Mr Biffo

Retro Gamer - - CONTENTS -

Our colum­nist muses about a time where game char­ac­ters were sim­pler

Some­thing I miss from that golden era of gam­ing we grew up with is the ab­sence of char­ac­ter. No, not char­ac­ters, plu­ral, but char­ac­ter. Or, at least, the ab­sence of the cur­rent de­sire to give game char­ac­ters depth.

It has been driven home to me twice this year through the lat­est in­stal­ments in two long-run­ning series – God Of War and Tomb Raider. Prior to the re­cent re­boots, which served as an at­tempt to flesh-out Kratos and Lara Croft, re­spec­tively, we weren’t given much more to go on than the game­play it­self, the char­ac­ters’ ap­pear­ance, and a bit of scene-set­ting con­text. Both fran­chises were ones that I loved, but the lat­est in­ter­pre­ta­tions of them have weak­ened both series for me.

I’ve long be­lieved that sto­ry­telling should make the most of the medium it’s in, but all too of­ten mod­ern games think they’re movies or TV shows, of­ten striv­ing to be pro­found. I mean, we can lay the blame firmly at the door of the games we grew up on (yes, I am giv­ing you side-eye, Cine­maware), but games back then were lim­ited by the tech­nol­ogy.

Con­se­quently, our time spent with, say, Miner Willy or Wally Week would be about the game it­self. There were no cutscenes deep­en­ing the story or go­ing into the char­ac­ters’ tor­tured back­grounds. We’ve never needed to know about the emo­tional bag­gage the bloke in Chuckie Egg brought with him. The ad­ven­tures were our own to have. We were Miner Willy.

Like­wise, I’m a firm be­liever that Lara Croft – as she was orig­i­nally in those early Tomb Raider games – be­came such an icon be­cause we knew so lit­tle about her. There was some­thing re­mote and un­ob­tain­able about the char­ac­ter, and con­se­quently it al­lowed the player to be­come im­mersed in her ad­ven­tures. We never needed to un­der­stand her ori­gins; she ex­isted as a cool-look­ing avatar, a char­ac­ter de­signed around the me­chan­ics of some ground­break­ing game­play. In­deed, shouldn’t that al­ways be the way with games?

Surely, the con­cept game must come first, and if you get lucky and cre­ate a Mario or a Sonic, then that’s a bonus? But who and what those char­ac­ters are should al­ways, as far as games are con­cerned, be the sec­ondary con­sid­er­a­tion.

Don’t get me wrong; I think it is pos­si­ble to tell sto­ries in games (some of my favourite sto­ries of all time hap­pened in point-and-click ad­ven­tures). Plus, I’m all for giv­ing games a bit of emo­tional clout. At the same time, the mod­ern ap­proach of steal­ing from the lan­guage of cin­ema feels like the wrong way to go about.

I be­lieve that devs need to stop look­ing across the aisle at movies, and look into gam­ing’s his­tory. The world fell in love with games be­cause they were games; we played them, not watched them.

We’ve enough pas­sive en­ter­tain­ment ex­pe­ri­ences al­ready; games are the one medium where we get to be­come a part of the ac­tion, where we’re trans­ported to, an in­ter­act with, fan­tas­ti­cal places.

Devs need to stop look­ing across the aisle at movies, and look into gam­ing’s his­tory

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.