Sunday, April 13, 2008

Blog, first rough draft

Many societal trends have shaped various aspects of our entertainment, ranging from music to the television and even video games. These changes are more prominent in certain forms of entertain than in others and cause and effect is not always clear – whether society has changed because of entertainment or whether entertainment has changed because of society. However, what is clear is that video games have undergone significant changes in the past two decades, not in concerns with technology and visual complexity but in theme and content. Adventure games have been decreasing in popularity while FPS games have underground radical evolutionary changes (meanwhile sports games and “fun” games like Mario have maintained a steady place in sales). These changes in video games are mimicking some of the major trends in society which are reflected in other forms of the media such as in the film industry.

Adventure games concern themselves with riddle solving and narrative. This type of game was very popular in the early 1990’s. Prime examples of these games were the original Indiana Jones series and the Monkey Island series, both by Lucas Art. These games revolved around a major protagonist and their respective quests for glory – for Guybrush Threepwood (from Monkey Island) it was becoming a pirate and marrying the local town’s governor and for Indiana Jones the main quests concerned themselves with archeological findings of treasure (such as Atlantis or the Holy Grail) and the ultimate defeat of the Nazi Regime. The player of these video games always went about his quest in the same way, by solving riddles, puzzles and by communicating with computer controlled scripted events. These riddles would include things such as finding certain items and using them to progress or get out of certain problematic situations, such as being stuck in a jail cell or being able to find ingredients required for certain tasks. Communication was important, as the right things had to be said in order to be able to progress. These types of games were filled with subtle humor, too, and a large part of the entertainment can be attributed to this humor. Finally upon conclusion of these games a clear narrative element had become apparent: A fictional had unfolded in front of the player’s eyes. However, unfortunately this type of game is now almost all but extinct.

This type of adventure game competed with early sports games and for our analysis primitive FPS games such as Castle Wolfenstein and Doom. These competitors of early adventure games were almost a polar opposite in nearly every regard. There were no narrative elements and the games consisted of running through a maze and slaughtering whatever crosses ones path, may it be soldiers of the Third Reich or aliens, everything had to be destroyed in ones path (or the player himself would be killed). These games had no essentially no narrative elements at all although any intelligent human could figure out that in Wolfenstein the player is trying to escape from a castle filled with Nazis and in Doom it can be concluded that some sort of aliens have invaded where ever the player is and that the player has to kill them and reach elevators until the player is finally safe. There is no dialogue and it is not possible to interact friendly player controlled character – the linear progression of the game cannot take anything into account besides how the opponents are killed. There is no humor, only slaughter in these early FPS games and FPS games such as these are also almost all but gone…they have evolved.

Modern FPS games have taken over the narrative elements from old adventure games and the perspective and old FPS games – a strange hybrid that has perhaps caused the extinction of adventure games. Today’s FPS games such as Bioschock and Half Life 2 have very strong narrative elements and they even have some riddle and puzzles to be solved – however they remain in the first person perspective and progression throughout the games is impossible without a bloodbath and violent slaughter. In Half Life 2 the narrative elements are presented in a nonlinear way where the players puts bits and pieces together from things he witnesses and media he finds while in Bioshock players learn what has happened in a similar way. Half Life requires puzzle solving in ways that require the player to use the environment to defeat enemies that are otherwise invincible and in Bio Shock the player has to solve the same sorts of puzzles and sometimes even has to make decisions of morality regarding the path the game (and the story) will then take. One thing remains clear, in this type of modern FPS slaughtering your enemies is the most important things required to beat the game and these games are more FPS than adventure.

While these new FPS games are hybrids of old adventure games and old FPS games they clearly represent the genre of FPS and adventure games have disappeared and it seems as though the adventure genre was pushed out of popularity by FPS games. Games such as Mario and Sports games have always been at a constant popularity, but the FPS genre has changed and taken elements from a now extinct genre. It is important in order for us to understand society and its changes to understand why these changes in the video game industry have happened and what caused them. Why have all narrative elements shifted to FPS games and even included some riddles that have to be solved but they kept absent from games such as Mario which have always remained on a constant level of popularity. So why have the very important narrative elements from video games shifted to the bloodiest of all genres? Why do stories have to be presented bloodstained accompanied with slaughter? Other societal trends have to be explored to gain a full understanding of these changes and what these changes mirror (especially in the film industry).


This being a rough, rough draft I have not really checked spelling or grammar yet. Although, I would like to point a few things. This is the core explanation of my argument and at this point I am thinking continuing comparing this trend that i show to other trends in society where things have become more violent. Other then that, I am not sure what else to add for substance. I am still looking for some research on games sales and I am thinking of including some other trends such as today's games of senseless violence (GTA) and RPG violence such as WOW. Waht do you think of the early beginnings of this?

Sorry for the grammar and spelling!

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

After having read it, I'll confirm some of my ideas from earlier. This would be strengthened by focusing on particular games (with the examples being well chosen, of course). Why do I say this? You spend a good deal of time characterizing the genres in general, but this doesn't relate in any particular way to how games are actually played (your distance from actual issues relating to gameplay in your first paper are basically repeating themselves here).

You do have some sort of a thesis, but it's so diluted as to be meaningless. Use examples, and far more specific ideas. "The decline of adventure games, such as Monkey Island, and the infusion of their narrative elements into contemporary RPGs such as Bioshock, tells us..." Tells us what? That narrative is becoming secondary to an unrelenting, unvarying stream of violent acts, maybe? That's just a speculation - you may have something somewhat different in mind.