Retrospective

So here I am. Standing on the edge of tomorrow. (Live and learn!) It’s been eight months since I started this thing up, and since then I’ve written 10 of these posts, including this one. I’ve shared my views some of my favorite games, and talked a great deal about topics like character development, story progression, and the role of the player. I actually have much more I’d like to talk about, but this is where I have to stop. I have to move on.

I’m not terribly satisfied with how this blog went. Although I definitely had some quality posts (the Wonderful World of Text Boxes and the analysis of OneShot are my personal favorites)  the majority of my articles felt rushed, because that’s what they were. Each time I narrowly finished a post I promised to myself that I’d focus on writing the next, but unfortunately life never ceased to get in the way. I’m frankly disappointed in myself that I never managed to write a post that wasn’t down-to-the-wire. There were a great number of ideas that never came to fruition, and even though I’m stopping here I’m not too content with my work. I’ve represented some of these neglected titles by the screenshots you see scattered about this page.

probablydead

I’ve talked a lot about Phoenix Wright, but I’ve rarely said anything about Shu Takumi’s other masterpiece, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. It’s awesome. You should play it.

I think that the majority of my disappointment of this blog stems from the subject that gives it its name: Storytelling in Video Games. It’s pretty obvious at this point, but I have a passion for video game storytelling, and believe that video games have just as much potential to express complex ideas as books and movies and other forms of media. They’re often-neglected and dismissed because many people see them just as playthings. Sure, there’s a ton of games that are just meant to be fun, and nothing else, but there’s also many that strive to tell stories and actually mean something. The reason I started this blog wasn’t just to improve my skills in analysis. It was to hopefully show the world that video games can be powerful experiences. I essentially turned myself into a representative of all my favorite video games, so I stressed out about my ability to communicate my thoughts on them effectively. I worried that I wasn’t able to properly express my ideas and that my writing seemed underdeveloped and childish. It was kind of heartbreaking to feel as if I hadn’t done justice to the thing I want to pursue as a career.

stanleyoffice.png

The Stanley Parable is a very important and interesting game about the concept of player choice, but it’s so darn meta that I doubt I would have been able to write a decent post about it if I had all the time in the world. I don’t even have much to say about it right now, it’s just kind of confusing.

 

If there’s anything I’ve realized over these past few years, it’s that, much like writing a blog post, making video games is actually really, really hard. There’s a lot of different elements that go into a video game. None of these are remotely easy, and in order for a game to be successful, they need to properly flow together. It’s not like every other medium, where the audience is forced to remain in their seats, unable to influence the story. A game designer needs to be able to anticipate the actions that different people take as they go through a game. It’s also quite difficult at times to integrate gameplay and story, if this blog is any indication of that. You can’t just come up with an idea and shove it into a video game, even if it is a “good one”. You have to meticulously consider every possible flaw in your concept, smooth it out, and repeat until it cooperates with all the others.

middens_2

This might seem unlikely given some of the things I’ve mentioned so far, but I believe Middens has the honor of being the weirdest (or at least, most “unhinged”) game I’ve ever played. This bizarre adventure, which follows a Nomad’s journey through a surreal wonderland known as the “Rift”, deals with themes of senseless violence due to player boredom in a very different way than Undertale’s infamous Genocide route. It would have been an interesting counterpoint to a lot of other games I’ve discussed here.

But I think the complexity of video game design is exactly what intrigues me the most. I’ve developed an immense amount of appreciation for those who make them, especially if that person carries the burden mostly by themselves. Most of my heroes fall under this category. Using an ancient version of Blender that didn’t even have an undo button, Daniel Remar worked for four years on Iji, a game of which I am very attached to. Shu Takumi developed a unique style different from that of his colleagues, and wrote games that blurred the line between story and gameplay despite working in the action-oriented environment. Toby Fox, a musician by day, used everything he learned from his close proximity to Homestuck and created my favorite game of all time, the game that I wanted to make. I look up to these people, and sometimes get envious and discouraged, but other times I remember that they’re human like me. They probably felt the same kind of doubts I’m feeling now, and there were definitely times when they struggled.

w3gWORD - Imgur

I was eventually going to do a post on horror games, a topic that I’m strangely interested in despite being too scared to play them myself most of the time. Because I was sure that searching for pictures from these games wouldn’t be a fun time at all, I was going to draw events from them by memory! This is a screenshot from the hilariously named “Spooky’s House of Jumpscares”, which was one of the core games used in my argument. 

But they came through. Despite all of the stress that comes with the game industry, they remained determined and worked to fulfill their dreams. They refused to give up even when it seemed all hope was lost. But of course, the classic theme of “believing in yourself” isn’t the only reason they became successful. It often feels like those people are just naturally talented, and that my skills at drawing, writing, programming, and making music are grossly inferior to theirs. The only thing I have truly complete confidence in is my burning passion for video game storytelling.

It’s true that passion alone doesn’t make you a game designer.  However, it’s this passion that can lead anyone, my seemingly untouchable rivals included, to greatness. They used their passion constructively to improve themselves, and I believe I can too. I think I’ve learned that part of being a good creative individual is letting go of your emotions and not worrying too much. After all, even if it was soul-crushing, and I didn’t feel completely satisfied about my work, I came through and wrote an extensive essay on text boxes with over a thousand words! That’s an accomplishment if I’ve ever saw one. The final product may not be what you had originally wanted it to be, but chances are somehow will appreciate it. And even if no one does, at least you made something, and ignored all of the negative thoughts would have dissuaded others from even attempting it in the first place. It reminds me of a quote from Phoenix Wright. “The only time a lawyer can cry is when it’s all over.”

So that’s why I’m putting an end to this odyssey of introspection and regret. Regardless of whether it’s “good” or not, I need to walk away and move on to bigger things. I need to remember that it’s never too late to start seriously learning how to program and draw. Heck, it’s possible that some of my favorite game designers didn’t even have video games when they were young. The information I need to improve myself is out there, somewhere, and I have greater access to it then they did. I just need to figure out how to find what I’m looking for.

376full-macgyver-screenshot

Aww man. For April Fool’s, I was going to write about MacGyver, the famous action-packed TV show that I absolutely loathe but watch anyway. I’m generally pretty tolerant of other people’s opinions, but if any people say that MacGyver was an awesome show they are lying to themselves. I could have an entire blog dedicated to explaining just how mediocre MacGyver is.

 

Maybe someday I’ll go back and revise a few posts that I feel are weak.  But for now, I’m going to focus on moving forward, and I’ll try my absolute hardest to make something I feel proud about. I’ll learn to deal with the emotions that come when something doesn’t go as planned, and instead see every mistake as a necessary part of becoming a better person. You can extract meaning and beauty from everything, even those mistakes. That’s the great thing about art. You don’t need to be perfect—nobody is—for your work to make people happy.  You just need to take the first step and make something.

Thank you.

iji sunset

One of the final moments from Iji, which is notable in being the video game responsible for inspiring me to make my own someday. In the end I only talked about how god-awful its text boxes were. Oh well.

(Photo credits: rpgfan.com, stanleyparable.com, imgur.com, rockpapershotgun.com, listal.com spriters-resource.com)

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