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The Anthology Format

So here's the deal,

Games should succeed on their own merits, separate from those of other media. This is what I hear from most people who want to see games grow "as an industry." They tend to talk in grand terms about what games "should" do to be "legitimized." Lots of those pseudo-buzz words. 

While those conversations have their place, making generalizations like that can cut us off from using genuinely effective concepts from other forms of entertainment. Games' growth is important, and stagnation wouldn't help anyone, but growing doesn't have to be an exclusionary process.

For example, the anthology format has been used well by a few TV shows recently, and I think a game that could adopt it would make a strong outing.

In television, the anthology format means creating a setting, a tone, and/or a style that continues through all seasons of a given show, but the characters and sources of conflict are different for each. The most important change being the sources of conflict. For example if a child's need for independence is a major conflict in the first season, they won't repeat it. American Horror story is one example, and HBO's True Detective is apparently going to do the same.

We're seeing a growing amount of games that make their point quickly. They focus on a tight experience, and replayability or length take a back seat to what is usually a strong statement or unified vision. These kinds of games are perfectly suited to the anthology format.

When conflict is framed this way, when the dev hones an entire experience around a specific emotion or payoff, direct sequels or prequels tend to feel out of place. You enjoyed what you played, but the arcs you cared about were completed, and usually you don't want more from them. Yet the game did something for you outside of that; the world or fiction made you curious, your brain liked the mechanics, something is drawing you back.

Because another narrative throughline with the same characters, conflict, etc. would be less enjoyable without its novelty, changing them makes the world feel fresh again, and allows you to enjoy what you did initially. 

I would have preferred this from Walking Dead: Season 2. I was done with Clementine, and I liked that her fate was a little uncertain. It didn't matter at that point. You spent the game protecting her, but once you'd done literally all you could, you had your emotional payoff, so you didn't really need the answer to that cliffhanger.

So now to see Clem at a different age, all Anakin Skywalker like, feels unnecessary. It's like Telltale didn't think the game would have captured me without her, and it almost suggests a lack of confidence.

I would rather see how the apocalypse affected people in a different environment. How did it impact the very rich? The poor? Countries that weren't developed enough to prepare against it? These are questions I'm much more interested in than 'what is Clem doing as a teenager?'

Adopting the anthology format would keep the story from being shackled to elements that already got their due and don't need to be revisited. It would allow devs to continue making money off an IP they worked hard to create without over saturating their players.

If we intentionally distance ourselves from other media too much, we risk dismissing ideas like this one as a reflex, and missing opportunities on principal is not something that rings of growth or legitimacy.

~ Om nom nom nom...
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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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