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Friday, August 15, 2008

A Unique Perspective on Video Games and Storytelling

Here is an interesting video exploring why more games aren't more "Story" focused. Take the concepts of the video and apply them to educational video games and I think many of the points will hit home (especially the part about good writing.)

Also, the video itself is an interesting look at presenting a message in a half-animated format.

Check it out


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Bart said...

I bumped in to this great vid a while back and had a conversation with a colleague about it. She works with game technology to incorporate more elements of drama and theater into the core engine technology (unreal platform in her case).

The question that comes up a lot at the GDC: when will a game come around that makes the player cry? Movies can do it, why can't games?

The main argument (which the video touches) is control. An EA exec shot down the idea of interactive fiction a few years back when talking about a harry potter game.

"What if I, as the player, do not want to board the bus for hogwarts at the beginning of the game?"

It's a tough balancing act between controlling the player's experience vs. giving them the freedom to explore and interact with the world (and the story) at his/her own pace.

Karl Kapp said...


Good point, I would add that I've even read books that have made me cry or teary eyed(having two boys and reading "Ender's Game" is an example.)

I agree, good writing in a video game requires a balance of control over where the learner goes and control of the game. Games like Grand Theft Auto do a good job of mixing control and game play but the writing and overall context is based on violence for the sake of violence and not really good writing.

Good writing can and should get into games just like it eventually made its way into movies. But the one thing that is not mentioned is that movies with solid stories are usually critically successful while "shoot them up" movies are usually huge box office successes and it seems the simplier the story the better.

"The Dark Knight" for example is a good story but it is an old story that was taken from a comic to the big screen which would seem to be a good model...take an engaging story from a movie and make it into a video game...however we all know that video games made from movies (even movies with great stories) don't work.

Maybe the EA execs and other publishers feel that the investment and effort comparied to the ROI is not worth the tradeoff.

I would also argue that educational video games need an even more engaging story but...this is still not a widely understood art form, hopefully it will be some day just like the screen writing process.


Anonymous said...

Nice post!

Anonymous said...

Great post and wonderful video. I look at platforms like Second Life as storytelling tools as well. As a member of a corporate eLearning department, I am tasked to create compelling and engaging training material on a very low budget.

Second Life was brought to my attention when one of our clients, aloft, created a presence in Second Life.

As an avid Blender 3D person, I saw Second Life as a very easy to use tool to create scenarios with. I created a sample movie that told a story. It came out okay for a first attempt and tells a very simple story. I think it even works without the audio component as far as storytelling goes.

My thought on this was to leverage the 3D aspect of Second Life, create video from it, and use that video in our eLearning material.

That way the user does not need to access Second Life and can experience "video" in our training (our users are usually behind firewalls that won't access SL). The results have been very good and the use of this type of video is well accepted among our users.

Since I will be a speaker at the eLearning Guild's DevLearn08 conference on this topic, you will be able to learn more about how this can be done very inexpensively. And I don't mean that you have to attend the presentation (of course, that would be great) but I will be placing a lot of material online for anyone who is interested.

The most expensive tool was Fraps and it was $37 and one other was about $5 in Second Life. The other tools are free and with a little practice, they are easy to use.

Thanks for the great post on storytelling. Without a story, training can be a very dull experience.

Anonymous said...

This video was very interesting to watch coming from an ex-game developer who left to pursue other opportunities outside of game development.

There is many aspects that effect storytelling in the video game industry; one of the biggest aspects is true in this video: the publishers are not willing to put money into a project that is not a a shooter, or something closely related. There is certainly not a lot of interest in a big budget educational game.

That of course, is only potatoes compared to the fact that developers are not interested in storytelling as much as they are interested in developing the next generation of graphics and game mechanics. Until games reach a peak in this sense, writing will always be last on the list.

There are rarities that always come out. When it comes to educational games, a great friend of mine left the company I worked for to develop adventure education games that while didn't make the big money, were amazing games for youngsters.

The internet has become the ideal medium for education and learning. A goal of mine is to combine the LearnHub social communities with the educational game world. Flash development is becoming mainstream and is somewhat cheap. I'd be most interested to see the educational game world unfold and explode on the internet.