the Dead Space Conundrum
I’m obviously not talking about a game version of the TV show. Yes, I know we have that. What I’m talking about is I think that a specific style of 24 should be adapted to most games, as it would make the overall game aspect a lot better.
In the show 24, the basic layout (for those of you who haven’t watched the show, and if you haven’t, you should either watch it now, or suffer the wrath of Gortex the demon slaughterer) is that the main character (in this case, Jack Bauer) goes through a series of events leading to a finale, or a conclusion of some kind to the story. That’s simple, right? All games do that! But there is one absolutely crucial difference: The “events” in 24 actually matter. They aren’t just relevant to the story, they are dramatic and are actually important to the character, and shocking to the viewer.
In most games as we all know, we’ll be going towards some sort of objective when something “breaks” or “stops functioning” and we have to return the power to it, or find some way around it. Do you think Jack Bauer has time for that? No! Jack Bauer is out catching terrorists by using his eyelids as deadly weapons. If something breaks, that’s some lackey’s job to fix it, not the main character of the story.
That’s what I’m talking about. In most games today the game is relevant to the story only tangentially. How many different things break in Gears of War, or are “offline” that you have to fix or restore power to? We need events that are crucial to the overall story, not just “somethings broke, go fix it”. We’re the main character of a story here not Scruffy the damn Janitor.Dead Space
One game that really fails at this is Dead Space. I love this game tremendously, but if I were to play it, and you were to ask me what my objective was, I’d tell you to get off this ship before these things dismember my soul. But more specific than that, I have absolutely no idea, because it wasn’t relevant. I had to collect some keys, or a card or something to fix something else… and do something to GET OFF THE FRIGGING SHIP. But I don’t really remember what those things are. Think about how much better Dead Space would be if the “objectives” actually mattered. I know for the whole time I was basically following whatever the blue line told me to do, because it told me to do it.
In 24, You know exactly what Jack’s doing, where he’s going, and whose life he’s about to turn into a carnival game. The plot-lines are never confusing, and there’s around 7 of them in every season. But they also manage to never get boring, even the ones with Kim (or what gamers call the escort mission) never really become boring in any way. That’s why 24 is such a good show, because there is never a dull moment. Every episode ends with some revealing situation or personality change (or twist, as most people call them) that changes the whole situation of the show. That’s what I want for games. I want every chapter to matter in the same way that every hour in 24 does. I don’t want to forget why I’m doing something. I want to be completely engaged from start to finish, or until I put the game down. Is there any game that you can say did that?
If you don’t like 24 (first, please escort yourself to the nearest detention center), or you think that they recycle a lot of their plot-lines, how about House? They’ve managed to keep every episode of that show interesting by focusing on the main character, and how he overcomes the circumstances given to him. Every episode of that show requires a race against the clock (disclaimer: Zelda proved that that aspect throughout an entire video game is not a good idea. But per chapter or episode? perfectly fine.) for the main character to diagnose a patient. I don’t think that each chapter should “end” in the same way each episode of a TV show does, but I think that there should be parts of a video game that provide you with a reason to keep going in terms of the story.
Now go watch 24. I don’t care if you’ve seen it all already, go watch it again.