I’ll be honest, the only game I’ve played that used quick time events at all was Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood – there was one that let Ezio hug Leonardo da Vinci, and I always hecked it up. JUST LET THEM LIVE, UBISOFT!
On the flip side, if by interactive film, we’re talking about things like Bear 71, then I suppose one major difference is I’ve never cried during the first thirty seconds of a game. So thanks for that, NFB! I’m exactly the kind of asshole who gets hit right in the feelings by “narrative is done by animal” stories, right down to when pet finder ads are written from the perspective of the dog who assures me he is a “very good boy, who loves cheese.” I feel like interactive films can be more effective than a game for stories like this one – if they’re meant to evoke a sense of helplessness despite bringing the player closer to the story than a traditional documentary. I’m not responsible for the things that happened to Bear 71, but by linking clips and narrative to my actions, it sure feels that way.
Horror games occupy a similar place for me – I love horror movies. I like to be scared, and I like they’re often one of the only filmmaking spaces where women can tell whatever story they like (and it comes closest to our own experiences despite – or maybe because of – being horror). I devoured a Let’s Play of Amnesia over a weekend night shift, and it was great. I downloaded the free demo, played for about five minutes, and then closed the program, deleted the game, and shut off my computer. Just in case. And bear in mind, I already knew it was impossible to encounter the monster for the first part of the game. It didn’t matter! Just the act of controlling my character was too much stress for my poor tissue paper heart to handle. Same kind of helplessness with not enough distance to protect my feelings – in this case, abject terror as opposed to just helpless sobbing.
It’s just a bear but like, bears are chill. They like blueberries. They usually didn’t get mad at you like moose (those bastards). It’s like watching a huge dog get tranquilized! I can’t even spoil anything but the first five minutes or so of Bear 71 because I got too upset. So Spoiler Alert, I guess: they tranquilize a big bear in Banff, and put a tracker on it, and you can use the interactive map to track the bear’s activities, but Mia Krishner keeps talking in her serious voice as the bear and I had to stop. Sorry. I am terrible at games. But really good at emotions!
Actual spoiler beneath the jump:
It seems only fitting I should talk about WoW, on this the day of the Blizzcon opening ceremonies, right? Right! (Even if I suspect, along with the rest of the world, the big announcement will be about a new Diablo expansion, and maybe two smaller announcements about Sombra and a new Warcraft movie)(please jesus let it be about the Scourge)
In Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says: “What each person seeks is to actualize her potential, and this task is made easier when others force us to do our best.” There are two reasons I started playing World of Warcraft back in ought five: first, someone showed me the Leeroy Jenkins video, which I argued on Wednesday makes a good satire of what happens when one person isn’t seeking to actualize their potential, whether PALS 4 LIFE meant to satirize flow or not. secondly, someone posted a video of their guild beating C’thun, a 40-person end boss in Ahn’Qiraj. Watching forty people effortlessly move together around eye beams, tentacles, getting swallowed, getting spit back out again and – most importantly – NOT get devoured by thousands of small dragons really made me sit up and say “I want to do that someday.”
Of course, it was a long time from that initial desire to actually accomplishing anything like a C’thun kill – a road studded with elite yetis (seriously – FUCK that yeti in Dun Morogh), failed guilds, new guilds, new failed guilds. Finally, towards the end of Wrath of the Lich King, I achieved a heroic Lich King kill with the raid alliance I was a backup for. It wasn’t without hiccups of its own – as a back up, I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to run the fights compared to the others, so I caused a fair share of raid-wide deaths, prompting more than one “Does this mage even know how to play?” comments.
But when it clicked – it was magic. When the turtle shell kicker dies unexpectedly, and you jump in to kick a turtle shell and save the day – that’s flow. That’s being in the e-zone, as e-sports players say, presumably. When you brag about your pinch-kicking a turtle shell and someone knows exactly what you mean – it feels great. When you counterspell a move half a second before it murders everyone you know? Flow. But it relies on other people also being their best, to bring you up to your own best. And frankly, humans are fallible. They’re not always – not even often – at their best.
Maybe that’s what makes it so magical when it clicks.
If you’re into comics even the least little bit, chances are good the name Scott McCloud has crossed your radar. He’s better known for his comics about comics rather than the franchises he’s worked on, and for good reason – Understanding Comics is something I’d consider required reading for anyone working in a creative field.
Of particular interest to me is the concept of the “gutter” – the liminal space in comics (and arguably, in writing and games as well, and films and TV to a lesser extent) where the reader supplies the details of events between panels/sentences/scenes.
This focus on reader participation in Understanding Comics began to highlight the ways in which I exploit similar stylistic choices in my chosen mediums of short and novel-length fiction, and games. For example, from “Haven of the Waveless Sea”, where Fandral Staghelm relives the death of his son:
“Again.”The meaty rip, the buzzing song, the sound of hope dying.
I can’t believe Undertale has been out for a full year! But it must be so; Toby Fox said it and I definitely remember getting my brain simultaneously busted wide open starting the game design program at the same time as my first play-though.
Spoilers for all routes of the game beneath the jump!
My history with World of Warcraft over the past two expansions has been… not good. I quit in Mists of Pandaria, tired of raiding and overwhelmed by the factions with daily grinds. It was a job, not a game anymore, and I hated it. They also fired a huge chunk of the Creative Development team, and the seams in the writing were showing. For the first time since playing any MMO, I played different ones – Wild Star and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn both took over my life for a few years, as well as offline games. I played Warlords of Draenor for a bit, only because I could finally pay for my subscription time with gold, and because the expansion itself was on sale for 12 bucks. Friends were getting really excited for Legion, and I did a lot of stuff solo in my other MMOs because people were all resubbing to WoW.
Turns out, it was for a good reason – Legion is flippin’ fantastic.
It’s like a dress that looks horrible on the rack, but makes you look like a superstar when you put it on. Illidan is coming back, and he’s bringing Demon Hunters? The Burning Legion is a threat again? Whatever.
Blizzard’s taken the best parts of all their previous expansions, and melded it into something really cool. Players finally feel like they’re the hero of the story, can change things in Azeroth – something FFXIV: ARR was great at. Demon Hunters are fun to play, and get great cut scenes:
But most of all, there’s an element of surprise and discovery to the exploration of the Broken Isles that I haven’t felt playing WoW since Vanilla. I’ve been max level for a few weeks, and I am still finding quests in areas I never discovered – despite being the kind of person Bioware complains about on Twitter. Dungeon quests are slotted at the very end of the zone’s main story so you’re not held up from progressing due to waiting in hour long queues as DPS, but in addition to that, there are tons of quest hubs hidden all over the five Broken Isles zones that you can just pick up and do any time.
Still not convinced? How about small, hidden caves all over the coastline filled with orbs that players need to click in a specific order to unlock a world boss? Or that the artifact weapons (upgradeable legendary weapons based on class-related lore) all have hidden appearances and effects that players will have to figure out how to unlock? It’s pretty hard to make discovery exciting and fresh in a post-Wowhead world, but the way it’s been established so far in Legion has made me excited to at least try things on my own as much as possible, to occasionally sad and/or hilarious results. (For example: poisoning nobles on behalf of the Revolution in Suramar City, only to find out that I was poisoning my own allies at the behest of a loyalist. HECK!)
The addition of World Quests to supplant dailies as the end game mechanic was also a great choice – World Quests each have their own individual timers, from a few hours to a few days, compared to the daily mechanism, which changed all dailies, every day at the same time. It keeps things fresh, and sends players all over the region hunting down the quests with loot or materials that they want, before the timer runs down. Half the time I begin my World Quests for the evening, and only finish hours later, because I got caught up in fishing, or rescuing a baby bear from an attacking Tauren. Especially because of rescuing baby bears…
I don’t know what my plan will be any more when I sit down to play WoW. I’m excited to see what new thing I’ll discover when I log in. Like rescuing a baby manasaber? Or a baby fawn… look, I really love baby animals.