I’ve talked before about how games can offer a unique opportunity to tell stories, and how it has an incredible potential to be a powerful story telling medium. In this article I’m going to go over some games that I think could have benefited from not being in a video game format. If you are making a story, and it’s still in the same format as other mediums such as literature, movies, or even music, then the fact that the story is told through a video game becomes cumbersome and obnoxious. What I have observed happening, from my experience, is that if a story is best suited for something other than a video game, you find yourself having to force your way through a game with bland game play mechanics that are not fun to unlock more of a story that you are rapidly loosing interest in.
Bioshock is a series often heralded as being among the best stories in video games, and while I’m sure that the claim is not without merit, I still can’t force myself through the game. The setting, the environment, the story, everything about this game makes me want to play it, but I can’t stand the game play mechanics of Bioshock. Every second of the game is like grating my forehead against a brick wall, and as much as I want to finish the game so that I can find out what happens (even though I already know) and how it all plays together, I just can’t make myself. I realize that my problem is that I just don’t really enjoy First Person Shooter games anymore, but I would really have preferred the Bioshock universe be set in a literary format so that I could get inside the heads of the different characters, which would go along with the philosophical atmosphere of the game.
Assassin’s Creed could have been an excellent, well, anything else really, book (which it is), movie, comic book, any thing that wouldn’t force me to do fetch quests to unlock another tid bit of story. What really irked me about these games was that it could have been fun if it was more of a Hitman style game, but set in the olden times. Instead Ubisoft decided to be lazy and make the game a beat ‘em up with some poorly done “stealth” mechanics shoe horned in. What started off as a strong, though clearly flawed, game turned into a series of horrible, stagnant fetch quests who’s story was becoming increasingly convoluted, insane, and still some how cliche.
I remember first playing Assassin’s Creed and thinking how much fun it was to jump from roof top to roof top, killing whom ever I wished, and looking forward to carefully planning and executing my assassinations. Unfortunately, the game holds your hand completely through out the entire game, giving you fetch quests that take the place of true problem solving skills, and forcing you to go exactly where it wants you. Really the only entertaining part of the game ended up being the search for the flags of the various clans to be collected, and to dive off of all the Eagle Points in the game.
Really, Assassin’s Creed just smacks more of being a poorly executed idea on Ubisoft’s part. A Hitman style game set during the Crusades, a Mirror’s Edge style parkour game, an intense action thriller, or a deep Science Fiction novel; any of these things could have replaced what Assassin’s Creed actually is.
Arkham Asylum/Arkham City
First off, I’m not talking down on this game, I have enjoyed this series quite a bit so far. I have 15 hours in Arkham Asylum and 20 in Arkham City, and I’m not any where near finished playing them. I really think these games were great, and I know that there is a comic series that exists for the story arch, but I really wish that all the effort put into the games could have been put into an expansive comic book series instead of two games and a limited issue comic series.
I love the Batman universe, and it’s not because of Batman. Actually, I hate Batman, I can’t stand listening to him whine about his dead parents all the time. I love the Batman universe because of the criminals. Each one has an interesting psychological profile, and back story, and I really love the literary inspiration of a lot of the villains. What I don’t like is having to wade my way through a game with mediocre game mechanics just to squeeze out some story. Don’t get me wrong, AA and AC were bother excellent games that really stood out as the two of the leading AAA titles of the past decade, but I would have much preferred that the Dark Knight remained in the pages of a comic book. A literary format would have worked so much better for the stories these games were trying to tell.
Assassin’s Creed and the Arkham games share a lot in common. Both make use of a parkour/”free running” element to allow exploration of the areas you find yourself in, and both use gadgets that become plot devices to drive the story forward in a very boring way. In an over-the-top, zany world such as Arkham Asylum or Arkham City, I really don’t need the realism of having to track down Mr. Freeze to steal his weapons, or the immersion breaking “hey Alfread, how about you send in that thing I’ve had at the bat cave, and had room for on my belt, but decided not to bring just because” scenes. If you are going for the cartoon-ish world of a comic book, don’t ruin it with a bunch of “details” that are meant to extend the length of a game that needs no extension. With the hundreds of Riddler trophies and puzzles to solve, what more do you really need.
Really when it comes down to it, I didn’t enjoy Arkham City so much as I enjoyed solving all the Riddler’s Riddles (which I’m still working on completing 20 hours in), which is another similarity that the two Arkham Games shared with Assassin’s Creed. There’s tons of content, and I do enjoy the story, but I think this series could have benefited from some ink and paper.
While there are certainly other games that could have been made much better in other media forms, there are also plenty of games that I felt utilized the unique opportunities that gaming offers. Note that these games are ones that I feel relate a story properly through video games, not necessarily game play mechanics, which is another topic entirely.