Should open world games rethink how they tell stories?

We’ve all observed stories that use the ‘x days later’ device. A linear narrative can avoid weeks, months and years of bunkum by jumping to the next interesting bit. It’s a trick which allows the storyteller to stick to the good bits, providing it is used effectively. It’s a trick we can all accept and appreciate.

Now imagine you were reading a book or watching a film where the inverse happened. Instead of moving time forward ‘x weeks’ into the future, the story instead took a detour which lasted for days or weeks, only to return to the main story as if no time had passed. In most cases, we would find that very odd and a little jarring (unless it’s a dream-sequence or a peculiar plot twist). Yet open world games let this happen all the time.

Videogames can be rigidly linear in gameplay and story, or completely non-linear in either area. In many games story can be absent entirely, but sometimes I feel that the combination of linear story-telling and non-linear gameplay feels unwieldy. We as gamers are meant to follow a pattern of close-knit events whilst simultaneously spending hours on exploration and random side missions.

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How Does Your Game Keep You Contained? Part 2

The hero seeks a new adventure. Every Mutant Ewok of the Decidedly-Evil Forest has been murdered; the Casually Racist Imps have each been forcefully evicted from the Cave of Moaners; the hero has made so many Dragon’s Teeth necklaces that they’ve considered setting up a little jewellery store in the city centre. (It’ll bring in a little extra money in the winter when all the big quests have dried up.)

But now the hero sets off for new lands. They clamber aboard their newly acquired sailboat – made from the bodies of two dozen Ents that really did deserve it – and casts off across the ocean. The wind takes the sails and adventure steals our hero’s heart!

What exciting new lands will our brave and sexy hero discover? What new monsters will they vanquish in the heat of violent battle? What… erm… what is the hero doing? I think… I think the ship is stuck… on… nothing. Okay then… now the ship is turning back. Well… that’s… all praise the mighty hero?

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Continue reading “How Does Your Game Keep You Contained? Part 2”