Are Video Games the New Great Medium for Telling Stories?

Redryhno

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Oliver B Campbell said:
immortalfrieza said:
there's plenty of half assed games with little to no attempt to put any effort into the story, just like other mediums have plenty of.
Exactly my thought process. I like to look at video games, as a medium, like a fantastic canvas. There's so many directions that we can go with it. But just like any other canvas, someone might produce utterly terrible and forgettable works, and others will create something that will heralded for ages to come.
I think there's two problems with games at the moment though, one being that people are expecting that great something to come and so are constantly looking and trying to create it so much so that they're too busy looking at the finish line when the signal to start hasn't even gone off. And the other, somewhat a symptom of the first, being that people think they can do it with a shoestring budget and barely working coding skills.

I mean, by around this age with Movies, we had already had Citizen Kane and Bridge over the River Kwai and the Tom Mix's. Gaming doesn't have anything approaching that level of industry-wide marvel yet. I mean, to a point we've got the CoD's and Survival games, and Her Story I hear is getting a fair bit of attention that fulfill a part of the requirements with how prolific and how much everyone knows exactly what you're talking about when someone says something is like one of them, but nothing that's a technical marvel because every year we get new hardware and new tweaks to engines that makes them look better. Every storytelling trick is compared to Movies and Literature or shown to have come from them first. About the only thing Gaming has at the moment is the player's input, and nobody's really figured out a way to effectively and consistently get that to work. There's been some successes like with Spec Ops and pieces of Darkest Dungeon, but even they're very much split on if they're effective or not. And even Spec Ops is heavily compared to Apocaplyse Now and Heart of Darkness.
 

zinho73

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Oliver B Campbell said:
Barbas said:
Not yet - they're not good enough - but it's as inevitable as the advance of technology that they will be. I just wish more developers who claim to want to get the most out of this young medium would embrace its strengths over other forms instead of just trying to make the most "realistic" or "human-looking experience".
Yep, exactly this is what I also said. They're a good start, but they're not good enough. They're able to start exploring some ideas that can't be replicated in other mediums, but it's so rudimentary right now.
I don't think you need technology to tell a good story. I think the challenge is not technological, it is an artistic one: designers have to find a good way to merge good storytelling with gameplay. Technology may help but I hardly think it will be the answer. Some games already have very strong narrative elements that no other media can match like Dark Souls and The Binding of Isaac.

What technology can do is help to realistically convey some things that are limited right now (any depiction of sex, for example is limited by animation and the uncanny valley effect), like special effects did for movies. But there were good, immersive stories before Lord of The Rings. And there are good, immersive stories in videogames right now (but just a few, sadly).
 

Fox12

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Wow, guys, have a little imagination...

Film used to look like this:

Is that really so different from this?

An oddity that became a vehicle for beautiful works of art. Even novels were seen as drivel upon their introduction. Those silent films led to Vertigo, Citizen Kane, End of Evangelion, and 2001 a Space Odyssey. Who knows what early games may lead to.

But I'll take it further. The average game now is FAR better, and far more thought provoking then cinema being produced today. The superhero and action movie fare we see being produced today can't compare to Mass Effect or The Last of Us. Even the oscar films we see today are rather underwhelming. Dark Souls beats out any oscar nominated film I can think of in the last ten years, while essentially inventing a new form of narrative storytelling that's as subtle as it is highly symbolic. The only exception I can think of is Les Mis, which is an adaptation of a play, that is itself an adaptation of a fine piece of literature. That doesn't bode well for modern cinema. Otherwise, the only interesting film maker that comes to mind is Lars Von Trier, who is fairly hit and miss in the quality of his work.

Johnny Novgorod said:
The problem with games is that they're made by hundreds of people who 99% of the time are not united under a singular artistic vision such as a filmmaker's, and that's if you buy into the auteur theory. When we talk about games we talk about companies. "The EA game, the Ubisoft game, the Nintendo game". Most of the time there's very little personal input into the games.

I've never played a game where I could reach out to the artist behind it, if that makes sense. I've never felt the artist, let alone the person, behind a game.
I'm not sure. I would argue that I can feel the hand of Miyazaki (Dark Souls) or Ueda (ICO, Colossus) behind their games. Besides, I think some work is a collaborative effort. Surely Silent Hill 2 is a thought provoking piece of work independently of who worked on it?
 

elvor0

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Silentpony said:
I doubt it. For every Shadow of the Colossus there are 30 Shower with your Dad simulators.
And there aren't a million shit books or films? How is that a counter to....anything?
 

Redryhno

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elvor0 said:
Silentpony said:
I doubt it. For every Shadow of the Colossus there are 30 Shower with your Dad simulators.
And there aren't a million shit books or films? How is that a counter to....anything?
I think the difference is that while there's a thousand shitty indie movies, they don't get put up next to other "better" books or films as equivalent and told that they're all books or films. How many indie movies have you seen put next to blockbusters at your normal movie aisle/store/rental thingy? How many pieces of fanfic and middle school short stories are placed next to the great books?
 

Oliver B Campbell

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Fox12 said:
Wow, guys, have a little imagination...

Film used to look like this:

Is that really so different from this?

An oddity that became a vehicle for beautiful works of art. Even novels were seen as drivel upon their introduction. Those silent films led to Vertigo, Citizen Kane, End of Evangelion, and 2001 a Space Odyssey. Who knows what early games may lead to.
I absolutely love this. I can tell from the rest of your post that you really grasped what I was getting at here and the ideas that I was exploring. We're at the start of a new type of storytelling, just like you said with novels and film. Rough as hell at first (and I think that this is the period that we're in with gaming), but then some real beautiful stuff has come from those mediums once people had a firm grasp on what could be done with it.

Your commentary is probably my favorite so far!
 

Strazdas

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Oliver is on the escapist. And hes probably the first content creator i saw that is actually interacting with people.

anyway, yeah, this new medium seems to be ahead of others in its abilities. too bad so many people treat it as wanabe movie medium (im looking at you walking simulators)

Silentpony said:
I doubt it. For every Shadow of the Colossus there are 30 Shower with your Dad simulators.
Doesnt matter. For every citizen cane there are 30 black ribbons. doesnt stop movies from being great.

Johnny Novgorod said:
The problem with games is that they're made by hundreds of people who 99% of the time are not united under a singular artistic vision such as a filmmaker's, and that's if you buy into the auteur theory. When we talk about games we talk about companies. "The EA game, the Ubisoft game, the Nintendo game". Most of the time there's very little personal input into the games.
i really dont get this view. when i read a book i care about the book, not about its author. when i listen to music i care about the song, not the singer. when i watch a movie i care about the movie, not the conglomerate of directors and producers that makes it (very few films are anything close to auteur theory nowadays). Its the piece of entertaining that matters, not the company that made it. you dont need to look into somones soul to enjoy a game emotionally. The companies matter in as much as their policies (Ubisfts DRM for example, Nintendos lack of common sense when it comes to outside-japan markets). When it comes to the games telling a story, i dont care if poeple at EA did it or people at Nintendo did it. i care if the experience is good.

Redryhno said:
I mean, by around this age with Movies, we had already had Citizen Kane and Bridge over the River Kwai and the Tom Mix's. Gaming doesn't have anything approaching that level of industry-wide marvel yet. I mean, to a point we've got the CoD's and Survival games, and Her Story I hear is getting a fair bit of attention that fulfill a part of the requirements with how prolific and how much everyone knows exactly what you're talking about when someone says something is like one of them, but nothing that's a technical marvel because every year we get new hardware and new tweaks to engines that makes them look better. Every storytelling trick is compared to Movies and Literature or shown to have come from them first. About the only thing Gaming has at the moment is the player's input, and nobody's really figured out a way to effectively and consistently get that to work. There's been some successes like with Spec Ops and pieces of Darkest Dungeon, but even they're very much split on if they're effective or not. And even Spec Ops is heavily compared to Apocaplyse Now and Heart of Darkness.
Games had marvels long time ago. for example the original Deus Ex could be used as an example of that. I never really liked Citizen Kane though so thats hardly a measure for me. (sorry, didnt see the bridge one, no idea there) Do note that if you are running technical angle, then Citizen Kane is pure manure due to it not being in color alone. so i really dont think technology increasing being the measure here is correct. If you want a "TEchnical marvel" movie - thats Camerons Avatar for you. do you really think its the best movie out there?

the whole comparison to the movies needs to stop really. games are more, far far more than movies ever can be. comparing a game to a movie is an insult to a game.
 

Oliver B Campbell

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Strazdas said:
Games had marvels long time ago. for example the original Deus Ex could be used as an example of that. I never really liked Citizen Kane though so thats hardly a measure for me. (sorry, didnt see the bridge one, no idea there) Do note that if you are running technical angle, then Citizen Kane is pure manure due to it not being in color alone. so i really dont think technology increasing being the measure here is correct. If you want a "TEchnical marvel" movie - thats Camerons Avatar for you. do you really think its the best movie out there?
For me, one of the best examples of this is Shadow of the Colossus. I remember when it came out, I was 24 at the time. I stayed up all night until about 10am finishing it because I was ravenous for the conclusion. Sure, the story probably would have been received well as a book or film, but damn if SotC didn't pull at the heartstrings in a way that those two forms of storytelling couldn't.

I remember turning to my wife (then girlfriend) in conversation halfway through the game and saying, "I don't know, this feels wrong. I feel like I'm destroying something beautiful, something that isn't supposed to be killed." As I played through the game, I was left with a lingering feeling of those actions being my own, and understanding the point of view that Wander had. It was a great highlight on the things that we'll do as people for those who we care about. I guess we could even argue that the game itself is a metaphor for love and what lengths we'll go to for it.

I think it was in that moment that I was certain that games were truly starting to develop a capacity to push a story forward in a way that no other medium could touch.
 

Zacharious-khan

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Silentpony said:
I doubt it. For every Shadow of the Colossus there are 30 Shower with your Dad simulators.
For every Foundation there are 30 Twilights

For every Citizen Kane there are literately 4 Transformers movies

For every thing I point at there are a bunch of other things I can point at.

Your opinions are stupid and I hate you. Also Shower with your dad simulator is great.
 

sonicneedslovetoo

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I don't think video games are all that great for telling traditional stories, I mean even Half Life 2 had to more or less stop the game entirely in order to get its story across(there is nothing wrong with that and it would be a worse game if they left that out). But I do think they are a fantastic medium for creating stories, I mean everybody has that one time they did that thing you know that really awesome thing that only shows up occasionally in a video game. For me the most recent one was in planetside 2 when I EMP grenaded three people and killed all of them face to face with my crossbow keeping the generator for our side until it finished overloading.

Also if we look at non traditional storytelling Video games have much more options available to them, I mean think about that scene in Heavy Rain with the fingers, or Pavel from Metro Last Light. I don't think either of them would be as strong if we weren't doing it ourselves. I'll confess I was shouting "Red til the end eh?" at my computer despite literally nobody being able to hear me. And that's where I think more emphasis should be put in video game Storytelling, our choices and things we have to do.

That's something books and movies can't give to us they can't make us uncomfortable about things without emphasis in the story, but a game like Shadow of the Colossus can make us think about what we're doing ourselves even though we may never actually fight a colossus in real life.
 

Vigormortis

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Johnny Novgorod said:
Thousands.
Yeah, I know, but for some reason I had it in my head that if I actually put that down someone would get the wrong impression.

I dunno. I guess I've gotten to a point where I just assume the worst out of this forum. I just didn't want to get dragged into an argument with someone over a misinterpretation of my "facts".
 

elvor0

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Johnny Novgorod said:
The problem with games is that they're made by hundreds of people who 99% of the time are not united under a singular artistic vision such as a filmmaker's, and that's if you buy into the auteur theory. When we talk about games we talk about companies. "The EA game, the Ubisoft game, the Nintendo game". Most of the time there's very little personal input into the games.

I've never played a game where I could reach out to the artist behind it, if that makes sense. I've never felt the artist, let alone the person, behind a game. I can read Raymond Carver and Sylvia Plath and Kurt Vonnegut and feel how these people bare themselves for me. I can read Aeschylus and Sophocles and Eurypides and sense how they tackle the grand questions that plagued humanity for thousands of years, before and ever since.

Games get an emotional response from the gamer. They make you happy, sad, scared, whatever. I was very sorry the horse died in Shadow of the Colossus, I thought Okami was very pretty, I got feelings of melancholy while playing ICO. And Silent Hill 2 has a tremendously heart-wrenching story. Fair enough. But I feel that, for all the emotions I find in myself, there's very little emotion in the game. You're not looking into anybody's soul. There's a lot of artistic input, but little personal input.

Most artistic decisions in a game have a practical nature. Everything serves a purpose. And if not, you compromise, because time and money. But you take a brush or a pencil and you can go anywhere you want.

It'll be a long, long time before gaming produces anything that can be compared to the literary classics.
I believe it was Yahtzee who said Japan has that one figured, in that they have a director, a Hideo Kojima game feels like a Kojima game, a Nomura game feels like a Nomura game, Shinji Mikami games feel like....etc. Now, I'm not saying they're on par with the classic films or books yet, but they certainly have the notion of feeling like a directors creation.

Western development doesn't really have that. Its a collective making a product, rather than 1 dude leading a team of creators.

Redryhno said:
elvor0 said:
Silentpony said:
I doubt it. For every Shadow of the Colossus there are 30 Shower with your Dad simulators.
And there aren't a million shit books or films? How is that a counter to....anything?
I think the difference is that while there's a thousand shitty indie movies, they don't get put up next to other "better" books or films as equivalent and told that they're all books or films. How many indie movies have you seen put next to blockbusters at your normal movie aisle/store/rental thingy? How many pieces of fanfic and middle school short stories are placed next to the great books?
That happens all the time on best sellers aisles for books. 50 shades or Twilight sat there for /months/ and we all know they're shockingly bad, 50 shades being retroengineered fanfiction itself.

Indie games almost exclusively get published digitally, don't bring up having loads of crap indie games and then use brick and mortar as a comparison because you're comparing apples and oranges, they're certainly not in brick and mortar stores either. I definitely didn't see revolution 60 or The Killing Grounds in my local GAME store, did you?

Theres plenty of drek on Amazon in the very same store as Dickens, Tolkien and Doyle. Indie films get to be in the same section as blockbusters in digital stores too(Netflix has shit right next to good stuff). Just because shit indie game X is in the same store as Steam and is considerably easier to self publish that doesn't mean anyone is saying its just as good as a "better" game. Similarly, Dickens is not bought down by having a dinosaur erotica in the same shop as it.
 

Aiddon_v1legacy

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Considering how games have been telling complex, emotional stories since at LEAST the early 90s. Though it DOES annoy me how people think this is something new when in fact we've had great narratives in gaming for decades. It's just weird how pople are making a big deal about this and trying to act like we've never had plot-centric games before now.
 

inmunitas

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Johnny Novgorod said:
The problem with games is that they're made by hundreds of people who 99% of the time are not united under a singular artistic vision such as a filmmaker's, and that's if you buy into the auteur theory. When we talk about games we talk about companies. "The EA game, the Ubisoft game, the Nintendo game". Most of the time there's very little personal input into the games.

I've never played a game where I could reach out to the artist behind it, if that makes sense. I've never felt the artist, let alone the person, behind a game. I can read Raymond Carver and Sylvia Plath and Kurt Vonnegut and feel how these people bare themselves for me. I can read Aeschylus and Sophocles and Eurypides and sense how they tackle the grand questions that plagued humanity for thousands of years, before and ever since.

Games get an emotional response from the gamer. They make you happy, sad, scared, whatever. I was very sorry the horse died in Shadow of the Colossus, I thought Okami was very pretty, I got feelings of melancholy while playing ICO. And Silent Hill 2 has a tremendously heart-wrenching story. Fair enough. But I feel that, for all the emotions I find in myself, there's very little emotion in the game. You're not looking into anybody's soul. There's a lot of artistic input, but little personal input.

Most artistic decisions in a game have a practical nature. Everything serves a purpose. And if not, you compromise, because time and money. But you take a brush or a pencil and you can go anywhere you want.

It'll be a long, long time before gaming produces anything that can be compared to the literary classics.
The difference being the creation of a video game is a feat of engineering, so you need to view it in the way you would any other product of engineering.
 

Johnny Novgorod

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Strazdas said:
Johnny Novgorod said:
The problem with games is that they're made by hundreds of people who 99% of the time are not united under a singular artistic vision such as a filmmaker's, and that's if you buy into the auteur theory. When we talk about games we talk about companies. "The EA game, the Ubisoft game, the Nintendo game". Most of the time there's very little personal input into the games.
i really dont get this view. when i read a book i care about the book, not about its author. when i listen to music i care about the song, not the singer. when i watch a movie i care about the movie, not the conglomerate of directors and producers that makes it (very few films are anything close to auteur theory nowadays). Its the piece of entertaining that matters, not the company that made it. you dont need to look into somones soul to enjoy a game emotionally. The companies matter in as much as their policies (Ubisfts DRM for example, Nintendos lack of common sense when it comes to outside-japan markets). When it comes to the games telling a story, i dont care if poeple at EA did it or people at Nintendo did it. i care if the experience is good.
It's not about care, as you repeatedly put it, it's about experiencing something other than a product.
I don't question your own "emotional enjoyment", I question the emotional spectrum of the game itself.
Every game instructs you to achieve an objective and gives you the means to an end. So you do exactly that. You connect the dots with gameplay. It's difficult, it's easy, you do it well, you do it worse. And when you're done, you "win".
There's no "winning" in art.

It's not a dead-end medium but it has quite a lot of mileage to cover. Mileage that is incalculable since the industry - it's an industry - shapeshifts constantly. It's also the only industry (within the "arts") to have crashed and continue to threaten to crash, because it relies less on human nature and more on supply and demand.
 

Johnny Novgorod

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inmunitas said:
Johnny Novgorod said:
The problem with games is that they're made by hundreds of people who 99% of the time are not united under a singular artistic vision such as a filmmaker's, and that's if you buy into the auteur theory. When we talk about games we talk about companies. "The EA game, the Ubisoft game, the Nintendo game". Most of the time there's very little personal input into the games.

I've never played a game where I could reach out to the artist behind it, if that makes sense. I've never felt the artist, let alone the person, behind a game. I can read Raymond Carver and Sylvia Plath and Kurt Vonnegut and feel how these people bare themselves for me. I can read Aeschylus and Sophocles and Eurypides and sense how they tackle the grand questions that plagued humanity for thousands of years, before and ever since.

Games get an emotional response from the gamer. They make you happy, sad, scared, whatever. I was very sorry the horse died in Shadow of the Colossus, I thought Okami was very pretty, I got feelings of melancholy while playing ICO. And Silent Hill 2 has a tremendously heart-wrenching story. Fair enough. But I feel that, for all the emotions I find in myself, there's very little emotion in the game. You're not looking into anybody's soul. There's a lot of artistic input, but little personal input.

Most artistic decisions in a game have a practical nature. Everything serves a purpose. And if not, you compromise, because time and money. But you take a brush or a pencil and you can go anywhere you want.

It'll be a long, long time before gaming produces anything that can be compared to the literary classics.
The difference being the creation of a video game is a feat of engineering, so you need to view it in the way you would any other product of engineering.
Well there you go, it's a feat of engineering such as a bridge or Christina Hendricks' bra. Artistic input may go into it, but in most cases your end-game is a product, nor a work of art.
 

Halla Burrica

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Yes, I think video games have a fantastic promise for telling great and engrossing stories, I'd say some games have even managed to live up to that promise. With this medium I've been able to explore fantastic and imaginative worlds, create relationships with inter-esting characters and experience narratives in a unique way. There's still a lot of places left to go, of course, we probably aren't even close to have explored all that can be done. I don't think that lies so much in the technology, as it lies in the creativity of the developers, how they utilise game mechanics and so forth. It'll probably take a while though, because making games is not just about putting pieces together and see if it'll stick, it's also a matter of psychology. If anyone's listened to the developer commentaries in Half-Life Episode 1&2, they'll probably know what I mean. There is a ton of work that is put into a game, just to inform the player where s/he's supposed to go next and what is possible to do etc.