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Violence, mystery, and meaning in the dark world of Limbo photo
Violence, mystery, and meaning in the dark world of Limbo
by Andrew Kauz

[Editor's Note: We're not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware that it may not jive with the opinions of Destructoid as a whole, or how our moms raised us. Want to post your own article in response? Publish it now on our community blogs.]

We often speak of videogames in terms of the narratives they present. A game’s story is seen as a necessary extension of gameplay, like the heart that resides within the body and keeps it in motion. Games like BioShock are praised for the narratives they present, and without them, the games amount to little more than standard fare.

Then there’s Limbo, which is minimalistic and vague in its storytelling while simultaneously offering one of the best experiences of the year, and not just because of its puzzle-solving gameplay. You never really know where you’re going, what you’re doing, or who you’re sharing the world of Limbo with, and because of this some might be quick to label the game’s story as lacking or even poor.

Those people are, of course, missing the point. Limbo presents one of the most engaging and sophisticated stories in videogame history, and it does so without giving you a solid idea of what the hell you’re doing. 

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Why games should play the player photo
Why games should play the player
by Andrew Kauz

[Editor's Note: We're not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware that it may not jive with the opinions of Destructoid as a whole, or how our moms raised us. Want to post your own article in response? Publish it now on our community blogs.]

People don’t really like to be f*cked with. I can’t think of a compelling reason why any person would want to be lied to, led on, or strung around on a regular basis. Sure, some people get off on doing this to others, but they’re also the types that are likely to get their windshields smashed in with golf clubs.

Yet in fiction, we can’t get enough of stories that mess with our minds, our perceptions of events, or our ability to trust the players involved. Some of the best pieces of fiction from recent memory (and many from history) have done this. Of note is Shutter Island, which presented a story from the perspective of a completely unreliable narrator/main character. The story was effective largely because of this single choice.

Games are in a unique narrative position, as they are able to play us as much as we play them. However, few games do this, and even fewer do it effectively. While games will always be at risk of pissing us off personally thanks to our personal involvement in the action, game narratives and game design are both in an ideal position to start f*cking with us, and some have already pulled this off to great effect. 

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Death, storytelling, and the manipulation of progress photo
Death, storytelling, and the manipulation of progress
by Andrew Kauz

For years, we've heard the same tired proclamations about the limitations of storytelling in videogames. This argument stands apart from the talent involved in making games; it's not that the people making games are poor writers, but that the medium itself cannot tell a story as effectively as a film, novel, or play. There may be some truth to these arguments, despite many of them being hugely exaggerated.

However, what few are likely to talk about are the storytelling methods unique to the medium of the videogame. Games are only just beginning to explore these strategies, and as such, many of the attempts are slipshod at best. Yet each attempt, in spite of its quality, raises a very interesting question. What advantages over other storytelling mediums are built into the very fabric of the games we enjoy, and with the proper execution, could they actually provide even more compelling storytelling?

One trend in storytelling connects player character death and the manipulation of progress that the player has made through the game. Two recent games in particular, Red Dead Redemption and Nier (spoiler warning for both games), explore this concept in divergent but equally interesting ways. In each case, the power of the statement made would simply be impossible in a film or novel. By manipulating the player's progress in the course of the story, each game appeals directly to the player during pivotal moments in the story, and the increased impact of these moments suggests that breaking the fourth wall can work brilliantly in a videogame narrative. Spoilers follow after the break. 

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Forced morality in games will never, ever work photo
Forced morality in games will never, ever work
by Andrew Kauz

[Editor's Note: We're not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware that it may not jive with the opinions of Destructoid as a whole, or how our moms raised us. Want to post your own article in response? Publish it now on our community blogs.]

A man rides his horse swiftly along a dusty path, six shooter in hand, when he hears a cry in the distance. The sound grows closer, and a woman comes into view; she is visibly panicked. Soon, the source of her panic becomes clear. Behind her, four bobcats snarl and nip at her ankles, inching closer and closer to the poor, defenseless lady. The man knows what he must do, for he is a man of honor. He raises his six shooter, aims for the bobcats, and fires.

Just as the first pull of the trigger has been committed, the woman makes a sudden turn, putting her directly in the path of the man's bullets. The first one tears through her leg, while the rest find their mark somewhere around the woman's abdomen. She falls to the ground as the bobcats scatter in fear. The woman is dead...

...and a message appears: "Honor -50." The man stares in disbelief, knowing his reputation is forever tarnished despite the lack of witnesses to his crime, and most of all, despite his noble intentions. He had done everything a noble man should except anticipating the woman's unpredictable movement. As he turns away from the grisly scene and mounts his horse, he mutters a single thought.

"Morality systems in games are such sh*t." 

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Open-world mission design is awful, let's fix it photo
Open-world mission design is awful, let's fix it
by Andrew Kauz

[Editor's Note: We're not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware that it may not jive with the opinions of Destructoid as a whole, or how our moms raised us. Want to post your own article in response? Publish it now on our community blogs.]

I still remember the very first time I played Grand Theft Auto for the good old PlayStation. It was one of the few games that I, back in the day, became truly hyped for prior to its release. After only an hour or so with the game, I began calling friends of mine, proclaiming the game to be the very best thing that had ever happened. Most of them asked me, "Why?" and, to my recollection, I had no good answer. I just said, "You have to play this."

Looking back, I can see in far greater clarity why this game influenced me so greatly: a world of delinquency at your fingertips, with rockets and flamethrowers causing pedestrians to flee in terror and cars to spin wildly around the streets. Obviously, I wasn't the only one taken by this formula of open-world freedom; we now have a whole category of open-world "sandbox" games, spanning RPGs, FPSes, and even racing games.

Yet there's still one thing about the original Grand Theft Auto that I can't rightly recall. What the hell did I actually do in that game? I mean, sure, I remember tearing around the streets and blowing stuff up for hours on end, but wasn't there a game hidden in there somewhere?

Sadly, I find that now, over ten years later, not much has changed. We have increasingly detailed worlds, with more and more ways to cause chaos. Yet, when it comes down to it, mission design sucks. It's frustrating, forgettable, and downright boring in many cases, even among top-tier releases.

It's time to revamp. Mightily. 

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4:00 PM on 04.29.2010

The world needs to stop revolving around protagonists

Videogames are intimately familiar with the concept of the hero; Games seem built for protagonists, with worlds pieced together and relationships formed to benefit the hero's journey. Yet a strange thing occurred to me rec...

Andrew Kauz





4:00 PM on 04.15.2010

Love, loneliness, and companionship in our Fragile Dreams

[Editor's Note: We're not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware that it may not jive with the opinions of Destructoid as a who...

Andrew Kauz

4:00 PM on 04.09.2010

A charming skull-laden kickass world: The art of Brutal Legend

It has been said so many times that it now borders upon a meaningless cliché, but the fact remains: a lot of games look the same. I'm not going to lament the propagation of brown color palettes, generic RPG characte...

Andrew Kauz

4:00 PM on 03.25.2010

Something about sex: Videogame items that sound inadvertently sexual

[Editor's Note: We're not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware that it may not jive with the opinions of Destructoid as a whole, or...

Andrew Kauz

4:00 PM on 03.19.2010

The hidden truth behind game reviews

[Editor's Note: We're not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware that it may not jive with the opinions of Destructoid as a whole,...

Andrew Kauz

3:30 PM on 03.02.2010

The convergent futures of music games and higher education

You know what makes a lot of money? Music games. Even in 2009, a year in which music games saw a 46% drop in sales from 2008, DJ Hero became the highest-grossing new IP across all genres. It's a game that was being called a f...

Andrew Kauz

5:00 PM on 02.24.2010

A powerful ally for narrative: The audio of Bad Company 2

The multiplayer demo for DICE's upcoming war FPS, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, has been out for a while now, and as the release date approaches, people are eating up the one-map demo and finding themselves consumed despite the...

Andrew Kauz

2:00 PM on 01.20.2010

Mass Effect, Metal Gear, Moon Unit, and more: An interview with Jennifer Hale

Ever played a videogame with a female character? Chances are, then, that you've heard the voice of Jennifer Hale. Ophelia from Brutal Legend. Naomi from Metal Gear Solid. Jennifer Mui from Mercenaries. Bastila from Star Wars:...

Andrew Kauz

5:30 PM on 01.11.2010

The Future: Demanding more from the voices of videogames

[Editor's Note: We're not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware it may not jive with the opinions of Destructoid as a whole, or how our...

Andrew Kauz

6:20 PM on 12.16.2009

Love/Hate: A plea to play as a female Shepard

[Editor's Note: We're not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware it may not jive with the opinions of Destructoid as a whole, or how our...

Andrew Kauz

6:30 PM on 11.27.2009

A warning: Regrets from a former life and experiences yet unlived

[Editor's Note: We're not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware it may not jive with the opinions of Destructoid as a whole, or how our...

Andrew Kauz