The Story of a Sword

I had an idea a while back, something that came to me while I was lying in bed at night. It’s an unfortunately productive time for my imagination, when I’d like to sleep but instead often come up with story ideas. Then I struggle to record them and whatever resonance they hold for me before they slip away, and when I wake in the morning and stare at whatever I’ve written down I have to wonder why I thought it was a good idea.

Wait, no, I’m mixing this idea up with many others that I have. *This* one came to me while I was supposed to be listening to a presentation. I promptly jotted it down on my phone and emailed it to myself. Anyway, I’ve elaborated on what I think the opening of the story is and I’ll share that opening scene with you today. Maybe it’s good, maybe it’s not, it’ll probably change… but first you’ll have a chance to enjoy it.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Tombs=Raided, Hearts=Won; Tomb Raider Rocks

tomb-raider-5

I don’t usually wish that I paid more for a game.  But I liked Tomb Raider so much that I almost wish I hadn’t bought it on sale.  I want the people who made it to know how much I liked it, and I want them to put as much high-quality work into making the next one as they put into making this one.  Because there’s a next one.  I mean, even if I didn’t know that Rise of the Tomb Raider is coming, I wouldn’t have any real doubts (except, I suppose, if the studios involved fell apart or lost the rights, which would be terrible).  The end of Tomb Raider left it clear that Lara is nowhere near finished with being the awesome badass which she’s become, and that makes me very happy.  Watching the announcement trailer for the new game has reduced me to a quivering pile of enthusiasm.

Why am I so happy about all this?  Tomb Raider is a brilliant game, and does things with story-telling that remind me why games are such a fascinating medium in the first place.  It’s an adventure novel with audience participation, a new entry in a genre that I love, and it evades the problematic trappings that spoil so many other adventure stories for me.

Ok, spoil is a strong word.  I love adventure stories enough to enjoy them despite their frequent problems, but being able to enjoy one that isn’t so inherently problematic is a breath of fresh air.  It doesn’t hurt that this particular story is extremely well written, with characters who feel like real people, and who share history with each other that seems fitting and unforced.  It’s a little bit like someone crossed Tintin with Indiana Jones, turned the tone dial to ‘gritty and a bit bloodthirsty,’ and then put you through the Bildungsroman of Lara Croft as she goes from untested and unconfident archaeologist to self-assured and competent survivor and adventurer, hellbent on keeping herself and her friends alive.  Wait, no, that’s almost exactly what it’s like.  It’s glorious.

Look, you don’t have to take my word for it.  You can play the game yourself.  But if you want to read more of my thoughts on the topic, including the few reservations I have, please be my guest:  Continue reading

Transistor

Transistor_Wallpaper_1920x1080

There are many things that I wish to say about Transistor, but the story-related ones will have to wait for after the break.  I don’t want to spoil anything for you.

To start with, this is one of the prettiest games I have seen in a while, and it has a soundtrack that makes me want to close my eyes and sink into it.  I spent a considerable amount of time simply sitting and absorbing the game’s music, doing nothing else for fear of missing out on the songs.  I wish that the soundtrack had all of the various in-game versions of the music, including Red’s hummed accompaniment.

I’m hard pressed to peg the game to a single genre or type, but its construction and design bears a profound similarity to Bastion.  You do battle with an ever-growing variety and number of foes, following the protagonist from a third person isometric perspective as you wander through lushly painted land- or cityscapes, slowly puzzling out the backstory of the characters and learning what is happening around you.  As far as I’m concerned, what worked in Bastion works here too.

As a game, I found Transistor very appealing; designing my own powers, mixing and matching elements as I discovered new killer combos, and adapting my loadout to the situation presented were all quite satisfying.  Making sure that I wasn’t crippled when I lost one of my powers due to a mistake, and being forced to rethink my situation creatively when I failed in that, were both very rewarding as well.  And when battles became a little same-y towards the end, or failed to present me with situations that I hadn’t foreseen, I still wanted to follow the story.  Now that I’ve finished the game, I also want to see how it handles itself on a second pass-through.  But I’ve played it enough to be able to say that I like it, and that I suspect you’d enjoy it as well.  Now about those *SPOILERS*…

Continue reading

The Attraction of Games: Why?

Zeeblee

This article is honestly me cheating a bit as I would have preferred to write a true analysis or something more comprehensive than a question, but I’m busy!  So this is what you get.  But don’t fret, I think this question is actually extremely interesting, and very important.

Why do we play games?  I ask this because I recently got into a debate and one participant countered criticism about a game’s setup with, “I hear people play games for the story.”  Now this very well may be true since many games have fun stories, but so do books and movies, and you don’t have to fight your way to the next bit of stories in those.  You don’t have to spend hours jumping from one plot point to the next.  So why do we turn to games for story when we have books and movies?

To me I think the answer is “participation.”  Games allow you to participate in the story.  But it is with this answer that I then begin to question certain games which don’t let me actively participate in the story, but instead just force me to do task after task that holds no real meaning in the overall narrative.  Along this vein, should we forgive games with great stories for their bad gameplay?  I could go on, but I actually wrote a bit about this previously in my article about games and art, but I think we can go further into this question.

Since I need to get going I’ll leave the floor open for you to counter, explain, extrapolate, divulge, or what-have-you in the comments below.

Types of Games

gentleman-gustaf-figure

In my last post, I talked a lot about what roleplaying is, and – surprise! – it wasn’t just one thing! That is part of the beauty of roleplaying, it’s full of options. What are these options?

Well, first, we have the three qualities talked about before:

Roleplaying, Storytelling, Mechanics. To keep in line with the existing literature on Gaming Theory, I have slightly renamed the categories I used in the previous post. I have renamed ‘Mechanics’ as ‘Competition’ (it goes by ‘gaming’ in GNS Theory, but I find that to be a bit ambiguous of a term); it essentially refers to how much of the experience of the game is rooted in competition. Storytelling will be referred to as ‘Narrative’, and Roleplaying will be expanded slightly to ‘Simulation’. Simulation refers to how much of the setting goes to recreating system-internal realism. Note that this realism does NOT have to be actual realism. For example, many unrealistic things happen in Star Wars, but there is an assumed set of rules which governs things like lightsabers. Any given game will have a balance of the three, like so:

Game-Qualities

Continue reading