Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Applying Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics' to video games

Leigh Alexander made an interesting point in a piece calling for more creativity in the game's industry when she noted that most of them just borrow from the same basic sources. Sci-fi stuff, comic books, fantasy...the usual genre tropes. She pointed out that they needed to start borrowing from other sources to improve the state of games. I would add to that suggestion a tiny caveat: make sure you borrow ideas properly.

There is a craft to borrowing ideas from other mediums, particularly when you're applying them to something as odd as video games. You've got to spot what's useful and separate it from what isn't. Just look at cutscenes if you want to see the idea taken in the wrong direction: people trying to use elements from film without really thinking the process through. Tiny moments and vignettes are fine to give more complex feedback, but you're going to be in trouble if that's the only way your game is telling its story. The same applies to comics and knowing which elements are going to fit with games and which aren't.

You're also better off reading a trade manual or guide to creating another medium than just looking at the finished product. I play plenty of games, but I don't know a thing about the more complex design elements that must be factored in. It's not different for anything else. With that in mind, I read Understanding Comics with the goal of borrowing ideas from it that seemed the most useful. What I found was that McCloud's discussion on symbolism and abstract concepts was readily applicable while many of the narrative devices he writes about are not. How comics get you to project into a visual image is extremely useful to games but there are also plenty of differences.

Anywho, just thought I'd mix up the game academia series a bit.

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