My flask is half full
- Apr 5, 2020
After watching the above clip it got me thinking about how far videogame characters have come in the last couple generations. When good writing and good performances work in tandem to convey their strengths, weaknesses, depth, flaws, motivations, emotion, etc. we end up with something no other medium can lay claim to. Because when we play, we take an active part in the protagonist’s (or antagonist’s) story. We’re right there as an extension of them and along for the ride, every step of the way.
However, it also very clearly reminded me how muddled and distant the narrative role can get throughout the process of actually playing the game. By the time I was done hunting, fishing, exploring, horse taming, bonding, doing side missions, bounties, robbing, killing some people, saving other people, looting, harvesting, crafting, eating, gambling, customizing, etc. a lot of what was shown in the video I’d already more or less forgotten about. Or at the very least, it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind like it was after watching a more condensed recollection of it all. Although, at least with RDR2 there was so much incidental nuance to the in-game interactions that the moment-by-moment world and relationship building stuff felt like an extension of gameplay.
So, on one hand we’re gaining a deeper bond with the main character over the course of dozens of hours or more, but on the other we’re often so wrapped up in the “game” part that the story part can end up feeling distant and diluted. The effect varies from game to game and player to player of course, but it leaves me wondering what my benchmark example would be of gameplay and narrative reaching complete harmony. It always seems that one overpowers the other, and might be a big reason why I was drawn to the SoulsBorne style of storytelling, where it’s almost entirely done through gameplay and the player's interactions with the game world. The constant push and pull of gameplay and narrative is virtually irrelevant there.
Interested to hear what everyone else thinks