Archive for Tom Bissell

Prepare to Live ( Dark Souls Diary, Part 3 )

Posted in Game Design, Game Design Essays, Game Diaries, Games, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2011 by Matthew VanDevander

Rest for the Wicked
Dark Souls is a unique game. Simultaneously planting one foot in the checkered video game past, and the other so far in the future that you will find yourself lost as you try to keep up. There is something truly special at work here. Even if you don’t enjoy the experience, it is impossible to deny admiration for the boldness of its conviction. It is truly a work inspired by a unbending philosophy and a belief that games can and should offer different experiences.
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Silence.

Posted in Books, Game Design, Games, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2011 by Matthew VanDevander

So, I haven’t been playing games recently.

After finishing Catherine, I haven’t really found myself in a financial affordance to purchase anything new, although I’ve been thinking of purchasing something old. Quite old, in fact. The game I’ve been considering is a PC game called Planescape: Torment.

Planescape has a reputation for being one of the most well-written RPGs ever. It is often brought up anytime a new RPG is about to be released, as some sort of evidence of a by-gone era of good game writing. Unfortunately, I never played this game and find myself somewhat intolerant of my ignorance. It is uncomfortable for me to proclaim the utter failure of games as a narrative medium when compared to film and books when I have not experienced what many consider to be such a great story.

Discussion of narrative in games is always a bit challenging, because the terms are so poorly defined in most cases. By which, I mean, most people do not understand any clear difference between the terms “narrative”, “plot”, and “story.” Plot being a unchanging linear sequence of events; narrative being an all-encompassing term for a collection of characters, plot, setting, dialogue, and themes; story being the cohesive experience created by the narrative as it’s parts come together in the mind.

Most of the time, people think of these as basically the same thing. But if narrative were just plot, there would be no room for the story to exist separately in the mind of the person experiencing it, and thusly there would be no need or room for discussion of a narrative. We would all be in agreement about the plot, and there would be really nothing else to say.

I think that games can be privy to many of the elements of narrative. But plot is something that they just do not excel at to the same extent as other mediums. However, they can effectively communicate themes, characters, and dialogue. And in the case of setting, I would argue they do better than any other medium.

So if I do choose to buy the game, ( which is conveniently available for download on Good Old Games, along with a bunch of other older PC titles ) I will be interested to see the way in which the game communicates it’s narrative. Especially if it is not as plot-driven as most modern games are.

On an entirely different note, I have just purchased two great books on games. I read the sample previews and just knew that I wanted to spend a little more time with them. The first book is “A Theory of Fun for Game Design” by Raph Koster. The second is “Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter” by Tom Bissell. I will hopefully have more to say about those books very soon.