Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Rough Draft

It is rough - I have not spent much time yet on proof reading and grammar. I wanted to make sure my points are strong and since I am still going to change a lot it'd be wasted effort cleaning it up now. I have a few questions, thouhg.

I used wikipedia as a refresher for some points but I have played all 3 games that i discussed (and beaten each of them) so all the information I have used is available in the game and on wikipedia...what should I cite and what requires citation?

Secondly, the last paragraph which is not really a conclusion but an analysis of the earlier paragraphs may have some stuff in it that I should like to add to my thesis - what does everyone think? It seems to be a stronger point that has developed upon me thinking everything through.

lastly, Dr Johns:

Do you still request I talk more about game play? If so - what else should I include?

Thanks for reading and sorry for some of the sentences being a bit strange and some of the spelling errors!

Enjoy :)


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 popularity). These changes in video games are mimicking some of the major trends in society, the increase of violence. The decline of adventure games, such as Monkey Island, and the infusion of their narrative elements into contemporary FPS games such as Doom shows us that narrative maintained a steady popularity, although the medium and, genre, in which it is used has greatly changed and the emphasis of the video game industry mirrors the progressive perversion of contemporary society. While adventure games have become all but extinct and old FPS games which had no narrative elements have changed into modern FPS games do have narrative elements but no other characteristics of the long gone adventure games.

Adventure games concern themselves with riddle solving and narrative. This type of game was very popular in the early 1990’s. A prime example of this genre of games is the Monkey Island series, by Lucas Arts. These games revolved around a major protagonist and his respective quests for glory. For Guybrush Threepwood, in Monkey Island, it was becoming a pirate and marrying the local town’s governor. The player in these types of video games always went about the quests 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 said items to progress or get out of certain problematic situations, i.e. as being stuck in a jail cell or being able to find ingredients required for certain tasks like winning a spitting contest. Communication in adventure games always was important, as the right things had to be said (using a drop down menu) for progression throughout the game. These types of games were filled with subtle humor, too, and a large part of the entertainment can be attributed to the many jokes found in the game. Finally upon conclusion of these games a clear narrative element had become apparent: A fictional story had unfolded in front of the player’s eyes. However, unfortunately this type of game is now almost all but extinct with no new games being in production.

Concerning the game play, Monkey Island, starts off with a regular guy in his early twenties, Guybrush Threepwood, walking past a lookout post and engaging in a conversation with the local guard about becoming a pirate (the player is Guybrush Threepwood, from a third person perspective). His shy personality becomes obvious very early as he gets made fun of by everyone for his silly name. The guard informs Guybrush that in order to become a pirate he has to talk to three major pirate leaders at the locak pub…the Scum Bar. After the player journeys there he engages in conversation with the pirates who inform Guybrush he has to pass three trials in order to become a full fledged pirate and so the quest begins…with a slight complication. An undead pirate, LeChuck, is in love with the local Governor of Melee Island (where the beginning of the story takes place) and a feud quickly begins alongside the trials. Having around twelve actions available (which are not text based, but one has to click on them to activate said actions) and some inventory space to pick up certain materials the players starts his adventures to becoming a Pirate, solving riddles and puzzles and ultimate marrying the woman of Guybrush’s dreams – the Governor.

Adventure games, such as Monkey Island competed with early FPS games, like one of the most famous examples: Doom, in the early 1990’s. Games like Doom were almost a polar opposite in nearly every regard. There are no narrative elements in the game itselfnd the entire game consists of running through a maze and slaughtering whatever crosses ones path, may it be soldiers some sort of human soldiers or aliens, everything had to be destroyed in ones path in order to progress (or the player himself would be killed by whatever was left alive). Everything in the environment was hostile and would attack the player immediately. Narrative elements are almost completely absent in the game, although some understanding of what has happened can be attained from the game manual which explains that the character, who remains unnamed, which the player controls is some sort of space marine having been sent to Mars as a result of a court marshal due to insubordination. While guarding scientists who are experimenting with a teleportation device “something” goes wrong and a portal opens with demons coming out of it. Quickly the space station is overrun by demons and the player has to kill his way back to earth. During actual game play (which is what most people engaged in, as in most people do not read the manual for the background story) player receives is very limited information, usually a sentence or two where the player learns that he has reached a place closer to hell, etc. The narrative elements are next to non-existent, only some sort of locational information is gained. The game itself, as in game play, consists of nothing more than hitting an occasional switch and seeing your weapon from a first person view (including a small arsenal of armaments like guns and machine guns, even a chain saw). The game revolves around running through a maze for its entire duration. There is no interaction with anything friendly – everything that moves is trying to kill the player and if the player is not quick to kill whatever is encountered the game will be over. Eventually, after several bosses have been slain the player arrives back at earth and presumably lives a more desirable life than slaying demons from hell.

After the decline of Adventure Games, modern FPS games have taken over the narrative elements and fused them with the perspective of old FPS games – a strange hybrid that has perhaps caused the extinction of adventure games and the old type of FPS games. Today’s FPS games such as Doom 3 have very strong narrative elements and they even have some riddle/puzzle solving – however they remain in the first person perspective and progression throughout the games is impossible without a bloodbath and violent slaughter. In Doom 3 the story is presented in a nonlinear fashion where the players put bits and pieces together from things that are witnessed such as the initial demon invasion, journals, voice mails and abandoned experiments. The player finds himself arriving at the Mars Space station. However at this point the player is unarmed and a senior marine officer welcomes the player to his new job. After a quick walk through and encountered some very bored soldiers one realizes how boring it must have been on that space station. Soon however the game becomes creepy as upon closer inspections people are mumbling and hallucinating. Eventually the player is armed with a pistol and dispatched to find a scientist who has gone missing – before the player is able to reach him an explosion occurs and the demonic infestation starts. Throughout the game all information is learned through talking to friendly survivors and the various mediums of media that the player is able to find. The players quickly learn how the teleportation device had apparently opened a gate to a place that resembles hell and the player figures out his primary objective: Closing this portal before the demonic invasion reaches earth. The game play, aside from all the scattered bits of information remains simple and shooting things is still the primary action needed for progression, although, the player does have to solve some simple puzzles like finding out ways of using physics within the game to progress. However, the major difference between this new generation of FPS games is that the player is exposed to narrative within the game not only in an abstract manual. There is no way of avoiding the story, the labs with the experiments (and some of the journals) simply cannot be avoided and the player upon beating the game will have learned a little story where he was able to save the world. This is very different from old FPS games where there was almost no narrative in the game and very little in the manual and the story that the player learns upon the conclusion of the game is only his personal escape, nothing else.

What can be learned from this fusion and evolution of video games? One might wonder about narrative, violence, communication and problem solving and the significance our society places on these factors. For one it appears that narrative is very important since narrative based adventure games used to compete with a genre of FPS games that had no narrative elements. As these types of games have become extinct, their emphasis on the story line was absorbed by FPS games. Today, where adventure games are virtually extinct people still need to get some sort of story from a video game so the FPS games have taken over what was once unique to adventure games. Violence accompanies narrative today and perhaps the lack of violence in adventure games is what caused adventure games to disappeared from the mainstream. The emphasis on thinking and the arts of communication have also become less popular and nearly every game today features excessive violence and fighting without which progress is impossible while adventure games had almost no violence but required a lot of problem solving and communication. These changes in the video the video game industry illustrate the perversion of modern society very well.


Adam Johns said...

Hey Dan,

Here's a link to some comments. Some may repeat what we said in class but I'm also trying to build on what was said earlier.

Adam Johns said...


The one I linked to above is missing some of my later comments, as I just discovered. Have a look at this one instead.

Dan said...

thanks a ton, ill make an A paper out of this yet!

Dan said...

...i can't believe my own professor rick rolled me. seriously.