Peeve

People who say “X is impossible in games/IF” when what they mean is “I do not know how to accomplish X in a game/IF”.

Extra demerits if X is in fact something that is already done in various places but the writer of the assertion has failed to do basic research.

11 thoughts on “Peeve

  1. My biggest peeve at the moment, incidentally, is perhaps a variation on (or more specific version of) yours. It’s this meme that’s been going around recently that most attempts at telling complex stories in games have been really, really bad and unsatisfying, so therefore we should either remove stories from games entirely or else make our stories as simplistic as possible. No one ever asks whether the problem might be that stories in games are really bad because most writers working in games are really bad. It’s like picking up and trying to read a a few contemporary doorstop fantasy novels, deciding they are all turgid, bloated messes, and therefore deciding never to read anything longer than The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnnies ever again.

    • Yeah, I’m partly reacting to a longer term trend, from Ebert’s infamous “video games cannot be art” pronouncement to various game industry people saying that story doesn’t work in games; and partly to comments on RAIF to the effect that IF is “bad at” plot, pacing, or characterization.

      Re. the writers working on games, I think it’s not the case that all (or even most) of them are necessarily bad. What I do see is a specific ignorance about how to use interactivity to positively reinforce the story. And it’s reasonable that if you bring in a scriptwriter from Hollywood or a guy who wrote a couple of novels, he might be pretty good at writing for his home medium, but not so great about how that transfers to an interactive context. This in turn sometimes leads to a certain amount of unhelpful polemic from writers (“this medium doesn’t let me do X and Y that produced quality results in my other medium; therefore this medium sucks/is fatally limited”).

      Add to that the dispiriting trend that many times writers are brought in late in a project and given little input on the design side, and you have a situation where it’s not clear *how* they would leverage a knowledge of interactive storytelling if they did have it.

  2. Hear, hear!

    I have a saying I am fond of: “The one on the ground should never contradict the one who is flying.”

    What makes this attitude worse is that somehow it goes from being “Games cannot…” to “Games should not…”, and seems to assume some moral authority to condemn those who disagree.

    We have not even begun to scratch the surface of what games can and cannot do, in my opinion.

  3. Yeah, this is the laziest possible conclusion to draw from the fairly trivial observations that some games are perfectly good without story, and that some games are damaged by story. (A conclusion one could reach about any medium whatsoever, of course.)

  4. Peeve: Not being willing to play new IF because of past “Guess the Verb” issues, but being willing to play, say, new graphical games despite past terrible camera issues or watch new movies despite past stupid writing issues.

    • …Yeah. It seems like every time something IF-related hits Slashdot, there is a flood of (a) grue jokes and (b) people complaining about how all IF is mired in guess-the-verbness.

  5. I seriously doubt that anyone who is up-to-date with the Half-Life series would ever say that games cannot do complex stories. Not only can they tell stories quite well, but they can also harness the player’s sense of being-there quite brilliantly for emotional involvement. There are many ways to successfully tell stories without breaking from the mode of interactivity to resort to something more resembling films or books; “scenes” in the Half-Life games remind me of Inform 7’s concept of “scenes” quite a lot, actually, but at the same time there is a great deal of information and narrative conveyed by environmental factors and visual language.

    I still think it’s rather odd that prominent IF critics such as Victor and yourself, Emily, seemed to make a point of playing Portal when there is science to do elsewhere; Half-Life 2 in particular makes a fine place to start if the older game intimidates, as it was thoroughly and iteratively designed and tested for teaching new players (and old) one clever step at a time. The subsequent Half-Life 2 episodic sequel/expansions in particular showcase some amazing AI for companions, alongside whom you spend most of those games.

    I just finished replaying HL2: Episode 2 with the developer commentary, so the events at the end of that game are very fresh in my mind. I’ve been thinking about the development of the player’s emotional investment in the characters involved, and it is a long and impressive line to trace.

    If anyone is interested in being convinced further, there is a great review of HL2 here: http://www.actionbutton.net/?p=423

    The full Half-Life 2 series to-date is currently $30 on Steam in the form of The Orange Box, which also includes Portal and Team Fortress 2. There are many excellent mods freely available using the HL2 engine, as well; I strongly recommend Minerva: http://www.hylobatidae.org/minerva/

    These are videogames for IF people. Please seriously consider playing them if you have not already.

    • “I still think it’s rather odd that prominent IF critics such as Victor and yourself, Emily, seemed to make a point of playing Portal when there is science to do elsewhere…”

      Lack of NSF funding. I’d love to try some other games, including Half-Life 2, but I don’t have a computer or console available that is up to it. (The reason I got to play Portal is that I happened to stay with some friends with an XBox who didn’t mind my dominating their machine for a while. Or if they minded they politely did a great job of concealing it.)

  6. Pingback: Interactive Storytelling Must-Play List « Emily Short’s Interactive Fiction

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