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Death of the Traditional Narrative: Gaming

Jesse is a lifelong gamer and student of all things art and culture. Has traveled extensively and mainly focuses on gaming and music.

Story-Driven and Interactive-Movie are two different things.

When I was a kid, in the far off era of the 1990's games had an overall theme or story. I may be just an aging old gamer, but I feel like we take it way to far today, and to some extent it was taken way too far the moment that the storage media size expanded from 250kb cartridges to 700mb CD's.

I understand that different people are entertained by different things. I'm an old man. I'm pushing 40 now and that's dinosaur in today's market. The market isn't really made for me anymore. It's all about online play with others, even in what would otherwise be point and click adventure (I'm looking at you Dark Pictures Anthology) The one thing that really hasn't died though is the long drawn out cutscenes of the story driven game. It's endless. It's every game that comes out lately.

Let me get right to the point. I don't care about your epic story! I just don't. I'm way past the point where I'm impressed with flashy cutscenes. You want to know why I have fun with Diablo 3? It's because I've never watched a single cutscene from the game. I worked for Blizzard when it was being made and even then I didn't care. I wanted to kill stuff. Whatever story I got out of the game I got by playing through the campaign and skipping every bit of dialogue I could. I already knew the story was hot horse shit, and I was over it from the drop.

Over the past decade since then I've found myself bored and rolling my eyes at damn near every game that makes me sit through their "epic" story. You want to know what kind of games I enjoyed that had story content and did it right? Gears of War 1-3 for one. I haven't played 4 or 5 yet so I can't comment on them, but the gears games I have played never really took you out of the thick of it for very long. They had a button you could press to focus on cinematic elements, but if you didn't care you didn't have to spend too much time looking anywhere but right at the action.

Now, lately I've been playing Atelier Ayesha on the Switch. I love the combat, I love the crafting, and I like the general story behind it all. What I don't like are the seventy billion little cutscenes with all the little characters that I don't care that much about. I care about Ayesha and Nio. That's it. The other characters are there to help bring out Ayesha's personality and to help illustrate her development as a character, or at least that is what they should be. Instead I'm bombarded every time I do one little thing. I can't travel around the city. It's inescapable. Every time I do something everywhere I go I have to sit through a 5 minute dialogue with one of the other characters. I just do not care. I want to get back to the meat of it and find out where I'm going next, go there, fight, gather materials, and go back and craft and start it all over again. Instead I have to slog through "story" that I just don't give a !#@$ about.

I want to play a game, not watch it. I don't watch movies for the most part unless it's something that a dear friend of mine wants to share with me. I feel like I'm wasting my time when I'm just sitting there. To me, JRPG's are the biggest offender of all. The era of the epic cutscene should be long dead but they're not. The wow-factor of getting a detailed story while playing a game should be long dead. It's like they said in the dialogue of Resident Evil 4 back in the day, and I'm roughly quoting because I'm not going to google for the exact quote, You should let your actions dictate what kind of story unfolds. I know this is a bad example because RE4 was plagued awfully with long cutscenes with quick time events, but the point still stands. If the you want a good story by today's standards you should make the player's actions while playing the game a part of the story.

Again, I think the first few Gears games did this masterfully. There are other RPGs that I think still do a good job because they have dialogue choices and dialogue trees that give you a choice in what kind of character you have in a story. That, I find to be acceptable. Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic does a wonderful job of making dialogue and character development more interactive and all it took for me was a simple dialogue box with a few choices. I'm really trying to love Atelier. I love the art direction, I love the gameplay but DAMN! I also encountered a lot of this with Lost Ark. It may have been carried over from my frustrations with Ayesha but geez, just let me kill stuff, craft stuff, and trade stuff so I can grow a character. I just don't care how flashy and raytraced the cutscenes are because in the end they aren't what should really matter. I'm sorry for this massive hot take. I'm not trying to piss you off. I'm just trying to express my own frustrations. I'm not a kid. I don't have infinite free time, and I want to play a game, again, and not watch it.

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© 2022 Jesse Britten

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