Thursday, October 6, 2011

Do you speak game? Part 1

If we are to agree that games (specifically Video Games) are a kind of medium to communicate thoughts and ideas, then what language they use?  It has become increasingly apparent that games are at a crossroads of sorts.  Interaction and exploration of the system have always been the heart and soul of the gameplay experience, but as technology advanced and and computers became able to do more than display simple graphics produce primitive bleeps and bloops an interesting, yet entirely predictable thing happened.  Game designers began look to film and television for inspiration on how games should be perceived.

Ms. Pac-Man: Act 1
Pac-Man(1980) introduced the concept of a non-interactive sequence designed to tell a story (more of a skit in this case).  This was quickly followed by Ms. Pac-Man where the sequences began with a movie-style clapboard introducing a three act narrative arc over the course of the game.

Night Trap (1992)
From that point on, the notion that a game had to have some kind of story took hold.  The advent of CD-Rom technology with close to 700MB of data gave game developers literally more space than they knew what to do with.  Instead of making their games larger or their systems more complex, many developers loaded their games with CD quality music, pretty pictures, and full motion video.

This trend had continued up through today with some popular games, such as the Metal Gear Solid series sporting 70% non-interactive sequences.  Again, hardly surprising.  New and dominate forms of media have a history of mimicking their predecessors.  Early film resembled little more than a stage play captured by the camera.  Early TV programs own much of their content to vaudeville and radio dramas.  Games, in this case, appear to be no different in their behavior.  However, over the last few years there has been an interesting development.  Games appear to be developing a language  of their own.  The next post on this topic with highlight some areas where games are finding their own voice.

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