Today, I finally got around to checking out the latest Futurama movie, "Beast with a Billion Backs." It was great, but aside from Pac-Man chess, had nothing to do with gaming. However, an awesome little bonus feature -- cut-together scenes from the disappointingly awful Futurama videogame -- did.
What really struck me about the "game," though, was its meticulous (and oftentimes hilarious) need to explain every gaming cliche in the book. See, the game itself was a trite licensed platformer, but its story went the extra mile toward making that a-okay. Additional lives, level restarts, and other gaming tropes made perfect sense within Futurama's twisted logic. But while I applaud Groening, Cohen, and co. for their creativity, I think story in gaming can do so much more.
Right now, we're sort of in an awkward teenage phase -- just beginning to shrug off the shackles of other media forms. Only now are we collectively realizing that our medium is unique, so our stories have shifted to convey that fact. Whether it's Futurama's wacky antics, Bioshock's "Would you kindly?" or other games taking sly digs at each cliche they so willfully employ, we've come to realize what our medium is, but we haven't even begun to break ground on gaming's well of potential.
So, my question to you: What topics would you like to see gaming explore? What stories need to be told? Are there any games out there that you think could very well be the next step forward for story in gaming?
This edition of the Roundup features, among other things, details on a story that could be one of this year's greatest. Additionally, you'll find an article about casuals becoming hardcores, and another about why I'm stupid for using the terms "casuals" and "hardcores." Jump past the break for more.
Mirror's Edge -- as you should well know after E3 became a none-too-subtle Mirror's Edge love fest -- is looking great. Still though, I can't help but wonder whether or not the game's story and gameplay will come together to form a cohesive whole. I think/am afraid scriptwriter Rhianna Prachett may have answered my question.
"There’s certainly been resurgence in people asking how to do my job! Games writing and story design is still very niche. There aren’t many folks doing it and even less that understand it. I don’t do this to become known; I do it because I love my job and have a somewhat masochistic desire to help make games stories better," she told videogaming247.
But then, she said this about Mirror's Edge:
"The 2D story-telling is a primary vehicle for communicating some of the more complex scenes, but not all of them."
Bioshock (which I use as a benchmark for this sort of thing) allowed us to experience every pivotal moment in its story. I'm not taking anything away from the game, but that's a good chunk of the reason why it made so much noise when it first landed on shelves. Mirror's Edge, then, almost seems like a step backward in that respect.
Don't get me wrong; I'm far from writing off Mirror's Edge. But with such an intricate plot, I don't want to see it squander its potential. Pratchett also made mention of the game's "on-the-fly and environmental story telling" which, for all we know, could make Bioshock look like Anti-Objectivist Barbie's Horse Adventure, so my blathering could end up being baseless criticism.
This extremely insightful article by Eurogamer's Dan Whitehead makes the casual menace seem about as real as the monsters under your bed.
"...it's here that the real problem with the whole casual/hardcore dichotomy really lies. Casual gamers are not invaders or interlopers, encroaching on hallowed gaming soil with their shallow interests and gimmicky controllers and silly party games. Casual gamers - and you may want to sit down for this bit - were here first."
He goes on to make a point which has always been the crux of my "Don't fear the casuals argument": Casual-hardcore opposition doesn't exist. PR and gaming media fabricated it. Casuals are gamers. They put money into the industry just like we do, and for that we should be thankful.
If you take one thing away from this, though, it should be this: Casual gamers created us. In a manner of speaking, casual gaming is our father. And if you can relate Star Wars to something, that thing is a-okay with me.
Wherein, my crystal ball goes 2-for-2.
Casual games, due to the pitter-patter of competition in the marketplace, are taking on some hardcore characteristics. Said Reflexive's Russell Carroll:
"Tetris wouldn't be released today in the casual games space unless it had a story mode about you working your way across the world looking for clues about your missing uncle, one Tetris round at a time.
Sadly I think casual games have started to feel some of that bloat of traditional games; adding features and fluff to the point of obscuring the core gameplay."
Looks like NPD forgot the "Secondary gamer who's kind of becoming an Extreme/Young Heavy Gamer without knowing it." Any bets on when we'll see yet another casual resurgence?
Time for some science. See, the new TF2 update, releasing next Tuesday, is loaded with content. New stuff for Heavies to toy around with, three new unlockable weapons, a new gameplay mode, and oodles of new maps -- the update has it all. Now, after much experimentation, I've come to realize that the amount of new content a TF2 update packs directly correlates to the amount of work I won't get done. So I rationalize my drop in productivity by using words like "science" and "experimentation."
Surprise, surprise. I'm actually more interested in a tidbit not contained in the title. "We also tried to focus a little more on bringing characters back, and not just from Diablo II but from Diablo I” Blizzard's Chris Metzen said. “We feel like a lot of the focus is on Diablo II but Diablo I started it all and has a lot of really good stuff on the gameplay side and on the character side."
My favorite is "We need to ensure that modern and civilized values take priority rather than killing and maiming people." Read the full article for some of the best unintentional comedy this side of an Uwe Boll film.