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Op Ed

Forbes - Conan O'Brien, Hitman, And Ludonarrative Dissonance In Video Games.
Basically each of his jokes says something profoundly important about games whether or not he realizes it, and this is (I suspect) mainly because here we have someone who doesn’t play video games at all playing one and simply speaking his mind. The conceit of many video games these days is that you can get away with bad writing and preposterous narrative choices simply because it’s a game.

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14. Re: Op Ed Feb 16, 2013, 16:40 Sepharo
 
Suppa7 wrote on Feb 16, 2013, 06:41:
PHJF wrote on Feb 13, 2013, 18:52:
Perhaps it's more accurate to say that gameplay SHOULD trump everything else, because isn't that why we play games?

That's funny because I don't see too many genuinely unique games coming out these days. We have all these games that not only play roughly identically but also present the kind of writing any third grader could muster. Presentation is king.

Yeah, "back in the day" the thing I would remember most about any given game, when all was said and done, was the the gameplay. But games have moved well beyond Pong. Cheap entertainment like that is cultural junk food and ultimately isn't going to make a lasting impression on people. It takes a story with colorful, real, memorable characters to pull that off. What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Portal? I'm willing to bet a lot of people, myself included, think of GLaDOS. If Portal were just about portals, would it still be fun? Yeah, sure. But it wouldn't have made a fraction of the impact it had on the community without its quirky writers.

Portal is everything that is wrong with modern videogames.

Then I don't wanna be right.
 
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13. Re: Op Ed Feb 16, 2013, 06:41 Suppa7
 
PHJF wrote on Feb 13, 2013, 18:52:
Perhaps it's more accurate to say that gameplay SHOULD trump everything else, because isn't that why we play games?

That's funny because I don't see too many genuinely unique games coming out these days. We have all these games that not only play roughly identically but also present the kind of writing any third grader could muster. Presentation is king.

Yeah, "back in the day" the thing I would remember most about any given game, when all was said and done, was the the gameplay. But games have moved well beyond Pong. Cheap entertainment like that is cultural junk food and ultimately isn't going to make a lasting impression on people. It takes a story with colorful, real, memorable characters to pull that off. What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Portal? I'm willing to bet a lot of people, myself included, think of GLaDOS. If Portal were just about portals, would it still be fun? Yeah, sure. But it wouldn't have made a fraction of the impact it had on the community without its quirky writers.

Portal is everything that is wrong with modern videogames.
 
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12. Re: Op Ed Feb 13, 2013, 18:52 PHJF
 
Perhaps it's more accurate to say that gameplay SHOULD trump everything else, because isn't that why we play games?

That's funny because I don't see too many genuinely unique games coming out these days. We have all these games that not only play roughly identically but also present the kind of writing any third grader could muster. Presentation is king.

Yeah, "back in the day" the thing I would remember most about any given game, when all was said and done, was the the gameplay. But games have moved well beyond Pong. Cheap entertainment like that is cultural junk food and ultimately isn't going to make a lasting impression on people. It takes a story with colorful, real, memorable characters to pull that off. What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Portal? I'm willing to bet a lot of people, myself included, think of GLaDOS. If Portal were just about portals, would it still be fun? Yeah, sure. But it wouldn't have made a fraction of the impact it had on the community without its quirky writers.
 
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11. Re: Op Ed Feb 13, 2013, 13:44 Creston
 
NewMaxx wrote on Feb 13, 2013, 01:05:
Creston wrote on Feb 13, 2013, 00:08:
Gameplay trumps everything else.

This poses a unique conundrum for someone who wants to place video games under the umbrella of art. On the one hand, it's obvious that the definition of art has grown far away from form, realism, etc., as it was for most of human history. Video games fit this mold as they belong within the fold of modern art forms, but having gameplay trump everything else is similar to saying form should trump everything in general art, which would be false by today's standards (it'd be closer to Apple's mantra).

On the other hand, you could argue that games are a novel type of "ars gratia artis," where games are made for the sake of making games (entertainment). This presents a unique middle-ground between formed product (Call of Duty) and pure gaming art (Okami) where the game is defined by its emphasis rather than any unipolar determination. I agree that in both cases, gameplay trumps everything, but the problem is that gameplay differs depending on the genre, the objectives of the game design, etc., which means it must be considered separate of the artistic merit by your definition - the alternative is for the only artistic merit to be gameplay.

Ergo, if gameplay is everything, then either games are not art, or their entire artistic value is in their gameplay (or at least the greater part), and I think it's clear that neither option is fully valid.

That's a valid argument. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that gameplay SHOULD trump everything else, because isn't that why we play games? But it's likely true that more and more people play games just for the sake of a few hours of entertainment, and said people could probably care less about gameplay. The fact that millions of people downloaded that Curiosity bullshit seems to heavily hint at that fact (just tapping your screen to remove a block doesn't really seem much like 'gameplay' to me.)

However, with regards to the "are games art or not" argument, I tend to think that the large majority of games are made for one purpose: To make money, and I kind of like the idea that in order for something to be art, it can have no other purpose than to exist AS art.

Anyway, end tangent.

Creston
 
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10. Re: Op Ed Feb 13, 2013, 10:45 Beamer
 
Was that all just to plug your clan?  
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9. Re: Op Ed Feb 13, 2013, 09:55 Slick
 
i posted a reply on the forbes comments section, Nick Adelson, i'll repost here:

May I retort?

As an avid PC gamer and member of 20ID [url]http://www.20id.org/[/url] One of the longest running, and most accomplished teams in PC gaming history, I should point out that LudoNarritive is culturally pre-requisite to videogames.

If it feels too real, if it emulates real consequences, if it was a true mirror, then it would be a military grade simulation costing untold millions . Video games are currently amongst the most sophisticated pieces of living software, and along the design process there are checks made to keep it in the realm of a “game”. This is fundamental to game design. The mechanics and inner workings of a system are entirely circumstantial to the game.

I would expect that in a game of chess a knight could easily slay a king, queen or pawn, however a “tower” would present an insurmountable obstacle for a lowly knight, how would one defeat the other? Through game mechanics.

IRL, In real life, in a similar situation, i might be able to perform an action which would make my task easier, more efficient, more natural. But often these actions would break what we call “game balance”. There is a reason when i am mounted in a turret atop a humvee which has modified armor shielding my backside, that there is a tiny bit of my head pops out the top. In real life i would simply slink 2 inches lower in the canopy, but instead i make an incredibly small high value target for the opposing forces. Rock, Paper, Scissors taken just as literally would be equally broken, yet it symbolized the balance which game designers strive to achieve.
 
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8. Re: Op Ed Feb 13, 2013, 09:18 Orphic Resonance
 
ludonarrative dissonance?? wtf

The term "ludonarrative dissonance" was coined by Clint Hocking, a former creative director at LucasArts (then at Ubisoft), on his blog in October, 2007. The neologism "ludonarrative" is a portmanteau of ludology and narrative, and is now an essential concept in videogame theory.

The idea refers to conflicts between a video game's narrative and its game play. Clint Hocking coined the term in response to the game Bioshock, which promotes the theme of self-interest through its gameplay while promoting the opposing theme of selflessness through its narrative, creating a violation of aesthetic distance that often pulls the player out of the game.

On a more concrete level, ludonarrative dissonance may simply refer to logical inconsistencies between narrative and game play. Video game theorist Tom Bissell in his book Extra Lives (2010) notes the example of Call of Duty 4, where a player can all but kill their digital partner during gameplay without upsetting the built in narrative of the game.

wow didnt know abstract game philosophy was that intense
 
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7. Re: Op Ed Feb 13, 2013, 09:10 Cutter
 
Are you entertained or not? That's all that matters. You want didactism? Go read the Brothers Grimm.

 
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"Bye weeks? Bronko Nagurski didn't get no bye weeks, and now he's dead… Well, maybe they're a good thing." - Moe
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6. Re: Op Ed Feb 13, 2013, 01:20 PropheT
 
netnerd85 wrote on Feb 12, 2013, 22:33:
The conceit of many video games these days is that you can get away with bad writing and preposterous narrative choices simply because it’s a game.
As opposed to what? the old days? Yeah, Pong had such a twist at the end, didn't see it coming.

Games are meant to be fun, first and foremost. Part of this includes having a ridiculous storyline that is over the top and enjoyable through humour.

Want deep?, go watch an Opera. Otherwise, SUCK IT DOWN!

As opposed to the old days where story wasn't really a consideration and generally wasn't even included. Games these days HAVE a story, it's just more often than not a good one with any real work or consideration put into it.

Games are meant to be fun, but so are movies. They don't have to be ridiculous and over the top to be fun any more than every movie needs to be a B-movie to be enjoyable. Fun for me tends to require that I get involved into the goings-on of the game as much as enjoying its unique method of pressing buttons to receive rewards; after 30+ years of gaming with no dramatic change outside of graphics, it's rare that anything feels all the special or new unless there's a story to get wrapped up in in the process.

I know not everyone is that way, but there's different games for different people. The one constant seems to be exactly what they're talking about in this article, at least in one respect, in that even the best games have a story that's "good for games" and very few that hold up on their own in any way.
 
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5. Re: Op Ed Feb 13, 2013, 01:05 NewMaxx
 
Creston wrote on Feb 13, 2013, 00:08:
Gameplay trumps everything else.

This poses a unique conundrum for someone who wants to place video games under the umbrella of art. On the one hand, it's obvious that the definition of art has grown far away from form, realism, etc., as it was for most of human history. Video games fit this mold as they belong within the fold of modern art forms, but having gameplay trump everything else is similar to saying form should trump everything in general art, which would be false by today's standards (it'd be closer to Apple's mantra).

On the other hand, you could argue that games are a novel type of "ars gratia artis," where games are made for the sake of making games (entertainment). This presents a unique middle-ground between formed product (Call of Duty) and pure gaming art (Okami) where the game is defined by its emphasis rather than any unipolar determination. I agree that in both cases, gameplay trumps everything, but the problem is that gameplay differs depending on the genre, the objectives of the game design, etc., which means it must be considered separate of the artistic merit by your definition - the alternative is for the only artistic merit to be gameplay.

Ergo, if gameplay is everything, then either games are not art, or their entire artistic value is in their gameplay (or at least the greater part), and I think it's clear that neither option is fully valid.
 
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4. Re: Op Ed Feb 13, 2013, 00:08 Creston
 
The conceit of many video games these days is that you can get away with bad writing and preposterous narrative choices simply because it’s a game.

By and large, this is simply true. Does the narrative of Mario Kart make any sense? How about the narrative of Far Cry 3? (I deliberately chose two games from completely different sides of the spectrum.)

Gameplay trumps everything else. You can tell the greatest story in the world, but if the game that goes with it is boring, few people will bother playing it to the end. You can have a game with a narrative that is completely off-the-charts weird, to the extent that the writer who came up with it has to come and explain that it's really him just taking the piss at other video games (to which everyone responds "Hmmm... really?"), but because the gameplay around it is fun and engaging, the game is considered to be good to great. And you can have a game with a setup that makes no sense whatsoever, but who gives a shit, because Bowser fucking ROCKS in Mario Kart.

Now, there are certainly games that try to tell a great story and fail to do so miserably. However, that isn't something that's somehow unique to the gaming industry. There are plenty of movies who try to tell a great story and fail miserably. You can look at the last ten or so M Knight Smahalaayamanamandnand movies for perfect examples, and of course the same goes for literature.

Gaming as a whole isn't under some over-arching conceit that it can just take the piss at "the story" because they make games. Many studios now hire professional writers to help with crafting the story, and several employ said writers on a permanent basis.

Hell, if anything, these days the gaming industry probably takes "the story" TOO seriously, and lets it get in the way of gameplay far more often than it really should, which the Forbes guy does correctly point out, in the form of the "ludonarrative dissonance", (and FUCK Clint Hocking for coming up with such a retarded name for it.) But again, I don't really see that as a deliberate attempt to just take the piss, but rather a case of unskilled writers having no idea how to railroad the story where they want/need it to go otherwise.

(hint to developers: Beating the player in a cutscene is fucking stupid. Do it the way Dragon Age: Origins did it -> Logain's lieutenant comes to arrest you, and you can either go with her, which leads to the hilarious "prison escape" sequence, which many people have commented on was the funniest moment in DA:O, OR you can choose to fight her. At this point, if you lose, the funny stuff still happens, but if you win, hey, the game goes on, and you don't get to see the funny prison breaks sequence. Sure, some gamers might miss out and the guy who wrote all those funny combos might be annoyed. On the flipside, the gamers who beat the (HEAVILY overpowered) lieutenant feel like absolute badasses for having done so, and enjoy the fact that they were able to stay out of prison.

THIS is good writing. Cutscene "you get knocked out and are captured" end cutscene is most definitely NOT good writing.)

Creston
 
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3. Re: Op Ed Feb 12, 2013, 23:35 Jerykk
 
I'm all for good writing but not when it gets in the way of gameplay. If story requires any sort of compromise of gameplay, the story needs to change, not the gameplay.  
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2. Re: Op Ed Feb 12, 2013, 22:33 netnerd85
 
The conceit of many video games these days is that you can get away with bad writing and preposterous narrative choices simply because it’s a game.
As opposed to what? the old days? Yeah, Pong had such a twist at the end, didn't see it coming.

Games are meant to be fun, first and foremost. Part of this includes having a ridiculous storyline that is over the top and enjoyable through humour.

Want deep?, go watch an Opera. Otherwise, SUCK IT DOWN!
 
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1. Re: Op Ed Feb 12, 2013, 20:38 PHJF
 
Kind of a short article, but very true. It's high time some qualified writers are brought into video games and their plots and characters are given more than a passing thought.  
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Steam + PSN: PHJF
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