There are 3 available games for the class to try out and review. Journey, Her Story and Firewatch. I would like to talk about Journey in this game review.
Journey is an atmospheric, adventure game that has no combat and game over state, which at first sounds like a terrible idea. However, what Journey exceeds at were the storytelling. The background of Journey revolved around an ancient race that went extinct, leaving only the player in this beautiful, daunting and isolated world to find exactly what happen to them.
The players objective were to walk around the world looking for ways to traverse the environment using the game mechanic that were being taught to the player when they first started the game. Journey did a great job on giving subtle clues to the player on which object to interact with, For example, object that the developer want the player to interact with were normally red in color, and contrast that with the yellowish desert, the results is a game with beautiful visuals and at the same time, gave a clear indication on what they are supposed to do.
Other than the game mechanics, the impressive part was that the narrative were all done without using a single word. There are no words or voices in Journey (other than the interface), yet players would understand the story without any problem! Journey would also show the player that language is not the only way to express an idea, but with clear visuals and direction, a picture is worth a thousand words.
I was astonished by the game Journey. It is a good example for all developers and investors that not all games have to be gory and bloody. A simple, earnest game like Journey can create an experience that would transcend time and touch the heart of players regardless of their background.
The Garden of the Forking Paths was a compelling read. Being a fan of parallel universe/time-travelling fiction, I find that some elements in the story itself was confusing, however it was extremely fun and enticing towards the end.
Some actions of the main protagonist were bizarre, action such as killing Doctor Albert. It was strange to think that killing his friend Albert would be the best option to reveal the location of the artillery park. However, it would make sense if all the other possible decisions converge and occur simultaneously in this scenario.
The more logical actions would be having Tsun going to Albert’s house as a friend, chatting about Ts’ui Pen’s novel and labyrinth, with Albert alive at the end and providing a shelter for Tsun to hide.
In the second scenario, Tsun could have come to Albert’s house as an enemy after seeing the similarities of his friend’s name and the name of the artillery park, killed Albert without a single conversation and succeeded in revealing the location of the artillery park through the media.
However, in the story itself, Tsun came to Albert’s house as both an enemy and a friend, after exhausting all the possible option to reveal the location of the artillery park, killing his friend who had the same name as the park itself was the only way to achieve the goal. It was funny how the outcome was the combination of the two most logical actions for Tsun to execute and it would further emphasis on the theme of infinite possibility the narrative brings up.
I really enjoyed the narrative elements in The Garden of the Forking Paths, even when the actions of the protagonist were strange at times. The lack of logic in the narratives further invokes the audience to think of a possible outcome and timeline of the narration.
The essay written by Eric Zimmerman about the four main concepts of a game was a refreshing read and I had gained much insight about games, narrative and interactivity. However, I could only agree to a certain extent of the topic at hand, and I had a point to add on to the essay as well.
The essay mentioned and showed a sign of dissatisfaction with pre-scripted narrative games and praised computer-generated narrative such as “The Sims”. I had to correct his thoughts as it was not as elementary as he thought it would be. To put it simply, pre-scripted narrative and computer-generated narrative were just different ways to tell a story, and achieved very different goals.
A computer-generated narrative achieved a dynamic, complex storytelling with unexpected turns and event based on the player’s action. However, with further scrutiny, the magic that made such interesting narrative would eventually disappear. Every action the player made would results in the same predictable consequences. Not mentioning that computer-generated narratives were inconsistent, breaks all narrative structure and pacing. On the other hand, pre-scripted narrative games have no such problems. Even though the replayability of such games were low, the game and the narrative itself were consistent. Unfolding each event as it was supposed to, therefore allowing the players to enjoy the narrative of the game as the game developers intended.
At the end of the day, the gaming industry and the investors would prefer a low-risk and consistent product to invest in, thus the increased of pre-scripted games. However, one should not despise such games due to the popularity as there were no right or wrong in terms of narration. The writer should not show such bias as it displayed his immature thought process.
One point that was not mention in the essay I would like to add on was another criteria that would make a game was the risk factor. With the rigid structure and monotone rules of a game, the element of risk was the one that elevate games from an “Interactive Narrative Experiences”. A possibility to win more and a risk of losing all that have been gained, to put it in layman’s term, a gamble! A sort of gamble was present in every single game, from poker to chess to video games. Even a simple puzzle game could be improved with a timer and the possibility of a fail state. Difficult, yes! But infinitely more rewarding than a simple puzzle game. However with today’s games, failures were inconsequence and even outright dismissive. I could only hope that this would change in the future.