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Cinematic action gunplay

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception Screenshot

In a cinematic action game, the player needs to keep moving forward because the intent of the game is to both tell a story and excite the player. Viewed as a question of design alone, difficulty that forces several replays of any section is undesirable because it gates progress and converts the game into a movie that is merely very inconvenient to watch.

The crying game

Shadow of the Colossus HD Screenshot

There is a certain muddiness here between "narrative" components and "systems". Would I have loved Agro as much if he were a lizard? A featherless chicken? A square with four squares sticking out of it? Perhaps I would not have. At the same time the graphical (i.e. narrative) depiction of Agro as a horse serves to contextualize the system he presents and make the game's rules intelligible.

Engagement and storymaking

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Screenshot

The idea of a game world typically appears in the context of immersive games like Far Cry 2 or Grand Theft Auto IV. Games of this type use attractive graphics to imitate reality, making the idea of a virtual world a natural one.

Oh, Bethesda, Skyrim does have its issues

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Screenshot

The inescapable reality is that Bethesda makes precisely the sorts of games I love, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim may be their best, even if buying the game on release day is akin to paying $60 for access to a public beta test.

A tale of two chesses

Chessboard Image

If we intend to interpret videogames entirely in terms of rules and mechanics then obviously we ought to model our study off the long tradition of analog games.

System and story

ICO Screenshot

Quantitatively speaking, I prefer Plants vs. Zombies to every game, ever. Plants vs. Zombies is not my favorite game. I'd say it's not even in the top 20. That honor belongs ICO, a game that typically lasts less than six hours and that I have played exactly four times, to net less than a fifth of the hours I have spent playing Plants vs. Zombies. ICO is my favorite game because of how it makes me feel.

Actor, director, producer: The player role in RPG battles

Final Fantasy XIII Screenshot

I have more to say about Final Fantasy XIII, but that post is so depressing to write I thought I'd hold off for now and elaborate on a point I made in my post discussing its combat mechanics. Role-playing games tend to get broadly divided into "turn-based" and "action" categories, distinctions that are not particularly informative, often get used inaccurately, and don't usefully elaborate the relationship between the player and the system.

Human Revolution's giant hole

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Screenshot

Criticism of Deus Ex: Human Revolution tends to be mostly directed towards its boss battles. That's fair, because they don't fit the game very well, but the overwhelming focus on these moments seems to have distracted people from an equally significant problem, namely that the game seems to fall apart in its final level.

Adam Jensen, DMPD

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Screenshot

Unlike previous entries in the Deus Ex franchise, Human Revolution has a clearly characterized protagonist. Except for his extremely dry sense of humor, J.C. Denton was essentially a blank slate for the player, and Alex Denton had even fewer set characteristics. Adam Jensen, on the other hand, comes into his game with a long, involved backstory and several pre-existing relationships.

Scenario and story in Bastion

Bastion Screenshot

Bastion is a game with marvelous art, a wonderful soundtrack, and solid mechanics, but it was not sold to the public on the strength of these aspects. Rather, it was sold on its storytelling system, in which a narrator responds to what the main character (called only the Kid) is doing. In the game, however, the narrator actually does relatively little of this, and Bastion's plot is thinly realized, offering little insight into its characters and their motivations.

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