Emotions in Videogames… is that truly possible?

This year I was selected as an IGDA scholar and attended the GDC 2013. While attending conferences, visiting studios and speaking to some of the brightest people in the industry, there was a question burning in the back of my mind that seems to be one of the hardest to answer: How to find the perfect relationship between gameplay and narrative?

I have played my fair share of cinematic games to know that this path is not the right one. The problem, as mentioned in Erik Kain’s points article for his Forbes blog, is not making characters look more realistic, it’s finding the way in which the game itself tells the story. In my opinion, it’s about telling a story without overusing cutscenes. All of us remember the days when movies were viewed in a similar light: who would have thought that movies could tell a powerful story and convey emotions in the days when the most popular ones were action movies? Cowboys fighting, monsters attacking cities, cartoon characters focused on comical events or even demons in horror movies didn’t go deeper than producing adrenaline or a good laugh. Videogames are in a similar stage: we’re used to action, but it doesn’t mean there is not an audience that craves deeper emotions.

Movies didn’t make their stories more believable or their characters more natural, they changed the narrative so the message came through, regardless of the details in the story. The same scary movie or monster attack could provoke more than just adrenaline, and it’s playing with those emotions that takes it to the next level.  With video games, it’s not about the embelishment of visual elements as much as it is revising the narrative and letting go of cut scenes as the only resource to communicate the story. Lately I’ve found myself feeling disappointed by games that didn’t try harder to achieve this, they stayed in a “safe” territory. If I want to watch a movie, I’ll go to the movies instead of spending $60+ to work my way through the narrative and find through cut scenes what it’s all about. True innovation is a game where the story is the game and not just another element.

What is most important to you when playing a game?

See you soon,

Chris Muriel