Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Honest Simplicity VS Over Complexity

If one media have the knowledge to make over the top, over complex, over write and generally over, is videogames. Many of its settings and stories feels like what happen when you get a whole high-school classroom, ask them to write their perfect game, them mash all the ideas together in one single entity of confusing story.

Part of it is the fact that game studios are composed of several people who have some kind of power to change the game. So, you have the writer, who create the story. Than, the game designers want to implement some kind of gameplay mechanic and need the writing to fit it in somehow. Than you have the artists making the scenarios, characters and visuals and again the game writer(s) and designer(s) need to accommodate that cool looking character or make room for a scene using that really cool evil base. And them you have the publishers and all the executives meddling with development, wanting you to include all the 'cool trends' while cutting off any stuff they consider will not sell. So, it is a high-school classroom, where all the students are creating something and the teacher making all more hard for them.

'And we add a guy with missile hands' 'Big Boobs' 'Mustaches'
But that is not just it. Some game makers want to create something deep, meaningful. The problem start with many of them not being professional writers. So, they just ended up adding all the cool stuff from all movies and books they love and try to create something out of it. People like Hideo Kojima and Quantic Dream David Cage who want to create some complex games but clearly have no idea on how to do it without either be confusing or being very derivative.

Because of that, it is easier to appreciate games who don't bother in creating some kind of complex story and mythology, but just to add some fun to it. And sometimes they ended up creating way more deep stories (and way more enjoyable) by simple not trying to do more than they can do.

Modern Warfare, the first one, had a very simplistic story to tell. You are a soldier in a special unit trying to capture some terrorists and arms dealers. But it ended up being, in a certain way, a great show about how wars are fought today, justifying its title. It have some very meaningful moments, like the torture scene above, which make you question some acts done in order to win a war.

Unfortunately, all this simplicity was killed in its sequels, with even more complex and dumber conspiracies and treason and over the top plot. Every nuance the original had got lost in its attempt to create something more complex, who got lost in the sea of explosions and attempts on clever writing.

'We need to stop the terr... Oh, shining.'
Other games, like Journey, don't have complex story-line, characters and events. But maybe because of it, it do a great job of telling a deep story to the players, not by its dialogues, but by its scenes, scenarios and events. It is a game able to tell, in fact, different stories depending on the player and how he/she 'reads' the events around him/her. By not creating a complex story, they created one of the best I ever met in a game.

Sequels and prequels also don't help in creating a deep story. Because many games are made in different generations of hardware, many times with complete different teams, the mythology become, instead of deep and engaging, confusing and difficulty to follow. Metal Gear is a perfect example of this, with such a convoluted mythology it become hard to even figure out what the hell is happening in that exact moment.

Don't ruin this by making prequels/sequels!
I always said that I prefer a honest simplicity over something made complex in order to sell. Cramming everything that is 'cool' in the gamer's mind in a single game in order to 'broaden' its appeal or trying to put some kind of deep meaning when you are not able to do it usually don't help, keeping games with the same kind of juvenile writing from its early days.

I am not saying that all games need to follow some pattern in storytelling. I am saying that game writing need to be more professional and instead of being done to accommodate the game designs, the game design must be done to accommodate the story. Or, if the story is not important at all, don't even bother. We will ended up with way better games on way or another.

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