Aug 142014
 

Video games act as a gestalt between many different kinds of art. The player’s experience depends on visuals, on writing, on music, on acting, and of course on the mechanics and dynamics of the gameplay. That these elements can be in tension with one another has been recognized for a while—”ludonarrative dissonance” is a term that encompasses a subset of possible conflicts. Special terms haven’t been invented for instances where the art and level design don’t work with the narrative, or the art style interferes with the player’s assessment of dynamics, and perhaps they need not be. Developers, however, should [Read more...]

Aug 062014
 

After the tremendous success of The Walking Dead,  I suppose another comic book adaptation was in the cards for Telltale Games. These are a good match for their graphical style, and mature graphic novels have a deep bench of quality storytelling that the vast majority of the population hasn’t been exposed to. I might not have chosen Fables out of a hat, but in a way it seems like Telltale did. The Wolf Among Us uses the same approach as The Walking Dead, but the gameplay never feels like a good fit for the story. As a result, the game just isn’t compelling, [Read more...]

May 262014
 

Dragon Age II feels like the prequel to a really interesting series of games. The game seems to feel the same way, given its frame story of an agent desperately trying to find Hawke in the midst of a crisis. At some point after DA2, Thedas faces a Big Problem that only Hawke seems able to solve, but the game itself is just a string of little problems. This is somewhat unusual for fantasy generally, and especially rare for fantasy games. Fantasy works from the latter half of the 20th century on tend to resolve around a single, existential threat to [Read more...]

May 052014
 

Beyond its fraudulence and corruption, Final Fantasy X’s religion of Yevon is notable for its obsession with death. The church facilitates a “spiral of death” in which summoners and guardians sacrifice their lives to defeat and subsequently rejuvenate the death-bringing Sin. Important figures in the church view death as a form of salvation. Several leaders of the church are in fact already dead and clinging to a kind of unlife. Death and the dead rule Spira. From a narrative perspective, abandoning the dead past for a living future is one of the primary themes of Final Fantasy X. I covered [Read more...]