(Promotional Image courtesy of TellTale Games)
It used to be that I couldn’t see the actual “game” in titles like Heavy Rain, Jurassic Park: The Game, or The Walking Dead. Each game is more or less a linear story with conversation options and the occasional quick-time event to shake the player up every so often. There just didn’t seem to be any value in playing them. After all, if the player is going to be relegated to the role of an observer most of the time, then why not just make it a movie instead? It’s essentially going to be the same experience right? Well actually no It’s not the same at all. After playing several of these digital stories, I’ve come to a new conclusion. These digital experiences might as well be movies, but are actually better thanks to the gaming conventions they employ.
Watching a movie is an entirely passive activity. We as the audience cannot influence what’s happening on screen at all. All we can do is sit and watch the action unfold. That’s fine and all, but one can only sit still for so long, a couple hours at most, which gives only a small amount of time to complete a story. What if we could influence a movie though? What if we had more time to get to know the characters we’re presented with? Wouldn’t that be great? Well that’s exactly what we get with “games” like these. They’re essentially just movies, but ones that allow us to develop a real vested interest in the story they’re trying to tell!
Guiding the action on screen makes the story “ours” rather than something we’re just watching, and in choosing the characters’ actions on, we’re given a chance to better connect with them and see them as our own as well. And since we’re no longer passive observers, there’s no longer a need for a time limit like there is for movies. “Games” like these can take all the time they need to tell their stories and develop their characters. All because they let us in on what’s transpiring.
Titles like The Wolf Among Us aren’t very good games, but have the potential to greater vehicle for storytelling than films or normal games ever could. They’ve established their niche, and I can see their value now.
Have you played any games like these? What’s your take on them?