236: The Stories We Tell Ourselves

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God I know I'm going to recieve so much hate for this but, Citizen Kane, I felt, was not so much on the story as it was on the composition and cinematography. I can't explain why, it just doesn't sing all too brilliantly to me. In terms of cinema I'd say there have been much better installments that people just don't want to hear about.

Besides, there are some fantastic games out there to make this list- not purely for story admittedly but just on the grounds of mastering the medium at their given time.
Super Mario Brothers
Legend of Zelda OOT
FInal Fantasy VII
Metal Gear Solid
Devil May Cry

You've heard it all before, I don't really have to list them.

"A pretentious collection of QTEs" BINGO!

Sorry to repeat previous post! The title of the piece is misleading...Citizen Kane wasn't a major cinematic achievement for its story, but its cinematography...movies and tv didn't simply replicate radio, they created new art forms. VG are not a particularly good medium for narrative storytelling, and David Cage's comment on this is the funniest. But there have been interesting examples of non-narrative storytelling (e.g. Braid), and very creative uses of interactivity, including some that have redefined entertainment (Guitar Crazy and its progeny, and of course Wii Sports). These may be punctuations in a sea of derivative me-too stuff, but again similar enough to other media. I still remember the Raiders of the Lost Ark tv show knockoffs from the 1980s.

Hmm, good point. It would be hard to make a good Broadway play if every 2 minutes a member of the audience had to read out a line of dialogue or come up and act out a death scene.

Really games are just TOO different from film or books for any really adequate analogies.

Imagine if Hollywood in the 80's became obsessed with making the Pac-Man of movies. We never would have had the movie Aliens due to all movies trying to recreate the Pac-Man magic and the inspiration for most of the games of the past 20 years would never have happened. What a nightmarish scenario!

I dislike the comparison of games to movies as it seems to negate the fact that games are interactive.

If there were to be an equivilant game to Citizen Kane, it must surely be one that defines good gameplay not story as I believe that is where the true artistry in games lies.

games are to cinema what choose your own adventure is to literature.

Sorry, but I can't give the credit of a great story to the pacing or tone. While these might add to an already good story to make it great, fundamentally, you have to already have the semblance of something good. At this basic level, games and films are the same in their story-telling techniques, just as movies and books are the same.

In other words, we haven't had the Citizen Kane of gaming because game writers are idiots.

I believe the game you're talking about is Half Life.

This article made me come upon a realization of sorts. Stories are dying. Let me follow the timeline. In the beginning with Pac-man and Pong, no stories, really, if you wanted a story it was something yo bought on a card(Asteroids) or an out-of-game experience that you made up completely! Then the late 90's and early-mid 200x's rode up trying to tell stores of great ability and such. A few games have acheived this nirvana of story, Fallout series, HL1/2 and the like. THey have amazing stories in them. But here we are beginning a new decade. and we are reverting, yet evolving away from our stories. We are changing to story-less multiplayer games. Almost before anyone could get a good story in we drop that aspect like a herpes covered hot potato. I feel like I'm watching it die before me. And it saddens me that what makes a game good for me is being destroyed by xbox fanbois and counter-strike rejects.

We haven't had a Citizen Kane (which I'll take as an example of a landmark great film from the perspective of the writer)?

Games which in their medium, equate in some ways

The Longest Journey: Dreamfall- Brilliant storyline with a cast of complex characters that inspire emotive states like joy or remorse in the players which are essentially puppeteers.

Pathologic- If there is a game that brings out desperation in a player, it's this. Given, it's not for everyone, it's poorly translated and reading the developer provided walkthrough is a must if you don't want your head to explode, but it creates an atmosphere that I've found more terrifying than almost any movie. It is survival horror, and despite the blocky NPCs and their poorly constructed dialog, their animations and AI responses reveal virtual suffering, simulated rage and fear. If you have a decent ability to empathize with fictional characters, you may feel sorry for them, particularly when you have to make a tough choice, such as killing a child NPC for their bandages, raiding a home of its medicine and running into a sick father as the children run to the corners, him limping towards you with a kitchen knife. As the infected you are shunned and often attacked at night, as the unpopular person, traders won't deal with you and you will starve, or die from being beaten to death, as the cure maker, you must choose who lives and who dies, almost everyone is vital to the story.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater- The bridge is hard core

The article seems to focus on gaming just as a means to tell a story, wich it isn't. Many good games have no story at all (or a "excuse for a storyline", like critics say) and that is not a problem. But some games want to tell good stories, and among those, some day we'll have our citzen kane of gaming storytelling. With 30 years of gaming, it seems we're late, in relation to movies, but keep in mind that some things delay storyline elaboration in gaming development as a whole, like that I just said (games don't need a storyline to be good games) and also the "infantilization" of gaming by ocidental culture (the same happens to animation, as oposed to movies with real actors, wich were always "adult stuff").

I think a really great story plot would be a little more intresting than running around killing hookers! But at the same time games like rock band and grand theft auto are fun too. They provide a goal and they don't require a lot of effort. Thats the point of playing those types of games. Right?

I don't game heavily these days, but I remember the sense of awe and acomplishment that came with completing the original Half Life... I was completely absorbed in the story and action. So too with the first HALO. I think everyone is looking for something different in their experience, and we must each define what that is in order to achieve some level of satisfaction.

Twelve? No way, that game had horrible pacing problems, what with the 30 hours of story and 200 hours of plotless monster hunting.

Ten was much better. ;)

The real, hard problem with story in games can probably be summed up in this short story.

"Jake fell to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably. His mother had just been ripped away from him- killed, by the very man he trusted most. He was catatonic with grief, unable to function. But he knew he had to go on- had to keep moving towards his goal.

Still sobbing, he began to bunny-hop along the ground, before doing a slow, grief-stricken barrel-roll while repeatedly drawing and putting away his pistol.

"How do you open doors again?"

"The X button, idiot.""

Beating films at their own game isn't possible. Making players tell their own stories might be. Of course, in the old days, all games had were a premise. The rule book informs the players that they're armies at war, or millionaires acquiring real-estate, or crime-solving detectives, and lets them go at it, making their own story. Nothing pre-made beyond the premise. Maybe that's the way to go?

Videogame's Citizen Kane exists, and it's called Deus Ex.

Planescape Torment, what do I win?

To me, this article seems like "having the player create what amounts to sport stories is easier so let's just give up on haveing proper stories in games".

I think it's perfectly possible to have a good story in a game. Even if the player doesn't explore all of it, for instance, in Dragon Age 1 and 2 characters react to your actions in a realistic way given who they are. Depending on how you play the game you may not find out all the neuanses of what's going on. These are not plot holes, it's the player not caring enough to investigate further on what is going on.

I can't possibly understand how the author can claim, as it appears they are, that games have fallen short wholeheartedly in the storytelling department. Sure, there are individual games that have a crappy story, but what matters is that there are many, many games with EXCELLENT and engaging storylines.

How about the centuries spanning story of the Assassin's Creed franchise? That alone debunks the foundation of this article. The story was magnificent, utterly unique, engaging, and everything the author says is absent from games.

There are a plethora of games out there that have incredible storylines that leave me frantic to know what happens next. Titles such as Grand Theft Auto IV, The Force Unleashed (not so much the second expansion pack, uhh, I mean sequel), even Enter the Matrix, for all the crap it got, told a great story. How about God of War, a perfectly crafted Greek tragedy? What about Heavy Rain? The complaint with GTAIV the author gives is that there were supposed "gaps" because the game had to take time to let the player fill in what happens . . which is exactly what a good game should do with its story. Games are about giving the player control, and the author seems to not like that.

I get the impression what the author is looking for they will never find in a game, and shouldn't expect to. His claim that linear experiences are more in line with his expectations illuminates this quite well. He directly cites less control offering a story more in line with what his expectations for what a game story should be. What the author seems to want is a movie where the buttons he presses just happens to make the story on on the screen progress exactly like someone else, the game developer\writer, wanted it to go down. Basically, he wants a game that removes everything that makes it a game. Allow me to make an analogy and show what the author would have complained about where they someone living in the 1930's and lamenting the experience of the movies compared to how books are:

"I loved reading books and letting my imagination run wild. I'd picture all these wonderful exotic locations and heroic action sequences. My parents, however, thought that movies would be detrimental to me, so they never let me go see any. I really wanted to experience a movie and get that same fascination and wonderment I got from a book, only from the screen. I was really disappointed when I saw a movie, and found that my imagination wasn't the driving force. It was hard to picture the sword fight the way I wanted to when they showed me what it looked like on the screen. Every time I wanted to imagine something, the movie would just keep on going to the next part. While I was still visually engaged and enjoyed everything on screen, what a movie offers is fundamentally different from what a book offers, and that isn't right. Maybe someday movies will find some way to tell their story without so many of those pesky visuals that keep getting in the way."

Forgive the sarcasm, but I feel it is appropriate. While many games have told their stories poorly, so many have succeeded in every way imaginable. The Force Unleashed was a very positively viewed game, but not really for the gameplay. Many reviewers, of whom I disagree with, found the gameplay rather shoddy but cited the STORY as what made the game so good. This example alone debunks entirely the authors claims.

There are great stories in video games that can give you just as much satisfaction and engagement as the greatest epic in a book or movie. It's just not going to be the same experience as a book or movie, because it isn't a book or movie.

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