When I was about eight years old, I had spent the weekend playing a game which the likes of I had never seen before. A title called Actraiser , which was a mashup of action,rpg,and sim city type gameplay.
After playing this game for most of the weekend, I remember talking to my mom about it and describing all the things I liked about the game, and all the things that I would have improved. My mom said something that stuck with me at that time, something that I had never considered up to that point, she said, "Maybe someday, you can make games and then fix all that stuff." I had rented the game for the weekend, yeah I'll date myself by saying we rented games for the weekend back then, so we took it back the next day. It would be fifteen years later before I was able to recall what the name of that game was, and I didn't play it again until then.
The statement my mom said to me at that point planted a seed. However, I didn't get my first computer until I was eighteen years old. Up until that point I had pursued being a musician and a writer. It was when I was eighteen that I started first learning html, and then began trying to teach myself C++. But I'm getting away from the point trailing down memory lane here. The point is that Actraiser was really the first game that I ever played that made me consciously think about game mechanics. I had been playing mario , sonic, frogger, ect.. since I could remember, but this game made me go hum.
Most of the narrative of this game was delivered through the gameplay and through interaction with angel, a little avatar who talked to you, the god of this planet. You would take physical form and go down to the earth to free different areas from monsters that had taken over the planet. After you cleared out the creatures you would then go into the sim city type mode and rebuild the city, using experience that you gathered from the action game play mode. Angel would explain different elements of the story as you went a long. It was all very cleverly done.
It's been a little over twenty years since the experience of first playing that game. It still sticks with me to this day, and is probably one of the most heavy influences on me pursuing game development, the ability to create worlds that people can not only witness, but be a part of and experience. To be able to take on the role of another character is the ultimate empathic experience. It can literally put you in the perspective of someone else, and I look forward to seeing games explore this more.
A perspective is useless however without well defined characters for the player to relate too, and without motives and direction for the player to experience. Of course this is more geared towards games that are character and story driven, and it is difficult to find a balance between a purely linear experience, and a dynamic one where story is involved. As I am currently in a design phase for my current project, I have been exploring various ideas on how to create the best characters and narrative for the game. Through this analysis I have been looking towards other forms of media for inspiration and asking myself, "What has been the most memorable characters, stories, and experiences, and why?"
This is the beginning of a series of articles that will be exploring that question. I will be looking at five television series and five different games that have influenced me heavily in story and character development. I will also be going through and discussing strengths and weaknesses for each, and how specific lessons can be taken away from them, and possibly used in game development. I've chosen tv shows specifically for their episodic structure and because of their ability to weave a universe over time that makes us care about the characters. I have also chosen games because, well, that's what this is about. Now there are a shit load of each of these out there, so I had to make some choices, and while some of them have similarities, I've tried to have some contrast in my selection while still having those that have influenced me. So without further ado --
Our Line Up
So, for tv shows, this is our line up. Next time, I'll start by taking two shows, doing a general overview, and then present my arguments and ideas. So, tune in next time, same bat time, same bat channel.