Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Merits of Linear Narrative

It's funny, studying law makes it so you have this weird, detached perspective when people are arguing about things. You're trained to always understand that there are two sides to every argument and to be highly suspicious of claims that come in absolutes. The brutal criminal, on the flip side, has a tragic childhood. The crooked middle-manager who ripped off thousands was under pressure from higher-ups to turn a profit. There is always an angle, just not always a good one.

A round table discussion over at EDGE caught my eye because although I've ragged on linear narratives, I don't think they got a proper defense in the discussion. Nor were emergent games really hammered on their weaknesses. I enjoyed Uncharted 2 as a highly polished duck & shoot, but I was still rolling my eyes at the same things I always do in these games. Nathan Drake complains about killing people in one cutscene, I then spend the rest of the game slaughtering dozens of faceless soldiers. Game design still speaks louder than content. That doesn't mean I didn't find it all entertaining over a couple of beers while passing the controller to a friend whenever one of us died.

I borrow from a fairly mechanical theory on how poetry works from a nice collection I'm reading lately and pan that out into how single player games really are still about choice. Just not that one particular brand. I don't really touch multiplayer because frankly, I'm beginning to think that's where this whole medium is really going.

It probably reaches too far and I don't cover the topic as thoroughly as I should, but I think it makes the basic points nicely.

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