4/7/08

Why Dead Rising is How You Should Tell a Story in a Game

Disclaimer: I heart hyperbole

You know what always pissed me off about video game stories?

Let's look at Mass Effect. In ME, you play a dude who's gotta save the universe, with only the Best Human Ship EVAR (tm) and a Ragtag Band of Fighters (tm). Somehow, you manage to do so. Who'da thunk it?

So there's this mission in the game where you gotta get to a planet and save some alien dudes who need your help. You are told to get there quickly, so you can save them! Time is of the essence you are told! And in case that didn't convince you, the mission's name is Race against Time!i

But what if I don't wanna? What if I wanna roam around the universe for a couple of days? WHAT THEN MASS EFFECT!?!?!? Then...nothing. The dudes you needed to save never die, they just stay there, on their little paradise planet, waiting for you to just show up any old time you please.

What. The. Fuck. That's a load of bullshit. Seriously, if we (and by we, I mean 'I' since no-one reads this blog!) want the medium to advance we got to start calling this shit.

You see, there are only four (4) video games that I have ever played that told a story right. First and second are Portal and Half-Life. These games need no explanation. Third is Shadow of the Colossus, or, 'The Game That Makes All Others Look Like Steaming Piles Of Dog Shit, only WITH BLOOM LIGHTING!!!'

And the last is Dead Rising. Dead Rising is the singly most ballsy piece of game design in the past decade. What of the indie scene? Fuck the indie scene*. Those shitheads are playing for peanuts when compared to Dead Rising. Those indie fucks are busy re-treading retro, and making their shit candy-coated.** Portal was not ballsy.*** Was there ever any real doubt about Portal? Sure, no one foresaw how awesome it was going to wind up being, but people, this is Valve we're talking about. They made Half-Life. While we were still shitting out shlocky WW2 shooters, Gabe Newell and his team were busy establishing the standard in FPS's, which is the case to this day.

But what of the story? I'll give you that fact that yeah, Dead Rising doesn't exactly have the greatest story ever. But I'm not here to talk about the story of Dead Rising, I'm here to talk about how it tells it. And how it tells it is the way ALL GAMES SHOULD DO IT****

So how does it tell it's story? What is this method that just has my man-panties***** in such a twirl? Timed tasks bitches.

Just let it sink in.

It's still sinking in, trust me dude.

Still sinking.

...

Remember ME? Mass Effect? Remember the problem I had? Why did I have this problem? I propose that the underlying cause of this problem was Narrative Momentum (tm). The Narrative of the game had no Momentum of it's Own. I was the momentum. I moved the story. And I could move the story in such a way as to let it make no sense.

Dead Rising's structure does NOT let you do this. It puts me in my place. In every other fucking game, I might as well be God, for shit happens when I say it happens. Nothing in those other games can happen without my say so. "You can't die! I'm grinding here!" Since I am God, there is no such thing as sacrifice. No sacrifice, no suffering, no suffering, no conflict, no conflict, NO FUCKING STORY.

Dead Rising is basically saying "Fuck you player, I'll die when I wanna!" You're not there for a story event? Tough shit. The game moves on. You wanna save people? Bitch, you better be prepared! You better plan the fuck ahead. You can't just go out and say "Geh-hee wizz! Let's go get us some PP, by saving some people! It'll be no problem!" And then you're stuck, with a half-dead team of survivors at the grocery store, wand god-damnit you're about to miss a fucking story event, I came to damn far to screw up now, comeon you lazy shits FIGHT THE ZOMBIES YOU IDIOTS!!!!

Conflict. Story.

More to come, when I'm not so sleepy.

*DISCLAIMER: I love the indie scene. Seriously, I do. Cactus 4 evar!

**DISCLAIMER: I love Peggle.

***DISCLAIMER: I love Portal.

****DISCLAIMER: See the Disclaimer at the beginning of this post.

*****Are they comfortable? You bet your ass they are.

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