Menu

Episode 40

The Indoor Kids

Story and Gaming, the…

user avatar

The Indoor Kids #40: Story and Gaming, the Sequel – Starring Devin Faraci

Today we welcome back Devin Faraci, Badass in Chief at Badass Digest, to chow down a bit more on the big issue of narrative in gaming. What makes a game a game? Can video games fully master cultural relevance when you have to devote so much time to them? If you don’t devote the time to them and just experience the story, are you a gamer? We don’t really answer any of these questions, but we do talk about them a lot. Listen and then tell us what you think!

*For the unaware, Jumbo’s Clown Room is a very famous, very seedy LA strip club. That will make the episode make more sense. (How many times can a reference to a strip club clarify a video game podcast?)

Also, make sure to stay tuned to our Nerdist YouTube show, which premieres TOMORROW, Tuesday the 10th! Just go to youtube.com/nerdist and hit subscribe, and look out for lots of fun with Kumail, Emily, and Steve Agee playing video games together!

Follow @indoorkids, @kumailn, and @thegynomite on Twitter!

And email us at theindoorkidspodcast@gmail.com!

Support the show by clicking on the banner and shop at Amazon.com!

 

 

 

 

 

Special thanks to Carvin for supplying us with the equipment we need to record this podcast! Check out Carvin.com for more information on recording equipment, guitars, amps and more!

Tags

23 comments

  • Game with great camera angles: Killer 7 (The camera doesn’t follow behind the head, because the movement is on rails).

    Pure Game: Moondust (1983 game, youtube it)

  • The qoute from Jonathon Blow about the game actually trying to stop you from continuing the narrative and to Devin’s general points about wanting to just get to story elements of gameplay reminded me of a device used by many great work of literature and cinema, where the storyline is abstracted or obscured to make digestion of the “pure narrative” more difficult. Gravity’ Rainbow, The Sound and The Fury, 2001: A Space odyssey, Blue Velvet, are all works which in some way purposefully impede the viewers process through the narrative. Part of stories is the struggle of moving from one portion of the narrative to the next, and video games strength is so actively involving the player/user in that story. I see any sort of “abridged story mode” as a lesser spark note form of a game.

  • Adam, i would guess he’s referring to games like GTA, Red Dead, even Mass Effect. Portal 2 is an example of a game that tells a story without aping movies; the other games i mentioned, while they are all expertly executed, are more a pastiche of things that have worked in film. Especially in the GTA series, they blatantly steal their archtypes to the point where the story couldnt exist in another medium without getting blasted.
    There’s probably a small handful of games that tell movie-style narrative while maintaining the level of creativity/originality we would expect from the same story as presented in a movie.

  • Another great episode. I’m interested to know specifically what Devin was referring to when he said that video games were aping movies. Where do you draw the line between copying cinematic techniques and what is necessary to tell a story with video? Would you say text-based games were/are aping books?

  • She should probably have played The Last Express (http://bit.ly/IQ5Ato) – or really any other rando/adaptation PC game in the 90’s.

    This discussion triggered a serious flash back to when that game was my white whale- probably all the talk of narrative and storytelling. My friend had a copy that glitched after the first of three discs and it’s story was so freaking compelling that I would just try again and again to make it work. It never did and we couldn’t find other copies. But thanks to this ep, I remembered it and found it online. So thanks, dudes. Stories that make me hungry to know the ending are few and far between across mediums.

  • I’ll admit, for about the first twenty minutes of the podcast i was so infuriated with the woman from bioware. My feelings on it was, if you don’t want to play then just go watch a movie or read a book. But by the end i was realizing that it was for a very specific crowd. I still don’t want to have a button to skip from cutscene to cutscene, but if a developer put a strictly story mode in a game, i wouldn’t be opposed to it i guess. But i would never use it even once. In the meantime I believe that a good alternative is just searching youtube because there are people who assemble the cutscenes for games already.

  • Great show; I really enjoy Devin as a guest. That said, I disagree with him on the idea of a “pure game” as being something without a narrative. A narrative is just a telling of a sequence of events, and a “game” is just a setup where you have choice about which action you take and your reward depends on the action you choose.

    There are games where you write an algorithm before starting the game, and by following this algorithm, you will be guaranteed to win. These are called “solved” games. Then there are those games that are sufficiently complicated where you can’t write an algorithm beforehand, and they are unsolved. Some are unsolvable. Regardless, most games that we consider interesting are unsolved, and solved games tend to be played only by people who don’t know the solution.

    So how does narrative enter into this? Even in a game completely devoid of narrative, we often invent our own, as the narrative makes the game more easily understood a) by the player, and b) more easily explained by the player to others. At the very least, narratives are cognitive heuristics. This is where/why I disagree with Devin about pure video games being those devoid of narrative. Does the “game” cease to be a game if I develop a narrative to better understand a game, does that mean that the game ceases to be a pure game?

    Regardless, I thought that the discussion on the show was great, and I really enjoyed it.

  • Wow, I disagree with a lot on this episode… but that’s actually a good thing. Because that proves that the “videogame scene” is very much alive.

    My main disagreement is with the point made that nerds don’t step out of the conventions. To me, that was disproved the second Portal became a big thing. Of course, the big games will stick to conventions, but that is because they work, they make money and they are easy to implement. That doesn’t mean nerds want those conventions, that just means that companies don’t like to take risks (movies, books and really just every form of art does the same thing). And a lot of time those conventions just work. Some of the best comic book writing at the moment is done in the super-hero genre (Scott Snyder’s run of Batman is fucking epic, for instance).

    Stepping away from conventions can make a game stand out and be original, but it will also lose a lot of mainstream popularity. For instance Dead Rising stepped away from the idea that you can just freely retry everything by setting the story to a very rigid timeframe and putting about four of five savepoints in the entire game. For me that created an extra sense of tension and pressure, a feeling that really fits in a videogame about a zombie apocalypse. For a lot of other gamers it meant not being able to rely on something they usually rely on and as a result they hated it.

  • Really good episode, I enjoyed the questions posed about what makes a game an actual game from the recent past to current gaming times. While you guys were in Australia did you have time to have a sit down chat with Yahtzee Crowshaw or visit the Mana Bar? Guy gives hilarious “reviews” on games he goes over, and I dig the snarky Brit attitude.

  • When talking about gaming accessibility I think it’s important to keep in mind that all games need not be all things for all people. Asking that Mass Effect or any game deemed to have ‘long and boring parts’ be trimmed down to accommodate those unwilling to sink a bunch of time into sounds as absurd to me as adding in a 30 hour narrative to Tetris.

    There are enough games around now that people should be able to find what they are looking for without asking that games for another audience be tailored to suit them. If you are playing a game strictly for the narrative then hit up YouTube or, better yet, recognize that story-based narratives are merely a small part of most games because gaming’s strengths lie elsewhere.

  • In the spirit of advancing the medium: Trying to evaluate a game exclusive of the gameplay is like trying to evaluate a movie by viewing the trailer, or a book by viewing a summary on Wikipedia. Sure, you’ll know what happened, but I think many critics and fans would think you’ve missed out on what makes the media special. Gameplay should be a tool for telling the story. It should be an engaging part of the way that the game-makers tell the story or create the experience game-makers wanted to create. I agree that boring parts of gameplay that don’t serve the purpose of the game-makers should be skippable (they probably shouldn’t be in the game in the first place).
    Ideally, skipping gameplay for cutscenes should mean you miss the narrative or experience. A classic example of this is Missle Command (Here’s a link to the Extra Credits video on Narrative Mechanics in the game: http://youtu.be/JQJA5YjvHDU ). It’s telling that writers focus on the story elements that are written (text, dialogue, cutscenes) while disregarding story elements told through gameplay or environment – elements that are not normally done by the writer. I feel like trying to drive a wedge between the elements that should meld together seamlessly through videogames is destructive and may retard progress in a growing medium.

  • Most games seem to have their roots in usability. Chess was developed as a way to teach strategy to Persian nobles. Snakes and Ladders were all about telling someone how to reach Nirvana. Even Monopoly was mean to be a warning about the hazards of living in a corporate-driven society. Games were meant to inform and teach.

    It was also meant to keep an oral culture alive. “Ring around the Roseys” is all about how to stave off the black death. The London Bridge song was all about the actual London Bridge falling down during its construction (and the possibility of kidnapping small children to be buried in the foundations of London Bridge). Hell, if you do research in Australian History, you’ll read about how the lost generation of Aborigine kids were taught games of hiding to evade authorities who were kidnapping them and putting them into orphanages.

    It seems to me that the best games become abstract games. The more we’re removed from the situation, the better of a game it becomes. I mean, who would like Baseball if you knew that the narrative was tied with pissing off nobles with stones and sticks in Great Britain. We’ve abstracted it so far away that it becomes different.

    Bringing it back to Video Games, I don’t think a game without narrative would sell. The best games teach process or give lessons. The best games teach, or at least the important games should teach. What video games teach a perspective?

  • I think Devin (not myself) was a little mixed up on the Dragon Age dialogue talk. In the first one (Origins), your character was silent and in DA 2 your character was voiced during dialogue. And I believe that was actually one of the changes that people didn’t like about 2, that it forced a voice on a character that had previously been your own interpretation – granted, you technically play different people in Origins and 2, but it’s still the player character. I personally think it really depends on the game as to whether or not it is more desired to have the player character voiced. For example, I have no interest in hearing my Skyrim character talk, as that doesn’t fit with the way the rest of the game leaves so much to your own exploration and personal interpretation.

  • GREAT episode. Love the debate about story in video games. I consider them “interactive stories” where the player gets to BE the protagonist instead of just watching the protagonist. And now with games that have multiple and divergent storylines, the player can affect the ending of the movie.

    After listening to the podcast I tuned in to the Opie & Anthony channel on Sirius/ XM Satellite Radio and they are playing an old show with Patrice O’Neal (R.I.P.) talking about video games. Besides being a brilliant comic, he and the hosts raised some very similar points brought up in this podcast. (They’ll replay the segment at 7pm and 12am EST. Esxplicit language warning — the F-word flies).

    Kumail & Emily, hope you’re enjoying Australia. Looking forward to more Indoor Kids Podcasts!