A game narrative expert has urged studios to stop forcing human drama into established game templates, claiming the approach has consistently proven to be flawed.
Alexis Kennedy, the ‘chief narrative officer’ at the award-winning digital fiction company Failbetter Games, pulled no punches in his analysis of games such as LA Noire and, in particular, Heavy Rain.
“Try to make a film into a game you end up with this bastard half-child thing,” he claimed.
Speaking at a panel session at the 2011 Develop Conference, Kennedy said games that ape Hollywood narratives “end up looking like the inverted baboon that came out of the teleporter in The Fly”.
“Story in games so far has been whether your character dies or not. Heavy Rain is still about whether your character dies or not. I cannot think of a less interesting thing to do with a story than cut off parts of it as you go on.”
What games like Heavy Rain should focus on, he said, is cornerstones and key decisions that have a perceptible affect on characters and their relationship with the player.
“The choice shouldn’t be about whether someone falls of a conveyor belt or not,” he said.
During his lively speech at the Develop Conference – which he apologised when it began to resemble a rant – he said playing to win in games has become a stale concept.
“Most games are fantasies for success,” he said. “Why can’t they be fantasies for failure? What if you go mad in a game? What if you’re so mired in scandal that you have to leave a city and live with the consequences?”
Kennedy’s studio Failbetter launched its debut browser game, Echo Bazaar, to critical acclaim. The title won the Escapist’s Best Browser Game of 2009 Award.