Storytelling and emotional door knobs

Very few plot lines of games that I’ve experienced have affected me emotionally, certainly not in the way the story seems to expect me to. True, this is perhaps something to do with being emotionally retarded (aka a bloke), but if a film, that I only have to spend a couple of hours with, can at least cause a lump in the throat, a game I spend days with should have me in tears!

I’ve never really been able to pinpoint why, when a game has so many hours to work on destroying your heart strings, it fails faster than a soggy toaster. Certain games do it brilliantly, but shouldn’t all games be this good? I’ll be the first to put my hand up and admit Dome XIII never even remotely attempts to make the player feel any emotion other than the occasional splash of humour (fart gags). That being said I still get a little sad at the loss of mute, but in Dome’s defence it was a kid’s game! Also, we’re not paid to make these things and at the time I was oblivious to almost everything, so it was never going to be a masterpiece.

Storytelling is brilliant and I love the fact it can be accomplished in so many different ways. That’s quite a ridiculous statement I accept, you could say the same of “art”, but they are the same thing (well for the most part). If a child paints the clichéd picture of a house with a tree and a smiley sun and you asked what the painting is about, then there will be a story. For example, they might say that a squirrel lives in the tree, which the dog chases. The squirrel that is missing from the picture, incidentally, only comes out when it’s cloudy and the dog only comes out to chase the squirrel… obviously! It’s an offbeat example, but there you go, there are countless ways to tell a story.

After seeing so many games try to follow the story telling rules laid down by cinema and not doing such a great job, it’s refreshing to see a story in a game be told in a different way. Even if that means reverting back to the days where cut scenes didn’t exist and the story was told with on-screen text. In a way, that can be more engrossing, the player can make their own mind up about what the character sounds like, much like you do with a book.

The Company of Myself by 2DArray play it here

I recently played through a great little flash game called, “The Company of Myself”, a short puzzle game with a very nice game mechanic. If you have any interest in clever game mechanics then I order you to play this. Alternatively, if you have any interest in story telling, play it! It’s quite amazing how poignant the picture puzzle is. Not to the point of tears, I was never attached to any character here, but it still pulls at the emotional door knob enough to open it a crack making a feint “aww” sound (out of context titles, they’re the future). Unfortunately, for this game after some  very clever story telling the epilogue is just daft, funny, in fact aim to complete it for that alone!

First Person Shooters aren’t really my bag, I’m bloody awful at them, but I can appreciate the way some of them, like Half-life, Bioshock and I’m told Modern Warfare 2, tell a story. It’s a way of telling stories only games can do. I think the obvious advantage the FPS genre has over third person is you are the central character. Any dialogue is directed right at you and moral choices are obviously going to have a little more effect on you than if you sit there making some chap do it and watch him be scorned by every other character in the game.

 A friend of mine was rather upset when one of his buddies in MW2 bit the dust as he’d formed quite a bond with the character. This is a great example of what I’m attempting to convey. He had spent a good few days on various missions with this character to the point the character was a friendly and welcome face. So when this character died (as part of the plot), the player can genuinely feel some sort of emotion. Outside of real life that can only happen in this media.

In short, I like it when a game attempts to tell a story a different way and I love it when it connects with me on an emotional level. True, most new and different ways will probably never attract a mainstream audience and will be branded “Indie” but that’s another article altogether.

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