Sunday, January 22, 2012

Stories/Plots and watching video games - (Matt A.)

I do not have an award winning attention span.  I prefer episodes of television to movies.  I love to read novels, but often take in no more than 10 pages at a time.  Magazines are more my speed.  In college, I required many study breaks to successfully prepare for any exam. 

This lack of concentration may be one reason playing video games is not my thing.  I simply do not have the breadth of focus required to a) learn how to play any game b) play a game with the commitment required to get truly engrossed.

My style of video game voyeuring reflects this as well.  I often move in and out of the room or look up and down from some other activity as I watch.  And, when I do find myself glued to the television it is not because of any storyline that I can recall.  In looking back at my top 9 games to watch, I discovered that plot, for me, has nothing to do with it. 

On the flip side, I know storyline can play a big part in my husband's gaming experience.  Of course, this depends on the type of game.  Right now, for example, he is playing Bayonetta, which he picked up for funsies as part of a buy 2 get 1 free pre-owned game sale.  He says the storyline is ridiculous, but fun and that the game doesn't take anything too seriously.  A lot of games these days take their story lines super seriously.  Let's be honest, how many times can you save the world, really?  It has to be exhausting. 

How about all of you out there, gamers and voyeurs alike:   How much does the plot of a game matter to you?  Which games have you gotten lost in thanks to their story?


  1. For me, plot plays a big role in the single player games I play. Going back to playing games as a child, the fantasy element and the ability to vanquish evil with a magic sword I think is something most boys (and girls) from the 80s could relate to.

    It made you feel more than yourself, a "hero" so to speak. And then you would run outside wielding a truly powerful stick and break all of the broken "moblins" and "octoroks" back in the woods behind your house. Or maybe that was just me :)

    As far as today, I think storytelling has come a long way in games. There are still ridiculous plot lines in most modern many times can Russians and "people in the Middle East" hold the world hostage with a nuclear weapon that was misplaced (oops)?

    But I can look to two examples where storytelling is the main element that kept me wanting to play and see the game through.

    First, Shadow of the Colossus is both beautiful and sad. The game has a minor setup during the opening credits (if you watch without pressing start). You are some guy with a horse, there is a girl, and she is dead.

    You then proceed to go on a quest, guided by a mysterious voice that you trust because it tells you how to resurrect the girl. You set out, one by one, taking down some of the largest enemies in video games...each one acting as level and puzzle and foe all at the same time.

    You return, weary and somehow different, and then trek out to face another. As your victims fall, you begin to think just that...are these beasts really my enemies, or did I just jump into their world and disturb them?

    Nearing the end, you realize the horrible truth, the voice was the dark spirit that had been trapped eons before (by an ancient people) that was broken and placed in the 16 colossi you have defeated. Each time you slayed one, the dark spirit grew stronger...and infected you.

    The game ends with ancestors of the ancient people showing up, the girl waking up, and you being pulled into a magic well only to be turned into a baby with horns (hello Ico).

    Shadow of the Colossus was brilliant IMO. No enemies, no money, no upgrades (sparing just an endurance meter that grew as you progressed). It was just you, your horse Agro, a sword, a bow and an infinite amount of arrows.

    It was haunting, eerie, and isolating. One of the most unique experiences I have ever played. At first you sympathize with the protagonist Wander, but after the credits roll, you wonder morally, was this the right thing to do? Did those beasts have to die, or were they just acting naturally (as any animal would) when threatened by a predator?

  2. The second is (don't laugh) Grand Theft Auto 4. Protagonist Nico Bellic comes to New York to live with his cousin in search of "The American Dream." What he finds instead is the same lifestyle he tried to escape, but with a twist...while he was in the European Army a man he knew betrayed his platoon and got all of his comrades killed.

    Nico finds out this man is in New York and he goes on a revenge quest. He makes "friends" with some not-so-nice people in order to get closer to this man, and does things that have made Grand Theft Auto notorious in the minds of gamers and parents.

    However, while playing this, I personally tried to follow laws and obey traffic signals, etc. I knew this ultimately wouldn't matter in the game, but it made my experience with Nico more noble.

    He really wasn't a bad guy, he just got thrown in with the wrong people. Friendships are made, relationships grow, and enemies are smote. There is a surprise towards the end and you have a choice to make...unfortunately either way you choose Nico loses. It was a bittersweet moment when I really felt for the guy and again affirmed that he got a bad rap.


    Other notable mentions (on par with the two above):

    The Uncharted series - what Indiana Jones should be...
    The Assassin's Creed series - I have to admit though, Revelations is not as engrossing as a whole, but it's getting there
    The Legend of Zelda series - I really don't care, no matter how many times I play these games I want to face Gannon and see them through
    Star Wars: The Force Unleashed series - thankfully Lucas is not writing the script and there are some genuinely exciting moments added to the official cannon


    Thanks Keet!