[MUD-dev] Fun in Games

Koster Koster
Sat Apr 27 10:15:56 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

From: Daniel.Harman at barclayscapital.com

> Furthermore, these examples leverage the emotional resonance of
> our recent history and other creative works depicting them. I
> don't have a problem with using this resonance, but when
> fashioning a fantasy world, its not really an available
> resource. Would Schindler's list have worked had it been based on
> the oppression of dwarfs by ogres? I put it to you that people
> just wouldn't have cared as much, irrespective of directorial
> flair.

There is no doubt that real-life resonances add immeasurably to any
artistic endeavor. However, it does not mean that a lack of
real-life resonances is an insurmountable obstacle to emotional
connection, either. There's plenty of works of fantasy and science
fiction that attest otherwise.

> Whilst one can make corrolaries within a game to try and draw some
> of this resonance, it will always be diluted. Sure, you can dress
> the evil guards in SS inspired attire, and one would hope that
> most of the audience would find them scarey even if they can't put
> their finger on why. It is another thing however, to instill the
> despair within a player that they might feel whilst watching a
> film showing the plight of a Jewish prisoner. Even if we can, do
> we really want to?

The opening to MAX PAYNE, a fairly recently released shooter game,
is a cinematic sequence narrated by the hero. In it, he tells the
story of how a couple of youths hopped up on drugs broke into his
apartment and killed his wife and baby whilst looking for money. The
sequence is non-interactive, rendered in the game engine, and the
narrator's voice is leaden and weary over the action. The action
itself is graphic. The sequence ends with us being placed in the
narrator's shoes as he walks in the door, and it is left to us to
discover the dead baby in the crib and the wife bleeding on the
marriage bed. And to take action.

I found it a profoundly disturbing and unnerving sequence, probably
amplified by the fact that I have kids myself. It certainly
accomplished the purpose you described above. And I'd argue that it
was the right choice on the designers' part.

> Personally, I don't enjoy relating to human suffering, it leaves
> me emotionally drained and unoptimistic. Nor do I enjoy modern
> media constantly manipulating my emotions with stories of plight
> I'm powerless to impact. I don't want it in my games. Fortunately
> its a lot easier to opt out of them than it is to dodge the media
> barrage.

Relating to human suffering is the first step to embracing the goal
of rectifying it. That's a pretty common technique in all the
arts. And rectifying suffering is a pretty common fictional goal in

> Skipping past this issue, films and novels have a lot of tools we
> don't in their arsenal.

The converse is also true. :)

> How can you relay the suffering of the dwarfs to the players, when
> you can't show them the events directly? Obtuse clues just don't
> cut it.

I don't agree that you can't show them directly. I also think
there's lots of possible tactics for doing this...

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