Please respond with a few sentences on each of the prompts below, considering the structures and merits (or limitations) of games as a storytelling medium. Feel free to mention your initial expectations or previous experiences (or lack thereof) with gaming, if these things affected your experience with these games.
I have an older brother so about 75% of my childhood was watching him play all sorts of games, so I’m pretty familiar with most video game structures and concepts.
1. What do you see as the shared themesof these games? (Please answer this briefly as a general reflection about bothof your chosen games, and then answer the questions below about the individual games you played.)
In these Papers, Please and The Stanley Parable, you are given a role/situation and have jurisdiction over how to deal with it. Thus the most obvious common theme is choice. both are part of a story, and the things you choose will decide whether or not your character in the story (whether it be a guy named stanly or just ‘you’) will reach a good end. Your decisions will decide your fate, but in both games there are limitations on what your choices are. Both have “this or that” options – in “Stanley Parable”, you can listen to the Narrator or not, and in “Papers, Please”, you can accept them or not. With this “this or that” structure, there is a more limited amount outcomes for your character.
a. “Papers, Please” is not attempting to train you in the skills of being an immigration officer. (That said, it may still be called a simulation.) What things, then, do you think this game intends to teach you, or to make you question or consider? Did the narrative affect your initial approach to the gameplay?
This game is interesting because it seems as if it is teaching you to make moral decisions, but I’m not sure that is exactly correct. The motivation to let people in is in the interest of your family, because you get more money and will do better in the game financially and not risk losing your family. The motivation to turn suspicious people away is the fact that you could lose your job if they are infact bad people. Both of these situations make you lose the game, but both are motivated by your best interest, not the interest of others. So when playing you don’t think “people could get hurt” you are thinking “i could lose my job (and the game).” I think this shows how games, even if they are trying to teach something moral, are inherently geared toward the players best interest. If civilians die in a game because of something you did, but you don’t suffer as a character, then it doesn’t matter. Because of this, games will sometimes even encourage immoral behavior, Grand Theft Auto being a prime example. If you kill someone, they could drop money or items that benefit you, and you can avoid the police and not suffer any repercussions. Morality is not really a factor here.
b. If you chose “The Stanley Parable,” you are quickly presented with a simple decision that begins to drastically alter the course of your game experience. What does this structure force you to consider about your role in the game itself? (Or even games in general.) And how does this structure serve to strengthen, or undermine, the game’s basic narrative?
This game clearly is mocking the structure of games and pointing out how a player gets a false sense of autonomy when playing most video games. There are often two options such as Going through the door on the left, and going through the door on the right. The narrator makes it blatantly clear you should go through one, and if you go through the other you will surely die. When we were playing the game, we for some reason thought it made sense to ignore the narrator and several times walked right toward our predicted doom. The Stanley Parable shows how games that provide ‘options’ for the player are not really giving you that much freedom. If you go the wrong way, you will lose, and if you go the right way you will win. Also, if you go the wrong way or do the wrong thing, you aren’t going to get anywhere, so it is necessary the game help you, because you have no means of doing it on your own. As we were playing, we couldn’t figure out how to enter a code that was blatantly given to us. Seemingly annoyed by our inability to help ourselves, the game just opened the door for us. In a way, the narrative is set in stone, and you basically don’t make decisions unless you want to end the narrative. This game is sort of like a choose your own adventure book that gave you the options of “live or die” every time; Live would continue the story, and Die would end it. In this way, there is still a narrative, but it becomes less of a game.
3. As a player, what do you see as the inherent value in “playing” a narrative game? And (imagining the goals of a game designer) what do you see as the value in creating a narrative as a game, rather than another storytelling medium (print, film, etc.)?
This type of narrative all comes down to interactivity. In a film, you go on a ride with no active role in the narrative. Simply, narratives within games let you make decisions giving you a role in the story. Instead of watching a film or reading a book from the safe position of reader or viewer, games put you in danger in the role of player, actually being responsible for the life of a character. You have a responsibility in games, whether they be simply making good decisions or performing tasks well. In Papers Please for example, you have to make decisions based on logic and strategy, but you also require the dexterity and skill to do it quickly since you are timed. On a very general level, films and books require no skill (except knowing how to read or basic film viewing skills).
Narrative games (as opposed to games that are simply skill based, such as brick breaker or pong) also can give the player a genuine sense of responsibility because of a connection to the character. In Papers Please, we care about the quality of our make-believe family’s life. In this way video games use film and print techniques to get the player to care about the characters. In The Last of Us, for example, the games starts with a long scene that explains who you are and what your life is like. When I would watch my brother play it, he told me that he was better at the game because sister character you are trying to save in the game reminded him of me. In this way, Narrative adds incentive to the games you are playing.