story is fairly linear. When I rode across the stream and my wagon wheel came off, I thought it was because I hit a rock. "Sadly", confided Alex, "My wagon wheel came off too".

Having just finished Life is Strange (review forthcoming) I'm starting to wonder if modern games are just becoming interactive stories, with your actions having little impact (alternate endings for example). I told a friend about this and he said this style of game dates back to the Uncharted titles.

Is this style of game a bad thing? I guess it's better than more passive forms of entertainment, but as a purist it still concerns me. If a game leads you by the nose for the entire thing, is it still a game?


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Re: Games or Interactive Stories?

Postby Voor » November 17th, 2018, 12:28 pm

I can agree with this. On the rare occasion I play a modern game, I often feel like I’m just “along for the ride”. Part of that may be because of all the hand holding that starts in tutorials and early stages.

The more “epic” a game is, the more I feel this way.

Older games I don’t feel this way...not sure why.

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Re: Games or Interactive Stories?

Postby Cataclysm » November 17th, 2018, 5:08 pm

Games are replayable. Interactive stories are not.

Gamers define value to a game by how often they come back to it. The 'best games' are always those you keep returning and having fun.

Interactive stories make you feel the DEVELOPERS are kicking ass.

Games make you feel the PLAYER is kicking ass.

There is very little interest in making 'games' today because there is so little talent out there.

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Re: Games or Interactive Stories?

Postby Stalvern » November 17th, 2018, 11:21 pm

The more games look like movies (and the more their budgets look like movie budgets), the more developers want them to be actual movies. Uncharted's preponderance of scripted set pieces was a turning point in this, but the mindset goes back to Hideo Kojima's ambitions for Metal Gear Solid and especially Metal Gear Solid 2. (I do not trace it to Dragon's Lair, which was an attempt to turn movies into a game, but the FMV period of the early/mid-'90s is a bit of a gray area here.)

This reliance on linearity and scripting is misguided. When an action movie protagonist is hanging off a ledge by one hand, we know that he'll probably make it back up, but we also know that it'll be a huge struggle for him to make it. Developers see moments like this and try to script them into their games, forgetting that the struggle is why it's worth watching in the first place. When Nathan Drake just barely makes it from one crumbling ledge to another or nearly slides off a clff before clawing his way back, it's an entertaining piece of animation, but it's never actually exciting because there is no struggle – no matter how hard the game tries to make things look for Nathan, the player knows that all they really have to do is keep mashing X, and the heroics on the screen are made an unconvincing farce.

What's exciting in a game is overcoming an actual struggle – forcing a cop car into a tree in Hot Pursuit II, beating a friend in Melee with 120% damage on your last life, making it all the way through Contra without the Konami code – and there's no way to force moments like that. It's something that only players can do and only by actually being good at the game. Pretending that it's as exciting to watch a game take care of all the hard stuff as it is to watch a movie character actually do hard stuff is just that – pretending.

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Re: Games or Interactive Stories?

Postby Paul Campbell » November 18th, 2018, 3:23 am

But done right, games like that are amazing. I'm happy to go back and play an Uncharted game or Last of Us, both for the stories and the action I get to be a part of. I'm playing through the MW3 campaign right now and I notice that, alot of the time, I can just lay low and let the other soldiers do the majority of the killing for me, but I still feel the extreme tension of being in the battlefield, and that's a good thing.

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Re: Games or Interactive Stories?

Postby GTS » November 18th, 2018, 6:50 am

Critic, are you going to review Detroit Become Human? Your decisions have HUGE impacts and alter the entire game in that one.

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Re: Games or Interactive Stories?

Postby rohoGames » November 20th, 2018, 2:37 am

I like both and have made both types of games, so I'm sort of neutral to this.

My sweet spot is something in the middle of the two- I like games that have a little bit of depth, but enough action to feel like I'm being engaged. That said, I'm perfectly able to enjoy games that fully present themselves as interactive fiction, like Phoenix Wright and Hotel Dusk. I don't really like games that pretend to be games but are really just on-rails though. That is sort of dishonest. There are very popular games that are just like this (I shouldn't say, but you can guess).

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Re: Games or Interactive Stories?

Postby scotland » November 22nd, 2018, 11:59 am

If anyone remembers Infocom, they had interactive stories. If you deviated from the correct path, you simply failed to progress. Couldn't figure out how to get a babelfish out of the coin-op. well, its functionally game over for you. Games like MYST were also interactive stories - you could wander that island forever, but you had to solve the puzzles. Lots of point and click adventures are like that - solve the puzzle or don't move forward. In that way, it paralleled action games - if that level boss is tough, and you had to play for hours to beat it, then that's what you had to do.

My modern gaming is limited, but when I play bioshock, I was just in a story. Sure, maybe I couldn't beat the machine gun here or big daddy there, but there was no place else to go. like a rail shooter, the story had rails and I knew it.

To me, most games are just interactive stories. Platformers to first person shooters, you have to beat that mission or level to move on. There are arcade games and sandbox games and procedurally generated games and trading games that aren't, but I think we forget that many 'games' are 'interactive stories'.

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