Games Writing Needs a Battlestar

Number Six and the Cylon Army


The Games Were Created By Man.
They Sucked.
Their Stories Blew.
Many Are Just Copies.
They Look Amazing.
Some Are Programmed To Be Fun.
Eventually We're Going To Need a Better Plan.

"Battlestar Galactica" is important. It's not just a fantastic television show, a landmark series in the history of the medium. It's not just a high water mark for the concept of 'reimagining' older stories. It's important because Ron Moore and the show's production crew absolutely destroy the crufty sameness of what 'sci-fi television is.' The tropes of Star Trek and Star Wars are so familiar, so well-tread, that they're almost played out. Sci-fi TV shows are still being made as if one mediocre show from the 60s is the template for modern storytelling.

In many ways games are operating in the same model.

Most modern games are very story-weak, or attempt to ape past successful story-heavy titles. Our medium suffers even more than television because many of the truly great stories were created so recently. Half-Life is the template for FPS storytelling, and it's only ten years old. The western-style RPG has been largely typified by BioWare RPGs, and Baldur's Gate is also just about ten years old.

Despite these archetypes originating so recently, it already feels as though calcification has set in. Videogames are already mimicking the stodginess of a medium more than twice its age. Sci-fi TV shows have improbable time travel, we have physics puzzles. Crime dramas have the crusty old cop, we have the foul-mouthed space marine. It's flabbergasting that already this limitless palette for expression is being reduced to hackneyed stereotypes.

One of the most dire signs of this is the game remake. How can developers justify remaking a game in a medium as young as this? "Battlestar Galactica" is a rehash of a thirty-year-old show. The upcoming Alone in the Dark is a do-over for a game that was released in 1992. There needs to be some sort of statute of limitations on this sort of practice.

There have been many articles of late decrying the poor state of games writing, but my biggest fear isn't the quality of the writing itself. On the whole I think that the writing is getting very good; even Gears of War was well written. My biggest fear is that increasingly familiar genre crutches will become ingrained components. What we need is a game that takes its story seriously, that shakes up the very foundation of games writing.

What we need is a "Battlestar Galactica." A game that isn't afraid of the hard questions, real emotions, or the fundamental experience of being human. A game that challenges our assumptions of what the medium can convey. A title that cracks the shell on our Oblivion re-rating culture and makes people understand what we've known all along: it's not just magic coins and 1ups. I'd like a pony, too, as long as I'm waving my magic wand around.

That lack of humanity is games writing's biggest hurdle; how do you humanize a space marine? How do you convey the storytelling potential of an art form best known for beautiful bump-mapped babes and gratuitous violence? I think the real answer to these questions is straightforward, but kind of a punch in the gut.

The answer is casual gaming.

Storytelling in casual games began in a very simple place: "That mayan frog really hates those colored balls." As the sophistication level of the audience has risen, the stories have become more elaborate as well: "A woman fed up with her job quits to start her own restaurant." They're still fairly straightforward, but a lot of casual games have qualities AAA titles are missing entirely: empathy, heart, and approachable characters. Who's more human, Marcus Fenix (Gears of War) or Flo (Diner Dash)?

As casual games continue to evolve and adventure games continue their rise from obscurity, hardcore gamers may one day find themselves on the outside looking in. After all this time spent on graphics and high-profile titles, wouldn't it be a kick in the pants for a puzzler or flash game to finally achieve that emotional impact?

While I am personally and emotionally invested in a number of AAA games, I don't see that as a widespread phenomenon. How many people got choked up by the end of Oblivion's main story? How well do you remember the climactic final duel in Jedi Outcast? The answers to those questions, I suspect, are not many and not very well. We complete these games (or more likely shelve them) as quickly as we can. Glazed and uncaring eyes at another start menu, fire and forget, move on to the next title.

I've already gotten misty because of a game. I'm over that, and I think games writing is already there. Now I want my mom to cry because of a game. I want people to be talking about the latest chapter at the water cooler. I want E! to dish the dirt about the next installment. I know it sounds repulsive, but have you seen The Soup? Precious.

We're already in danger of a calcified, ghettoized gaming medium. As popular as games are, as many copies of Halo have sold, we're still at risk. It would be so easy to endlessly reuse, remake, rehash old material in the same physics puzzle/space marine/convict with a heart-of-gold ways. Whether it's a casual or a AAA, I want a game to break the chains. I want a design studio to back a gutsy story and see it succeed wildly. We need a plan.

Comments

So now shiho is Han Solo?

Nightmare wrote:

- BSG is a "...landmark series in the history of the medium"? Really? Good show, I'll grant you that, but "landmark"? Come on...

I believe it is. At least you have to give that in the context the author was speaking about it (the sci-fi TV genre) it's a landmark series.

I agree with others, though, that fundamentally storytelling in games is always going to be different than movies or TV. Maybe never better overall. Half Life and Bioshock being great examples of how the best way to create a story is to create a fleshed-out universe that's interesting and then let you, the protagonist, explore the universe and flesh the story out with your own personal experience.

Witness that we have a whole thread about Ravenholm. I think that speaks to the fact that many people had an "experience" there that you could call a story. It was just unique to each gamer.

jlaakso wrote:

Call Of Duty 4 was brilliantly written. I have no idea what the plot was about and I don't care, but it managed to get some emotion out of me, despite being a very basic military FPS, seen a hundred times before. I feel that it didn't need to be any "deeper" than that: it exceeded what's expected from an FPS by a wide margin, like a good action movie might.

I think if you missed the plot of COD4, then you missed out. I consider it (not a giant FPS fan here) to be one of the finest stories in a game I've ever played. The plot isn't intricate. It is moving, however, and told in a very interesting way. I loved it.

Great article, Michael. It's great to see these opinions articulated in a short and sweet article.

I would like to add that expanding the medium's thematic breadth not only makes sense, but is absolutely necessary from a business point of view. I'm no MBA, but think with your common sense here: If the industry keeps pumping out the same old stories based on the same old themes, people are gonna get bored. And those who were already bored aren't gonna get any less bored. The only way to keep and expand your audience (and thus, keep your business running) is to explore new territory.

Sometimes exploring "new" territory actually means reviving old territory. TellTale is doing this with Sam & Max - they're games like no other in the industry right now.

Of course, other times exploring "new" territory actually means going where no game has gone before. For example, how about an adventure game where you play Rabbi in modern day NYC, trying to solve the murder of one of your former synagogue members? I just described "The Shivah" - a game you should buy ($5 - you have no excuses) and play if you're interested in games that take on new (as far as games go) themes and settings. Such innovation usually comes from smaller development teams who have the agility and audacity to try such things.

It's easy to come up with new ideas (execution is another matter). Just look at some recent movies and think, "What if this was a game?". For example:

What if "Juno" was a game, where you play a pregnant teenager, trying to find an adopting family?

What if "No Country for Old Men" was a game, where you play a jaded Sheriff hunting down a psychotic murderer?

What if "Little Miss Sunshine" was a game, where you try to make it to the pagent in time but are constantly running into obstacles (it could play like a modern Oregon Trail...)?

And hey, speaking of Oregon Trail, why don't we have many historical experience games anymore? Surely if Oregon Trail, a 20+ year old game, could make US history fun for elementary school kids, the industry can make something interesting and enriching about all our modern day political issues? Surely!

Again, such efforts are out there by smaller studios. "Peacemaker" is a Sim-city like game that tries to convey the Middle East conflict in a very serious way. It is no easy task, for sure, and it is arguable how successful Peacemaker is as a game and educational tool.

But still, where is "Juno - The Game"? I have no idea how that would play, but it would probably involve going around collecting orange tic tacs.

stevesan wrote:

And hey, speaking of Oregon Trail, why don't we have many historical experience games anymore? Surely if Oregon Trail, a 20+ year old game, could make US history fun for elementary school kids, the industry can make something interesting and enriching about all our modern day political issues? Surely!

Most of the kids I played Oregon Trail with knew jack about the history behind the game, or even the fundamental concepts of time, seasonal change, and depth.

"Ford the river? Y. River is 50 feet deep, continue? Uhhh, y."

It was more of a "Shoot animals and feed people no food" sim than anything.
The Carmen San Diego series was a bit better when it came to hiding learning. Also Number Muncher.

But still, where is "Juno - The Game"? I have no idea how that would play, but it would probably involve going around collecting orange tic tacs.

I'm quite fine with a downturn in visibility of all those horrible BASED ON MOVIE/TV SHOW OF SAME NAME games out there. They mainly turn into lame adventure games anyway.

stevesan wrote:

What if "Little Miss Sunshine" was a game, where you try to make it to the pagent in time but are constantly running into obstacles (it could play like a modern Oregon Trail...)?

I would totally play that.

Spaz wrote:

Most of the kids I played Oregon Trail with knew jack about the history behind the game, or even the fundamental concepts of time, seasonal change, and depth.

I don't know the game at all, but as has been said, in a properly executed game it is up to the player to find the story. If it is overbearing then it fails as a game. In Bioshock and Halflife you can play as a straight run and gun shooter, or you can explore and learn more about the world, and then the game comes alive.

Oregon Trails sounds like that.

"Battlestar Galactica" is important. It's not just a fantastic television show, a landmark series in the history of the medium. It's not just a high water mark for the concept of 'reimagining' older stories. It's important because Ron Moore and the show's production crew absolutely destroy the crufty sameness of what 'sci-fi television is.' The tropes of Star Trek and Star Wars are so familiar, so well-tread, that they're almost played out. Sci-fi TV shows are still being made as if one mediocre show from the 60s is the template for modern storytelling.

I've not read through all the comments and though i liked Spaz's post and agree with a large amount of it i will just offer this bit of my opinion:

People seem to believe that the original BSG and the new BSG are the same genre. They're not. One tells the story of a fleet of ships trying to survive a trip away from a conquering enemy and the other tells of the torments, conflicts and passions of the human condition - it explores 'what it is to be human' in a way that certain dramas do. The setting is the same but the focus is completely different. Maybe this changes in the later series (which haven't been shown here yet) but i'd argue that it's more a drama than sci-fi epic.

The focus of the elements that comprise the story is changed considerably. For instance, in BSG (new series) i was surprised to find so little space combat. It was the equivalent of a real air war set today with quick resolutions and a big focus on the crews of the ships - it focussed on the mundane and normal. By comparison, old BSG was more of a Babylon 5 with more of a focus on the extraordinary and abnormal. New BSG doesn't redefine the sci-fi genre, it just sits nearer the drama side of the (oft-forgotten) genre barriers in the same way that RPG elements creep into FPS and RTS games.

Of course this means that, depending on whether you like the different genres, you will have a preference for one style or the other.

The only gaming analogy i can think of is either C&C or Halo. Switching from RTS to FPS for C&C or (as Halo is doing) switching from FPS to RTS.

[edit] Just gonna put this in as a laugh - New BSG is the Top Gun of series.

Spaz wrote:
stevesan wrote:

And hey, speaking of Oregon Trail, why don't we have many historical experience games anymore? Surely if Oregon Trail, a 20+ year old game, could make US history fun for elementary school kids, the industry can make something interesting and enriching about all our modern day political issues? Surely!

Most of the kids I played Oregon Trail with knew jack about the history behind the game, or even the fundamental concepts of time, seasonal change, and depth.

"Ford the river? Y. River is 50 feet deep, continue? Uhhh, y."

It was more of a "Shoot animals and feed people no food" sim than anything.
The Carmen San Diego series was a bit better when it came to hiding learning. Also Number Muncher.

I probably didn't learn anything specific either, but it was the experience that I found enriching. It helped me to understand and get a feel for what it was like to do that trek. It helped me understand that it was a tough, risky decision to take your whole damn family out to Oregon. Chances are, some of them would die along the way. And also, depending on your status (banker, blacksmith, etc.), you started out with very different resources. That says something about society back then. And of course, I'll never forget the kinds of issues involved in the trek: f*cking rivers, disease, broken wagon wheels, tiring oxen, and more f*cking rivers. Point being, it really helped me appreciate that period in our history.

How accurate is all that? I dunno - I hope it's accurate. But nonetheless, it shows the power of a game to help you understand an experience. And most games these days offer a very narrow range of experiences.

Spaz wrote:
stevesan wrote:

But still, where is "Juno - The Game"? I have no idea how that would play, but it would probably involve going around collecting orange tic tacs.

I'm quite fine with a downturn in visibility of all those horrible BASED ON MOVIE/TV SHOW OF SAME NAME games out there. They mainly turn into lame adventure games anyway.

Sure, most movie-based games are crap. But, A) that doesn't mean they have to be, and B) I wasn't necessarily suggesting a licensed game. To clarify, my point was that these movies deal with subject matter and themes and settings that games often don't. So, whether or not you license Juno, it'd still be interesting to make a game about teenage pregnancy and the issues involved with it.

The problem with the stories we make ourselves through gameplay is that we are not, by and large, fiction authors. As a result, we suck at it. We're just not very good at creating engaging, dramatic stories with significant emotional content, especially through emergent gameplay. Our self-authorial experiences tend to be like real life, where highs and lows are quite rare and most of the time is spent doing the same-old same-old (did I just describe most MMORPGs?).

The value of narrative and character in games is that it provides a framework for our emotional engagement, rather than the Skinnerian slot machine intermittent reward schedule of plotless games. It allows the game producer to focus the experience and intensify it, by giving us people and events to care about. A few examples of where this was done well are Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, BioShock, and Dreamfall.

I don't know if we need a Battlestar Galactica, but I would certainly welcome more well-written characters, settings and narratives in games that are not primarily tests of skill.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

I don't know the game at all, but as has been said, in a properly executed game it is up to the player to find the story. If it is overbearing then it fails as a game. In Bioshock and Halflife you can play as a straight run and gun shooter, or you can explore and learn more about the world, and then the game comes alive.

Oregon Trails sounds like that.

Here's a quick recap of what it basically was.
You can find a bunch of other reviews and synposis on YouTube, apparently. This one's a bit closer to what I played as a kid

I would agree that finding the story is a main component of Oregon Trail. In fact, the entire "story" of the game is crafted from your own decisions, from what people you bring, your profession, your often retarded decisions along the way. So yes, the end product was your very own version of Westward HO! In retrospect, that's probably the game's greatest achievement.

I think the problem behind the game was that my classmates and I were playing it in 1993, and at that point the novelty of computers and computer games completely overrode whatever intuitive logic we'd apply to the game. Adding to that, the game often spelled out which were the most beneficial actions to take (because, hey, it was aimed towards kids, after all).

"Which Profession would you like? A BANKER will have the most money. A PEON will have no money and most likely die!"
"How would you like to feed your people? a BANQUET will keep them healthy, but use up all your food. MEAGER RATIONS will cause them to get very sick AND DIE, but you won't have to worry about food!"

I'd say we learned about funny diseases, that walking across rivers was deadly, and that we could most certainly HUNT THINGS TO VIRTUAL EXTINCTION (muahahahahahhaha), but I'd venture to say that any appreciation of the pioneer experience was largely lost on us (as was the geography aside from "West, plz"). Perhaps if I had been older, I would have paid attention to what I was doing with these poor people. Then again, in a very meta way, our collective recklessness was a nice analogue to the kind of frontiersmanship of the day.

Now, some incredibly forward thinking teacher COULD have broken us into groups and had us do Oregon Trail projects to supplement the History portion of the curriculum, but it was largely left to us to make the connections between "Bad Things happen in game" and "Donner Party: A catalog of bad choices".

But hey, that's one of the big historic problems of Learning Games: the balance of "teaching" and "gaming". You can have a somewhat open game where the kid can have fun with some basic rules, you can feed information down their gullets and have some semblance of a game experience, you can have it so that the kid plays a game and gains information/exercises skills in the process Number Munchers, and so on. So often, you're either making a game with the pretense of learning, or an interactive museum trip.

Hmm. From BattleStar to a discussion of Learning Game philosophy. Wow.

stevesan wrote:

How accurate is all that? I dunno - I hope it's accurate. But nonetheless, it shows the power of a game to help you understand an experience. And most games these days offer a very narrow range of experiences.

I like this point very much.

But I will say that many games offer a bit of supplemental candy to the core experience. Halo 3, for instance, is mostly Shoot Things Now: The Game. But the optional terminal subplot reveals an interesting star-crossed lover story, as well as a Repentant Rogue story (from the A.I. Mendicant Bias). Viewtiful Joe was about punching things, but also worked as a cute tribute to sentai/crappy monster cinema.

stevesan wrote:

Sure, most movie-based games are crap. But, A) that doesn't mean they have to be, and B) I wasn't necessarily suggesting a licensed game. To clarify, my point was that these movies deal with subject matter and themes and settings that games often don't. So, whether or not you license Juno, it'd still be interesting to make a game about teenage pregnancy and the issues involved with it.

Ah, sorry, it was my misunderstanding that jumped to "Ellen Paige voices Juno in "Juno: Menses Madness!" Out on the DS this summer".

When it comes to subject matter, it's a very interesting problem. I think "No Country" could be made into a game pretty easily. Divergent chapters dovetailing into each other and so forth. You could even throw in some stealth sections with a Chigurh meter (kidding, kidding). The idea of hunting down a rogue villain isn't exactly new territory, but the way it was put together in the movie... well, it just focused on the idea that it wasn't so much Anton Chigurh and the miraculous 50 million that the Sheriff was trying to get, more that Sheriff Smalltown Boy was coming up against evils and people that had previously just not existed in his world. It was more a meditation on the changing face of crime, from the comical archetypes of bank/stage coach raids or the idea that it was possible to face down an assailant from a more personal human way, to a darker, more bloodthirsty, calculating, businesslike way that was wholly detached from a moral code which would be intelligible to normal everyday people.

That's a very difficult line to pull off well, without it burning away into cliche junk. Just look at the way the film ends, with a monologue about a character's dream. It ties the film up nicely, but it doesn't outright tell you THIS IS THE POINT. I worked at a movie theater that was showing "No Country" and we received TONS of complaints about this. Everything from "That ain't no ending", and "Hey I think you lost the last 5 minutes of the film and aren't telling us" to "that doesn't make any sense, can you explain it?".

I think No More Heroes does pretty well with turning a joke against the target audience into an actual experience. In the same manner, I think God Hand did an ok job of showing us that the medium is really hokey at times, but we can laugh at its over the top nature. And for all its fault, MGS2 cautioned us against blithely taking what we experience in game as a holy Truth. Just look at how much negativity was directed towards Kojima in the first year or so it was out.

hidannik wrote:

The problem with the stories we make ourselves through gameplay is that we are not, by and large, fiction authors. As a result, we suck at it. We're just not very good at creating engaging, dramatic stories with significant emotional content, especially through emergent gameplay. Our self-authorial experiences tend to be like real life, where highs and lows are quite rare and most of the time is spent doing the same-old same-old (did I just describe most MMORPGs?).

I think that this is true to a large degree. It takes a special kind of person to make a Raiding Guild, or Battle Clan, or what have you. There is, however, a lot to be said about those exceptional moments of created content. Just like real life, you may have a hundred crappy days, then have one really great experience, or sequence of events, that you carry with you forever. Ultima Online, I hear tell, was great at stuff like this. I've never played it, but I hear about people enchanting items with a porthole spell and then stealing the contents of some random guy's napsack, or stealing their homes while teleporting the user into a dungeon or something. In the greater story of the universe, it's like trading fireside tales. There's also the idea of far-sweeping events initiated by players. EVE Online is great at this. The goofballs at SomethingAwful.com started their first clan during the game's formative years. They were an informal organization that did well for itself. Suddenly, they were besieged by a relatively minor clan that ended up decimating their fleet and spawn-camping their corp headquarters. Turns out there was a double agent in their ranks, and he managed to get their entire corporation loot and cripple their enterprise. Most of the corporation players quit. Some went off into other clans in a great diaspora. Some years later, their GoonCorp reforms. They forge alliances with other players, and through the innovative use of cannon fodder, changed some of the tactics in large-scale ship warfare.

Understand that EVE Online is like doing long division for fun. Regular players generally jump to an asteroid, mine minerals, refine them, lather, rinse, repeat. It is generally not very fun for an individual. The Clan/Corporation element adds a bit to it, but it's really the job of a player to find fun in it. Understandably, it's not often that huge world-shaking events happen, but I think the overall story that these SomethingAwful players helped create is pretty stunning, and at worst merely interesting. It's a rare glimpse into the "What If" scenario where everything comes together.

It would be very compelling to be able to recreate that kind of devious machination in, say, a GTA or other sandbox game. I've already proven I can avoid the police, or turn into the Granny Murderer for 20 minutes. Now give me an open world where I can cause some kids to punch the cops out or something.

DSGamer wrote:
jlaakso wrote:

Call Of Duty 4 was brilliantly written. I have no idea what the plot was about and I don't care, but it managed to get some emotion out of me, despite being a very basic military FPS, seen a hundred times before. I feel that it didn't need to be any "deeper" than that: it exceeded what's expected from an FPS by a wide margin, like a good action movie might.

I think if you missed the plot of COD4, then you missed out. I consider it (not a giant FPS fan here) to be one of the finest stories in a game I've ever played. The plot isn't intricate. It is moving, however, and told in a very interesting way. I loved it.

COD4 is pretty much a perfect recent example of what a game needs to tell an effective story. A fairly interesting, if uninspired, story. Incredible set-piece battles. And, most importantly, good voice acting.

The story doesn't need to be very complex, or very "new". The game does need, however, decent writing, compelling characters, and, most importantly, good voice acting. Unfortunately, to tell that story, there are a few things that current games have trouble with.

The first major problem is the last "need" point. There are very few good english voice actors/actresses around. And, short of bad gameplay or extremely poor writing, nothing can ruin game immersion as much as bad VO's.

The other problem is open worlds. The problem with them is that the current "open worlds" really aren't. They're static worlds, and, often, the player has very little impact on them. Any changes that the player makes are usually shallow and cosmetic. At best, you'll see a WoW-like reputation system, where certain actions make groups of people friendlier to you and others make them angry at you. These games rely on the player to tell their story. Unfortunately, most people are extremely bad storytellers. Since the player has almost free-reign on their actions, it's nearly impossible to be able to tell a detailed story-the amount of freedom limits the possible stories that can be told to the player, since you can't guarantee that the player's going to go to a certain point at a certain time, or take the proper action. Most stories, especially adventures, have the feeling that the main characters are thrust into the action, and that there is a certain lack of control over the situation. Open worlds have none of that, since it's up to the player to do everything. When given the choice between taking a quest to kill every dragon in existence, or just stabbing the NPC that's offering the quest once, it's pretty easy to see which action most people will take. This means that any possible feelings of achievement or disappointment are limited, since the player initiates the action. Plus, voice acting sucks in these games, since the player can only be referred to by a title given in the game, or pronouns like "him" or "her".

The other issue is the perception that a story is somewhat separate from gameplay. It's not. It should be considered an integral part of the game, especially if single player is a key component.

I am not quite sure how someone can look at games like Sam and Max, Penumbra Overture and Penumbra Black Plague, Portal, and say that there is a lack of writing. Just as I cannot understand how people can look at BattleStar from the 70's and 80's, Star Trek from the 60's, Krull, Conan the Destroyer, Superman 3, 4, and Superman Returns, Star Wars Episodes 1, 2, 3, and 6, Armageddon, Transformers and suddenly see Bill f*cking Shakespeare.

For every BattleStar Galactica or Empire Strike's Back, there exist 10 times the number of hackneyed, low budget, shoveled out pieces of crap.

There is more crap than gold in every medium.

And when compared to other visual media, games are learning faster. It took Films over 50 years to get past pie throwing.

When video game developers promise themselves that they will remain true to a great story and no matter what; Censors can be damned. Don't dumb down the plot or the game instead because the general public won't be able to take it's hard knocks or figure it out. Make the game you've always dreamed to make it and then sell the best points of that. If you cut out everyone under the age of 18 so be it. If you have character snorting coke from the ass of a barely 18 Asian hooker I really don't care. If the game and story is better because of it then I say keep cutting those lines.

KingGorilla wrote:

I am not quite sure how someone can look at games like Sam and Max, Penumbra Overture and Penumbra Black Plague, Portal, and say that there is a lack of writing. Just as I cannot understand how people can look at BattleStar from the 70's and 80's, Star Trek from the 60's, Krull, Conan the Destroyer, Superman 3, 4, and Superman Returns, Star Wars Episodes 1, 2, 3, and 6, Armageddon, Transformers and suddenly see Bill f*cking Shakespeare.

For every BattleStar Galactica or Empire Strike's Back, there exist 10 times the number of hackneyed, low budget, shoveled out pieces of crap.

There is more crap than gold in every medium.

And when compared to other visual media, games are learning faster. It took Films over 50 years to get past pie throwing.

Well, I wouldn't really agree that games are keeping pace. Birth of a Nation was done pretty early in the film industry.

The game examples you mention certainly are well done, but the point is, we lack breadth. There still aren't many games dealing with real life in any meaningful way. For the non-escapists in the world, it's difficult to relate to a dog and rabbit, some dude solving creepy physics puzzles, and a test subject for a new weapon.

Where are the games about overcoming poverty, like "The Pursuit of Happyness"? That could make for an interesting game.

You see glorification of the KKK as a step forward?

KingGorilla wrote:

You see glorification of the KKK as a step forward?

It wasn't a film about pie-throwing, monsters in the moon, naked women, or random "ooh ahh" footage. It was a film that made an argument about a socially relevant issue. People who saw it came out affected and provoked. That's progress.

KingGorilla wrote:

You see glorification of the KKK as a step forward?

The content of Birth of a Nation is heinous, yes. But it made some pretty significant contributions to film history, in terms of technique and narrative, that we can't ignore. Birth of a Nation was a step forward. Just a damn shame it had to be that film that took those steps.

Anyway, there were some damn fine films being made in the 1920's and 1930's, a mere 10 or 20 years after the movie phenomenon had first sweeped America. The first nickelodeons were introduced in the U.S. in the 1905 or so, and by 1920, we were seeing plenty of full-length silent masterpieces. (In fact, we saw a lot more daring movies back then, in the early 20's and 30's, before the stringent Production Code was put in place to censor all the potentially naughty stuff out.)

And the 30's - a mere 20-25 years after movies hit the mainstream in the States - were even better. You had Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Greta Garbo, Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn, and so on. Indeed, 1939 is considered one of the greatest years in film ever: Gone With The Wind, Gunga Din, The Wizard of Oz, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, the list goes on.

So it's fallacious to say that "it took movies fifty years to past pie throwing." Just as you said, Gorilla, there were comedies and dramas, historical epics and thrillers - and movies of good quality and bad.

Why am I belaboring this point? Because film isn't a fair comparison for the game industry. Gaming is a different medium, so it will have a different historical trajectory.

Besides, if we could trace parallels, we should have already had our gaming Golden Age by now. It took the American movie industry just 10 years to produce its first full-length feature film of significance: Birth of a Nation, in 1915. And great film masterpieces have been produced every year since. So: What's the game industry's excuse?

You guys are talking a lot about film, but let me point you toward radio.

A single untrained person with a PC and a recording device can make a fantastic story over the course of a few months. It happens on This American Life.

It just takes one person, doing something that is fun, relatively easy, and creative. It doesn't even require a good PC to produce the story.

Which is probably what Zenke was talking about. If a game is made by just 1 or 2 people, and they don't have to fight the gods of programming or the gods of economics to make the game, they have a much better chance of telling a good story.

KaterinLHC wrote:

Besides, if we could trace parallels, we should have already had our gaming Golden Age by now.

What about the year Starcraft, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy Tactics and Grim Fandango came out? Baldur's Gate games, Fallout games, Planescape Torment came before that.

According to some, there was a golden age. The age of 2d and simple 3d.

Thank you for this post. The games I remember and recomend are the ones that have a great story. And I can never get enough BSG!