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sephfire

Games & Storytelling: a 10-minute video by me!

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Narrative Evolved: Video Games and Storytelling (.mp4)

YouTube link:

This is a short video presentation I've been working on for one of my classes. I've been researching, writing, recording, drawing and editing all week, but I think it was worth it. I'm not presenting it until wednesday, but I'd love to hear some feedback from actual gamers. I'm not sure my art history class is going to care much at all. I sank way too much time into it for no one to enjoy it.

If any of you are interested in the future of games as a narrative medium, check it out. I loosely emulated Yahtzee's Zero Punctuation review style to keep it from getting dull.

Thanks to CarboHydroM and Dj Redlight for unknowingly providing intro and outro music. :mrgreen:

Enjoy and let me know what you think.

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Well done, sir!!

I watched all the way through and enjoy not just the form, but the content. I can't imagine you getting anything less than an "A" (assuming your teacher is of reasonable temperament)!

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I have no idea how a non-gamer would feel about this presentation, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. I love a game with a good and gripping story (see: Hotel Dusk, Phoenix Wright), so for me, stories in games are crucial-ish. Good jorb.

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Did you raise the pitch of your voice or is that how you actually sound? If you raised it...unraise it please. If that's how you sound...er, then sorry if I offended you.

In either case, I'd consider slowing down...there are a few parts where I had to rewind several times to understand what you were saying.

Otherwise though, very nice job. I enjoyed it.

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Thank you!!!

Yeah alot of stories in video games suck pretty hard...but there are exceptions to the rule! I think with psychonauts due to our culture at least is that no one would guess what kind of game it was under the cover. IMO if the game was marketed better it might have capitized on it's potential better.

I don't play too many american (western) games, but from your guy's perspectives do you believe the japaneese gaming market delivers better stories in games? This might be subjective due to the fact japan produces about 8million more rpg's per year.

Great vid BTW.

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Did you raise the pitch of your voice or is that how you actually sound? If you raised it...unraise it please. If that's how you sound...er, then sorry if I offended you.

In either case, I'd consider slowing down...there are a few parts where I had to rewind several times to understand what you were saying.

Otherwise though, very nice job. I enjoyed it.

Yeah, sorry about the voice. I sped it up for two reasons. One, the presentation has to be exactly 10 minutes in length. Two, my speaking voice is generally very dull to listen to. I know it can be a bit grating, but I had to choose between that or boring. I'm still not sure which would have been worse. If I had more time to prepare, I'd have tried to find someone with a better voice to read it, but I had to spend every waking hour this weekend working on this as it was.

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First of all, I'm a huge fan of your work. I say that so that I can get that little prejudice out of the way.

I say this to you the same as I do everyone I give criticism to: I'm trying to be constructive with my criticism so if I ever sound mean or uncaring of your present circumstances, don't worry because I want you to do better, not worse, but you can''t do better if I'm nice to you. So, here we go:

The good:

1. I think your presentation's concept is good. On the one hand using Zero Punctuation's format grounds it in Gamer Popular Culture and by keeping up the pacing you keep the audience interested.

2. Your overview of Gaming history is fairly good and it is selective enough to get your message across.

3. Your visuals keep the audience interested in the presentation, I'm never bored.

The Bad:

1. Your voice: I don't don't know if it's your microphone or if it's acceleration used on your voice to keep pace with your rapid-fire visuals(Not your fault, Yahtzee talks really effing fast), but your voice track needs to be rerecorded more cleanly if you can. Break up your presentation into 1 to 2 min seconds if not 30 second sections and rerecord it until you get good recording. The current voice sounds kinda high pitched and slightly nasally and gets kind of distracting, especially when you POP and on S's and T's.

If you are having trouble recording at that speed, slow your presentation down and smidgen and go at your own pace. If you can't rerecord it in time, there's not much you can do.

I'd raise my hand to volunteer to record the voice, because I could with my resources, but this is your presentation and not mine so you probably want to present this yourself.

2.Cite your sources: The Psychonauts section is damn close to Yahtzee's review of said game. I haven't even played the game, but I will agree that it looks to be brilliant just like he says. However, your wording is bordering on plagiarism of Yahtzee. Site him and every other source you mention. In a college level course, you can get away with almost anything if you cite your sources. This will save your ass if you have people who actually question you and turn a Grade A presentation into a Grade S that will piss off everybody else in class.

3. As we say in the Eastern Washington University EMAF deaprtment,"Trim the fat": You can cut about a minute of material from your presentation. There are several moments where you joke about rambling and the audience getting bored. Those are the parts of the presentation that probably are boring, so get to the chase faster and cut the unnecessary bits. If you put in those bits because otherwise your presentation is too short, I have so ideas for that too.

4. The Apparatus of Game Storytelling: You talk a lot about games that tell stories, but you are missing a key bit, how they tell stories. In Mario, you play as Mario by control his actions, his decisions, his choices, tell me that aned you'll be good.

My personal $0.02 on VG's:

I personally think that MGS and the FF series' are the Citizen Kane of games for a number of reasons, but that's just me. It's your presentation.

I personally think that games are a storytelling medium. As a gamer I believe that games are the new are of the 20th and 21st century. However, as a Filmmaker I believe that whether we like it or not Video games are descended from Film and are inheriting a lot from it, so to prove Video games are art, parallels must be drawn. A film philosopher maintained that Film is like rape in that a point of view is imposed upon the viewer. Similarly, IMHO, video games are like rape because they although they give the player choice, they also control behavior by giving rewards to desirable actions and punishment to undesirable actions, just like operant conditioning. Games impose their Ideology by emphasizing certain parts of the world over others and by portraying certain kinds of people as the good guys/bad guys, etc. For more incite on this as wells as applying genre theory on Games, read the essay Ideology/Genre/Auteur by Robin Wood. Just apply what he says about movies to video games.

It is also my opinion that modern games are more and more following in the foot steps of cinema in terms of production process. Game Designers sound more and more like Directors everyday.

In terms of Storytelling, a lot more can be said about stories in games if you bring up more examples. I personally look at games in a number of different approaches, based on the film philosophy I have read:

1. Level/Event/Boss Driven Approach: The Plot of a film is the ordering of its events. A game is held together by its plot which is measured in terms of events, with the player moving from one event to another with the rest of the game merely existing to get the player from event to event.The game's unit of measurement varies from game to game. Level driven games move from level to level. Many average people view games this way with the cliche, "I'm almost to level 99!" If Level is interpreded as the levels of a character, then the game is based on the progression of the main character from the lowest level of power to the highest level of power. Boss driven games go from boss to boss. Metal Gear Solid can be viewed this way since the game 's cut scenes lead up to, prepare for and follow these boss battles.

2. Character Driven: Movies, according to Robert McKee in his seminal book Story, follow a single active protagonist who move to achieve an ultimate goal and do so by changing by overcoming increasing difficult obstacles until the climax when the ultimate goal is either achieved or it isn't. Sounds like a game doesn't it? The Character Driven approach assume that in a video game, you control the main character (MC) and the game is the obstacles the MC must overcome to achieve his/her goal. This assumes the game's MC has a goal, even if it changes countless times over the course of a game there is always a goal. In a JRPG like FF, you have a goal and you overcome your obstacles (Boss battles and dungeons) by building up your character and participating in the game's story world. In a more open ended game like an MMORPG, you still follow a character. The only difference is that the MC's goal is determined by you, the player, and the game ends when you turn it off.

3. Sandbox: Games are a lot like Theme Parks, MMO's especially. I know this because I worked at Disney's Animal Kingdom for 6 months of my life and I noticed right away that the designs are similar. There are several game designers that also draw this parallel, but I don't have any sources on that, so take that statement with scrutiny.

That's all I got, Seph. Hope your presentation goes over well.

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Wow, that's some good feedback. I may not be able to apply most of it to this particular presentation, but I'll be remembering it for my next one. I'm sure it won't be the last presentation I have to give during my time at SCAD. A lot of that advice could easily apply to my future thesis animation, actually. Thanks. :)

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Didn't mind the voice personally. Adds some humour to the mix in my opinion. I once did the exact same thing for a presentation of mine and half of my class found it annoying and the other half loved it. Loved that picture with the penguin with the cymbals standin over the polar bear haha.

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I didn't mind the voice at all actually, and could hear everything clearly.

My main complaint is that there were a few images that didn't stay on the screen long enough, and I had to rewind and even pause to actually see them. You can't rewind in a presentation, so that's a biggie. Here are all the slide issues I found:

- The "Uncanny valley" slide was really short (lengthen only a bit, since it's not exactly a main point in the presentation.)

- You say "The majority of games are poorly written. Now there are exceptions, and some offenders are worse than others". The "Resident Evil box" slide pops up - is Resident Evil showing Good story or Bad story?? (I know which one now, but at first I was confused, and it may confuse viewers as well, even if they're not familiar with the games. This confusion may continue when the RE box is shown later on).

- In my opinion Pac-man Pie Chart is too awesome to display in such a short window; although it does show a pie chart and pac-man (which relates to your point and is video-game themed), you can barely finish reading the title. I'll admit though, it WAS literally a "quick look" ;-)

- "Games with excellent writing" image is way too short IMO. Audience members may want to check out some of these superb titles afterwards. Also since Psychonauts already gets a decent chunk of presentation time, maybe move the "System Shock 2" box to the front so the title is visible :)!!

Well, that's all I've gotta say, little nitpicky things like those. Although (and this is probably due to lack of sleep), my attention did start to wane about 5 minutes in - quite possibly because my brain realized "This is starting to become longer than a Yahtzee review!". If you get a lot of "I can't keep up!!" feedback, I'd suggest adding an intermission in the middle (a 2 to 5 second "Intermission" screen should do it - just make sure to choose another good song).

Oh yes, I forgot to say that it was great and very enjoyable - 10/10 thumbs up!

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I thought it was great, some images were up for a quick moment and disappeared before I could take them in, but they were shown again later so I picked them up then. I also had no problem with the voice, but I listened to it through closed headphones in a quiet room so not much outside noise got in the way and I could fully concentrate on what you were saying. I can't give much more feedback other than what was already given, but I'd say it's good as it is, if you go with what you got here then you'll probably get a good grade.

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Seph, very well done! I enjoyed this just as much or more than I enjoy Yahtzee's weekly reviews, so you're definitely on the right track.

If you haven't taken a look at this book, give it a read sometime -- I'm sure you'd enjoy it given the presentation (and official sounding sources are always good).

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For anyone interested in reading more on this topic, I highly recommend this little series of articles. Very informative.

Why Writing in Games Matters: Part I -- Advancing the Art of Storytelling

Why Writing in Games Matters: Part II -- Challenges of Interactive Storytelling

Why Writing in Games Matters: Part III -- Creating Character with Susan O'Connor

Also check Susan O'Connor out. She wrote for Gears of War and Bioshock, founded the Game Writer's Conference and has a lot of great insights into the art of game writing. I think she's really going to be a big player in pushing game writing forward.

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I have NO idea how Yahtzee does one of these a week. I know his are half this length, but dang, thing really wore me out. I'd love to try making another sometime, just the same.

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I don't play too many american (western) games, but from your guy's perspectives do you believe the japaneese gaming market delivers better stories in games? This might be subjective due to the fact japan produces about 8million more rpg's per year.

Great vid BTW.

I wouldn't say Japan produces better stories. There really are great stories coming from both sides of the lake. The main thing I'm really waiting for is for an AMAZING story to arrive. It might take some time (film didn't start getting amazing stories for decades), but it'll rock when it happens.

I think the localization process hurts Japanese story games during translation, but even that is getting better (FFXII's translation in particular was fantastic).

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Yea that was a pretty cool report. I don't play too many new games, but I have thought about how well video games can be as a narrative medium on several occasions. I've played two final fantasies (VII & VIII), but recently the Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic games have impressed me.

Anyways, just wanted to give props.

I prolly don't have to say this but let us know how the presentation goes.

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I gave the presentation yesterday. The classroom's acoustics were a bit spotty, so I think the fast voice might have been muddied in a bit of reverb, but it still seemed to land. Got a lot more chuckles than I expected out of an art history class.

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Good to hear 'cause I thought this was great.

Hope you got a good grade. I found it very enjoyable when I thought I'd be bored to tears. 10 minutes flew by.

Good work.

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