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Imagination In Games

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the oh-no-aliens-are-attacking-earth-again dept.

Games 94

In a recent article for Offworld, Jim Rossignol writes about how the experiences offered by games are broadening as they become more familiar and more popular among researchers and educators. He mentions Korsakovia, a Half-Life 2 mod which is an interpretation of Korsakoff's syndrome, a brain disorder characterized by confusion and severe memory problems, and makes the point that games (and game engines) can provide interesting and evocative experiences without the constraint of being "fun," much as books and movies can be appreciated without "fun" being an appropriate description. Quoting: "Is this collective imagining of games one of the reasons why they tend to focus on a narrow band of imagination? Do critics decry games because games need, more than any other media, to be something a group of people can all agree on? Isn't that why diversions from the standard templates are always met with such excitement or surprise? Getting a large number of creative people to head out into the same imaginative realm is a monumental task, and it's a reason why game directors like to riff off familiar films or activities you can see on TV to define their projects. A familiar movie gets everyone on the same page with great immediacy. 'Want to know what this game is going to be like? Go watch Aliens, you'll soon catch up.' We are pushed into familiar, well-explored areas of imagination. However, there are also teams who are both exploring strange annexes and also creating games that are very much about imaginative exploration. These idiosyncratic few do seem like Alan Moore's 'exporters,' giving us something genuinely new to investigate and explore. Once the team has figured out how to drag the thing back from their imaginations, so we get to examine its exotic experiences — like the kind we can't get at home."

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Hey (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29557225)

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Re:Hey (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29557271)

imagination in games... IMAGINE a gigantic PENIS heading right towards your open mouth, and there's NOTHING you can do, you just know it's going to go down the hatch for some deep-throat action. by the way, it's a nigger penis. being a nigger penis it doesn't get as hard as a white man's penis, but it makes up for that with extra length and girth. enjoy your floppy nigger dick erection blowjob experience!

like Oddworld or Psychonauts (3, Insightful)

TheBilgeRat (1629569) | more than 4 years ago | (#29557229)

I think this just goes to speak to the fact that the video game industry is thriving in much the same way the film industry thrives. Video games can immerse you in a plot or character in a different more interactive way.

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (3, Insightful)

Keill (920526) | more than 4 years ago | (#29557931)

But the computer games industry as a whole ISN'T thriving in the same way as every other entertainment industry, YET.

The reason is simple - the industry isn't yet mature enough to cater to the entire market as a whole with a basic quality product. (Some of the products released today, I wouldn't even count as 'basic'). At the minute, it's basically catering to some large areas of the market, and trying it's best to find ways of targeting some others, but since it's still trying to work things out for what works and what doesn't work in a computer game, it's very hit-and-miss.

Unfortunately, since it's following the same basic path as the other industries did, (though with a couple of shortcuts available, such as the internet, which the other industries didn't have at the same time in their period of evolution), it'll take a decade or two for it to fully happen.

What this is talking about is simply that computer games have got a lot more potential than some people realise, which, unfortunately, just means that they'll take even longer to fully mature.

I know some people will (probably) try and argue that the computer games industry is mature - but they're wrong - PARTS of the industry have and are maturing faster than others, but it still has a long way to go to catch up with every other form of entertainment - (and even then, those industries are still evolving too).

The problem with computer games, is that people want the industry to evolve faster than it's able to - as I said, it's going to take a decade or two for it to get to where, say, the film or maybe the music industry is TODAY - that is, assuming of course, that some of the major players in the industry ALLOW it to mature...

(I've found maybe another reason computer games haven't fully matured yet, too, (because of a paper I've been working on). It's become apparent to me that some people don't even fully understand what a computer-game actually IS - (I'm working on a paper talking about cRPG's) - but again, that's a symptom of the way some computer games have evolved and developed, and since it is also a consequence of the market and industry not being mature, it almost ended up going round in circles...

(Imagine that the only book trilogies that exist are all fantasy, such as Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Then imagine that some people, because of that, although they enjoy and prefer the longer and more developed story that trilogy's present, because only Fantasy stories are currently told in that format, they then say that fantasy is therefore defined as a trilogy...).

This is what's happening when a lot of people I've run into, (including some in the industry), who define cRPG's by the type of story they have to TELL, (i.e. plot, narrative etc.). The problem is that story telling is completely separate from gameplay - (which is why we can tell any type of story with any type of game - even two different games with the same story, or the same game with two different stories. The problem these people have, is that the sort of story they want to be told in a game, only seems to exist in cRPG's. And THAT is a consequence of the market not being fully mature... (Imagine a 60-hour racing game, with full narrative/plot/characterization etc. - would it be a cRPG? NO - it would just be longer, more developed racing game, UNLESS, it's also built around the game-play of an RPG too, (which is possible). Again, it's the game-play that matters for games - even cRPG's, though you'd be surprised at the people who've said that cRPG's are an exception to that... :-/)).

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (1)

ivucica (1001089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29558367)

At least FPSes have went the opposite direction. I enjoyed Quake2 far more than I enjoyed even the demo of Far Cry. I fear to even try some of the newer FPSes than that. The last one I saw and played that really intrigued me was Half Life 2. I see the video game industry as a dying, struggling child trying to fight its way to the heart of a player. Maybe I'm just a nostalgic geek who can't judge what common man wants, still, the neat looking graphics seem to be a "requisite" for success ... yet it doesn't make today's games better than the ones from 10-15 years ago..

A few weeks ago the company I'm at has released an adventure game. Looks nice, feels nice, has a nice tempo, nice music. I have my complaints about what we could have spent more time on and such, but overall I think the game is nice. Then some people come up and complain we designed the characters using Poser, that we were unimaginative, that our too great realism (which isn't that enormous) has made the game fscked up, that the game has too much dialogue, etc. Worst of all, they complain about characters and voiceovers. Our previous game featured crappy characters, and had no voiceovers -- they complained about that as well. From "wow - you couldn't pay for motion capture" to "wow - you made characters in Poser". And the overall response to first, "worse" game was much better than for this new one!

Game industry may "know" its players too well, and may have too much "experience". Publishers get to decide that for some arbitrary reason, the market won't eat up your game. At the same time, players want realism, then complain about lack of style. Perhaps it's time that we STOP listening to players, make the game as we desire, and have publishers that'll actually shut up and just release the game.

Or else, we'll concentrate on making our island beautiful, on satisfying expert gamers who are likely to purchase high-end graphics cards and tailor the difficulty to them. And we'll keep forgetting that there are other gamers with good graphics cards who are not experts and just want to play the game quickly. Players forget that designers are people, and that they might just want to try and enjoy the game as is, with friendly complaining instead of trolling.

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (2, Insightful)

Kelbear (870538) | more than 4 years ago | (#29559543)

I think players want realistic games to be realistic and stylistic games to be stylistic.

Katamari damacy and Okami have very distinctive presentations that aren't realistic at all. Beyond Good and Evil had fantastic art design but used acartoon style.

Like the OP was saying about immersion, the game should suck the player in. Perhaps the problem for many games is that they're all trying to be realistic, but the bar for realism has already been set absurdly high by all the expensive AAA titles. Katamari's blocky whimsical design isn't bashed for being realistic because it was never intended to be. Everything in the game looked like it "belonged" in the setting.

Games that try to present a realistic atmosphere end up getting judged by the likes of Gears of War and Crysis, while a games with a unique art design aren't subjected to that standard. Perhaps dev studios could save a lot of money by intentionally avoiding any comparison to realism?

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (1)

Eraesr (1629799) | more than 4 years ago | (#29563245)

Good point. I've written a piece touching this subject a few days ago. http://eraesr.blogspot.com/2009/09/design-over-technology.html [blogspot.com] I'm not a good writer by any means, but I think the point comes across well enough. I basically try to explain that the design of a game, in what measure a game achieved it's intended style, is far more important than technological bells and whistles. I focused mainly on the Wii since that is the weakest of the three consoles. The point is that a game like Lost Winds looks far better than a game thats relatively technologically advanced (The Conduit).

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (1)

bmatt17 (1494941) | more than 4 years ago | (#29564037)

Nice little blog and I completely agree. The Wii can have good graphics it all comes down to the art style. It's never going to compete with PS3 or XBox on realistic but with some clever art design can still look great. There was a picture I saw of Bioshock a while back, Big Daddy and several little sisters, in a more cartoon/animated style. It looked great, as good as the 360 version in it's own way. And I don't imagine the Wii having any difficulties rendering a game that looked like that. If developers realized this and started to produce some decent games with stylized graphics I might have a reason to dust off my Wii again. Instead we get a bunch a mini games and the few that are targeted towards the more core gamer have been jokes. Madworld could of been good if it wasn't just arena battle after arena battle. No more Heroes had the worst aliasing I've seen since PS1 and then we get a bunch of rail shooters. Haven't played The Conduit. The only games I've liked that weren't Nintendo's were ports of PS2/Gamecube games. Okami RE4. Hell even Twilight Princess is a gamecube port. Here's the link for the anime Big Daddy http://geekadelphia.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/bioshock_anime.jpg [geekadelphia.com]

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (1)

tibman (623933) | more than 4 years ago | (#29562363)

HL2 is really good. I'd like to suggest Left4Dead as well (but play it with a buddy all the way through.. so much fun!)

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29558459)

I would say that if you're wondering about RPGs, you're wasting your time -- the genre is a kitchen sink, with three different traditions (Diablo, Morrowind, and the Final Fantasies, to name their best-known examples) competing for the same name...

More to the article's point, I think that it's a bad thing that "genre" in gaming means "style of play mechanics," not "type of story, atmosphere, etc. produced;" the result is a naive association of play mechanics and type of story, although with the latter, "type of story" seldom rises beyond "setting."

My first thought on reading this article was that the main problem is the people involved. Game companies are apathetic or actively hostile (Electronic Arts) to employee retention, so that the only kind of people motivated to staying with them are best described as "fanboys." Combine this with the need to have extensive technical skills to get a job in gaming and especially to rise through the ranks, and I don't think we need any further explanation for why game development is stagnant. This stagnation includes "indie games," which have rapidly acquired a set of disagreeable conventions of their own...

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (2, Insightful)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 4 years ago | (#29558833)

More to the article's point, I think that it's a bad thing that "genre" in gaming means "style of play mechanics,"

Video games are GAMES. They are not movies, or stories, or paintings. They are meant to be picked up and played by real people for fun. As such, it is entirely appropriate that their market distinction is not "type of story", but rather "type of game."

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29559777)

"They are meant to be picked up and played by real people for fun."

You got me there, I'm actually a Sigmund Freud bobblehead. :)

Still, any thoughts on the lack of retention of good employees?

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29558575)

Do you have clear examples of people either calling something a computer game when it isn't, or people denying that something that is a computer game?

As it is, you claim to have knowledge that other people do not (a clear definition of what a computer game is), but then decide not to share it with us.

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (1)

Keill (920526) | more than 4 years ago | (#29559963)

I'll have to dig out the link - (assuming I can find it - I've swapped computers since then) - but I was posting on rpgforumsonline.com when it all started... (Had an argument with quite a few people).

As to the actual definition of what is and is not a game/computer game/cRPG etc. - well I'm in teh middle of writing a paper explaining it - (since a lot of what I've read has suggested that a paper like this is actually necessary, and may help a great deal).

In fact my paper wasn't originally supposed to be about that at all - I was just writing about some of the things I'd noticed and thought about RPG's after playing them for a while, after coming up with what I thought was something interesting - (leading on to my own cRPG system) - so I thought that site would be a good place to post it...

Since it's a site about RPG's, I thought people there would understand the fundamentals of what I was talking about, so I didn't go into too much basic detail - but it turns out I was overestimating my audience's understanding and viewpoint of not just cRPG's, but games in general. I had a rather long and drawn out argument with one person in particular, which in the end I just gave up with, since it was obvious she really didn't 'get it' at all... :(

However, the argument DID help me fully understand WHY they were all wrong in the first place, and also gave me better perspective on explaining it...

Since then, I've actually noticed a lot of people post similar opinions about RPG's in various places, and read quite a few articles - (including some on gamasutra) - which helped provide reasons for why people were taking the viewpoint they had - (even though it was wrong).

Because of this, I had to go back and write a new paper instead, (and am still working on it, (on and off), atm) - (though I'm really intending it to be an introduction to a longer paper that I will (hopefully) get round to finishing).

As to what the actual definition for games/computer games I've come up with IS, well - the title of the paper should provide quite a hint:

'Story Writing in Computer-based Role Playing Games'.

Again, I've made quite a few posts on slashdot about this now, but I'm afraid I'm not really any closer to finishing it - (been rather busy).

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29560115)

You still didn't directly say anything, you only talked about how you have this special knowledge.

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (1)

Keill (920526) | more than 4 years ago | (#29562759)

Oh, but I did...

In fact, I only left out one word in that title - an important word, yes, but if people understand games, then it shouldn't be too hard to figure out...

Games are fundamentally about two things, which naturally fit together and complement each other, one of which is in the title of my paper - (hint - it's not about role playing :p ).

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29563703)

Assume I am extremely obtuse. Try stating the core thesis of your paper in a sentence or two, without being coy about your thinking.

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (1)

Keill (920526) | more than 4 years ago | (#29569171)

(Doh - first of all I realised I made a mistake - (I was in a hurry and wasn't thinking properly :p) - I meant to say TWO words in addition that that - oops).

Well, lets see... It really all depends on how well you understand the term 'story writing', as to how much I really need to explain, though - (I've had to do that on slashdot before, since some people didn't get it).

Tell you what - I'll just explain it from scratch then - (again ;) ).

A lot of forms of entertainment, especially those involving media, are all about TELLING stories, such as films, animation, books and tv programs - even music is a type of story - just in sound.

Stories are merely a record of events, factual or fictional, from any period of time. There are lots of types of story - some of which can depend on the medium involved, and others, which can cover a wide variety of different media. Some types, such as comedy, tragedy, romance, are purely about the type of story told, and the events that take place within. Some, however, are, or can be about the setting within which the recorded events take place - (such as fantasy/western) - (though it's not always so clear-cut: I could have a science fiction story set in a medieval world - it would therefore be the events within the setting that would make it a science fiction story, and not the setting itself, whereas another story might be a standard romance, but in a futuristic science-fiction setting).

(If you read up on story telling - there are a few things that they are considered to involve: plot/narrative, setting, characterization and style).

Obviously, producing all this and making it available for people is a very large industry, which is good...

It's good, because story telling is IMPORTANT - it's one of the main ways in which humanity, as a whole, learns from ITSELF - every story it creates, both factual and fictional, from scientific essays and dissertations to the most fantastic science fiction novels, merely informs humanity more about itself and the world and universe in which we live - all of it - the good, the bad, AND the ugly.

But GAMES are not about story TELLING... And this is causing some problems for a few people, (well, actually, after everything I've read, I might put it at a bit more than a 'few').

Yes, it is of course possible to tell stories ABOUT games that have taken place - (a record of events that have happened) - (such a sports commentary/chess match reports etc.) - but this isn't a game in itself. No - what makes these games, is the act of WRITING the story itself, not telling it, even if it ISN'T actually being recorded 'permanently' - since it only matters that the players have their own record, (in their memory), for it to count. Obviously, with that in mind, people are constantly writing stories, and that's correct. It's just that very few are written 'permanently'.

Obviously, though, just writing a story obviously isn't enough for something to be a game - it's not like writing this post now means I'm playing one ;)

What makes writing stories a game, and therefore important, is the underlying reason for doing so:

Competition.

Games are about people competing against each other to write their own story, either as individuals or in teams, either directly, (such as opposing teams in a football match, or players in a chess match), or indirectly, (such as people competing against the clock to record the quickest time for any game or sport, by which they can then compete against everyone for whom a time has been recorded, regardless of when and where they did so).

But, yes, I said TWO words, didn't I, and that's because just defining it as 'competitive' story writing doesn't seem quite enough, (though I've had a few arguments about this one, which I conceded).

There's one other thing that (apparently) makes games what they are, and that's a (firm) set of RULES. Now, obviously the rules for a particular game can vary a GREAT deal, but it's still important that the players know and understand what the rules are - (even if they differ from player to player, which can happen).

So with that in mind we can add another word to the definition - (it took me a short while to think of the best word to describe what it meant) - and that's:

Structured, competitive, story writing, (either directly or indirectly between different people).

So, do you understand how and why I came to this definition?

Do you also understand why this definition would apply to every recognised game in existence?

(Hopefully you can tell I'm still on the fence about the word 'structured'? (What do you think?)).

Because it describes every game currently in existence, it's ramifications for games atm, is not that great. However, for future games, or games in development, it could be quite large.

Which brings me round to to computer games...

One of the reasons I don't like a lot of modern games, is that too many companies are making games almost purely to TELL a story atm, making the story the player writes not as important. As you can imagine, I feel that this is very much taking away a lot of what makes them a GAME in the first place. However, just like any other form of entertainment - there SHOULD be room for EVERYTHING, so if people really want to make games like that, then fine.

But, this brings us right back to the problem with the market not being mature enough to cater to everyone, with enough types and styles of game for everyone to find something they like.

This isn't to say that games don't require ANY form of story telling, however; they do - but only in their SETTING.

They don't need a plot/narrative, or even characterization, just a setting, then something for the player(s) to interact with and control within that, in order to write his/her/their own story, and then the rules binding the two together.

(Yes, I know I've added the rules to that, and am yet on the fence about the word 'structure', but that's mainly due to the type of rules concerned, rather than their actual existence).

Again, though, this isn't really a 'problem' we, well, I, can do anything about - if people want to play interactive movies, (or a slightly better version thereof), then so be it. Thankfully there are some developers out there that DO understand this, it's just they're not making the sorts of games I want to play :(

And that brings us round to cRPG's - because they ARE the type of game I want to play, but only if done PROPERLY. Unfortunately, as I've said, many people don't fully understand what they are, or at least what they've now BECOME.

I say that, because, originally, the main thing that made cRPG's what they were, was the fact that they concentrated strongly on story TELLING, in the early days when, (apparently), not many other types of games were, (as opposed to adventure games, which were apparently about puzzles - but even that's changed somewhat now too).

As you can imagine, in the years since, we've figured out that, actually, (as I said), we can tell ANY type of story, with ANY type of game. Unfortunately, the types of story cRPG's have been used to tell, have not fully spread to 'other' genre's, which is why a lot of people still seem to be stuck in a rut about cRPG's being defined by the stories they tell...

But, strangely enough, thankfully, this hasn't affected everyone - a lot of people HAVE recognised that things have evolved, and so have come up with another definition of what a cRPG is, independently of it's plot/narrative.

Most people, now, have generally come up with something simple, and similar to:

'A game that focuses on character development/progression'.

But there's a couple of problems with this definition, in light of the definition I now have for what a GAME is.

And THAT is what my paper is about, recognizing and exploring the ramifications of that, because they're absolutely MASSIVE for computer games in general, (not necessarily just cRPG's, (but mainly)).

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29571983)

The comparison between chess and writing a story is rather awkward. It's even worse for games that involve a deck of cards (a game like cribbage has a huge solution space, similar to chess, but much of the activity that takes place is entirely a result of how each shuffle comes out).

The notion of a written plot especially faces trouble in games that involve plenty of chance (so cards, dice, etc.). And personally, I don't see 'the kitchen table' as an element of story when I am playing card games, so I'm not sure that setting works very well either.

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (1)

Keill (920526) | more than 4 years ago | (#29577187)

No. You're not quite seeing it, (but it's not entirely unexpected ;) ).

Actually - I would have thought chess would be pretty obvious for this - (which is why I chose it as an example). This, for instance is a story of a short chess match:

            1. e4 e5
            2. Qh5?! Nc6
            3. Bc4 Nf6??
            4. Qxf7# 1-0
            1. e4 e5
            2. Qh5?! Nc6
            3. Bc4 Nf6??
            4. Qxf7# 1-0

The point of the game, isn't to tell THE story I just posted, but in the act of writing A story, with there only being a possibility for it to be the one I just posted. Again, the whole point of a game, is that people DON'T know exactly what story is about to be told to them, because it hasn't been WRITTEN yet.

It's the act of WRITING a story,that makes games what they are - (which is why people fixing games, so they KNOW what will happen before hand, (and therefore just TELL a story, rather than write one), destroys what a game is supposed to be - (i.e. cheating).

Now, there are two elements to the story's that are written within games - one is player skill - the other, as you pointed out, is random chance. Games can use either or both in various degrees.

Either way - because the story of the game is only written when it's being played - (unlike last years Singapore grand prix for instance :p ) - even full player skill-based games, because they pit at least two players against each other - (like chess) - and none of the opposing players will know exactly what they're opponents will do, it all means that the story is non-existant until the players write it.

Your essentially saying that random chance is not a viable way to ensure that a story is written when playing a game, instead of told. But of course that's ridiculous, since it can work extremely well at that. Yes, many things can happen BECAUSE of what the random chance might do, but it doesn't matter, because it's only there to ensure that players don't know what will happen before hand.

Yes, the kitchen table-top would be part of the setting if that's where people choose to play their game. The only difference between different games, will be of course how much impact it actually has upon the game itself. For games like poker, it obviously doesn't mean much, except as a space around and upon which to organise the players and the/their cards - though, obviously, the table would have more importance, in, say, texas or omaha hold'em, (since the community cards will be placed upon it), than in, say, five-card draw.

Again, just because you don't 'see' it as a setting - doesn't mean it's not there :p

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29578143)

That list of moves is a narrative, but I'm not ready to call it a story (hence my use of the word awkward).

Also, I'm not saying that random chance is not a viable way to ensure that a story is written, I'm saying that when 60% of what happens falls to random chance, it is specious to talk about those happenings as having been written.

Your last paragraph is just mud slinging, it isn't an argument. To wit: Just because you do 'see' it as a setting - does not mean it is there.

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (1)

Keill (920526) | more than 4 years ago | (#29583303)

Narrative is either a) a type of story, (or at least part of a story), when used as a noun, or b) a way to describe the ACT of TELLING a story, when used as an adjective.

In other words, if narrative is used as a noun, it's automatically a story, since that is was it is describing, or relating to the telling of such a story if used an adjective.

The reason WHY so many people have trouble with the word STORY, is simply because people don't understand just how basic, simple, and fundamental it's meaning really is.

And it's easy to understand WHY that's the case, when you check various places for it's meaning, and it really does vary by a great amount...

For some it can include both general, as well as more specific uses, whereas for others, even its 'general' use, (which is what we're talking about here), is more limited and specific. In other words, it's definition, (in dictionaries), is INCONSISTENT.

But even after reading some, (like Chambers Dictionary), although they try and make it more specific - (Chambers only mentions written/oral methods, for example) - if you read the rest of the description, it doesn't quite work, (since it then talks about film and media too).

However, sitting on my desk, right now in front of me, is a copy of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, and yes, although it also goes into more specific uses, it's general use is simply defined as:

Story: An account of real or imaginary events.

The real problem, is that most people have no concept of what a story is, until AFTER it's been told (to them) - after all, that's the way most forms of entertainment work - they write a story, then package it up, and tell it to us in whatever format and medium they choose.

Obviously, there are lots of types of information which you wouldn't really class as a story, since they don't, actually, relate to any events per se, (such as pure numerical information, and even instructions etc.), but there are other types of information, which, although on the face of it, you might not consider to tell a story, (i.e. describe any events), many people would, in fact, disagree...

(My example there, of course, is MUSIC. I'm a musician and composer myself, and there a lot of musicians I know who would tell you that music ALWAYS tells a story.... And if music tells a story, then all of a sudden, it's definition, by default, gets widened considerably, (though that doesn't, actually, affect much here at all - I just thought I'd add it as an example)).

Anyway, by ANY definition I've come across of the word story - (even Chambers :p) - that short description I gave of a chess match, as an example, is STILL a story, (since it's a written account of events, (in a chess match)).

But, as I said, most people really only have a true concept of what a story is after it's been told to them, using whatever means and method of doing so - (and limiting it to just written or speech does film/animation/acting (and music! ;) ), a great disservice!).

And this is a problem, because the moment you now mention the process of WRITING a story, (instead of telling it), most of the variety by which they're TOLD, suddenly goes out the window, and people start thinking purely of someone sitting there writing something down on a piece of paper...

But stories don't just happen that way. Stories can be written in exactly the same ways by which they are told! And it's this that people usually have trouble understanding, but it's IMPORTANT, if you wish to fully understand GAMES...

For instance, if I watch Match of the Day, on the BBC, they will tell me a story of a football match that happened earlier in the say, by showing me a film of the game - (selected highlights, generally). Yes, it may be incomplete, but such a film/program, would still count as a story of (some of) the events that happened in the game that took place earlier.

Now, showing a film of a game AFTER it has occurred, means it's no longer a game - it's merely a record, (i.e. STORY), OF the game that took place - (in a similar fashion to that report of a chess match I used earlier).

Now, one of the central tenets of that football match BEING a game, is WRITING such a story, so that it can be told later, (if someone wishes). But TELLING a story, is a completely SEPARATE act, from WRITING a story, (and this is something I imagine most people also have problems with), in such that it's possible to write a story, and not tell it.

A story can be WRITTEN by, and then exist in just ONE person's mind. Only if they choose to pass the information on, (or give an account), to another person, would the story then be TOLD. In other words, stories can exist WITHOUT being TOLD.

But then, have you ever heard the phrase 'everyone has a story to tell - (But not everybody chooses to)?'

So, do you understand, at last, what I mean by the phrase 'story writing'?

Do you also see how the randomness is merely ONE element of any story of a game, just a very powerful one, to help ensure that a story is written rather than told.

For example: as soon as you shuffle a deck of cards - a story is being written. Or roll some dice, or flip a coin etc.. A story is being written until the result is known, then a story is TOLD, yes, but only in the process of writing the story of the overall game - (unless a game ONLY involves a single dice roll). Only when the game has finished, will the story of the game actually have been fully written, and can then be told as a whole.

You must understand that because of this, it's the RESULTS of the randomness that matters to the story of the game, and THAT, is a WRITTEN story, and merely PART of a larger story of a game, which is still BEING written, (unless you have a game involving only one dice roll ;) ).

So, are you beginning to understand yet?

And as for setting - anything in the (direct) environment, and awareness of the players, of a game taking place, is setting. For instance the crowd (directly) watching a football match, and the stadium within which it all takes place, (not just the pitch itself!), is part of the setting in a football game! Setting is merely the environment within which a game takes place - ALL of it.

Obviously computer games ADD another type of setting in a game, (a 'virtual' one, in addition to the real one the player experiences directly), and BOTH still count as setting, though for the game itself, it's only the virtual one that matters - (though for the player, it's another matter of course - (especially if playing a Wii with a Wiimote!)).

I hope by now you are also beginning to understand just how much research and thinking I've done MYSELF on this matter. I had to do all this, just so I could fully understand myself just what it was I was actually looking at in cRPG's, and therefore explain exactly what and where the 'problems' I saw were.

As you probably understand, it's hard for me to know just how much to explain to someone, since I don't know how easily they'll pick it up and understand it for themselves.

I'm hoping that by now, I've given you enough information to understand the basics of what it is I see, and think of when someone mentions the word 'game' to me, and why, BECAUSE it's different from most people, it's actually rather important... (Mainly for cRPG's :p ).

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (1)

Keill (920526) | more than 4 years ago | (#29583361)

doh - forgot an 'and', before the BECAUSE in the last paragraph :p ("Generic grumble about slashdot not allowing people to edit posts once submitted").

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (1)

Keill (920526) | more than 4 years ago | (#29583429)

doh - missed another:

'For instance, if I watch Match of the Day, on the BBC, they will tell me a story of a football match that happened earlier in the DAY'

(I'm sorry - but I really, REALLY, HATE typo's! :p - (especially when they're mine!)).

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29587043)

I'll be fair here: I saw how long this was and did not read it.

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29563705)

Random guess: "Immersive Story Writting"?

On my more blunt side, you've basically just used three posts to advertise a paper you're writing, and despite all the paragraphs, the most anyone can get out of it is "I'm writing a paper about computer games"; no hints as to what your special insight, just advertisement for "read my paper!". This sounds a lot like corporate drivel that promise big, huge innovations, but never deliver.

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (1)

Orange4Life (1645475) | more than 4 years ago | (#29559485)

Video Games need to take advantage of the unique position that they are in... Being an interactive medium should put the player in a position to shape his own game and play it the way he wants to play it. We have all this new fancy hardware with epic big screens, and leet sauce graphix but all the games are fundamentally the same as stuff that was made in the 90s... How different is halo 3 ODST from Goldeneye? how different is ratchet and clank from mario 64? If the game industry were to start truly innovating it could become 5x the behemoth is has already become, but we all know that wont happen as long as people go to gamestop and preorder *insert rehash game title here... 3*

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29567749)

How different is halo 3 ODST from Goldeneye?

Goldeneye is fun.

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (1)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 4 years ago | (#29564397)

Yes, but I don't give a flying fsck because I want to play a game and not watch an interactive movie or read a book.

The only two games that are allowed to do this are Metal Gear Solid and Half-Life2, but especially Half-Life2.

The rest is all filmschool-gimmick shit. Now get the hell of my lawn and make some real games again? Yes? OK thanks!

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29565933)

SYSTEM SHOCK!!! WOOOOT

Re:like Oddworld or Psychonauts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29587497)

for me, video games these days are all destructive...they should try to be constructive this time...

Umm... (5, Insightful)

Muckluck (759718) | more than 4 years ago | (#29557259)

There is sort of a "duh" quality to the research here. Your brain is a "use it or lose it" type of organ. The more you use your brain and the more you use it in different ways, the better it gets at operating optimally. Games and education can be a good fit if the designers of educational games can manage to make something fun - not just a computerized version of a classroom. Use the media in a way in which it is already successful.

Maybe combine Grand Theft Auto and education by making the player add up fines or the value of the drugs he just stole...

Re:Umm... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29557443)

I agree, there is definitely a big opportunity with that because there will be people out there that want to play these types of games. If nothing else going in this direction is a nice change of pace and could lead to some new more creative ideas being incorporated into more mainstream games. For example some of these elements could replace the tendency of those repetitive puzzles that are used so often as a crutch in rpgs.

Education and Games (1)

qbzzt (11136) | more than 4 years ago | (#29558279)

According to this research [acm.org], ads in video games are more memorable when the game includes a violent component. This makes evolutionary sense, there are good reasons to pay attention during violent incidents. If you survive violence, you should remember what happened so you'll be able to survive next time.

This ability to learn quickly in relationship with violence might be useful in Instructional Design, especially when teaching facts that are inherently boring. For example, imagine a version of Quake which requires you to shoot one specific molecule type while avoiding shooting any of the others to teach organic chemistry. While you're looking for that one molecule type, you have billboards in the game world that teach you the others, which you'll need at higher levels.

Re:Umm... (2, Interesting)

WaroDaBeast (1211048) | more than 4 years ago | (#29557593)

Maybe combine Grand Theft Auto and education by making the player add up fines or the value of the drugs he just stole...

Anyone remembers bartering in Fallout games? You had to use caps or dollars to make up for the price difference between your stuff and the NPC's stuff. I always found that mentally doing the maths was kind of fun; that being said, I don't think the developers had educational purposes in mind when conceiving this aspect of the game.

Re:Umm... (2, Insightful)

Bat Country (829565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29558053)

In a way, you can argue that the Grand Theft Auto games are already educational games. The physics are unreal, but real enough to give young people a pretty good idea of what is a completely stupid idea when driving. When you drive fast in the rain, your ability to handle the vehicle is diminished to a huge extent. This makes you drive more cautiously. If you're driving a heavier vehicle, it won't turn as sharply and will have difficulty cornering. Tall vehicles are not suitable for sharp turns unless you enjoy being crushed and burned.

An 11-year old girl [mywebtimes.com] knew to pull her parents from their car when it had rolled by climbing out of a broken window because she knew from GTA that cars can catch fire when they roll upside down.

While playing GTA, you learn quickly how to recover from a skid, how to turn an uncontrolled spin into a powerslide, how to avoid rolling your vehicle, how to safely control a skid to avoid a collision and what sort of collisions are least damaging if you cannot avoid a collision. These skills do translate to real life - although I'd never before regained control of an actual vehicle which loses traction on ice or gravel, I've spared myself a severe accident on three occasions (once at a 100 foot long patch of black ice, once on a long stretch of frozen ice which looked like snow-covered pavement, and once when run off a mountain road by a logging truck driver who passed illegally) thanks in part to the combat driving skills learned in games like GTA and Interstate '76.

Just because we're not learning how to be more civilly responsible and urbane people by playing these games does not mean that the skills we learn while playing them are not valid, nor does it mean that nothing is being learned at all.

Re:Umm... (3, Insightful)

Pinckney (1098477) | more than 4 years ago | (#29559013)

An 11-year old girl knew to pull her parents from their car when it had rolled by climbing out of a broken window because she knew from GTA that cars can catch fire when they roll upside down.

Unfortunately, that's almost exactly the wrong thing to do. Cars rarely catch fire. Rolling over isn't particularly likely to cause a fire, particularly compared to other forms of crash. If there are signs of fire, by all means, get the injured out immediately. But rollovers can cause very serious neck and spine injuries that can be exacerbated by some well meaning individual trying to move you. Leave that to the paramedics.

Re:Umm... (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 4 years ago | (#29563549)

An 11-year old girl knew to pull her parents from their car when it had rolled by climbing out of a broken window because she knew from GTA that cars can catch fire when they roll upside down.

Unfortunately, that's almost exactly the wrong thing to do. Cars rarely catch fire.

Almost never in fact (apart from the odd model with a design flaw which is increasingly rare). Movies and games are a very poor source to learn from in this regard (everything just *has* to explode in a film).
Unless they are conscious and moving, it's indeed safer not to move injured victims.
The only exception I can think of would be when there is a risk that more vehicles may add to a pile up, frequently hurting people who managed to stop in time in the process.

Re:Umm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29577019)

So make a game about this.
Next time:
An 11-year old girl knew to leave her parents in the car when it had rolled because she knew from Highway Medic that cars that roll over can cause spinal injury.

ahem...

The charred remains showed the victims to indeed have suffered spinal injuries.
(I'm sorry, I am a bitter person)

Re:Umm... (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#29559213)

This is most likely attributed to increased reaction times and removal of the instinct to over-correct in these situations. The physics of GTA are intentionally dumbed-down in order to make the game more fun. For example, pulling the hand brake while going through a curve rarely has the same effect as in GTA.

Too much faith in driving abilities from GTA could do more harm than good. A driving simulator (iRacing, Forza, Gran Turismo) would give better instruction, but only in specific circumstances (using a wheel with force feedback, etc). Don't underestimate that simply by having increased reflexes from years of gaming has an effect, rather than assuming specific knowledge gained.

Re:Umm... (1)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 4 years ago | (#29560837)

GTA's physics are pretty good. They are particularly instructive when it comes to collisions between large and small vehicles (e.g. truck vs SUV, or SUV vs compact car, or car vs motorbike). Safety ratings don't mean anything when the difference in mass means you get punted like a soccer ball in a collision. If you drive a small car or motorbike, you need to drive defensively if you value your life at all.

Re:Umm... (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#29563349)

While playing GTA, you learn quickly how to recover from a skid, how to turn an uncontrolled spin into a powerslide, how to avoid rolling your vehicle, how to safely control a skid to avoid a collision and what sort of collisions are least damaging if you cannot avoid a collision. These skills do translate to real life - although I'd never before regained control of an actual vehicle which loses traction on ice or gravel, I've spared myself a severe accident on three occasions (once at a 100 foot long patch of black ice, once on a long stretch of frozen ice which looked like snow-covered pavement, and once when run off a mountain road by a logging truck driver who passed illegally) thanks in part to the combat driving skills learned in games like GTA and Interstate '76.

At best, what playing GTA did was help decrease your reaction time (actually skills at pre-emption, reaction times are uniform across most individuals) and handling fight-or-flight responses better in a stressful situation.

How you regain control of the car differs too; I guess by "power slide" you mean drift, as you can't powerslide a front wheel drive car. You can try and match the acceleration of the rear with the front, but it's not the same method of control at all. You rely on being just past the limits of traction in a rear-wheel drift; Attempt that in a front wheel drive and you'll end up in a spin. Plus, if you're already spinning, you want to regain traction before you attempt a recovering manoeuvre, meaning that you apply little or no power until grip is restored.

GTA doesn't teach you anything useful apart from getting out of a burning car. Oh, and to lock your doors to avoid carjacking.

Re:Umm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29571439)

I've never owned a front wheel drive car. They're not exactly safe on ice.

Re:Umm... (1)

uninformedLuddite (1334899) | more than 4 years ago | (#29563791)

Maybe combine Grand Theft Auto and education by making the player add up fines or the value of the drugs he just stole...

The easiest way is to not pay the fines on principle and to take all the drugs as quickly as possible

Done that. (4, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#29557327)

games (and game engines) can provide interesting and evocative experiences without the constraint of being "fun,"

I've played a few games recently that did not worry about the "constraint" of being "fun".

Funny thing is, they still cost sixty bucks.

Thank god I tried the TPB "demos" before shelling out for them.

Re:Done that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29558841)

Amen. Why shell out $60 for "fun" when you normally don't end up having "fun" as it's been promised?

You can delete demos. You can't delete the fact you just blew $60 on some half-assed attempt.

Re:Done that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29565157)

You can't delete the fact you just blew $60 on some half-assed attempt.

The bottle of Single Malt in front of me disagrees with you.

Re:Done that. (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 4 years ago | (#29563809)

I've played a few games recently that did not worry about the "constraint" of being "fun".

Funny thing is, they still cost sixty bucks.

Presumably that's the "evocative experience bit".
After playing them you can log on to /. and evoke all the things you could have done with $60 or with those wasted hours.

No mystery (4, Insightful)

Bat Country (829565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29557481)

It's no mystery that people don't need games to be fun in order to appreciate them - people play games because they satisfy a need. What that need is depends on the person. When I was working graveyard shift and all of my friends and roommates were on the day shift, I'd play MMORPGs on my days off just to have somebody to talk to in the hours I was awake. I wasn't necessarily enjoying playing the game so much as I was just happy that there was somebody awake who was worth talking to.

Some people play games not to enjoy but to fulfill a need for competition. They may get a thrill out of it, but it's in all likelihood more scratching an itch than it is relaxing and having play time. Casual games have been taking off in popularity because they are part of a subset of games which actually do have to be fun and relaxing.

I'd argue that most AAA game titles that have come out in the last decade have not just been simple fun, in that they were not designed to promote relaxed and enjoyable play, but to drive competition, to require significant effort to improve your skills, to require constant learning and adaptation (even in the most primitive shooters) and to (for most action games) attempt to engage the player in a fiction.

The parallels being drawn between movies, books and games are definitely not baseless; video games serve the same purposes as the classes of fiction in which are rooted. They seek to inspire wonder, fear, excitement, anger and righteous indignation... Ultimately, they serve much of the same purpose as the heroic epics of ancient times; to get people excited about the idea of things that people other than them get to do, while at the same time showing them the sort of awful crap happens to those heroes. The significant difference between video games and epic tales of heroes is that in video games, the hero seldom dies at the end (with a few spectacularly successful exceptions). This remains rewarding to the audience because of their increased level of participation in the myth.

Also, video games serve a very real purpose by allowing a player, albeit fleetingly, to be a hero and make meaningful changes in their environment with a laissez-faire which is not to be found anywhere in the civilized world. A man stuck in a dead-end job in some rural region, so long as he can afford a computer and internet access, can for a brief time every night become an epic hero in a world full of his peers. A child who finds himself alone and bored in the inner city, so long as his parents can afford $15 at a garage sale can be a young boy with a sword who saves a princess and an entire world.

It certainly can't be generalized to the experience of most people playing most games that they're being engaged on an artistic level and are having some deep-seated psychological or emotional need fulfilled by their video gaming experience, but it can certainly be established that not every game is played for fun, and not every game is designed to be fun.

Re:No mystery (1)

TheBilgeRat (1629569) | more than 4 years ago | (#29557541)

The significant difference between video games and epic tales of heroes is that in video games, the hero seldom dies at the end (with a few spectacularly successful exceptions). This remains rewarding to the audience because of their increased level of participation in the myth.

Movies also follow this formula. Rarely does the main protagonist die, it's only the bit players that don the red shirt.

Re:No mystery (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 4 years ago | (#29561011)

"Rarely does the main protagonist die, it's only the bit players that don the red shirt."

That was one of the great tricks of the original Alien movie. Fool you into thinking one character is the protagonist... then mid-story, wham! A few other thrillers have done that too. When it works, it's very effective.

Re:No mystery (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 4 years ago | (#29559689)

I don't know why this isn't obvious to more people... needs are secondary to wants. You need to play a game because you want to not be bored. You want to be mentally occupied/stimulated. You eat because you want to live and you want to not feel hunger pains. Just like every want, given the right conditions, your wants can change.

Re:No mystery (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 4 years ago | (#29560995)

"The significant difference between video games and epic tales of heroes is that in video games, the hero seldom dies at the end"

Although in video games, the hero dies countless times in the middle, then reverses time until they 'get it right' and complete the level.

This is a very interesting feature of interactive narrative, IMO - the 'do-over' or 'repeat until optimised' effect. Classical epics have a shape, a structure, which is fated. Games have rulesets which define what actions can be taken and what their results are, and whether it's a comedy or tragedy depends on the player.

Btw need walkthru for Hamlet plz. Ophelia keeps dying even when I kill everyone else.

Re:No mystery (1)

Bat Country (829565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29561061)

Send Ophelia to a nunnery before Act I Level III, or alternately, convince Polonius to send her with Laertes.

Re:No mystery (1)

MaerD (954222) | more than 4 years ago | (#29567213)

Ultimately, they serve much of the same purpose as the heroic epics of ancient times; to get people excited about the idea of things that people other than them get to do, while at the same time showing them the sort of awful crap happens to those heroes.

Hearken, children, and I shall tell you the tale of John-117, a a man called demon by his enemies and a savior by his people.

fp fag0rz (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29557499)

sure that I've lesson and FreeBsD because Of business and was 486/66 with 8 have somebody just is dying and its juggernaut either

Fun is part of the definition (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 4 years ago | (#29557579)

game: [bef. 1000; ME gamen, OE gaman; c. OHG gaman glee]

Games are fun. If they aren't, they aren't games.

Re:Fun is part of the definition (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29557823)

I guess Chess isn't a game then. Oh wait, you'll just say that's fun too. Which means you can say that about anything.

Re:Fun is part of the definition (1)

ericvids (227598) | more than 4 years ago | (#29562969)

The problem with that kind of thinking is that it's completely inadequate for study. There are no metrics that objectively measure the amount of "fun" in a game, because it is inherently a subjective term. Not measurable == not testable == not scientific.

We can argue forever whether games SHOULD be fun (take "serious games" or "persuasive games", for example... they're intentionally purposed for things other than "fun"). Any academic study quickly finds that "fun" is not at all useful for defining whether something is a game. We use other metrics such as level or type of engagement, but never how fun it is; we cannot measure that, and it won't do us any good anyway.

Yes, you heard me, it's no good to have "fun" as a definition for games. Just look at these statements:

Movies are fun. If they aren't, they aren't movies.
Books are fun. If they aren't, they aren't books.

And so on for all other types of entertainment.

Finally (1)

bmcnally (1333283) | more than 4 years ago | (#29557607)

My mom will appreciate games rather than just decrying their "destructive" and "pointless" nature. Took long enough.

Games have long been in the realm of explaining everything from economics to interesting visualizations of mathematical patterns (such as The Game of Life). However, outside of those who generally work in such spaces, and those who learn about them in connection with Computer Science/Mathematics/Economics degrees, very few people in the general public have ever fully appreciated games.

That has broken down a little with the release of Guitar Hero and other games that draw in the casual gamer with a sense of the familiar, but there are many who still see the vast majority of games (like GTA, Starcraft, and Half Life) as simple killing simulators. Great to see new mods that are pushing games into greater and greater (positive) exposure.

Re:Finally (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29557841)

That has broken down a little with the release of Guitar Hero

Guitar Hero, Halo and many other so-called games are popular, not because they are actually games, but because they give the perception of skill and the illusion of challenge rather than requiring actual skill to overcome real challenge.

Re:Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29559843)

I'd love to here what you call an "actual game" that requires "actual skill" to overcome a "real" challenge so I can use your own post to tell you how they aren't "real games." In fact, let's just skip a step:

[2 of your favorite games] and many other so-called games are popular, not because they are actually games, but because they give the perception of skill and the illusion of challenge rather than requiring actual skill to overcome real challenge.

Re:Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29560997)

Unfortunatly for you, it dosen't work that way. A dramatic example is the "Touhou Project" series of 'bullet hell' shooters, which start off insanely difficult and requiring a great deal of skill to play. Contrast this to Halo, where the player has an infinitely recharging shield. The damage done to the infinitely recharging shield is inconsequential in all but the very short term, and the presence of the infinitely recharging shield means no skill beyond a basic ability to work the controls is required. QED.

You haven't played Halo much, have you? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 4 years ago | (#29561943)

Or better yet, try Crysis and tell me how easy that infinitely recharging shield AND infinitely recharging health makes it for you. If Halo's so damn easy you should breeze right through it with no trouble whatsoever and no skills or tactics required.

SPOILERS: In Halo your health is depleted rapidly when your shield runs out, and if your health runs out, you die - it's not significantly harder to get killed than in any other FPS. Crysis is even more generous, with both shields and health infinitely recharging, but is much more difficult. Parent has only played the first level or two of Halo and is talking out of his ass due to a (somewhat understandable) grudge against Halo fanboys.

Re:You haven't played Halo much, have you? (1)

ductonius (705942) | more than 4 years ago | (#29569205)

If Halo's so damn easy you should breeze right through it with no trouble whatsoever and no skills or tactics required.

This was, in fact, my experience with Halo and Crysis. Parent must suck at games.

Re:You haven't played Halo much, have you? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 4 years ago | (#29570475)

Well, good for you. I found Halo to be of average difficulty and Crysis to be on the hard side, with the final level being insanely difficult (both played on Normal, although I've also finished Halo on Hard). I guess they might be easier if you have a lot of patience, but if I wanted to spend a lot of time planning and waiting I'd play an old Rainbow Six/Ghost Recon game.

Game ideas that would be highly not fun (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29557735)

Some things would be so not-fun that I don't see how they could be made into compelling games. For example, how would a simulator of being in solitary confinement draw an audience? What about a simulator of being a beluga whale trapped below a breathing hole in the ice, over 20 miles from food, for six months?

Re:Game ideas that would be highly not fun (1)

Bat Country (829565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29557807)

Simulators are almost never fun. On the other hand, you could quite easily make a game about attempting to avoid insanity while being in solitary confinement wherein gameplay happens only in your dreams. Or a game about attempting to escape solitary confinement where the prison itself is completely physically simulated and an unknown person visits you after lights-out.

Being a whale trapped under ice for six months would definitely suck as a game premise, but you could make quite a challenging game that would make the same point by being a team attempting to keep the whale alive. Or the whale is forced to find other breathing holes closer to open water during the higher temperature days and return to the original hole at night lest it freeze over.

Re:Game ideas that would be highly not fun (1)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 4 years ago | (#29563015)

On the other hand, you could quite easily make a game about attempting to avoid insanity while being in solitary confinement wherein gameplay happens only in your dreams. Or a game about attempting to escape solitary confinement where the prison itself is completely physically simulated and an unknown person visits you after lights-out.

Sounds a bit like Ubik to me. Game was almost as funky as the book :P

Re:Game ideas that would be highly not fun (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29558049)

How about a real-time road trip simulator where you drive a bus from Tucson, AZ to Las Vegas, NV?

Re:Game ideas that would be highly not fun (2, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#29558315)

Yeah, I had a terrible idea for a game, an italian plumber who breaks bricks with his head. Oooh, or some type of space royalty that has to roll up things to make a star.

Re:Game ideas that would be highly not fun (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 4 years ago | (#29563869)

Yeah, I had a terrible idea for a game, an italian plumber who breaks bricks with his head. Oooh, or some type of space royalty that has to roll up things to make a star.

Better keep your day job and leave making games to professionals. Not everyone can come up with Daikatana.

Irony (1)

bitspotter (455598) | more than 4 years ago | (#29557765)

> //These idiosyncratic few do seem like Alan Moore's 'exporters,' giving us something genuinely new to investigate and explore.//

Questioning pop media analogies by using a pop media analogy. Brilliant!

Pffft... (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 4 years ago | (#29557779)

Most peoples great ideas for games suck, it takes a lot of trial and error to find something that will appeal to people. And often times mediocrity is what appeals to the masses.

Re:Pffft... (2, Interesting)

Bat Country (829565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29557969)

Of course mediocrity appeals to the masses... The masses are by definition mediocre.

Conservative creative efforts will be fiscally rewarded disproportionately with the more risky efforts. If you design two games, one with an ingenious core mechanic that people will either "get" or "not get" (like Portal) and one with all other aspects being equal (art, humor, charm, challenge, time commitment) except that the second game is based on platform-jumping (a familiar and easy-to-learn mechanic), then the more familiar title will win... Unless the novelty of the core mechanic is sufficient to overcome the difficulty of learning the new mechanic. In the case of Portal, the risk paid off and produced a truly exceptional game - a first-person puzzle platformer which uses Newtonian physics in an eccentric space which is deformable by the player. Valve hedged their bets by packaging the more risky title with a pair of titles that they knew would be successful, later to discover that Portal would probably have succeeded on its own.

Other experimental games have not always been so lucky. It's small consolation to a smaller studio who is in danger of being closed that their products became sleeper hits or cult classics after they've been shut down by their publisher.

If risk was the sort of thing that every publisher took as a matter of course, where part of every bargain for an A-list game was that the company be funded to make one experimental game with a comparable budget, then we'd have much more variation in the games market. And as you've pointed out, a lot of trial and error is required to figure out what "mediocre" even is, which is one of the reason that the game industry has been dominated by games riding on the coattails of successful titles of ages past. Ultimately, however, the biggest difference between a mediocre but poorly performing title and a mediocre but best-selling title is the level of polish and the talent of the people executing the core concepts. And that's where the imagination comes in.

Pathologic, not fun; depressing (5, Interesting)

jzono1 (772920) | more than 4 years ago | (#29558027)

This russian gem deserves to be mentioned. It's not fun. It's so depressing I could barely stand playing it for long stretches. 10-15 mins was enough, 30mins was horrible. The unique concept results in a game that *is* a depressive nightmare. It's unique in a way; what other game makes you feel like killing yourself - just to end your own suffering? It's absolutely brilliant, and a hell to survive through. Interesting article about it: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2008/04/10/butchering-pathologic-part-1-the-body/ [rockpapershotgun.com]

Re:Pathologic, not fun; depressing (2, Interesting)

Kelbear (870538) | more than 4 years ago | (#29559951)

Thanks for the reference, I'll check it out (if I can find a place to get it!)

It's surprising that that this game is so long. Typically indie games don't have the resources to develop a game's depth through content, and are forced to generate it through gameplay mechanics.

Re:Pathologic, not fun; depressing (1)

jzono1 (772920) | more than 4 years ago | (#29560507)

It can be bought from gamersgate: http://www.gamersgate.com/DD-PATH/pathologic [gamersgate.com] Myself; I gave up. Couldn't stand playing it after a while. Now, over a year later I'm giving it another try. There's few games that can change one's view of gaming as a medium, Pathologic is one of them. Spend a few hours in it, and it will be remembered. Few games leave such a lasting impression.

Re:Pathologic, not fun; depressing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29566189)

Holy shit... When I started reading the article I thought I was going to buy the game. After I finished reading the article though, jeez... It sounds like an amazing game but it's one I'll never play.

Korsakovia (1)

atomicthumbs (824207) | more than 4 years ago | (#29558301)

I played through Korsakovia a few days ago, and it was without doubt the scariest/creepiest game I have ever played. The thing was, it wasn't scary in a visceral way (enemy jumps out from behind corner) most of the time; it was scary in an intellectual way (Christopher's mind is falling apart and he is losing contact with the doctor). I recommend playing it.

Re:Korsakovia (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 4 years ago | (#29561025)

I just wasted a couple of hours on this. It begins interestingly enough, but once you discover that you can kill the enemies and that the level design is amateurish at best, the appeal evaporates like smoke.

Being 'deep' and 'thought provoking' isn't enough. This is a mistake that a lot of amateur writers make. The end result needs to be accessible as well, or the audience discovers nothing.

Re:Korsakovia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29561063)

I just played through part of it. I thought the narrative was good, but the gameplay was merely average.

Want to know what this game is going to be like? (0)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#29560243)

Go watch the Uwe Boll movie of the game. It's everything the movie isn't.

Two minuses make a plus (1)

SoVeryTired (967875) | more than 4 years ago | (#29560391)

Wouldn't it be interesting to get someone with Korsakoff's syndrome to play Korsakovia? Maybe the two would cancel each other out and everything would make sense.

Re:Two minuses make a plus (1)

genner (694963) | more than 4 years ago | (#29562141)

Wouldn't it be interesting to get someone with Korsakoff's syndrome to play Korsakovia? Maybe the two would cancel each other out and everything would make sense.

Some one with Korsakoff's wouldn't remember having played it
This game will make you wish you had Korsakoff's.

Re:Two minuses make a plus (2, Insightful)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 4 years ago | (#29563393)

Wouldn't it be interesting to get someone with Korsakoff's syndrome to play Korsakovia? Maybe the two would cancel each other out and everything would make sense.

And maybe a game about retards would make you a genius.

Meh, Half Life 2 = DRM (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29561539)

Checking ... Half Life 2 still have DRM?

Yep. Not interested in a thing about it then, yet.

Waiting till the DRM is removed so I can buy it.

I've got an idea for alzheimer GTA (1)

citizenr (871508) | more than 4 years ago | (#29562151)

City layout changes every time you load save or enter a house.
Half done quests appear out of nowhere. Missions you started just disappear.
NPCs look different every time you talk to them.

Re:I've got an idea for alzheimer GTA (1)

EventHorizon_pc (1306663) | more than 4 years ago | (#29572577)

You mean it's not supposed to be like that? Man, I should really stop throwing my Playstation 2 against the wall when I fail missions and stop using my game disks as coasters for ceramic mugs.

Obvious? (1)

corys (1645871) | more than 4 years ago | (#29566569)

Do critics decry games because games need, more than any other media, to be something a group of people can all agree on?

Not so much that it needs to be something people can agree on more than any other media, just that it's a much more difficult task. While most people can agree that a Disney movie about a fish trying to make his way home is cute and fun for the whole family, not everyone enjoys blowing the heads off aliens with 300 different types of explosive weapons. Now try making a video game about the same fish and his travels and let me know how it turns out. Either way, I prefer RPG's because believe it or not it is somewhat mentally engaging.

As for the fun aspect of video games: people are not going to play them unless they are enjoying the gameplay (unless they are like me and use stupid browser games to kill time while at work). If you want to make a game that offers a learning experience, you have to make it fun in some way. Even better, make it fun and don't give it away that they are learning while playing. Sneaky, huh?

All The Epileptic Seizure Without The Fun! (1)

BeaverAndrew (1645577) | more than 4 years ago | (#29576055)

After watching the promo, I think they should change the name to Epileptic-Seizuresakovia...

glassran (1)

glassran (1544811) | more than 4 years ago | (#29576681)

I think that games that aren't fun are a good market to break into and could fill a void not currently occupied by other media. Just as the movie "Requiem for a Dream" was not meant for everyone and could not be appreciated by everyone I feel this relatively untapped sort of subgenre could be felt by a particular sect and have success for that market. As crazy as pop culture makes you with propagandized messages and viral marketing I think it would refreshing to have something that is already offkilter. I appreciate the creativity and more importantly the honesty of it all.
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