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Deus Ex and the Importance of Caring

So here's the deal,

I was recently fortunate enough to stumble upon a failing Rogers Video that was selling its used and rented games at three for one. Ever the opportunist, I dashed in to get my grubby meat hooks on whatever scraps they had left. Seriously, I would have been happy with Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games.

But to my great surprise, I did not find Masatog on the used shelf or indeed any shelf in the store. I instead found three games that were actually worth some form of currency. For the incredible price of $40 Canadian, which for you plebes in America is about $40.40, I picked up Deus Ex basically new, as well as Bayonetta and Enslaved.

After almost literally skipping home, I slipped into the world of augments and magic sunglasses. (small sidenote, couldn't you just aug sun protection into his eyes? Anyway...) I played Deus Ex for about a week and was delighted by not only the gameplay, but the plagiarism contained within. Yes, that's the Mass Effect soundtrack you hear, which is actually the Bladerunner soundtrack. Funny how that works. Oh and in yet another effort to completely ruin the flow of this article, there's a riff in the Bastion soundtrack - which is awesome - that is 95% identical to one in Firefly, brownie points to anyone who can name the scene or at least episode it's in.

Anyway, where was I? Yes, Deus Ex. The game kept me playing for about a week and a half before I stopped coming back. This wasn't because it wasn't fun, it was, immensely. And it wasn't because it was ugly or hard to play, neither are true. I stopped coming back because the story got dull.

Now realizing that kinda shocked me. I've always waffled on the gameplay/story issue, but I never thought a lack-lustre story could keep me from coming back to a game that was genuinely entertaining to play.

Here's the catch though, this wasn't a affirmative act on the part of the game. It's not like this story actively disappointed me and I stopped playing out of spite or something, the story just completely lost its ability to intrigue me. I had stopped caring - which, if you're Om Nom initiated, is a thing that is important - so I stopped playing.

I've written and scrapped many a thousand word blog on this subject, but the long and short of it is, to be good, a game has to make you care. Doesn't matter if you care about the story, the competition between you and your friends, the characters, the challenge, whatever, if you care, you will come back.

And this is why I think people (at one time myself included) get all up in arms when the importance of story in games is attacked. A good story is not in any sense of the word necessary, or even comparatively important. Making the player care is what counts, and a good story just happens to one of the most effective, and therefore common ways to achieve that.

It can be done through gameplay just as easily, with games like Geo Wars standing as perfect examples. There's not a whiff of story or plot to be found in that game, yet people care because it's fun as shit, and because they can compete with their friends. I say "they" because I'm completely noncompetitive, never broken 250k. Knutaf's done something inhuman like 4 million or somewhere in that area, and he can do that because the gameplay and leaderboards made him care about his performance.

So the next time you're getting served by some rube in a flame war over why story is more important than gameplay is more important than characters, realize you're all arguing the same point, you just the game to give you something you can care about.

~Om nom nom nom...

PS I know this is literally a month late at this point, but I had an incredible time with you all at PAX. I met more awesome people than I could count, and it was largely because of you that that weekend was absolutely everything I wanted it to be. Next year's mission: bring camera to capture love-in.
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About Om Nom On Soulsone of us since 4:57 PM on 02.27.2010

So here's me,

My real name is Max and I'm a diehard Browncoat. I also have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Star Wars universe left over from a childhood obsession, as well as an actual Star Wars encyclopedia, but that's another matter.

I like to sleep, but keep odd hours, I like food A LOT, I like TV on occasion, I'm not a huge fan of any music except symphonic, and apparently I have bad music taste, even at 20 I can barely grow enough facial hair to justify shaving more than twice a week, I love to write, I kinda read, I hate a couple of the people in my J-school program, HBO is perfect, LOST is actually alright, I'm a total gearhead, Avatar was a terrible movie but an incredible experience, How to Train Your Dragon was very, VERY awesome, and all I want at this moment is a 1:1 stuffed Appa.

Guess what this last paragraph used to be for? My two cents on the games/art debate. Guess what's here now? NOTHING, and that's the way I likes it.

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