So the intent of this article was to explain why I think video games are the best medium to tell a story, but something interesting happened: I disagreed with myself. I guess I never realized that my movie buff persona, Charlie Mac, would feel so strongly about Charlie Mic the gamer dissing his favorite story format.
Below is the transcription of how it went down:
Charlie Mic: Video game characters are developed differently than their counterparts in books or movies. In books, everything the character thinks can be written out for the reader’s intake or concealed to create intrigue. In movies and television, with the exception of Rorschach and Dexter Morgan, we usually don’t know even close to everything that the on-screen characters are thinking. This is a good tool for building an interest in what happens next. Video games get to mix these as much as possible, but since the player is playing as the character, they might feel the need to want to imagine the thoughts and motives of the character themselves. Over the course of the game, the player can develop their version of the character on the screen and thus get a tailor-made experience they could enjoy better than being force-fed every detail by a book or movie. I can’t tell you how many replays of Mario 64 were made simply because of some interesting additive my young imagination applied to the character, such as a Military background or an Australian accent.
"Jersey Shore Mario Bros" was a sad day for imaginations everywhere.
Charlie Mac: Video games are becoming more and more like interactive movies, so your point is null and void. While you do control an avatar, you control it through an experience that you don’t control. While some games sport triggered events or a series of text boxes to move along the narrative, others were just blatantly showing you short movies between specially crafted levels and set pieces. The connection a player may feel with the character is a deceptive one, because no matter what you imagine about Mario he is either going to survive or fail based on player skill. At least movies don’t try to trick you; they simply present the experience with no annoying collectibles, achievements, side quests or anything else that could distract you from a focused experience. You get the entire story in 2 or 3 hours, not 100+.
Charlie Mic: I can’t agree with you less. Ever play Dead Space? As a movie, Dead Space would have been interesting and scary. As a video game, it terrified me. The difference between a truly scary movie and a truly scary game is that in a movie there is no risk for the viewer (other than the risk of wasting money if it sucks). Every good character could die in a movie, and you would say “Wow, that’s different.” In a game, the player has invested time and effort to survive those scripted experiences you speak of. While the risk isn’t quite as heavy as if someone killed you in real life, there is still an amount of terror that comes from something threatening to send you back to your last save point. Try traversing the subway tunnels in Fallout 3 with low ammo and tell me if you don’t feel a little horrified by the idea of having to do it again if you fail. In this respect, games have a definite advantage over movies because the player feels a personal pride when their avatar accomplishes something instead of just saying “Oh, that was cool” When John McClane kills that helicopter with a car.
Beat that, Dirty Harry.
Charlie Mac: Let’s talk about Fallout 3. What happens when you reach the edge of a world map? What goes through the player’s mind when you have collision detection errors in a game that cause enemies to walk through walls or get stuck half-in and half-out of a brick building? The immersion aspect is lost, and there is nothing more frustrating than unexplained tidbits such as that. They’ve been trying to fix things like that for years. In a game that tries so hard to immerse a player in the game world such as Fallout 3, how silly did you think it was when you took well-aimed shots with your hunting rifle and totally missed the mark because your character’s Small Guns stat wasn’t high enough? Did you feel rewarded for your efforts? No, you didn’t; instead you felt like you were playing a video game. When Keanu Reeves started dodging bullets in The Matrix, you felt rewarded. When Yoda broke out with some crazy Jedi skills at the end of Episode 2, you felt rewarded. You would not have felt rewarded if Greedo killed Han Solo because Han lagged out and therefore couldn’t shoot first. You would not have felt rewarded if the Tyrannosaurus had boosted his Perception statistic (thus modifying his visual acuity to detect prey that wasn’t moving) and ate Jeff Goldblum.
Charlie Mic: I don’t know about that one…
Charlie Mac: Good point, we’ll go with Sam Neill. Or one of the kids. Both of the kids.
Charlie Mic: Meh, have you seen what that little girl looks like now?
Charlie Mac: Okay, just the dudes. Jurassic Park should have been just hot chicks and dinosaurs anyway. What I’m trying to say is that while game mechanics create a good experience for someone playing a game, it does not positively affect the story. On that same token, the harder a game tries to tell a story usually means the less diverse and challenging the game is. If the game wants to tell a story, they don’t want to have someone go through too much trouble to get that story. Story limits the game, game limits the story. This is why movies are better for telling stories, because in games there are no decided boundaries to how much a developer should focus on story and that leaves some players unsatisfied because they felt that the experience could have been better with more/less story than what the game offered. With movies, everything is done in the name of story. You don’t need skill to watch a movie. While you would probably list it as a “feature”, I list interaction as a downside to any experience trying to tell a story because it compromises the decisive integrity of that story.
Well, instead of continuing to argue with...myself...I think the best way to do this is open it up in the comments section. What do you think is the better story medium, video games or movies? Personally, I think video gameshutup, movies are better. I mean, it's not like Mic and Mac have been fighting in my head ever since the conception of this article or anything. Really, I'm fine. I'll just go watch a movie play a video game or something.
Joe's Apartment is in the PS3 already. No it's not. I don't even like that movfucking love that movie.
Please help me.
Most Romantic movie ever, ladies. Who wants to watch?