Tuesday, 15 June 2010


I've had some ideas about storytelling.
Always have.

Recently, I realized how dumb it is that a lot of people neglect and diss a medium that seems made for storytelling: games
The only way you could be more immersed in a story is if you lived or reenacted one, frankly. Or, that's how I think it should be. You see, movies can be very good, make you see a world you've never seen before or think about stuff you've never thought about. But after two hours, that's over. You can think about stuff, but you're back in the real world and the impact the movie had is often negligible.
On the other hand, there are games. Varying from 8 to 40 hours (Not counting jrpg's. 300 hours of non-stop movies with quicktime-events. *shudder*), a game allows you much more immersion.
I'm writing this blog post because of one game in particular:

Red Dead Redemption

I got the game on thursday, on my ps3. It's monday-to-tuesday night, now, and I finished it at about 5, this afternoon, after playing A LOT these past few days. I think I put about... 20-30 hours in it, about 7 hours a day.

Okay, for those of you who haven't played it yet, I'm not giving spoilers, but let me tell you that they are there to give, and that this is, after all, a game by Rockstar. The Tarantino of the game business, they won't let you finish a game without attempting to murder every character you like (don't worry: quite a lot of them survive), and you'll feel like you've been beaten over the head with a mallet several times.
But that's what they do so very well.
By giving you a story in an open world game, at times forcing you to do mundane tasks like herding cattle, you feel totally in synch with the main character, and for four days, I was John Marston. I was him for several weeks, in fact. I slept 6 hours in five minutes and it was all real and the story was REAL!
That's my point.

Right there

I cried when it was over. Not immediately, but tonight. Not because the game is over. Not because "the world is real and the game is not". Very simply because I was John Marston, and for a few days, I lived him. And I will replay this game.
It's the best game I've ever played because it didn't tell me a story, it made me live one. John Marston is now a part of me because I lived through him. I didn't see stuff, I did stuff. Stuff I never did and never will. I'll never break a bronco, or shoot a man. I'll never ride through mexico, trying to stop a train from falling into a cliff. But I already have.

I cried, because I died a little when the story ended. If that makes me obsessive, then so be it. But if you call me that, you're missing the point. This isn't just a game. This is a story. This is how stories should be told. If you laugh when your character does, feel exhilarated when you should, and cry when the only right thing to do is cry, you're not addicted, not to me. You're just an audience to a great story.
This, if you've finished the game, should make you cry:

To prove that not only games do this, I'll bring up another example:
The Lord of the Rings.
After living with these 9 (/8 :p) people for 9 hours (but actually several years, for us loyal fans who were practically begging for the next movie to come out like a hyperactive dog waiting for its master to go walkies), I cried when Frodo and Bilbo 'left' (pssst, it's a metaphor. They'z ded!).
It was a tear-jerking moment. The Lord of the Rings was OVER. The greatest saga ever told on film was over, at that moment. When Frodo hugs Sam goodbye. It gives me goosebumps just thinking of it.

And I seriously still can't listen to the above song. Let me tell you why it's significant, by giving you the cliffnotes of the story:
John Marston used to ride in a gang, led by a man named Dutch van der Lynde, now presumed dead. The government is having some trouble dealing with an undesirable named Bill Williamson, who also used to ride in Dutch's gang, but they can't get to him. So they ask John, who is now a rancher, to go kill him. He says no. So they kindap his wife and son to give him some incentive.
You'll spend the half of the game hunting Williamson, through New Austin and Mexico, and then you hear no, you can't have your family back. Go kill Dutch van der Lynde for us. He's still alive.
Okay, it's pretty obvious that yes, van der Lynde dies, no huge spoilers there.
Van der Lynde is dead. The asshole cop who's been teasing you about your family being held ransom and all, tells you you're free to go, and that your family is safe at home again. You're way up in the mountains. There's snow, grizzlies and moose. And you don't give a damn (story isn't over, folks, don't worry), and you ride home, as fast as your horse can go. And then, all of a sudden, while the snow falls and the horse gallops, that song starts playing. And it's perfect. This game has, in many ways, achieved a perfection. By picking more melancholy music, instead of morricone's epic scores, it's more epic than the likes of Call of Juarez. If I had to compare it to a movie, it would be "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford", a wholly amazing and underrated movie.
But this, this is something better.
Red dead is, in my opinion, the greatest game I've ever played. I've never had a storytelling experience like that, and I'm hoping production companies will get the hint, and realize that this, this is the future. Not for gaming, but for stories.


  1. I always considered stories to be an important part of the gaming experience, ever since I started gaming. The first games I played were Warcraft II and Red Alert, both RTS games giving me command over an army of faceless, nameless soldiers, trying to beat another army of faceless nameless soldiers into pulp. However, as long as I was presented with a reason why, I enjoyed doing so.
    Another game I GREATLY enjoyed for many years was Spellforce. Granted, the gameplay is a bit basic, but the storyline is so good -especially of the first one- you just wanted to go on and the twist at the very end (spoiler: it involves timetravel, but does so really, really well) made my inner writer writhe with ecstasy.

    It is why I enjoy good RPGs so much. A game that allows me to create my own character, develop their own personality, and be part of a story that is in most cases epic, well, as Tycho from Penny Arcade once put it: "It's the closest thing I'll get to giving birth".

  2. This one tops everything. It's the best game I've EVER played.

  3. I don't play video games much anymore.