Stories in Games

I recently purchased this game called Her Story. It is one of the more unique experiments in gaming I have recently come across. I was rather disappointed in this game, but I would still highly recommend purchasing it. It’s only $5.99 on Steam. The reason why I am disappointed is not because it was less than what I expected, but because I wanted more than what was ultimately offered. When I first heard about this game, it brought back memories of the games Myst, The 7th Guest, and even Sim City. Her Story is very much a story driven game; the story literally drives you forward to find out more. I haven’t really had a feeling like that in games since Myst and The 7th Guest. The problem I had with Her Story is that it leaves so many questions unanswered that when I finished, I wasn’t sure that there was a resolution. In Myst, you are left with an ultimate choice at the end of the game, and there is a very clear finality. In The 7th Guest, the story ends in almost biblical proportions. In Her Story, you are left wanting more. There is no grand climax, no choice you have to make to affect the outcome, no input from the player to make things right or at least different. It is intentionally a game with no outcome or win/lose state, which brings me to why it reminds me of Sim City. Sim City is arguably not a game, it is a toy. You play Sim City until you are bored and destroy the city you made, or you build out to the edges of the map, or you turn on disasters and see if your city can survive. There is no real win/lose state in Sim City. You just play it until you are done.

I started playing Titan Souls not too long ago. I soon realized that it was a lot more fun playing this game with friends, swapping the controllers between people than playing this game by yourself. You go through this top-down world killing boss monsters, similar to Shadow of the Colossus. It is very easy to die in this game; one hit and you are done. When you defeat a boss, you feel victorious. That feeling is amplified when sharing that victory with friends.

Today, I came across this Ted Talk about Genius. It was fascinating. Playing Her Story rekindled something in me that I have left dormant for a long time. My initial interest in games was the idea that you are capable of harnessing an experience and making it your own, whether it be a story, an adventure, or even playing with a toy. You can build almost anything out of legos, but you are ultimately limited to the pieces you have, and depending on what you build, the physics of the real world. In Minecraft, and hopefully Lego’s new game that they are coming out with, those limitations are not there. You practially have an infinite world to build upon. You can read a book, but the ending will always be the same. The Stanley Parable has various endings, all based off of decisions you make throughout the game. I know there are exceptions to these examples, but this is why I am so fascinated with the process of making video games.

So, after playing Her Story, and Titan Souls, and watching that Ted Talk, I feel like I am at a cross roads of sorts. I have ideas bubbling, primordial in nature, ideas not looked at since I was in grade school. These ideas are not even ideas anymore, they are more like feelings:twinges in the gut, fear and anticipation and excitement swirling around in a cauldron of hesitation. They have scuttled deep into my psyche. They have no language, no words to which to be expressed. A sleeping dragon is a good metaphor for what this is, but it is no dragon. It is indescribable, like color to the blind, or the sound of a bird to the deaf. I await my genius, my muse to use these feelings and channel it into something great, and I will be ready.

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