Cireon's Blog

Posted on Nov 6th 2014 at 10:02:16 AM by (Cireon)
Posted under narration, narrative games,story,emotions

The game industry is shifting. It is slowly creeping from its immature state to a fully fledged form of medium. Looking back at the last years clearly shows the evidence that more and more people find games as a way to communicate.

There is a large field around serious games which adapts games for use in teaching, simulation, and even healthcare. On the complete opposite side of the spectrum of games lies a big question: are games a form of art?

We - humans - have been telling stories for centuries. First orally, then we started writing them down, and about a century ago we developed the technology to tell stories in the form of movies. Only recently are games considered as a serious medium to tell stories. It is amazing to see how far we have come in such a short timespan: from Tetris to games that can be as emotionally touching as a movie or a book.

I was touched by the games To The Moon and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Both were able to not only pull me into their story, but also leave a permanent impression on me. Trust me, I am not a person that tears up at the first sign of drama, but To The Moon made me cry... twice. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons stunned me in a way I never experienced from a game before.

Ever since I finished Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, I have been amazed by how integrated the gameplay felt to the story. Yes, the game has cutscenes, but those do not tell the whole story. Only by playing the game you experience the journey the main character make, both the good and the bad parts. The relationship between the main characters grows throughout the game, but there is also a relationship growing between you and the main characters. This is fascinating on its own, but doing this in a mere two to three hours, without saying a single word of understandable English, and mainly through gameplay, is an incredible achievement. Based on this experience, I have grown to find out what it is that makes this game so engaging.

Several elements of the game can be considered as emotionally engaging, and if you give the game some more thought, you notice a lot of symbolism and smart design choices, but there is no way of extracting what it is that makes you feel so connected to the virtual characters from the game. This raised the question: does the gameplay really make the experiencing more immersive? This question is what I took into my research project for the master's programme Game and Media Technology at Utrecht University. Determined to find an answer, I am currently conducting a user study where I compare the narrative engagement of two groups: people that played the game, and people that only watched a condensed video of the story of the game. Hopefully this will give us more insight in the role gameplay can have in telling a story.

Personally, I find this an intriguing subject, and I am very interested in hearing more about how other people experience these kind of games. I am also still looking for more people to join the user study. More information on the project and how to participate in the user study can be found on my website. By collecting as many experiences as possible, I will be able to give you an answer on the questions posed in this blog, and contribute to growing games into a mature and revolutionary medium to share compelling stories.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
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