Tag Archives: narrative

Overwatch: What It Means To Tell A Story Without a Narrative

The byline says Tom, but in fact this is the second post by Special Guest Jess, who you might have heard on the recent Overwatch episode of the podcast! Read her previous guest blog, on Gone Home, over here. It’s real good, and so is this.

Storytelling is not something you usually think is high on the priority list with first-person shooter games without a single-player campaign or concrete plotline, but Blizzard’s 2016 title Overwatch is a lesson in showing, not telling. The game’s primary modes do not move along a plot, nor do they reveal the story through unlocked cutscenes. Nearly all the storytelling elements are littered throughout as rewards for levelling up: unlocked items, maps, visuals and voice lines of the characters, as well as a whole stack of tangential media including comics and animated shorts. The type of gameplay does not lend itself to storytelling, nor do games of this genre usually tell stories (without a single player campaign) to the extent that Overwatch does. You get the feeling that it comes with a backpack full of lore, a sense of history and time, without ever progressing time or narrative with your player actions.

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Glory to Mankind?

Over the past month Nier: Automata has blown me away. A game that on it’s face is one where you hack robots to pieces in various fashion appeals to me, but I didn’t expect to be dragged into one of most interesting and memorable games I’d ever played. A true masterclass in story telling and emotional manipulation, by the time I had killed my way to the “true” ending, it had solidified its position as one of my favourite games of all time.

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Her/Their/Your Story

“Closure is bullshit,” James Ellroy once wrote, “and I would love to find the man who invented closure and shove a giant closure plaque up his ass.” The author of LA Confidential is wrong about a lot of things, but in this case, he’s bang on. An ending with no loose ends, unanswered questions of other dangling prepositions is desirable in storytelling, but if you try and apply a similar narrative arc to a human life, you’ll only be disappointed. Fiction which attempts to embrace the ambiguity of life treads a tricky line between purposefully disappointing those engaging with it, and just wasting their time. It’s a tightrope which Her Story, Sam Barlow’s surprise hit PC title from 2015, manages quite wonderfully imho.

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Closing thoughts on The Witcher 3, and the marker it sets for open world games

I have spent the last year and a half slowly picking away at The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and now that I have finally sat down and finished it off I thought I’d take my time to collate my thoughts on why this game has been constantly on my mind for the last year and a half, even during the long periods between actually picking it up, and why it should be held up as the benchmark for open world games going forward.

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Nothing’s Ever Finished

The Life of Prompto

Depending on when you got around to listening to it, the version of The Life of Pablo you heard could be very different to the version I heard. Kanye West has been tinkering with his most recent record ever since he premiered it in February of this year, as the soundtrack to his Yeezy Season 3 fashion show at Madison Square Garden. He has re-recorded verses, changed beats, even subbed out Frank Ocean’s entire contribution to the hook of “Wolves” in favour of Sia and Vic Mensa (he fixed it!). It’s an approach to making and releasing music that’s entirely unprecedented in his industry, but one that’s immediately familiar to gamers.

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