Tag Archives: video games

Walking Simulators: Should You bother Playing Them?

One of the newest video gaming genres is the walking simulator. It is exactly as it sounds: You just walk all over the game’s world clicking on things or going to a certain place and a cutscene starts. It’s basically a movie that you have to work to get the story. Yes, the gameplay is basically non-existent, which means the majority of gamers will just avoid them like plagues.

So, what caused me to talk about walking sims? I finally played one: The Town of Light.

You see, what made me buy this game (it was only $10, don’t worry) was the plot: a woman with a mental disorder returns to the closed down mental hospital she was committed to in order to remember what really happened to her and her friend. It’s also based on an actual Italian mental hospital and events that happened there.

Right off the bat, you can tell the storytelling is going to be her narrating everything. This could work if done right and it was done OK in this game. Yes, the things that happened to her were messed up, but how much of it really happened. Not to mention that despite the game having multiple story routes, the ending is the same and it is pretty messed up.

The only way I can think of that walking sims can actually be remembered is with strong storytelling. That’s basically all that these games can offer. If the story sucks, why bother? There are plenty of games that have great stories that have even spawned comics, novels, animated series and tons of merchandise.

Of course, gamers avoid these games because, well, are they really games? Technically speaking, yes. You need a human to control a character in a computer-generated world in order for something to happen. However, the lack of anything that can be considered gameplay is nonexistent.

Of course, the odd person will defend them saying how come people bash walking sims and not visual novels? Simple: visual novels usually have some type of gameplay element. Hell, Phoenix Wright has collecting evidence and then the trial part, Danganronpa has, well, the same thing but a lot more complicated and the first Corpse Party has you collecting items and running away from ghosts, a maniac and in one part a child molester. Same thing with point and click games: you collected items that you need in order to solve puzzles and then question the developer’s sanity when you find a puzzle that requires you put an octopus in a toilet, use prunes on this one guy which causes him to run to said toilet where he gets raped by the octopus and you getting his belt buckle. If you think I’m making this up, go play Discworld for the PC and PS1.

So, should you play a walking sim? If you just want a story where you control a character and you have to work in it by walking around a computer-generated world, then yes. If you want to play a game, look somewhere else. Do walking sims have a place in gaming? Absolutely! You’d be surprised what has fans nowadays and these developers have found that (small) audience.


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Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward Review

If there’s one video game genre that’s about as obscure as they come it’s visual novels. For those who don’t know, visual novels are exactly what they say on the package: they are novels that have visual elements (character designs, backgrounds, voice acting, music, etc.) You need to be one crazy person to play this instead of a “real” video game or read a real book.

I am one of those crazy people.

In the visual novel circles, I’m considered a noob because the number of visual novels I’ve played can be counted on one hand. The few that I have played were quite enjoyable. That all changed when I played Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward.

Before I continue, I want to make two things clear. 1. I have played 9 Persons 9 Hours 9 Doors and enjoyed it immensely and 2. Since this blog is geared towards the literary persuasion, I am only going to touch upon the story. Thus, if you want to know about the puzzles, look elsewhere.

The story is about Sigma who wakes up to find himself in a strange room. The last thing he remembers is that he was starting his car outside his college when a white smoke knocked him out. A woman named Phi is also in the same room with him. After escaping the room, they find seven other people and are told by a computer program named Zero Jr. that they are in a game where each of them has to go through various doors and get the numbers on their watches to nine or higher to escape.

This entire plot, like the first game, is pretty much the plot to Saw 2. The difference between Saw two and this series is, well, everything. Better storytelling, characters, puzzles, pacing, setting and the characters aren’t a bunch of blithering idiots. I will defend 999 to my death and say that what Saw 2 tried and failed to do 999 did so much better.

What I won’t do is defend this game. The story has some great moments, but overall it wasn’t as interesting as 999. You see, Sigma and Junpei from the first game are pretty much the same character in terms of personality. This goes down to them both having impeccable memory, math skills and are perverted to a fault. Hell, they even share some story elements together like that whole multiple timelines thing.

That right there is this game’s major fault. The jumping back and forth through time, different outcomes are what gives some sci-fi readers headaches. Time travel is a major pain in people’s brains. Back to the Future may be about time travel, but they kept the multiple timelines thing to a minimum. Here it just gets way too confusing.

The characters also aren’t as interesting as 999. They do have personalities here, but at the end f the day the 999 characters just seem more memorable. Even Clover, who makes a reappearance in this game, has had her personality nerfed to something completely different.

I’m not saying VLR is a bad story. It has its moments, but overall it’s just not as interesting as the game makers make it out to be. This is more of a rental than anything else. There is a third game announced which hopefully answers some questions this game created. Especially after that horrific ending.

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Can Video Game Stories Be Considered Literary?

It’s a conundrum that has plagued mankind for over twenty-five years: can video game stories be classified in the same category as novels and movies? The earliest game stories are nothing more than bad people are doing bad things and you must kill them with the occasional princess to save. Once RPGs (that’s Role Playing Games for you non-gamers) came along things got a lot more complicated.

So, can these stories literary? First, let’s look at what literary means. Here’s the Oxforddictionaries.com definition:

1. concerning the writing, study, or content of literature, especially of the kind valued for quality of form.

2. (of language) associated with literary works or other formal writing; having a marked style intended to create a particular emotional effect.

With the first definition people will dismiss video game stories as not literary. The second definition makes this argument a bit complicated.

The problem comes when you look at stuff like many platformers and especially first person shooters. These stories tend the be the basic run of the mill “kill them all” or “save the world” stories. Basically your typical summer blockbuster. Many gamers are OK with this since they are not all that interested in story. Which means that the answer is still no.

On the other hand when you look at many story heavy games you’ll see some deep stuff. Many of these are RPGs. Let’s take Final Fantasy VI as an example. At its surface it’s basically a save the world from the evil clown bad guy who became a god just to destroy the world story. Once you dig deep enough you will find layers. These characters have internal struggles, there’s symbolism and best off all a ton of development. You can easily write a book about every character’s story and their experiences.

To use a controversial example let’s look at the Meta Gear games. Yes, the solid games have insanely long cut scenes and some of the story (Especially Metal Gear Solid 2) makes little sense, but again, layers, symbolism, ETC. There is a heavy anti-war message, characters that are fighting for different reasons, freedom VS absolute control from the government and even family values. Some people will say that a lot of the character development is done in an overly melodramatic way, but so does every single Oscar bait movie. Look at Citizen Kain, Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments and the Godfather. Lots of melodrama in there and movie consider these masterpieces.

A more recent example is The Last of Us. On the surface, the game is nothing more than another zombie movie (shut up, those monsters are zombies. They are reanimated corpses that came to life via a virus, the hunt humans in hoards and they infect you if they bite you. They’re zombies.) Once we look at the characters things get complicated. This game has the same qualities as the games mentioned above.

And with all three games, people have said they cried at the end.

That is one of the hallmarks of great storytelling. If it can cause you to show an extreme emotion then the writers have done a good job. Kojima, SquareEnix and Naughty Dog have done that. Not to mention games like Shenmue, the Persona games, the first four Silent Games and many others have succeeded in this.

The thing that people have problems with these stories is the “game” label. Roger Ebert has even said that games can never be art. He is wrong in the way that video games, movies and novels are two completely different mediums. What works in novels can’t work in film, what works in film can’t work in novels, and what works in novels/film can’t work in video games and vice versa. Yes, there have been cases where this wasn’t accomplished, but there are many where it was like the above games, Okami, Journey and even the Legacy of Kain games.

It is true that many video game stories are not very good or mediocre at best, but there are plenty that are well written and will move you. These are becoming exceedingly rare nowadays, but they are out there. So in conclusion, yes, video game stories can me literary if done by the right people. Video game stories can be much more than the sum of their parts, they have been and there will be people who will continue on in that tradition.



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