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Posted by Kevin Corrie on Aug 20, 2012

The Evolution of Plot (Or Lack Thereof)

Over the course of video game history, the standard model for the majority of games has been roughly the same. The player learns of the characters motivation or personality, in a cutscene, then the player takes control of the character for a while. After a sequence the game takes the reigns again and explains a bit more, in a cutscene. Player progresses, game goes to cutscene. You can see where the pattern starts to emerge, games are constantly taking the player out of the action in order to explicitly explain things. I personally have issue with this model. I find that most of the time, whenever the widescreen bars lower on the top and bottom of my screen I immediately lose immersion in the game. I set the controller on my lap and take a drink of water or bite of my sandwich and the game I had been playing turns into a movie. Immersion makes the game in my opinion, and I know of a prominent figure in the industry that agrees with me.

Thomas Grip, co-founder of Frictional Games the makers of the Penumbra series and Amnesia: the Dark Descent, believes that the industry has been in a rut through its depiction of plot. During a speech he gave at GDC last week, Grip gave some insight into his philosophy on the story of video games. Grip believes that, “story is not just the plot”. Frictional Games is working to change the way that story is told in games. “We want the player to play through the story, not just sit through it.”

Frictional Games is well known for their ability to instill fear without ever even showing you your foe until well into the game. Amnesia for example, has zero encounters with enemies until nearly the forty minute mark. Instead the first portion of the game is spent exploring the castle while the story is narrated by the main character’s memory, with zero cutscenes. Studios like Frictional are attempting to change the way games are made and as a result are propelling the entire genre towards the respect it deserves as an art form.

Do you think games have started to rely on cutscenes too often to tell their stories? (Not pointing any fingers, *coughfinalfantasycough*)

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