Games vs. Movies
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 4 March 2013, 3:24 am
I started a new game this weekend, Ni No Kuni on the PS3. Now this game has very many excellent qualities: Solid JRPG gameplay, huge amount of content, and great graphics which are often indistinguishable from an Anime movie. My only problem with the game is that I don't like the story. It is a heart-breaking sob story of a little boy who loses his mother and ends up trying to save a parallel universe to bring her back. Not really my style, and I have problems identifying myself with "the pure-hearted one" main character I control and his childish naivety. Basically Ni No Kuni does a great job of creating an interactive movie, but it isn't a movie that I'd normally go to watch.

That made me think how far games still are from the narrative quality of movies. Nobody ever worries about the technical quality of a movie, it is something we consider a given. But if we read reviews for a game, the technical parts still take a very large room. Are there bugs? Is the user interface comfortable to use? Is the camera control good or getting in the way? Game review magazines often use some sort of point scale to determine a review score for a game, and as far as those scales are detailed, many of the details are usually technical, like graphics, sound, or controls.

What we end up with is many even highly acclaimed games just getting a good score for technical excellence, even if the story is bland. Nobody buys Crysis 3 for the great story it tells. There are a few notable exceptions of games with great stories, but overall it seems as if story is something the developers work on once they got everything else right. Or is just totally left out: I'm not expecting Sim City to have any story at all. And MMORPGs are notoriously weak on story, probably because they are too long for a coherent narrative.

I think games still have a long way to go before they are in the same "art" category as movies or books. Many games I've played and enjoyed playing would have made rather bad movies if the same story had been presented in a non-interactive way. A large part of gaming still is about interaction, a game like Pacman doesn't even need a story. But more and more games try to tell a story, and are either doing it badly, or end up telling a story of a kind or genre we don't really like, negatively affecting our enjoyment of the gameplay itself. It will be a long time before we take technical excellence in games as granted and choose the game we play just based on what kind of story we want to interact with.
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