Play is a state between seriousness, it is the necessary stuff, the kinda oreo creme filling of that deadly serious thing meaning. Play enables cross combinations, mutations of possibility, it just happens to dead end in the profound or at least that’s how its supposed to work.
You’ve spent the last 8 hours building up a relationship with a group of space marines. You trawled through the Galatic space pit, into the solar winter, outside the black hole you had a moment with your a.i. and the alien commando you escort back home. You remember how sarge was supposed to retire yesterday. Sweets is barking your mother jokes into his handset and sarge is now ordering pizza. Just as the symphonic choral waves signal the significance of this battle your character breaks out in a run, he jumps over a barrier and kicks a jeep into the enemy hulk, he snags a missile launcher stashes under some chairs and then he fires to soon, his body rises into the air with the octaves of the chorus and symphonic-ally breaks through some planks as a long tonal stretch sentences this scene to the profound and then he dies several small midget like aliens shoot feathers into his ass and giggle in high pitch voices. Restart!
Games lack the stability to ensure the profound, like the Derridaen sense of play mentioned early, they suspend seriousness with a huge field of possibility, it becomes harder to write for them when your a ok space marine might end up ass first hanging out of a glitched waste barrel in the midst of a serious fight. In other words all the adornments of cinema’s spiritual build into violence as resolution become confused and convoluted, linear media enables the stable build of events that produce those grandiose triumphs with ease and an amazing level of tension, games need replays.
The replay is an obvious failure on the game’s part to meet the standards of cinema or literature in terms of story telling. We simply ignore them and play again. In Bioshock I often respawned 6 – 7 times before passing through an otherwise normal story even. What’s worse is that space has become the means of enforcing the character in a game into the cinematic frame. Watch this duty calls clip below it about captures the ridiculousness of many games.
Games in other words need stories and spaces that don’t strangle the possibilities of game play. If you have to fight the shark let it come to you just please don’t make it so we have to swim into its jaws. Its here that Valve comes into play. The half-life games caught one of video games major differences from cinema: in the fps we don’t identify with the main character. Gordon Freeman is mute, nerdy, and thankfully unseen. His deaths in the game seem accidental, again he’s a dweeb so we don’t care. You can’t make a movie out of him because no one would ever want to spend two hours locked on a nerdy mit grad who has taken a crow bar to another dimension.
Valve has nailed how to write a story around a shooter. Their purchased property Portal gave us a suitably silent protagonist and a world that was creepy, disturbing, and highly playable. Portal succeeded because we don’t mind our main character dying, and the warping through space portion of the game was wonderful.
The game managed to make a comedy out of an fps while producing a world that’s disturbing reality gave the architecture its menace and the play its edge. Portal’s world would work in film just not its protagonist. It here that video game designers are learning a property of nonlinear story telling: the player needs to be disposable the world, on the other hand, needs to be what we’re attached to.