METAL GEAR SOLID 4 GUNS OF THE PATRIOTS TACTICAL ESPIONAGE ACTION

a review of Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns Of The Patriots Tactical Espionage Action
a videogame developed by the solely responsible hideo kojima
and published by konami
for the sony playstation 3 computer entertainment system
text by tim rogers

2 stars
#-1

Bottom line: Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns Of The Patriots Tactical Espionage Action is “absolutely not the best videogame of all-time.”

Metal Gear Solid 4 is your birthday; on this most special birthday, your grandmother is miraculously still alive — and she remembers that you used to own a closet full of Pound Puppies.

Metal Gear Solid 4 is Kingdom Hearts minus the Disney and the Final Fantasy. It is an archaeological effort to unearth and lie face-up in the sun every ridiculous, ancient, and embarrassing truth regarding We the People Who Really Like Videogames.

Metal Gear Solid 4 is delicious, edible slander.

Life, and everything in it — The World — The Videogame Industry — is a battlefield. One day, sitting on a porch somewhere in Alabama, Metal Gear Solid 4 might have been our cousin; today, it is our enemy.

Remember when you were five years old, and you told your mother that you were never going to smoke a cigarette, and she blew smoke in your face and called you a “Stupid kid”, and, with that next puff of nicotine in her lungs, muttered “who does he think he is, a psychic?” She was trying to say that you can’t predict the future; maybe, long ago, she’d made the same promise to her mother, and look where it got her. Well, twenty-four years have passed and you’ve never touched a cigarette, possibly because your mother’s pathos, on that day, left a lasting impression. You might have started to think that you are and always will be invincible to the ebb and flow of taste: one opinion you held as a preschooler holds up even today; nothing will ever change, and regardless of whether or not you are, in fact, also stupid, you will die happy. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots Tactical Espionage Action shows up ten years after you played Metal Gear Solid Tactical Espionage Action and knew with your entire body that it was great and amazing, amazing and great; by the end of its doily-fluffing twenty hours of cut scenes incomprehensible to non-kleptomaniacs, it has cast burning, ultraviolet light on its own history, and asked you “How Do You Like Me Now?” no less than a hundred and eight times. At one specific point very late in the game, director Hideo Kojima offers the player a sparkling opportunity to flip the screen a middle finger and declare “Fuck You, Solid Snake!” We here at Action Button Dot Net, deeply absorbed into the moment, playing this game with Sony-brand Dolby 7.1 headphones on a 40-inch Bravia in the cockpit of an abandoned fighter jet, seized this opportunity with great vigor. We went on to complete the game; three seconds after we were certain the credits had actually stopped rolling, we disembarked the jet, walked into the hangar, and checked the internet, where it became frightfully apparent that no one who gets paid to review videogames has anything resembling actual taste.

Metal Gear Solid 4 is Hideo Kojima’s “Springtime for Hitler”.

The previous sentence presumes Actual Intelligence exists inside Hideo Kojima’s brain. This is not meant as an insult. We’re certain the man is, at least, not mentally retarded. We’ve read interviews for years now in which he complains that Metal Gear Solid is a ball and chain. He wants to be free. He wants to make something else. We can’t blame him; no one wants to do the same thing forever. Scientists have proven it. Our girlfriends never believe us when we try to explain this, so of course the average videogamer isn’t going to explain it. The PR maelstrom surrounding Metal Gear Solid 4 devoted two years and literally thousands of human-hours of work into drilling holes in the craniums of every MGS-lover: 4 will be the end; 4 will tie up everything; 4 will be Kojima’s opus.

If it’s a fact that Metal Gear Solid 4 sucks on purpose, we can hardly blame Kojima for that, either. Given his previously well-documented disinterest in the series, its having been promoted as his “opus” must have turned his stomach. It’s clear that Kojima’s priority was the game’s plot, and making sure it “satisfied” fans: like the world’s fattest kid circa 1989 winning a Toys R Us shopping spree, Kojima struts zombie-like into the warehouse of his past work and proceeds to remove absolutely everything from the shelf, dropping one item at a time into his bottomless shopping cart. He eventually gets up to the cash register, leaves the cart unattended, pulls his smokes out of his jacket, and steps outside.

Tycho at Penny Arcade said that Metal Gear Solid 4 is better if you skip the cut-scenes. We’re pretty sure he’d played less than half of the game before writing that. We don’t blame him, nor do we hate him, for saying this. The truth is, if you’re playing Metal Gear Solid 4 as a game, the beginning is pretty compelling if you play it context-free. You’re an intruder on a battlefield being currently raped and pillaged by two opposing forces. One of the overarching themes of the story being “war is kinda not nice”, it’s actually somewhat accidentally poignant to experience the high-definition terrors of war from the perspective of an outsider just trying to get from point A to point B. It reminds us of our great idea to make a game where you play as a three-year-old boy in a Middle-Eastern warzone, too weak to pick up a gun, hiding and fleeing in terror from legions of unsympathetic troops. Of course, in Metal Gear Solid 4, you can shoot and kill dudes, so you can’t exactly play it as a statement. As a core mechanic and overarching theme, the “mind your own business here in the warzone” angle works. One of the two armies is grayly defined as the lesser of two kinda-not-nicenesses, so if you cap one of the other motherfuckers while the slightly sympathetic dudes are watching, they might start to not immediately hate you. Its vaguely compelling, in an obsessive-compulsive way (which must be a real treat for MGS series fans), that in order to do something to prove you’re on these guys’ side, they have to see you doing it, though if they see you doing something that’s in the least bit suspicious, they will not hesitate to kill you. This turns the act of batlefield-navigation into a sort of seamless blend of Pac-Man and any given Japanese role-playing game of the 1990s: narrow roads cut city blocks into a rough labyrinth, though there’s really only ever one path you can possibly take, and it’s always obviously right there in front of you.

Soon enough, the falcon loses sight of the falconer, things fall apart, the story introduces a guy whose dominant character trait is acute diarrhea, et cetera. The game exploits the virtue of its own Fun Factor well into its second act, where the context rudely enters the equation and refuses to leave. We are no longer merely engaged in thrilling little meta-skirmishes where we must pick an alliance (help one side, kill both sides, help neither side, hurt neither side, little of column A little of column B et cetera): we are standing on top of a speeding Armored Patrol Carrier being piloted by Dennis Rodman and his soda-drinking pet monkey, being screamed at to shoot down oncoming enemy troops. The APC turns a corner and the screen goes black. “NOW LOADING”. Isn’t this supposed to be the Toughest Games Machine On Earth?

By act three, the game has abandoned its neat little idea in favor of a far neater one: we are now following a guy through a European city. Snake is wearing a trenchcoat, looking like Gillian Seed from Snatcher (the fans swoon), and it’s quaintly foggy. Ironically, this proved to be our Absolute Favorite Part of the Game. Since age nine, we have wanted to wander a European metropolis after curfew, letting a shady man obliviously lead us to his shady headquarters. This is the reason we studied Russian and Chinese in elementary school while everyone else was busy pretending they knew something about sex. We carried this dream in the palm of our hand until college, when it dawned upon us that we could Actually Die from doing Stuff Like This, so we started writing about videogames in the first-person plural instead. Metal Gear Solid 4 manages to get the mood and the pace of Euro-man-stalking just right. Our target is “Side A”, and the enemy troops enforcing the curfew are “Side B”. We are “Side C”. The level design in this part of the game is ferociously cute: both we and Side A are in violation of Side B’s rules; while avoiding Side A’s detection, we have to ensure that Side A avoids Side C’s detection. This ends up pretty fascinating, whether you have watched the opening cut scene or not. Eventually, you get to the goal, and suddenly you’re riding shotgun on a motorcycle in yet another ropey on-rails shooting sequence. It’s like waking up from a dream about the Bahamas to find out you’re actually in Bermuda. Instead of intimately sharing military secrets with a woman you picked up at a poker table, you’ve got your mother asking you to shoot a helicopter down.

Then there’s a boss sequence. It’s the second boss sequence of the game, actually. Like the one before it, it thrusts a character of considerable personality (compared to the typical drone, at least) into your face and asks you to kill them. You oblige, and then the boss reveals that it had, in fact, been a beautiful woman all along. Now the beautiful woman walks toward you, attempting to drain all of your life force with her mysteriously psychic embrace. There’s an in-game explanation for why her embrace can kill you, though as we’re ignoring the story for the time being, we’ll pretend to be confused. Let’s put this one on the table, then: the girls are all very hot. Why are they so hot? Huge amounts of money were likely spent making these boss-character-girls hot as fresh-baked lava rocks. Director Hideo Kojima (DHK) says that one of the “themes” of Metal Gear Solid 4 is “beauty and the beast”, though what does that mean, really? The bosses are “beasts” before their nasty mechanical suits are stripped from them; then they’re just helpless “beauties”. We could go on to suppose that Snake, a wrinkled old man with a Charles Bronson mustache, is the gray area between “beauty” and “beast”, though if we started saying things like that, Kojima would win, so nuh-uh.

The point is that, for a split-second at least, the game makes you care about the boss characters. If you’d been trying to ignore the story, you’ll be out of luck for that split-second. A split-second is all it takes for you to care about Metal Gear Solid 4 on a level that is not immediately superficial.

Then act four comes; the garbageman rings your doorbell and says that from this day forth, you don’t need to take the garbage out — he’s going to personally come into your home and do it for you. One dead-silent moment hours later, it becomes apparent that the garbageman was lying, and he just wanted to take a shit in your bathtub.

That is to say, it becomes presently obvious that you cannot ignore the story of Metal Gear Solid 4. The game absolutely, positively will not permit any ignorance re: its plot. It speaks, oddly politely, that if you’re not paying attention, you’re not doing it right.

We will disclaim, right here, that we have, for the past decade of jacked-into-the-netness, chuckled and rolled our eyes whenever anyone complained about the length of the cut-scenes in a Metal Gear Solid game. Some people said they just wanted to enjoy the “gameplay” (like that’s a real word); some people said they just wanted to enjoy the “atmosphere”. It puzzled us, to the point of rubbing our bellies in amusement, that someone would dare to want to play Metal Gear Solid with absolutely no invested interest in the characters. It’s not that the story and the characters are necessarily great literature so much as they’re insperable from the game’s progression and atmosphere. If you only like the game mechanics, you’d be better off playing Pac-Man — it’s basically the same thing. Conversely, if you only like the story, you’d be better off reading a book. (Crucial: notice how we recommended Pac-Man for players who only like Metal Gear Solid as a game, whereas we recommended any book in existence for those who enjoy it as a story.) If nothing else, the original Metal Gear Solid had a dignified flow to it: the characters were all rough sketches, all vaguely likable. Conceptual Bullshit was kept to a minimum, and by minimum, we mean “Maximum, in Hindsight”. There was a fucking “boss” who you didn’t fight, who you instead met and talked to, and he died six hours before you even knew he was a boss. The game shows you this level of virtuosity for a while without once flexing its muscles in the mirror; at a certain point, it starts delivering soliloquies about love blooming on the battlefield; by this time, we are so into it that we can’t give up now. The game has worked its spell on us.

Metal Gear Solid 2 was a joke. We knew it was a joke; that’s why we wrote an article about how it was literature; that everyone thought that article was serious and in turn started to seriously assess Metal Gear Solid 2 as literature speaks volumes about how good a joke Metal Gear Solid 2 was. It’s rumored that Hideo Kojima had wanted to call Metal Gear Solid “Metal Gear 3″, though was advised not to, because “times had changed” and “the average gamer” would feel “dumb” jumping in on part three of a series. Maybe this was a good idea, maybe not. Either way, he wanted to call Metal Gear Solid 2 something else — maybe, just, replace the word “Solid” with another adjective, maybe “Moist”. The pseudo-hypocritical marketing department allegedly told him that he can’t change the name of the series now that it’s been established and made a big splash: they needed a numeral to ensure more sales. So Metal Gear Solid 2 was a massive joke, with the main character’s “death” partway through and the introduction of a man-pansy hero; it was Kojima ejecting bile for “the fans” of Solid Snake, by imprisoning them in the body of a character who could only ever see Solid Snake from a distance. The game was massively (mis)interepreted on various internet forums as some kind of artistic statement, something rich and deep in “literary themes” the likes of which can only be executed in games, where the player controls a character. Looking at it again, this far removed, we find it kind of precious: the player wanted to pretend to be this one guy, and then they end up having to pretend to be some other guy, and only watch the guy they wanted to pretend to be. If we were to write this out in mathematical symbols, insinuating that it didn’t even matter if guy A (the one we wanted to pretend to be) had been less manly or videogame-character-like than guy B (the guy we ended up having to pretend to be), some Wall-Street man’s monocle would pop out and he would tell us something about a “jolly good show”. The hypothesis would be that “fans will be fans”, and the conclusion would be a resounding “yes”.

Metal Gear Solid 3 was the “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” of the Metal Gear Solid series — stepping aside, showing us something different, indicating that the mythology surrounding its characters and plot

1. Was immortal, timeless, infinite, untellable in full no matter how many angles the storyteller showed us
2. Didn’t matter that much, in the grand scheme of everything

It was a videogame masterpiece. It was a sharp little spike-like game; its “big concepts” showed up like blood-stained stones on the side of the road. When, at the end, the main character pointed a gun at someone’s head and the camera panned out, it took us maybe thirty seconds to realize that we were supposed to press the “fire” button to pull the trigger. Our momentary ignorance — our failure to acknowledge that we were still in control was at once a statement on the subject of entertainment media, a statement on the subject of videogames, a commentary regarding criticism of the works of Hideo Kojima (“too many cut-scenes”, the people say), and an absolutely not-arrogant, in-character pseudo-inadvertent representation of the hesitation the main character feels at that very point in time. It was perfect. It was amazing. The full brunt of Hideo Kojima’s potential for future interactive entertainment masterpieces came within view. Kojima had said that Metal Gear Solid 3 was to be his last, and following its noble climax, we didn’t scorn him for wanting to move on to other things.

Of course, fans will be fans, and videogame companies will be deathly afraid of new things.

With Metal Gear Solid 4, Kojima came sprinting back. We can say with confidence that this move was perhaps conscientious. He might (or might not) have said in an interview that he came back to direct this game because “the fans wanted it”. “The fans wanted Kojima to direct” is industry-speak for “the fans didn’t want Kojima to not direct”. The reason for this is straightforward: the people associate the name “Hideo Kojima” with Metal Gear Solid. To have one without the other is to defy their blind love. It’d be like asking them to eat a cake that isn’t chocolate, or a chocolate that isn’t cake.

The truth is, we were younger when Metal Gear Solid first hit the scene. We were ten years younger. Though we were old enough to be proud of having kept our promise to our mothers re: never smoking a cigarette, we were perhaps not old enough to know exactly what art — or love — is. Hindsight will tell us that, in concept and execution and everything in between, Metal Gear Solid is better than Metal Gear Solid 4, though this hardly matters. What matters is that we have grown up, and Metal Gear Solid has grown down. Hands firmly planted on hips, we rotate slowly, low groan echoing from our throats, and survey the internet: everywhere, everywhere, we see that people still have not opened their eyes and ears to true love. They still are utterly up to the tops of their eyeballs in blind devotion to Metal Gear Solid. One key, stunning example of this blindness comes from people’s love of David Hayter, the voice of Solid Snake, whose idea of an “old” voice is to imagine he’s gargling asphalt. He sounds fucking ridiculous. Kotaku had a story about David Hayter once, and the comments section erupted into people badmouthing the Japanese Solid Snake, Akio Otsuka, because #1 he’s Japanese, and Snake is American and #2 he doesn’t even sound old. If you people had ever gone outside, you’d realize that old people only “sound old” in fucking cartoons. Akio Otsuka is an exceptionally talented dramatist (did you know he does the voices of Solid Snake, Liquid Snake, and Solidus?); David Hayter is just a name in the credits of something people know they like. Metal Gear Solid 4, in execution, in pathology, is more of a David Hayter than an Akio Otsuka.

We played Metal Gear Solid 4 from start to finish, watching all of the cut scenes, and then played it again, skipping all the cut-scenes, though remembering what happened in them whenever one scene cut sharply from one thing to something else. Then we “played” the game a third time, by watching a friend play, watching some cut-scenes and skipping others. This latter method proved the most ridiculous. Our friend had carved a direct path to the end of the game in less than three hours; he let each segment of the 90-minute ending play for around five minutes before skipping to the next one. While he was doing this, we flipped through a copy of Anna Karenina and read the sentence in the center of random even-numbered pages: Anna Karenina was winning.

The “problem” with Metal Gear Solid 4 is hardly the self-importance, or the stupidity of its narrative — it’s how damnedly “well” the narrative and the game are married. You just can’t have one without the other, try as you might. Many critics groaned at the length of the cut-scenes without addressing the simple fact that the cut-scenes are retarded. For the past few years, some critics have exhausted their lungs moaning about Quick Time Events (Action Button Events, they’re called in Japan): those little interjections where a button icon appears front and center on the screen, and you have to mash it quickly in order to make your character do something that no amount of regular controller input could produce under any other circumstances. Metal Gear Solid 4‘s most regularly occurring Quick Timer Events happen to involve pressing a button during a long, talky cut-scene in order to produce a momentary flash of a screen image or piece of concept art from another game in the series. Other critics have plunged stakes into the heart of the cut-scene itself, suggesting that games should tell stories in other ways — perhaps, as Gears of War or Half-Life 2 do, in three-second bursts while the game is actually happening. Few have squinted hard enough and complained about the moments where, as in Metal Gear Solid 4, cut-scenes become Quick Time Events where you’re not required to press buttons: the (seemingly) hour-long sequence in which Ninja Raiden Riverdance-Duels a gay vampire in order to buy Snake, Otacon, and their pet robot enough time to escape from the hell of South America via helicopter is a chief offender: look at those moves! The moment we, as a “player”, behold a scene in a “videogame” and think “Man, someone should make a videogame out of that”, the ghost is essentially given up.

Eventually, Metal Gear Solid 4, in all its attention to detail, all its wide-armed to-the-club welcoming, begins to frighten us. We remember that time we were walking back to our car with a girl, in university, and the Vietnam veteran in our advanced Chinese class — he’d waited literally twenty-some insane years before cashing in on the US government’s offer of a free education — drove up in his Pontiac, said hello, and began to tell us a story about his “bastard ex-wife”, which ended with him explaining how, if someone were to hold their right hand out all the way to one side, and you were to shoot the tip of their index finger with an M-60 from two hundred yards away, it’d not just blow the finger off — it’d tear their arm out of the socket. The blood would spurt so fast out of the severed arm socket that the victim would be unconscious before they hit the ground, and dead before they could get back up. Bizarre as this was, and freaked-out as the girl was, it’d perhaps facilitate our getting laid later, and it was kind of cool to hear someone who’d actually shot someone before talk about guns. At the end of the day, though, once you’ve killed one person, it goes from being “something you’ve never done” to being “something you do”, and once you’ve killed more than three people, it kind of becomes something you do “all the time”. Hearing a genuine Vietnam vet talk about shooting peoples’ arms off is really about as exciting as listening to your mom explain her meatloaf recipe over the phone to your aunt. When Kojima steps back into his fancy shoes and begins to work the orchestra of Metal Gear Solid 4 into a crescendo, we witness an amazing mix of the schlock-handed and the masterful. On the one hand, there’s a beautiful (“beautiful” is Japanese for “hilarious”) story reveal wherein Meryl finds herself engaged; on the other hand, if you haven’t purchased every game in the series and their accompanying glossy art books, you’re hardly going to give a shit. The entire final mission feels like a meatloaf recipe: when you kill the last Girlboss — the Girlboss who had, in fact, been psychically controlling all of the other Girlbosses, and it’s revealed that this Girlboss was in fact only being mind-controlled by Psycho Mantis, a boss you killed in Metal Gear Solid, you may be tempted, as we were, to get on the internet and look at pornography instead. This scene is followed by abovementioned Meryl-gets-engaged cut-scene, and then by a virtuoso sequence in which the screen splits, the top half showing all the characters from the game living out what will be Their Final Moments If Snake Doesn’t Succeed, and the bottom half showing Snake as he worm-crawls through a microwave tunnel while the player slams the triangle button ferociously. On the one hand, this may be brilliant; on the other hand, it might be an accident. If it’s brilliant, it’s only brilliant because it’s a direct commentary on the nature of cut-scenes, player control, and the much-maligned Quick-Timer Events plaguing action game design today. On the one hand, if it’s a commentary on Quick-Timer Events and/or the Wiimote-masturbating nature of modern “cinematic” action games, effective as it may be, we’d probably rather have games that bother to have a story make that story comment on real issues (Shout out to Infinity Ward: Hello, Infinity Ward!), not videogame design. On the other one hand, it’s kind of an interesting cinematic presentation: the player literally gets tired of hammering that triangle button before the grueling sequence is over. However, on the other other hand, if the player had been skipping all of the cut-scenes up to this point, he’s just going to look at the top of the screen and wonder who the hell all of these people are. The pooch is essentially screwed at this point: you’re damned if you did, and damned if you didn’t: far worse than being merely damned no matter what you do, you are already damned by something you already did.

Despite Metal Gear Solid 4‘s not being a “great game”, it ends in the tradition of great games: by forcing the player to play something else. As Halo ends by turning into a Driving Game and Sin and Punishment ends by turning into Missile Command, as the kids in the movie “The Wizard” had to compete in the then-unreleased Super Mario Bros. 3 in order to prove who was better at Tetris, Metal Gear Solid 4 turns into a somewhat shockingly brilliant fighting game at the end. For a moment, right there, the exhausted and cautiously optimistic player might say that this is the perfect end to the entire franchise, not to mention this meandering, idiotic story: the hero and his opponent are both old men, older even than Danny Glover when he told Mel Gibson he was “too old for this shit”. Perhaps the whole mumbo-jumboful story up to this point, with its self-defeating conclusion, had been for the purpose of establishing the out-of-placeness of these two old men, for the purpose of presenting the the mountain-size of the Can’t-Give-a-Fuckness. They brawl, fists blazing, refreshingly, deliciously, at a high speed. It doesn’t matter who wins. At this point in the game, our first time through, the area beneath our lungs began to vibrate with actual anticipation: might this be the Metal Gear Solid 3 “execution” moment, brought around into perfect form? Might it be so that if we lose right here, if Snake loses to Ocelot, that’s the end of the game? We got a game over; we got a second chance. We deflated a bit. We won, anticipating that maybe Kojima was going to kill off Snake in a different way: maybe Snake would just sit down, victorious, and die nonchalantly. That didn’t happen, either. Eventually, the snake starts to eat its own tail, and ninety minutes later, we have a look on our face like an ostrich with a dry lump of cotton candy kacked halfway down its ridiculously long throat (protip: birds don’t salivate). We’ve said before that, once you learn scales and all the barre chord shapes, learning to play the guitar is like a high-rise office building with a light switch in each room and a broken elevator: take the stairs up, open a door, enter the room, turn on the lights, exit the room, close the door, go to the next door, repeat until you feel safe becoming famous. Light switches in an office building is a compelling concept if you’re a man, and alone, with a thousand and one nights to spare before the showdown; watching someone else turn on the light switches for more than five minutes is terrifying. Have you ever had a neighbor with a seven-year-old just starting out on the violin? It’s like that. Metal Gear Solid 4, in its overwrought conclusion, stumbles, drunken, from room to room, flicking some light switches ruthlessly, and blinking others on and off for ten minutes before flipping off the ceiling and slamming the door.

Eventually, the game turned us off to the concept of entertainment in general. Eventually, the game makes us start drinking.

Upon completing Metal Gear Solid 4, we put a DVD of “The Graduate” in our PlayStation 3 and watched it, upscaled.

Yeah. That’s a pretty good movie.

Controversy erupted, on the internets, when someone close to a working copy of the retail version of Metal Gear Solid 4 let loose the claim that some of the cut-scenes approached ninety minutes in length. The ensuing groans could have sucked the air out of a baseball stadium. One prevailing sentiment among Metal Gear Solid 4 pledged pre-fans was that they would be worried about ninety-minute cut-scenes in any other game, though since it was Hideo Kojima, they wouldn’t mind. Konami’s cartilage-headed PR was quick to counter: the cut-scenes are so not ninety minutes long, and you can skip them, if you want. There we have it: a chill silence soaks the internet from head to toes. The makers of the games industry’s flagship champion for cut-scenes as a valid form of storytelling have just told us that the story segments are skippable. Also, saying that no cut-scenes approach ninety minutes in length is kind of a cop-out, because there are segments where one ten-minute cut-scene leads to three minutes of playing, then ten more minutes of cut-scene, then five minutes of play, repeat. This feels worse than a ninety-minute cut-scene. The term “blue-balling” is appropriate (make your own sentence here if you want).

No website or magazine seems to address this point, perhaps because they’d feel mean: the cut-scenes in Metal Gear Solid 4 are bad. They are bad because they are not good. The mission briefing sequences prior to each of the game’s major segments tend to be more than 40 minutes long. Some critics might have said “That’s about as long as an episode of a TV show!” That would be correct. Some apologists might have said “That’s only about as long as an episode of a TV show!” That would be correct, as well. However, the fact of the matter is that these mission briefing segments are not as entertaining as an episode of a TV show. They have no flow, no “beginning”, “middle”, and “end”. Watch any awful filler episode of “Lost” and you’ll see that there, at least, the writers understand how to structure a story. Here we could inject some meta-argument about how if you invented a remote-control that, when pointed at someone’s head, could make them forget The Holy Bible existed, and then you used said device on a Giant Publishing Company’s Elite Reader shortly before handing him a manuscript of the Bible, he’d frown and say the whole thing was too chaotic and not at all what the market was looking for. This argument would go on to go nowhere. Chances are — so say the bureaucrats in the “Industry” — if a person is playing a game, they don’t want literature. This, more often than not, gets misinterpreted as “games don’t want a coherent story, or even a well-told one”. Nonetheless, we can’t presume the average games industry executive to have any knowledge of narrative structure: the majority of them got their start managing Pizza Huts (Nintendo’s Reggie), not reading manuscripts. Not that reading a manuscript ever gets a man anything aside from the right to read better manuscripts. What we’re saying, right here, is that there existed a shimmering chance for Metal Gear Solid 4‘s story to be an excellent tale excellently told: we have played enough Metal Gear Solid 3 to know that Kojima has the tools, and the dedication. His men had the money, they had the technology, they had the willpower, they had a devoted development of Kojima-lovers working round the clock for several years to bring this mimeograph of an “artistic vision” to life.

We played Metal Gear Solid 4 expecting no more and no less than an answer to the question “Is Hideo Kojima actually a genius?” We got an answer, though we would have preferred the answer be a clear “Yes” or “No”. Instead, we got a “Maybe not”. We’re not ignoring the possibility that Kojima was trying to shoot his series in the head, because it’s obvious that he was — we’re just not going to rely on that as an explanation. What we’re saying is, he could have shot his series in the head so much more elegantly. As is, the pacing of this tale blesses the player of an ethereal understanding of why Kojima never actually got a novel published before he entered the games industry. As mentioned in the above paragraph, there’s a chance for art even (especially!) in the most meandering narrative. We’d go so far as to say that the world needs more stories told in the “Rio Bravo” tradition — you know, “hangout movie” style, where the characters kind of sit around talking about stuff until and even after Something Starts Happening. Metal Gear Solid 4‘s “Snake and The Gang In a Big Airplane” scenes possess wonderful potential — they are fiercely skippable, absolutely unnecessary, television-program-length episodes that allow us the opportunity to get to know our videogame characters better. The only reason we’d skip them is if we just wanted to play the game; if we’re not skipping them, we must want to get to know the characters better. It all makes so much sense. Unfortunately, Kojima betrays this wonderful opportunity by making his characters robotic drones instead of realistic people. On the one hand, we have big robots and Riverdancing ninjas; on the only other hand, it’s talking heads and sitting bodies.

To be blunt: our ability to enjoy (or at least not be repulsed by) Metal Gear Solid 4‘s characters is shot in the head due to how fucking easy we find it to fry a fucking egg in the real world.

One of the characters — Sunny, a little girl who dresses inexplicably in Harajuku fashion, in what might be a conscientious shout-out to the closeted pedophiles lurking in the Japanese shadows (conscientious because if these people had to go twenty hours without seeing a simulated little girl, they’d have to rape a real one) — tries her best to cook eggs for Snake and Otacon. She asks Snake, “Would you like some eggs?” And he says “Uhhh . . . no thanks”. She makes him eggs anyway. She brings the eggs downstairs and sets them in front of Snake. She takes a cigarette from his fingers just before he can put it in his lips. “No smoking in the plane!” she says. She goes back up into the kitchen. Snake looks at the eggs. “Otacon, can’t you teach her how to fry an egg?” Otacon shrugs. “Do I look like someone who knows how to fry an egg?”

Are you fucking serious? Neither Snake nor Otacon nor this little girl knows how to fry an egg? The only person who does know how to fry eggs is the genome-expert science-genius female? You’d think that the one person who would not know how to fry an egg would be the determined, professional, full-grown woman. Otacon is a lonely bachelor, and Snake — for fuck’s sake — is a trained US Ranger, the most elite force in the goddamned world, called “Snake Eaters” because they’re capable of eating raw snakes if they have to. You figure, if Snake couldn’t make eggs for himself, he’d at least be able to stomach disgusting ones. More than this, what’s so disgusting about the eggs? Are they too runny? Are they burnt? Rocky, in the movie “Rocky”, drinks raw eggs for breakfast, so Snake should be able to handle runny eggs. And burnt ones? See the “Snake Eater” comment. Do they need salt? We realize that Sunny is a girl with a troubled past, a dead mother, and many rape innuendos, though how painful would it be, really, to explain to this girl — a computer genius, by the way — that some people like their eggs cooked differently than other people, that there exist a myriad of possible ways to cook eggs? The girl can likely multiply seventeen-digit numbers in her head with a snap of her fingers — she’d probably be open to the permutations of egg-cookery.

It’s apparent, here, that Hideo Kojima can cook eggs by himself. He’s probably been able to prepare eggs delicious enough for his own standards for several decades. He’s probably never given any thought to whether or not he ever found egg-cooking to be difficult. Chances are, he arrived at the blank pages preemptively marked “Mission Briefing Script” in need of a metaphor, and just plucked one out of thin air: “Lots of people probably find it hard to fry eggs!” It almost looks, at a point, like the egg metaphor had been constructed out of a hare-brained assumption that Kojima himself was a genius for being able to fry eggs so well without instruction. It’s conceivable, in the shadow of the moment, that Kojima saw himself as stepping down from a pedestal, getting real with his audience, and sympathizing with their inability to cook eggs. This is evidence that the fuel for Kojima’s fiction may not actually come from Experience in the Real World. Like, say you’re in line at the grocery store and you add up the total price of all your purchases while the old woman in front of you is fumbling with her checkbook, and you make sure to have the precise amount of post-tax cash ready: do you assume that this is something only you can do, simply because you’ve never seen someone else do it? Do you go ahead and make it the defining character trait of a character in a piece of fiction? For serious, one thing we’re taken to screaming at Videogame Industry Professionals, these days, when they say things like “being able to buy ammunition from the menu must be a good idea, because Metal Gear Solid 4 did it” is that they should probably quit their jobs making videogames and work in a fucking convenient store for a couple of years. You know, to study the looks on actual human faces when they buy beer, or potato chips, or Marlboros.

It’s also obvious that Kojima doesn’t smoke. If Kojima smoked, there’s no way Snake would let that little girl snatch his cigarette. He’d be all like, fuck you, if I want to smoke, I’m going to smoke. The man has the energy to traipse through jungles and tundras with a machine gun; he’s Meters From Death. He has a right to not give a fuck.

Much of Metal Gear Solid 4‘s surgically irremovable tumor of a plot indulges in fierce second-guessing of the player’s expectations and an even fiercer insecurity complex, where you feel the writer falter, assuming he’s not being clever enough. These complexes make for terrible fiction; we’ve already established that no high-ranking officials in the videogame industry are competent judges of narrative, so there you have it. Little, vaguely embarrassing moments pop up that make us consider the phrase “Kojima Done Right” — like when Drebin, our weapons specialist, radioes us after each boss fight to explain the gruesome past of that boss character, and why she ended up turned into such a monster. By the end of the game, we will realize that each girl’s story is essentially the same. In addition to making us recall Alfred Hitchcock’s opinion that an artist only ever tells the same story over and over again, it also seems perfectly in line with the conceptual core of videogames: we might as well make a series called In Which One Guy Shoots A Bunch Of Other Guys.

It’s ultimately painful, however, that every character has to have a “purpose”. Drebin, bringer of the post-boss monologues, can’t, in good conscience, be just the guy who gives us the post-boss monologues (the way every Dragon Quest town has the guy who exists just to tell you the name of the town). He has to have some other “purpose” in the story to explain his existence in the first place. Metal Gear Solid 4, being already a game that exists to tie up all loose ends left behind by its heritage, cannot, pathologically, introduce a character like Drebin without giving him a “purpose” (weapons guy), a secondary purpose (deliverer of post-boss monologues), and a place in the grand scheme of things (complete with spotlight time during the monster of an ending).

Do not confuse this sentence for a compliment: there has never been and there will never again be a game quite like Metal Gear Solid 4. During the mission briefing scenes, the screen cuts up into segments, including a window in which characters talk, a C-SPAN-like news ticker reporting your play statistics, and a mini-window in which a little girl toils in a kitchen. You might never realize that you can use one of the analog sticks to pilot a little camera-armed robot around, butting in and out of the main cut scene window. The game proper is studded with enough eerie little touches to choke a Kingdom Hearts fangirl: take, for instance, the part when the game ritualistically revists Shadow Moses Island, the setting of the first game, and you can just barely see power-ups spinning helplessly on the landings of the now-inaccesible communications tower in the distance. This brings back stinging memories of Metal Gear Solid 2‘s Big Shell, where you could see Shell B on the map, yet would never be able to go there. Quite frankly, it should fiercely creep out any fan to remember things like that in the context of things like this. Entire segments of the game’s story offer the player two sources for possible entertainment: the geopoliticalish conversation of an old soldier and his weapons supplier, or the antics of a soda-drinking monkey wearing boy’s briefs. That sentence makes it sound hilarious, and sure, it is. Though when you get right down to it, when you’re watching a monkey drinking soda and belching as two characters talk about weapons and war and death and the Purpose of the Mission, you start to want to quit your job and join a nudist colony. Think of the hundreds of human-hours of brain-numbing work that went into rendering that monkey and those underpants, into animating that pornographic soda-drinking. These people — these MGS-devotees, these nearsighted Kojima fans bluntly stepping up to the plate to bunt in the name of a career — could have spent that time in the Amazon, searching for the beetle whose blood is the cure for cancer. Or at least they could have stayed at home, with their families. How heavy is the conscience of the man who tells his grandson, on his deathbed, that, as the world turned, he spent six hundred hours of 2007 lovingly animating an underpants-wearing monkey drinking a can of Hebrew Coca-Cola for a videogame cut-scene that was, quite frankly, skippable anyway.

You will have to forgive us, for a moment, for knowing something about Japan: in Japanese, there exists a single umbrella-word for things like lovingly, fetishistically animated Hebrew-Coca-Cola-drinking underpants-wearing monkeys, for careful deluges of unforeseen details: that word is “kodawari“. The perfect “40″ review of Metal Gear Solid 4 in Weekly Famitsu did not fail to mention this word three times. As far as Japan’s loose concept of a “critic” of “media” is concerned, the very existence of any kodawari at all should be taken as a sign that the creator of said kodawari would be deeply and irreparably offended if you were to insinuate that they were not a genius. It’s likely that Famitsu‘s reviewers only played ten minutes into Metal Gear Solid 4, witnessed the bravado of the cut-scenes, the movie-like camerawork, and the painstakingly pitch-perfect sound design before throwing their hands up in the air and deciding unanimously that they could not dare to not call this work perfect. Nearly every other critic in the world went on to praise this orchestral fatuosity on the virtue of its being a Metal Gear game, and having some kind of confidence in its style. We are not so easily impressed; in order to illustrate its shortcomings perfectly, we’d like to draw a parallel between Metal Gear Solid 4‘s plot and a certain classic Hollywood film, though we believe the film is very great, and we wouldn’t want to spoil it for you. (*Subtlety note: this is us insinuating that if you consider Metal Gear Solid 4 great entertainment, you probably haven’t ever seen any good films.)

What we end up with, in Metal Gear Solid 4, is a game that, when viewed from the perspective of other clusterfucks, is a masterpiece for countless horrifying reasons. The stone-cold fear and coddling of fans is so rich and absolute that, in some alternate universe, it is no doubt the highest form of human expression. However, right here, on earth, on this Macbook Pro, in this fighter-jet cockpit, Metal Gear Solid 4 is and always will be dreck.

It is no longer 1998. It is 2008. It is the future, and we are awake.

 

 

Director Hideo Kojima has recently expressed pangs of regret for having told the story entirely in cut-scenes, and he has invoked the dangerous name of Bioshock when asked to elaborate on a better way to tell a story. We are scared halfway out of our minds when he talks about his “future involvement” with the Metal Gear Solid series, likening himself to Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki, who often comes out of retirement to direct one more (increasingly insane) film. It’s a scary remark for Kojima to make, and it’s an even scarier remark for people to shrug off, because Hayao Miyazaki’s movies are not always about the same exact character. Kojima speaks of wanting to be “free” of Metal Gear Solid, and we suspect that forming “Kojima Productions” and putting their logo front and center has been, from the start, a meta-clever attempt to synchronize public opinion of Metal Gear and of Kojima. We can’t say for sure whether or not it’s working; videogames are a young and weird medium, so when Kotaku reported that Kojima had literally gone on the record as saying he would like to do “something completely different and new” after Metal Gear Solid 4, the first hundred or so comments indicated that the average human-being-who-cares-enough-to-speak let these words fly in one ear and then promptly transform into “Zone of the Enders and Snatcher sequels confirmed”. People are scary; far scarier than people are Hideo Kojima fans. Kojima himself is scared of them. If Metal Gear Solid 4 was in fact intended as his “Springtime For Hitler” (and maybe it wasn’t, given its doily-fluffing mealy-mouthed cop-out asshole of an ending), then Kojima likely forgot to realize that, even in the realms of a satire author’s imagination, “Springtime For Hitler” doesn’t work: if nothing else, it is true that people love dreck even more than they love art. That’s why the world isn’t perfect. Fucking duh, people. Well, for what it’s worth, Kojima, here’s a negative review. Do with it what you will (lol).

This brings us back to the subject of Metal Gear Solid 4 as a game: it’s not very good. It starts with nice concepts; by act four, it’s ditched the nice concepts. By act five, it’s Rambo On A Boat. Then it slowly jerks you off for an hour and a half. The game looks like a modern videogame; it has amazing sound design. It plays like Metal Gear. Some Metal Gear fans think it’s too tight, too much like an FPS. Some FPS fans think it’s too loose, too much like Metal Gear. We say that game graphics can only approach a certain level of realism before we expect headshots to kill someone, before we cannot forgive the game designers for allowing the main character to carry literally thousands of pounds’ worth of steel weaponry as he sneaks undetected through a battlefield. Metal Gear is very much a game about the logistics; like all the greats of the Famicom era, its initial game design was fashioned as something to work within the constraints of a medium. On the MSX, Kojima couldn’t have more than one enemy moving at a time, so he made avoiding the enemy the key to getting through any given challenge. That gave the game balls. Now, in the future, we can go anywhere or do anything. Rocket launchers are cool, and so is a controllable pet robot, so there you go, you got it. It’s just that when the game intends for the player to get as involved as he’s likely to get involved in the experience on plot- and play-related levels, it’s going to always seem fundamentally Fucking Ridiculous that you can press the START button during a boss fight, access the ammunition store, and buy bullets for your empty gun. Know this: right now, today, right this minute, fledgling Japanese game designers are hip-deep in the belief that “buy ammo from the pause menu” is a “good idea” merely because it was in a Metal Gear Solid game. It’s an icky notion to consider; let it flow over you. It reminds us of that day we were confronted by a Scientologist on Hollywood Boulevard and handed a ticket to a free live hip-hop duel celebrating L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday (this actually happened).

We’d feel bad leaving this review on a scientology reference (fitting as it might actually be), so we’re going to try to discuss how to make Metal Gear Solid 4 better: don’t. Just don’t touch it. If you’re already touching it, stop touching it. Fucking touch something else, already. Kojima, your talent comes from birthing quirks, not from digging them up and molesting them after they’re dead. The most immediately compelling and interesting part of Metal Gear Solid 4 is when Snake meets Meryl’s little troop of ragtag misfit soldiers, and one of them, sleeping with a mohawk, sits up suddenly, revealing that his hair actually forms the shape of an exclamation point on the back of his head. We need you to make a whole game out of that kind of nuance, Kojima. You’ve talked recently about how much you love the old classics like Out Of This World or Septentrion; you’ve mentioned Bioshock‘s straightforward storytelling approach, you’ve appreciated Gears of War, and yet you hint at having some brilliant “new idea” for how to tell a story in a future game. We (kind of) hope his solution isn’t to just remove all game elements and make another graphical adventure. (That would be hilarious, though.)

In closing, let us praise the one certifiably great thing about Metal Gear Solid 4, and the one shining beacon that fills us with faith in Kojima’s future productions: the flow of the dialogue. It’s occasionally hilarious how well Kojima is able to write rhythmic dialogue. It clips and breezes along; the most portentous sentences become urgent poetic moments that transcend the base stupidity of the plot. Of course, you’d never know this if you played the game in English — the script appears to have been translated by the Elephant Man banging his head on a keyboard. There’s a line where Naomi says “If you want to change your fate, you’ll have to meet your destiny”. What the shit? In Japanese, she uses the same word for “fate” (unmei) twice, one instance of which being the first word of the sentence. This is to lend the sentence some kind of parallel structure. Even given the flipping idiocy of the moment, it makes for a neat little verbal-ironic turnaround: “The only way to change your fate is to go forth and meet it.” In other words, the only way Snake can possibly outlive his terrible fate (death) is by running straight at it, instead of letting it crash into him while he sits there doing nothing. This is a nice little sentence that no doubt has already inspired several dozen fanfiction-writing Japanese fourteen-year-olds. In English, it’s a dud; the translator must have majored in newspaper journalism, had a professor tell him to never use the same word — even (ESPECIALLY) “the” — twice in one sentence. However, this isn’t reporting — this isn’t regurgitation of earthquake statistics. It’s “art” (term used loosely). The moral of the story is that there’s no concept of the word “it” in Japanese, which is why so many sentences resort to (eventually poetic) repetition. We mustn’t forget this — this is perhaps one of the keys of Kojima’s artistic conscience, here, seriously (okay, not so seriously). Popping in needless synonyms is not what the games industry needs in order to gain artistic reputation — soon enough, everyone will be substituting 3s and 4s in their tax forms because they’re getting tired of writing 2s, and by then, we’re all literally and figuratively fucked, so help us Shigeru Miyamoto.

–tim rogers

Yes, we realize that this is like a big twist ending story where instead of ____ going “____”, it’s more like “lol”. If you’d like, you can pretend that we seriously do have a #1 “best game of all-time” that we’re going to reveal. If we did have such a game, we’d probbbbbably reveal it next Wednesday. Though who knows. By then, we might not even feel like it anymore. You are invited to stay tuned, in turgid hope, anyway.

Comments

276 Responses to METAL GEAR SOLID 4 GUNS OF THE PATRIOTS TACTICAL ESPIONAGE ACTION

  1. and by “i said” i mean, “i said it wasn’t” and by “it wasn’t”, i mean, “sonic heroes is still number 1 in the running!”

    i’m going to actually read this now.

  2. (the implication is that mgs4 is so largely retarded that we had to review twenty-four great games just to put it into perspective)

  3. I APPROVE.

    Holy SHIT.

    (You probably shouldn’t have dropped that disclaimsplanation so fast though. Takes the balls out of it, a little.)

  4. I… yeah… wow. I read that and i’m not sure I understand it.
    I’ve never played any of the Metal Gear games and i’m really not sure its worth it now.
    I do give props to the game’s poster, though. My morning bus is often late and for the time that the MGS4 poster was there i admired the way the various elements formed Snake’s body. It was neat

  5. “(the implication is that mgs4 is so largely retarded that we had to review twenty-four great games just to put it into perspective)”

    This is hilarious. Good job.

  6. Tim you utter nutsack.

    Notwithstanding everything you say about MGS4 is absolutely true.

  7. It is hilarious. I just wonder why he didn’t put it in the meat of the text if he was gonna. It almost makes a real number one not really worth wanting. SMB3 read like more of a number one than I can imagine any follow-up being anyway. Though he did leave it open by making this Negative Number One.

    Anyway, this turned out to be kind of an event, considering. Got pretty genuinely roped in at the end there. Metal Gear Solid 4 was literally sitting right in front of me all this time. It was clearly The Game He Had To Review, for better or worse. Can’t believe it never crossed my mind. I sort of wish this hadn’t come now, though. I was still clinging to the last vestiges of the notion that I didn’t know how I felt about MGS4 yet. I can’t really run away from it now, can I?

  8. dammit…I loved this game…
    but you’re right, but…
    can’t accept…agh, fuck it.
    I shouldn’t be allowed to play video games any more.

  9. so…yeah. way to snake-roll us there, timmy.

    but man, it was a fantastic read.

    metal gear solid 4 is a comment on die hard 4, the latest rambo movie, and indiana jones 4, and all movies with incredible fucking nostalgia levels, starring man-heroes who are now old men. the fact that all of them were retarded on a breathtaking scale just makes it even better.

    and that was the best video yet!

  10. From the start, I wanted Kojima to say “Screw Metal Gear”, and then take the intruder-in-a-warzone concept into a whole new game. Just… one big massive battle that lasts about five to eight hours. You either help side A beat side B, side B beat side A, you help neither, you destroy both, you play both sides against each other, you try to make them have a truce, etc.

    No cutscenes, but you might get really attached to your AI buddies, or you might feel guilty about killing an enemy who begins crying, or you might have to mercy-kill an ally. So, a story develops as you play, but only because the development of a story is inevitable, and not because a story was orchestrated by the game’s director. Like when you play Metal Gear Solid 3, you might have one snake you keep using to kill badguys, and you really like the snake, but you know he’s too ruthless to hesitate if he gets a chance to bite you. You learn to accept Snakey for who he is, and you like having him around anyways. Then some jerkass guard steps on him, and you take revenge, killing him with your bare hands because that’s how you honor your fallen allies, but at the same time, you’re kind of relieved that your favorite weapon can’t kill you anymore.

  11. I sort of thought that this list was about the excellence that is one dude making a videogame without concern for conventions.

    Then the number one entry is the game that is made by one dude with who is WAY out of bounds, so to speak, and it’s a terrible game.

  12. Man when I first saw the cutscene wherein Raiden fights Vamp I was like why can’t we just sort of play as Snake here witnessing this fight or why can’t we be using that giant sniper rifle to take down shit that was encroaching on Raiden or to protect some dudes running around in the town or SOMETHING. I thought this because I played Half Life 2, and it made me think for maybe a second that this game was, right then, the Death of the Cutscene. Of course, I still had 75% of a game to play.

    Then Raiden and Vamp fight again and you actually are controlling Snake doing something else only the solution to this dilemma is to split the screen in fucking two because absolutely nothing one half of the screen is doing means fuck all to the other half. It’s just a big FUCK YOU to everything. Now, if you had told me about this scene a month before the game came out I’d probably be like fuck yeah that’s kind of cool or maybe ballsy or at least nice and meaty. But in the end, here, when playing it, I felt absolutely nothing; not FUCK YEAH, not FUCK YOU and not even “this is seriously cramping my perspective.” I just shot some lasers, failed, shot some more lasers and then tried to move a big robot forward for fifteen minutes before the bad guy pretended it was 1998 again and then Raiden died for the third time. By that point, yeah, I’m pretty sure I decided that whatever this thing was it wasn’t very good.

  13. also, the first chapter was pretty much available online well before the game. that was mildly annoying.

    negativelife:

    i completely agree.

  14. Everyone says the Act 3 following the guy bit was the best part of the game but I’ll be fucked if I’m seeing it. I felt it mind erasingly frustrating. The guy kept seeing me. He’d see me and then run behind some corner and disappear for a few seconds before respawning at a different corner and looking right at my fucking face before deciding to move forward again. He’d get spotted by the bad guys because he’s a fucking brain dead idiot; I’d kill the bad guys for him so that he can completely his retarded mission. He’d notice that the guys with guns were SHOT IN THE FACE through no action of his own. He’d then turn around, spot me, and begin unloading his weak willed clip of shit into my body. Now, who the fuck did he think killed those assholes for him? Furthermore, why would he not shoot them, but was more than willing to shoot me? What the hell possessed someone to program this behavior into his fucking skull?

    So I shot the fucker with a god damn ROCKET LAUNCHER like THREE TIMES because it SUCKED.

    But then I saw a helicopter with a searchlight that I think you were supposed to avoid, pulled my rocket launcher back out and proceeded to blow it right the fuck out of the sky. The chopper’s long, determined death dips and twirls were the best part of the game. Of course, the god damn fucker I was “tailing” didn’t even notice that an entire HELICOPTER had just been BLOWN OUT OF THE SKY.

  15. actually Miyazaki’s movies always are about the same character

  16. I’ve noticed that like the last five or so reviews written by tim (ok I made that number up but I noticed it a lot ok) have actual endings, then a screen shot of the game, and then more text.

    I, uhh, don’t have an actual point here.

  17. Hey Tim. Cool shit. I even buy your bullshit reasoningfor the list, though I don’t quite buy it’s what you had in mind all along.

    Anyway, yeah, fun times.

  18. This game clearly wasn’t ‘crunchy’ enough for ‘us’. Action button dot net.

  19. Icy, don’t you wish you could correct your typos?

    Isn’t that frustrating?

  20. So this is the ABDN review for MGSL I was supposed to look forward to? Sly bastards, I love it!
    This only makes me want to play the game more. I wonder if it’s as bad as Kingdom Hearts II. I swore to never play that game again after an hour.

  21. “Metal Gear Solid 4 is Hideo Kojima’s “Springtime for Hitler”.”

    I….I don’t know. I don’t really think this is an accurate statement. The point of “Springtime for Hitler” was that it was a play / musical for people who liked to watch plays / musicals, but only as a giant “F-you” to fans of plays / musicals so that they would hate it (and the producers would therefore make money on the bust). If we are going to compare any game from the MGS series to that, it would be MGS2. It was a MGS game for people who liked to play MGS games, but was a giant “F-You” to actual fans of MGS games.

    Sorry, had to post that before I read on. Time to finish reading!

  22. The thing about the “Springtime For Hitler” line is that I actually changed my mind while writing the review. You’ll see (or, well, you did see, when you got there).

    boojiboy:

    Yes, I’ll agree that the “point” of MGS is that games are bullshit; though really, do we need a game to tell us that games are bullshit? Why not at least try :(

    I was thinking optimistically, here.

    Maybe I didn’t say this in the review, though uhh, I kinda enjoyed playing the game. Though most of my enjoyment stemmed from the shimmering expectation that Something Great was going to happen at some point.

  23. “If we are going to compare any game from the MGS series to that, it would be MGS2. It was a MGS game for people who liked to play MGS games, but was a giant “F-You” to actual fans of MGS games.”

    MGS4 is just a different kind of fuckoff.

    MGS2 is about giving you everything you don’t want and making it work.

    MGS4 is about giving you everything you want and making it base and hateful.

  24. When I replayed the game recently, I tried to just quit the game after losing the climactic ending fight. They actually don’t let you select “exit”, and after a while both options restart the fight when selected.

    Is it really that important of a plot piece to be able to punch the other guy’s life bar down before he punches yours down? It’s not like winning or losing that fight really has an impact on the ending. Or, maybe the point is that the fight really only matters to Snake, I don’t know.

    I have to say I really enjoyed playing this game, at least as much as I enjoyed watching Die Hard 4.

  25. Though most of my enjoyment stemmed from the shimmering expectation that Something Great was going to happen at some point.

    Man, that’s the story of Nintendo’s Wii games right there. Maybe that’s the story of this whole generation of consoles. I don’t know.

  26. 108-
    that’s how i feel about lupe fiasco’s ‘dumb it down’

  27. Tim please grow a thin mustache to twirl whenever you think you’re being clever

  28. Yeah, MGS4 definitely had that diamond dust of Something Great sprinkled on. They — Kojima and goons — should have gone for it. They should have gone ALL OUT trying. When is he ever going to get a chance like this again, I mean, honestly? He had trillions of dollars, enough manpower to fight a war against the forces of evil, AND scientology like devotees. He could have done something mind-expanding. And with that I mean…. unprecedingly good entertainment. Something that is cutting edge in every technical aspect, and magically sincere at heart. Murakami instead of King, you know :(

    It’s like Kojima doesn’t realize the responsibility that comes with producing a million-seller.

    Makes me think that working with Suda51 probably won’t do him much good. If it comes to that. Working with the guys at AM2 though? Focusing on something tight like Virtua Fighter and spicing it up? Fuck yeah!

  29. 108:

    No, we don’t need a game to tell us games are bullshit. Except, well, maybe some people to. Maybe MGS fans, who’ve somehow missed all along the game constantly jumping up and saying it, who’ve somehow managed to keep taking this shit far too seriously, who cried after shooting the Boss and somehow failed to notice that LBJ just gave someone the OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT TITLE of “Big Boss” (which might be the best government job ever) and thus call then ending of MGS3 one of the emotional high points in gaming, well, maybe MGS fans needed a big old reminder that the whole damn thing is bullshit.

    Really, just genuinely fun and funny bullshit.

    I would be lying entirely if I said I didn’t smile the whole time I played MGS4. Is it a great game? No, or maybe yeah, because it is exactly what had to happen. Having enjoyed the MGS games, and cracked up at how batshit stupid they’ve always been (yes especially MGS3 for being so subtle about it to start that when it shows up it is beautiful), I liked 4.

    That being said, there should be a big warning stick on the front of the game telling people not to play it. And certainly not to emulate it.

  30. But Metal Gear Solid IS literature! Here’s an excerpt from the Raymond Benson novelization, taken from Amazon.com:

    “Merry Christmas,” Snake said as he delivered two powerhouse punches, left and then right, into the guards’ faces. The soldiers plopped to the floor. “I forgot to tell you – Christmas is early this year.”

    Murakami? Pfft. I’ll take heartless dreck anyday.

  31. Personaly i liked the disection of the “egg” moment. Perfectly encapsulating…

  32. 1. put a drop of oil in the frying pan (olive oil = healthiest)

    2. start the burner (low heat)

    3. crack the egg on the side of the pan

    4. drop it in there

    5. throw the shell away

    6. stare at it intently

    7. poke a spatula at the edges a bit

    8. when it seems like it’s solid on the bottom, flip it over

    9. leave it flipped until it has hardened to your liking

    note: you may sprinkle salt on the oil before dropping in the egg; you may also sprinkle salt on the top of the egg while the bottom is frying

    note: you may drop the egg in the pan and then cover it with a pot lid to steam it so that the top is solid without being fried

    note: i also possess the access codes for eggs which are not solid and chewable; however, i do not like eating them so cannot recommend them lol

  33. Hey Tim, why did Famitsu give it a good review, and why are they wrong? Or how did they disagree with you?

    I feel like I’m copping out here, since it’s a broad and hard to define thing I’m about to say, but I feel there’s some cultural difference to your understanding or what is emphasized to you vs to me. The Secret of Evermore comments talk about the same thing.

    I guess to use some new games journalism, it’d be like when I got this plum soda in Shanghai, and my friend says “eh it’s not good, it’s got this funny taste you wouldn’t like”, but I knew exactly what taste he meant, and that’s exactly why I picked that soda.

  34. …except it’s not so much disagreeing on taste, but being able to taste something at all. I guess more like tofu?

    But in this case, I think it’d be, is it possible to get another person to really understand something the way you do, especially when you think the reason they currently don’t is because they can’t, they can’t because they don’t need to. So you can’t fault them for that. No evolutionary imperative or something like that.

  35. “When I replayed the game recently, I tried to just quit the game after losing the climactic ending fight. They actually don’t let you select “exit”, and after a while both options restart the fight when selected.”

    Actually. If you choose the 2nd option twice it does let you quit.

  36. Yeah, when you die the menu says “Continue” and “ExiSt (tee hee kojimaz)”. If you select Exist once, it’s replaced by Exit and acts as usual.

    Now you just have to decide whether we should take it to merely be a representation of Snake’s will to stand up and fight once more, or of Kojima being so terrified that the player would want to be turning the game off right that moment that he designed something to trick them into playing at least one more time.

    Cause I mean, god forbid the player even be allowed to pretend Snake died at the end there, huh? That’d only be validating what everything but the last hour of the game had established. And who needs that?

  37. I don’t know if I want to play this. I mean, I was going to anyways, even knowing it probably sucked, but like… you ever talk to a Star Wars fan (not a normal human being (because we all love Star Wars), but an actual Star Wars FAN)? They know that Lucas is shitting in their mouth, and they begrudgingly choke it down, hoping for an undigested peanut here and there.

    I don’t want to eat Kojima’s shit, I want to see what he can do with fresh ingredients.

  38. “Miyazaki’s movies aren’t about the same character” – yes, they are. Magical Free Spirit Girl Who Is In Touch With Nature, Loved By Powerful Male Force And Can Fly

    “Less King, more Murakami” – as much as i love Murakami I kinda wish games would just aspire to a decent Stephen King novel for a bit. Characters you care about, writing that isn’t too bad,dialogue that isn’t too cringeworthy… just some basic storytelling shit
    minus all the postmodern bullshit in his later books

  39. i was still entertained by this whole game, let me say that. but god forbid would i want to play it again.

    they should’ve made a whole game out of the two other dudes from rat patrol.

  40. and the whole exchange with raiden and snake about “lightning in the rain”?

    hands down, the most unintentionally hilarious moment ever. in anything.

  41. Actually yeah, video games don’t even really aspire to the excellent, excellent pop-literature craftsmanship of Stephen King. More like bits and pieces of whatever they know they can’t get away with leaving out, all shoved together into a makeshift, bullshit excuse for a story.

  42. Is there even a single person reading this who understands that stories have no place in games? That stories DEGRADE games? That the very concept of a story in a game is absurd by definition.

    Anyone? Even a single human being?

    It is really depressing seeing you all so baffled about such a non-issue. I guess it’s just gonna fall on me to clear this up too.

  43. Icy, can you describe a chess match without telling a story? By anything happening at all, or even anything not happening, a story is taking place. Or do you mean games shouldn’t have predetermined stories?

  44. Because that’s kind of exactly what I said above when talking about what I wish Kojima would’ve done instead of MGS4, a game where any story that takes place only takes place because of the game engine and level design, etc, rather than by a script.

  45. Tim you need to throw those Sony headphones in the trash. What you need is the JVC/Victor SU-DH1. This converts a Dolby surround signal to Dolby headphone. You only have 2 ears so you only need 2 speakers. Then you can buy a pair of nice normal headphones and play in surround.

    As far as the review goes I agree with a lot of points but at the same time I feel like MGS4 isn’t so much different than the other Metal Gear Solid games to warrant this review compared to your reviews of other mgs games. Honestly if you played through all of the games in the series and didn’t just mostly laugh at them then I don’t know what to say. This actually goes for all of Kojima’s games that I’ve played. The stories are so lame and corny but you can’t simply look away. It’s like watching a Van Damme movie that tries to be serious.

    Even with the game obvious flaws it still remained more interesting than most the other shit I’ve played this year.

  46. However you can take a story for example and transfer its intended emotional response through both asthetics and rules.

    Stories exist without medium

  47. There are a couple of things here, icy.

    1. “Story” in reference to video games can mean a number of different things. Yes, it can mean a penned plot, but it can also mean an organic narrative. On a fundamental level, they are essentially inseparable. There is a great deal of work examining the definition and function of narrative as it relates to the player. Whatever cut and dry idea you have in your head is probably woefully inadequate.

    2. The word “game” is misleading. Not every video game is attempting to be the 21st century version of whatever it is you played as a child. Most of them don’t want to be sports. Some of them pretend to be movies, some of them try to do their own things. There are a great deal of different forms of expression all thrown under what we label as video games. You, as usual, describe a fraction of the reality.

    While chess may not “come with a story,” any description of the game ,or–more importantly!–a specific game is by default a story. There is a narrative ebb and flow to chess as there is to anything. If there wasn’t, we wouldn’t play it. People write novels about Go; they attempt to extract the humanity from baseball or boxing or anything. The people that attempt to break video games down into some superior constituent part; the ludologists or the narratologists, (seriously look at that fucking word) are missing the entire point.

    Now, obviously, what you really meant was that Metal Gear Solid is stupid, which is debatable. Of late I am bouncing back and forth between the idea that the cut scene is dead as a viable means of expression (expressed above) and the possibility that, taken at face value, it has just as much inherent value as any other possible approach. What is clear is that the assertion that plot, story, character, narrative or thematic exposition are antithetic to the medium is as crass a stance as saying these fundamentally human exercises are dead and buried in all forms; which is to say, no, sorry, there is nothing special or different about the video game.

  48. be careful, I think icy wants to kill and bury as many fundamental human exercises as possible!

  49. Oh and this:

    “Wondering about nothing is perhaps the only thing that can make a man happy and keep him so.”
    –Horace

  50. Or, icy doesn’t know what the word story means, or has a definition of it that precludes narratives, which doesn’t make sense at all, but that is OK.

  51. Icycalm, you’re just arguing semantics. Let’s just say hypothetically that words can’t change their meaning over time. What would you call what goes on in a videogame when a cutscene is not rolling?

    People on the whole are naturally storytellers, so anything that happens to occur to them becomes a story. That’s why they call news articles “stories”. Can someone not take the actions that they take in a game and impress that with meaning? And furthermore, can a game environment not be crafted in a way to encourage a specific interpretation by the player?

    And if it can, what the fuck do you call it?

  52. Fucking morons. I really do think there’s only one solution to getting rid of you — and that’s the final one. Some people say we should try to educate you, but how do you educate rocks to become human beings? There’s only so much education can do!

    Listen here you fucking retards: YES THERE’S A FUCKING STORY AFTER YOU ARE DONE PLAYING THE GAME!!

    AFTER, retards, do you understand? AFTER FOR FUCKS SAKE!! JESUS CHRIST IN HEAVEN — AFTER!

    THEN you can go ahead and turn THAT story into a shitty little novel if you want that no one will bother reading. Fucking homofag morons for fucks sake. 4.5 billion years of evolution for this. What a cruel joke the gods have played on us!

  53. This is your best work since FK06, if you ask me.

    Though I still can’t help but be a little bemused at how great the novelty of being able to cook eggs is, to you.

    I mean — it’s not. Know your audience, etc.

    I’m never going to feel properly ready to play this game.

  54. > Listen here you fucking retards: YES THERE’S A FUCKING STORY AFTER
    > YOU ARE DONE PLAYING THE GAME!!

    > AFTER, retards, do you understand? AFTER FOR FUCKS SAKE!! JESUS
    > CHRIST IN HEAVEN — AFTER!

    I’m pretty sure everybody here will agree with you on that. But what you said was this:

    > Is there even a single person reading this who understands that stories
    > have no place in games? That stories DEGRADE games? That the very
    > concept of a story in a game is absurd by definition.

    And I’m just a little bit curious as to why you “understand” such.

  55. “I’m pretty sure everybody here will agree with you on that.”

    Sure buddy.

    “And I’m just a little bit curious as to why you “understand” such.”

    And you will no doubt remain curious until the day you die.

  56. “Actually I’ll probably stop caring after this thread drops in a couple of days.”

    So your interest in intellectual matters is governed by the relative position of threads on the frontpages of online diaries? No wonder you are incapable of understanding anything!

    Oh Voltaire! Oh humanity! If only you could see your children now! What a wretched sight for those with the eyes for it.

  57. I mean, we’re really splitting hairs that have already been split, here. Fine, chess isn’t a story while it’s happening, but it does become a story afterwards. I don’t care, define it in whatever words you like if it’s that important to you.

    I think most people here would agree that a game becomes less of a game and more of a piece of “interactive electronic entertainment” with game elements once you stick a story into it. We still call them video games for the same reason most people won’t use the word niggardly; to avoid confusion, because language is 100% what people take words to mean at the present time in the present place, and not what the words are actually supposed to mean. If I go into Wal Mart and ask where they keep the interactive electronic entertainment, they’ll point me to the toy aisle where they keep the toy laptops.

    Go ahead and tell yourself that we just don’t get it or whatever, but I think that, fundamentally, there’s no REAL disagreement taking place here.

  58. “I think most people here would agree that a game becomes less of a game”

    A game becoming less of a game! What wonderful new concepts this website’s reader come up with all the time! Organing and inorganic narratives! Games that becomes less of a game! True marvels!

  59. And I mean who knows, perhaps one day we might discover alien narratives, perhaps sulphur- or silicon-based narratives to add to the organic and inorganic ones. And perhaps games will become less of a game to such a degree that they will morph into books or movies or OTHER NEW MEDIA WHICH MIGHT BE DISCOVERED IN OUTER SPACE!

    Isn’t all this truly wonderful? And so people will always have something to wonder about and will always be happy! Blogs will keep churning, the earth will keep turning, et cetera. What a wonderful, wonderful world we live in!

  60. icy> …the very concept of a story in a game is absurd by definition.

    Stories in games suck, sure, but you’re going a bit too far.

    Example: In an RPG, you experience a story set in stone (read: the programming on the disk) by reading and watching. Just like all other stories. You access the story by playing the ‘game’ portion of the RPG.

    If you want to call the story portion of the RPG a ‘not-game,’ fine. Just don’t be surprised when people prefer to say “the story in my game” rather than “the story inexorably paired to my interactive visual medium.”

  61. “Stories in games suck, sure, but you’re going a bit too far.”

    I haven’t even touched on the quality of game stories. I couldn’t care less whether they are good or if they suck.

    Stories in games are absurd BY DEFINITION. By the definition of GAMES. This is not me going too far. This is me going exactly as far as it is appropriate to go in this specific case — AND STOPPING THERE (i.e. without going off to invent hilarious non-concepts such as “organic narratives” and “games that become less of a game” in order to hide my inability to grasp they very real and very concrete concepts of GAME and STORY).

  62. > So your interest in intellectual matters is governed by the relative position of threads on the frontpages of online diaries? No wonder you are incapable of understanding anything!

    Actually, my interest in things icycalm says is governed by the relative position of threads on the front page of Actionbutton.net

    I think you might have things you say confused with “intellectual”.

  63. Whatever, Icy. We might disagree in that I think stories can be worthwhile, even if they corrupt the form, but beyond that, you’re splitting hairs. I’ve got better things to do with my time than treat internet jerk off sessions with another dime a dozen pseudo-intellectual like a holy crusade for logic and reason.

  64. And how my words must hurt your miserable little pride! Look at what inane statements you people stoop down to posting so as to be able to come back at me with — something! With anything at all!

    “Actually, my interest in things icycalm says is governed by the relative position of threads on the front page of Actionbutton.net. I think you might have things you say confused with “intellectual”.”

    A little jab! A pathetic little snarky remark! That’s all he gains! — in exchange for claiming that the most important riddle mankind has ever faced is not an intellectual matter.

    Why are stories in games absurd? That is the key to everything! But when Tim posts enough new joke reviews of ridiculous abortive videogames on his website to push it off the frontpage, Mr. S. Milton will have nothing more to do with it.

    IN FACT HE IS ALREADY DONE WITH IT! THE POOR ISSUE NEVER HAD A CHANCE WITH HIM! Icycalm is talking about it — and moreover he is the ONLY person who’s talking about it — so it MUST be non-intellectual! What’s the opposite of intellectual? Menial, perhaps? Yes, that’s right. It is a menial question! What does Mr. S. Milton have to do with menial issues — he is ABOVE THEM!

  65. Be a little more civil, and I will gladly discuss video games with you for hours and hours on end, no matter how strongly we disagree.

  66. icy, could you just… stop? Please? Don’t stop talking; you say some VERY interesting things, but could you find it in your heart to consider those with different opinions of you to be worthless morons? That maybe you’re not so high-and-mighty? Please. Are you even listening to yourself? Go back and read some of your comments, and pretend that someone else said them. Seriously. I love this site, and I love reading through the comments, but I’ve left a number of good forums in the past simply because the people there all acted like you.

    And besides, all you’ve really said so far is that “GAMES and STORIES are incompatible and it’s so obvious!” Whenever someone tries to argue and ask WHY you feel this way, you don’t answer the question. You simply say “You’re so dumb that you can’t even see something so obvious! Games and stories obviously don’t belong together!” See how you use the “obvious” label to dodge the issue?

    That said… why do you find stories to be completely incompatible with videogames?

  67. I bet you WOULD like to discuss games with me for hours on end! Too bad you can’t though, because you have nothing to give me that could possibly be of any value!

    Try to learn from me then as much as I will condescend to give you, and don’t let my tone get in the way of you learning a thing or two on such a fascinating subject. That’d be a smart move. Are you smart enough to make it?

  68. hi icy

    really come on man organic doesn’t just have to mean carbon based dawg

    it’s got some other meanings to it

    you can look them up

    in the dictionary

    I promise

    Anyway

    Should you actually be “dealing with this matter” on your website “soon,” you should link me to it. I may be interested in providing a retort. This may or may not depend on how many times you mention Voltaire.

  69. My point was that your insights aren’t unique or valuable enough to justify your demeanor. Talking you is like digging through a mound of shit to find a book that I either already own, or could easily borrow from someone.

    Your insights on video games aren’t exactly pedestrian, but they’re not as special as you seem to believe, and are very, very, very commonplace on a site like ABDN.

  70. But I’m more than willing to continue this discussion with everyone here besides you, while you jump around demanding validation and spouting diarrhea at everything we say. So, I guess I’ll just have to pretend you’re not here so as not to let you ruin the comment thread.

    I’ve always thought of video games with stories as being hybrids, just as a novel can have game elements. It’s kind of a moot point though. Arguing about whether it’s a video game, not a video game, or half-video game/half-movie is about as worthwhile as arguing if its art. Who cares? That it is or isn’t this or that doesn’t have any affect on what it really ‘is’.

  71. Try to learn from me then as much as I will condescend to give you, and don’t let my tone get in the way of you learning a thing or two on such a fascinating subject. That’d be a smart move. Are you smart enough to make it?

    Ah yes, Kierkegaard. “The task must be made difficult, for only the difficult inspires the noble-hearted”, isn’t that right? Icy certainly knows how to make it difficult to listen to him. Now is that by design or by lack of virtue…

    By the way, fieryexapserated should be here in a minute. I heard he brings with him the explanation why 2+2=1 and he’s going to make everyone that talks to him look like a genius. He’s not much talked about, I heard.

  72. Everything anyone ever does has a story afterwards so saying that an activity “has a story” because you can tell someone what happened on a particular occasion you engaged in that activity as if it’s a meaningful quality of that activity as opposed to any other activity is kind of really dumb.

    On the other hand, as soon as a videogame has pictures that represent things that could theoretically in some reality have existences beyond those as mere game pieces, as opposed to little boxes with “player” and “obstacle” written on them, you’ve added another layer to the story created by playing it. For instance, with a football match, there is only Team A and Team B playing football, whereas with a football videogame there is Player 1 and Player 2 playing the a videogame AND (fictional) Team A and (fictional) Team B playing (fictional) football.

    This is not unique to videogames but almost every other activity (that I can think of) that shares this dual story trait is actually a form of story writing (don’t bring up boardgames, they are almost universally too abstract to do this unless a significant amount of imagination is added, at which point the person doing so is engaging in story writing as a separate parallel activity). Hey, now that I think of it, this trait makes playing videogames into a very limited form of brain dead story writing.

    You know what? That’s actually probably what a lot of people play them for and have done for a very long time. There is a difference between people who play games to play games and people who play games to, say, make a dude shoot stuff, as an example. To the latter group, it doesn’t matter that they are engaging in a skill testing activity, all they care about is that they are making a dude shoot stuff (or whatever). (Yes, I’m aware that this isn’t actually a binary split and most gamers care about both to varying degrees, I shouldn’t need to tell people why I’m separating the two out like this.)

    That latter camp eventually started wondering “why is this dude shooting stuff?” (apart from because they were making the dude shoot stuff) and making up there own answer wasn’t good enough for them. This could have because they didn’t realise that what they were doing was engaging in a form of storytelling, so making it up was okay. It could have been because the fact that they were only able to use the game to make this one dude shoot this particular stuff they subconsciously decided there was only one possible reason why he would want to shoot stuff. It could even a matter of not having had to think so far and not being about to start or all three or maybe even something else but whatever it was, they wanted context and they wanted it provided for them.

    Eventually, increasing amounts of context were provided until we got to where we are today and some people, you know, like where we are today, apart from maybe occasionally wanting the stories to be better or maybe just less jarringly separate from the act of actually “playing” but they certainly don’t want them gone from their pieces of interactive entertainment software (commonly know as “videogames” both for legacy reasons and because they normally also try to actually be games on some level (both for, again, legacy reasons and because most people lie somewhere between the two extremes on this issue)). If this is what people want, why not let them have it? It’s not like the production of games with developed pre-written narratives prevents the production of those without. (If you want to argue this on a case by case basis of individual games or developers then that’s a different but related issue.)

  73. Uh, yes, exactly.

    Maybe a game with a whole lot of context isn’t purely just a game, but if it can be more effective by giving me more context, then I’ll take that.

    On the other hand, I know people who do only like one or the other: Pure skill based gaming, or interactive storytelling, and it can be impossible to convince them that the rest of video games can be good, too.

  74. I lie sort of half heartedly somewhere towards the pure game end but for some reason have a tendency to really enjoy a lot of the slightly more obscure (i.e. not FF or DQ) JRPGs despite finding them to be utterly without merit on paper. Most of my friends are way over at the “give me lots of context” end, it makes it kinda’ hard to find things to play together sometimes.

  75. “If this is what people want, why not let them have it?”

    See, this is what’s wrong with even the smarter people on the internet. They lack decent reading comprehension skills. Who said here that we should not let them have it? Certainly not me. But people are used to making things up when they read. They fill in the blanks with their imagination. That’s why philology is such an important skill — philology here understood as the art of reading well, and not making stuff up.

    I said that stories in games are absurd. This follows from the definition of a game, which no one has except me and which I will not under any circumstances divulge until I am ready.

    In the meantime, just because something is absurd, or stupid, or whatever, does not mean we cannot take pleasure in it.

    Indeed — and this is a very complicated subject which it would be impossible for me to go into in detail right now — it is only out of absurd or stupid things that people can get any pleasure at all. No one gets pleasure out of sensible behaviour other than idiots. Witness, for example, my behaviour in this comments thread (or the other one).

    Well well well. The waters get deeper and deeper. We might yet drown in them my friends!

    Note: I regard the original Metal Gear Solid as nothing less than a piece of videogame art. I will one day review it and explain why I think this is so. This makes no difference in the fact that stories in games are absurd. There is no contradiction here. These aren’t the droids you are looking for.

  76. Important personal discovery: Posts by icycalm are far more entertaining if you imagine them being read in the voice of Vizzini from The Princess Bride. Really, try it! I’ll even give you a quote for convenience:
    I bet you WOULD like to discuss games with me for hours on end! Too bad you can’t though, because you have nothing to give me that could possibly be of any value!

    Anyway, back to the subject:
    Icy, ignoring the quality for a moment, how would you classify those old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books? Are they stories? Are they games? Now, the stories might be set in stone and the ‘game’ of choosing your path might be fairly simple, but can you see that this is not all that absurd of an idea? Yes, the game had limited outcomes, but so does Tic-Tac-Toe. Is that not a game? If your definition of ‘game’ is different than the common vernacular, are you really saying anything in this thread? At all?

    I mean, your claim seems to be this (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong): Games are where you determine the outcome through interactivity. Stories are predetermined. Thus ‘stories in games’ are absurd.

    Why can’t there exist a game where the ‘game’ is to determine the path of the story? What do you think a role playing game is? Are all RPG’s absurd? You’ve said you would be interested in a Tim Rogers top 25 Japanese RPG list, since he is an expert on the subject. Is this simply perverse curiosity of an inherently absurd genre on your part, or are you taking a good thought to an extreme example to make a point?

    I mean, you’ve got to agree with one of these, and I’m curious to what it is:
    1) RPGs are not games.
    2) RPGs are absurd games.
    2) The story in an RPG is not part of the game. The story part is a ‘not-game’. Thus, RPG’s are games, and are not absurd.

  77. My little wall of text there wasn’t actually aimed entirely at you, icy, although I may have inferred a step further to your attitude than it actually went. From my point of view, you seem to have a way of carrying yourself in this sort of discussion that’s a little too precise, direct and kind of nit-pickingly pedantic so people tend to misinterpret individual things you say as being wider reaching / saying more than they actually are. I did briefly think of mentioning your “No More Parodies” article but thought better of it considering where I’m posting this. For the record I tend to find your points interesting and usually well reasoned but your attitude abrasive (if somewhat understandably so given the seemingly not completely intentional bonfire that follows you wherever you go).

    Oh well, I guess I can take some measure of pleasure from having been indirectly referred to as among the “smarter people on the internet” rather than inspiring a torrent of insults, sarcasm and capital letters.

  78. “You’ve said you would be interested in a Tim Rogers top 25 Japanese RPG list, since he is an expert on the subject. Is this simply perverse curiosity of an inherently absurd genre on your part, or are you taking a good thought to an extreme example to make a point?”

    The first.

    “I mean, you’ve got to agree with one of these, and I’m curious to what it is:
    1) RPGs are not games.
    2) RPGs are absurd games.
    2) The story in an RPG is not part of the game. The story part is a ‘not-game’. Thus, RPG’s are games, and are not absurd.”

    First of all you are confusing JRPGs with RPGs. Both are games, but very different ones. See here:
    http://insomnia.ac/commentary/on_role-playing_games/

    JRPGs are basically strategy games with elaborate cutscenes — thy are NOT RPGs.

    Now as for your multiple choice question, assuming you meant JRPGs when you wrote ‘RPGs’, the answer is “none of the above”. JRPGs are just bad games.

  79. oh and

    “By the way, fieryexapserated should be here in a minute. I heard he brings with him the explanation why 2+2=1 and he’s going to make everyone that talks to him look like a genius. He’s not much talked about, I heard.”

    “The greatest events and thoughts — but the greatest thoughts are the greatest events — are comprehended last: the generations which are their contemporaries do not experience such events — they live past them. What happens here is similar to what happens in the realm of the stars. The light of the furthest stars comes to men last; and before it has arrived man denies that there are — stars there.”

  80. yo icy when are you going to hurry up and put your book out / reveal the future to us / shine that dang light??!

  81. About stories in games being absurd, think about the following example:
    In a certain JRPG you play an amnesiac hero who doesn’t remember his name. You select a name for him. Nothing special.
    During the course of the game you meet another amnesiac character who also doesn’t remember his name. The other party members ask you to give him a name also, which you do.
    Later in the game, you travel to Hades and meet the dead mother of the second character and she addresses him by the name you chose for him, and begs of him, please don’t go and kill your father. Why would she address him by the name you chose? Because in fact you didn’t choose a random name but actually knew what his real name was. Because you’re, as it later turns out, his father.
    This kind of foreboding could also be realized in a non-game narrative, but it becomes all the more effective as you’re actually the person choosing the name.
    The great potential of JRPGs as a story-telling medium is that they can turn you into a criminal. Even if they offer zero freedom to the player (some offer some freedom but it’s not necessary for them to be interesting) you’re the one who commits the acts in the narrative.
    In other media you might identify with one of the characters because you sympathize with them or because it makes the story easierly accessible. In games you have to identify with the main character because otherwise you couldn’t play the game. If you don’t understand
    that pressing right on the d-pad makes the character walk right, you can’t play the game. You thus are forced to identify yourself with the onscreen character.
    In FFIV you deliver a bomb ring. You should be able to imagine what it will do but you deliver it regardless. Because otherwise the story wouldn’t progress. Zero freedom. But you’re still roleplaying because you’re the one who commits the act. If you cannot relate to what is happening, it will simply put you off the game. If you can relate to what’s happening it makes it all the more effective. In this case the act of blindly following orders.
    In FFVII you retell an episode of your past. And you’re lying. The game makes you a liar. You’re acting out the events you’re retelling and at one point you are about to enter Tifa’s room when she stops you to ask if you actually entered her room when she wasn’t there. You can choose to not enter her room. Which is likely a lie because you also could have entered the room and be able to tell that story. Your acts make you a liar. If you choose to enter the room regardless you’re not a liar in this instance but you still lie about having been a SOLDIER. Less efective, I admit.
    Stories in games offer a lot of potential. Because of the modus in which they are narrated.

  82. Wo-ah. This is the first actionbutton.net review I’ve ever read in full in one sitting, and I think Rogers here just broke some kind of Kojima style ‘forth wall’ of web browsing.
    After finishing reading, I switched tabs straight into a white backgrounded RSS reader. Instant cataract. Serves me right one way or another I guess.

  83. I reckon most games only need a minimum of story but that minimum of story needs to be done well. Take something like Doom. Why are you shooting those demons? Because they’re invading earth. Why does your character have the skills to take on these demons? Because he’s a badass space marine. Simple
    I kinda agree withy icy here… i play games to PLAY them. If i want a well-crafted story with deep character motivations and such i’d read a book, watch a movie, or read some comic like Watchmen. Games are good for really simple, iconic narratives. Beowulf would make an awesome videogame. Ulysses probably wouldn’t

    I tend not to play Japanese RPGs ’cause the game bit JUST ISN’T FUN.

  84. I think there’s room for both, though I usually prefer games that are kind of iconic and bare bones about the story, at least if I want to play a game. Mother 3 would be my favorite piece of interactive entertainment, though.

  85. I think icycalm is the most entertaining troll I’ve seen in a while.

  86. Tim-

    This review disappointed me a little. Not because I’m a blind Kojima fan who will blindly love anything he has been involved in (and that includes Boktai, yes) partially because of your MGS2 feature (which you now revealed to be a joke), but because you’ve made it clear that you’ve actually talked to him about the nature of the video game narrative in other reviews, and this indicates to me that you were just humoring him, which makes you kind of an ass!

  87. I read the entire comments section top to bottom listening to O Fortuna.

  88. Much (much) shorter:

    MGS4, like every other modern Metal Gear game, dares to give you more story than you want. Kojima, this way, is like Dickens getting paid by the word: sometimes good, sometimes frustrating, always too long.

    It’s like the game is designed to find your breaking point. Some people probably don’t have one, and they’ll be grateful for the wealth of narrative stuff. Some people are going to want 80% of it. Some people are going actually want 20% of it but let guilt push them to get to 40% or 50%.

    Anyway, I don’t think that the fact that Kojima studios ‘admitted’ that some people will want to skip the scenes is a big reveal like it’s implied here. That is the name of their game: we make a stealth action title with ridiculous comic book storylines that are so divorced from the actual play that the story is given the opportunity to get weird and long. Read along at your leisure, pick your level of involvement — and we’ll always surprise you by how much we packed in here.

    It’s the aesthetic choice of a Wal Mart over a tasteful little mom and pop grocery store with the preciously perfect items all lined up for you. Clearly Tim doesn’t like it. But I think it makes him less of a critic, in a way, to not see that this is a viable strategy for making games.

    I wouldn’t argue about the content itself, because if the Metal Gear saga were on a DVD, I wouldn’t watch it (don’t like anime, thanks). Somehow, though, I found myself enjoying it the way a king might when eating a single truffle from the tray and then throwing all the rest in the garbage. I answered phone calls while cutscenes were going, never bothering to pause. I talked to my girlfriend, and filled her in on the plot, all without pausing. I made myself a sandwich. I was allowed to be profligate!

  89. icy> Thanks for answering my question.
    JRPGs are basically strategy games with elaborate cutscenes — thy are NOT RPGs.

    I think this is exactly where the problem (or trolling?) lies. While I know what you’re trying to say most of the time (and agree with you most of those times), it’s statements like this that cause all the friction. You tend to take good insights and turn them into sweeping generalizations.

    Your separation of JRPG into ‘strategy game’ and ‘cutscenes’ is true, but you’re still playing the role of some character in the game, and I’m surprised people haven’t already jumped on you asking “then why do they call them RPG’s?” I know what you’re referring to, but when the situation is less straightforward than this, everyone freaks out. I’m even tempted to ask about the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books as they relate to ‘games’ again, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

    I mean, if the purpose of your posting is not just to write solely for yourself or to rile people up (which, it might be), and you’re trying to actually offer insightful commentary to others, you’re going about it the wrong way. You should choose your words more carefully. I agree with you on the pet peeve of people asking for ‘proof’ when it does not apply, but the statement ‘proof is a ridiculous concept’ or ‘nothing has been proven’ is silly. There exists a place for proof, just not in the context you meant but didn’t specify. I agree with you on JRPGs, but if you’re actually trying to promote conversation, don’t go to the generalization of “JRPGs aren’t RPGs,” unless you want to say why.

    It shouldn’t be that hard for someone as smart as you to say what you mean, and not use words in ways other than their commonly accepted meanings without clarification.

  90. >You tend to take good insights and turn them into sweeping generalizations.

    Good insights are ALWAYS sweeping generalizations. You just have to be able to tell which sweeping generalizations are better than others.

    >Your separation of JRPG into ’strategy game’ and ‘cutscenes’ is true, but you’re still playing the role of some character in the game

    OH RLY? Thanks for letting me know!

    >and I’m surprised people haven’t already jumped on you asking “then why do they call them RPG’s?

    I explain all this in the article. The quick answer is because people are stupid.

    >I mean, if the purpose of your posting is not just to write solely for yourself or to rile people up (which, it might be), and you’re trying to actually offer insightful commentary to others, you’re going about it the wrong way.

    Yeah. And some fuck on the internet who’s never written a sentence in his life worth reading is the person who’s going to show me the correct way.

    >You should choose your words more carefully.

    Says someone who has everything spoon-fed to him and STILL fails to understand it. I choose my words more carefully than anyone you’re ever going to communicate with you IN YOUR WHOLE LIFE, kid. Yeah.

    >I agree with you on the pet peeve of people asking for ‘proof’ when it does not apply, but the statement ‘proof is a ridiculous concept’ or ‘nothing has been proven’ is silly.

    I couldn’t care less what you agree or disagree with. Proof is a concept for idiots. This was explained 120 years ago. I realize, however, that it is beyond your abilities to grasp it. I am genuinely sorry for you.

    >There exists a place for proof, just not in the context you meant but didn’t specify.

    Lol yeah. As if the above sentence actually means something.

    >I agree with you on JRPGs, but if you’re actually trying to promote conversation, don’t go to the generalization of “JRPGs aren’t RPGs,” unless you want to say why

    1. I am doing the EXACT OPPOSITE of “trying to promote conversation”.

    2.I have already explained in excruciating detail why JRPGs are not RPGs. Besides, only a complete fuckhead would not get it after reading the Encyclopedia definition that I quoted. The rest of my explanations are for complete and UTTER fuckheads.

    >It shouldn’t be that hard for someone as smart as you to say what you mean, and not use words in ways other than their commonly accepted meanings without clarification.

    lol retard. As if it was possible for you to understand how smart I am.

    Higher Men

    He should be praised for climbing; yet
    The other man comes always from a height
    And lives where praise can never get –
    Beyond your sight.

  91. >Clearly Tim doesn’t like it. But I think it makes him less of a critic, in a way, to not see that this is a viable strategy for making games.

    Yeah. It makes him less of a critic and you more of a retard. Because clearly if he does not see that “this is a viable strategy for making games” he is less of a critic. Fuckheads.

  92. > I choose my words more carefully than anyone you’re ever going to communicate with you IN YOUR WHOLE LIFE, kid. Yeah.
    > fuckhead
    > fuckheads
    > Fuckheads.

    What’s a fuckhead?

  93. haha “thy are NOT RPGs.”

    icy, I think you should expand upon this view in a future article, for it is awesome.

  94. Icy, if you take a good look at dictionaries you should notice that they usually include more than one definition for the same word. That’s because in different contexts a word can mean different things. Also, these definitions are always changing; they are not set in stone.
    The definition you quote in your article is an early one, but probably not the first. In psychology (and acting classes, I guess) you also have role playing games which significantly differ from your given definition. The set of rules which determine the outcome is not present in these role playing sessions. Of course you wouldn’t call those RPGs, so they’re already somewhat different. But what differentiates those two types of role playing is the set if rules.
    A third definition of RPG may base itself solely on this set of rules. Because the actual usage of the word is often like that. For many people the RPG as you propagate them might as well not exist. Because they only know CRPGs or JRPGs. This may seem wrong to you since it deviates from the definition whích is the one and only you’re going to accept, but from a linguistic standpoint it’s perfectly valid. Many meanings of English words today are the result of faulty usage.
    An example would be the word sensible whose main meaning today is reasonable when it originally meant perceptible to the senses. Or attractive used to mean good-looking. Those fuckheads you were talking about shape the dictionary as much as elitist like you.
    For example: Calling Castlevania: SotN a platformer with RPG elements because of stats and level up is perfectly fine. Because RPG is used in a meaningful way here. It may be a oversimplification but it would be just too complicated to say a platformer that derives elements from RPGs, i. e. the set of rules which govern the outcome of events.
    Thus JRPGs ARE RPGs. Even if there were no role playing involved. But according to Merriam-Webster, it actually is. Quote for role playing:

    1 : to act out the role of
    2 : to represent in action

  95. My comment was cut of. Here’s the rest:

    The biggest lesson you should learn is there are different dictionaries and different definitions. You cannot refute anything with ONE definition just because it happens to be your favorite.

  96. The full definition from Merriam-Webster:

    Main Entry:
    role–play Listen to the pronunciation of role–play
    Pronunciation:
    \ˈrōl-ˌplā, -ˈplā\
    Function:
    verb
    Date:
    1949

    transitive verb
    1 : to act out the role of 2 : to represent in action intransitive verb : to play a role

  97. “You cannot refute anything with ONE definition just because it happens to be your favorite.”

    You have no idea what’s going on here, do you?

    I am not refuting anything. I am not trying to prove anything either, as I’ve explained. What use do people like me have for proofs and refutations! I AM EXPLAINING HOW THINGS ARE. Your job is to understand, not understand or misunderstand. End of story.

    PS. And you are also wrong about the definition issue. I am indeed picking my favorite definition for every word I use. I cannot do otherwise, especially given the fact that most definitions are flagrantly wrong. I mentioned this in the main thread I think. Words are very treacherous things. Most of the important ones signify concepts which do not exist. “Proof”, for example. Or “refutation”. Absurd concepts both of them. So yeah. If you want to stop saying nonsense (like negativedge with his “organic narratives” or Gilbert with his “games that become less of a game”), you have to not only pick your words very carefully but also — and above all! — your definitions!

  98. You all have already lost by playing into icy’s overcompartmentalized, starched-definition universe of Platonic concepts.

    Constantly amazes me, for a man who claims to love Nietzsche so much. Just goes to show that you can’t make the horse drink.

  99. Ugh, this is starting to make me feel bad. Icy is like the retarded kid who will do an impression of Hulk Hogan on command just to be recognized. It’s not really funny unless you’re sadistic.

  100. What a surprise — another fuckhead! This one likes to pretend that he understands philosophy, though the poor man can’t even tell that the concepts I use are the exact opposite of Platonic ones. Wikipedia-based philosophizing at its best. I commend you on your mastery of the form.

  101. “Icy is like the retarded kid ”

    Yes, I am the retarded kid. Me — not the guy who thinks there are “games that become less of a game”.

  102. But seriously, we both know why you keep coming back to that one sentence: Because it’s easy to ridicule if you try not to understand it.

    Imagine a game production wherein they keep removing gameplay and adding cutscenes, and by the end, it’s a non-interactive movie. Wouldn’t that be a literal, inarguable example of a game becoming less of a game? Answer: Yes, now quit it.

  103. So in other words, yeah, you’re the retard. The one who can’t grasp a simple concept like something that calls itself a game when it’s more of an interactive movie. Furthermore, you’re the one who ridicules people for presenting concepts you refuse to understand.

    Okay, maybe not a retard, but definitely anti-intellectual, and rabidly opposed to anything approaching actual discourse.

  104. WARNING WARNING! RETARD ALERT! STAND BY FOR MAJOR NONSENSE TRANSMISSION:

    “Imagine a game production wherein they keep removing gameplay and adding cutscenes, and by the end, it’s a non-interactive movie.”

    ALL MOVIES ARE “NON-INTERACTIVE”, RETARD. Even the tiniest amount of interaction means you’ve got a game and not a movie. As for “removing” or “adding gameplay” lol. As if “gameplay” was a real word. What is it? IT’S A RETARDED WORD.

    “Wouldn’t that be a literal, inarguable example of a game becoming less of a game?”

    No, retard. A game cannot become less of a game. It can become a worse game — but that is an aesthetic judgement. Even bad games are still games.

    “So in other words, yeah, you’re the retard. The one who can’t grasp a simple concept like something that calls itself a game when it’s more of an interactive movie.”

    “Interactive movie” is a CONTRADICTIO IN ADJECTO, retard. A complete and total lack of interactivity is presupposed by the very definition of the concept “movie”. You can’t even open your mouth for five seconds without some retarded nonsense popping out. So go on. Say something more. Fill this comments thread with more of your retarded shit. And don’t forget to call over all your friends. Let’s give Tim his first 1000-plus-post thread.

  105. I would point out that your abrasiveness is just a defense mechanism, that you’re insecure about the validity of your actual ideas, blah blah blah, but this seems pretty important to you, so I’ll let you have it. I mean, you didn’t exactly address a single one of my points in any way, but you seem to be having fun and I don’t want to take that away from you. If you ever want to actually talk about video games, though, I’ll be around.

  106. “If you ever want to actually talk about video games, though, I’ll be around.”

    The day I feel a need to talk about videogames with random retards is the day I will be genetically engineered to do so. So Good Riddance and don’t forget to write back from Retard-Land, USA.

  107. oh and

    “I mean, you didn’t exactly address a single one of my points in any way”

    People who cannot open their mouth for five seconds without some nonsense popping out DO NOT HAVE POINTS, fyi.

  108. This, by the way, follows from the definition of a “point”, which presupposes that the “point” has ACTUAL MEANING.

  109. “This one likes to pretend that he understands philosophy, though the poor man can’t even tell that the concepts I use are the exact opposite of Platonic ones.”

    THIS IS A GAME.

    THIS IS A MOVIE.

    etc. etc. etc.

    Seriously man, when you’re done essentializing get back to me on What Nietzsche Thinks About The World.

  110. You know what my favorite game for the NES was?

    The Adventures of LOLOLOLOLOLOL!

  111. “THIS IS A GAME.

    THIS IS A MOVIE.

    etc. etc. etc.”

    Yes, I see your problem: Too bad they happen to be two different things. Makes it hard for people like you who can’t grasp this to say anything without coming off as retards. See: your pal Gilbert.

    “Seriously man, when you’re done essentializing get back to me on What Nietzsche Thinks About The World.”

    I would if there was any chance you’d understand it.

  112. > I would if there was any chance you’d understand it.

    You know, if nobody but you understands you when you talk, there’s got to be a point where you stop blaming everyone else and start blaming yourself.

    If you’re so empirically correct, then why can’t your message come across clearly and simply without countless pages of text calling all who refute you “retarded”?

    OH WAIT I JUST GOT IT.

    WE ARE RETARDED because we’ve been trying to carry on an intelligent two-way conversation with a wall. Shit.
    You just passed the Turing Test my friend.

  113. I played through Braid yesterday, and it made me think back to this discussion (that I’d decided just to lurk in).

    Not because of the slightly awkward and much-discussed “bits of text stuck in between bits of actually doing stuff” aspect, but because the game (as in THE BITS THAT YOU ACTUALLY DO) struck me very clearly as being ABOUT science. About searching for truth through experimentation and observation, and how different an activity that is to the search for meaning or happiness (or entertainment/enjoyment, I suppose). Also: what that process can do to a person.

    The act of playing a game is the same thing as learning something, isn’t it? The original games, the games animals play, are about training and learning, and preparing the mind and body. Discovering things about how the world works and what one is capable of. Inferring rules from action and observed consequence. Putting those rules together, stacking them on top of one another, to progress. This is how we’ve gotten to where we are now, surely. It’s also an activity we’re hard-wired to enjoy, in the same way as we’re set up to enjoy sex – our survival depends on it.

    If play and science are fundamentally the same thing, then it does seem absurd to suggest that games can “have” stories, or that stories can be “played”. There does seem to be some semantic disagreement here (understandable, since we buy games and stories mingled in with one another on the same disc), but I can see the absurdity that icycalm is talking about – it struck me especially clearly, playing Braid.

  114. icy’s weakest response yet. Running out of steam, I guess.

    EightEyes: What do you reckon is happening during, say, improvisational theater?

    To put it another way: Don’t you think that Newton’s physics tells a different “story” of the universe than, say, Einstein’s? (Newton thought his, for instance, showed that there was a Christian God.) Do you think using the word “story” in this manner is disingenuous?

  115. well perhaps the stories just teach you other things than the gamebits?

  116. The problem with the Encyclopædia Britannica definition is that it is insufficient. It’s either too narrow or too broad. It’s too narrow because it seems it can only be applied to table talks RPGs. It’s too broad because, if you apply it to computer and video games, it also describes other kind of games. Contra: The Hard Corps would be a RPG by that definition, wouldn’t it? Since it has multiple paths. So there’s a need for a further definition of just how the set of rules look like.
    RPGs are games which involve stats, experience points and levels. Is a much better definition because it incorporates the crucial elements differentiating it from other kinds of role playing, like in psychiatric counseling or just any other game.
    The notion of role playing itself, although implied by the term, is not useful for defining it because you play a role in all kind of games.
    The creating a story part, although crucial to you, is too restrictive. You end up defining a lot of genres called RPGs as non-RPGs. This contradicts the actual usage.
    My definition is descriptive and in linguistics we prefer it that way. Your definition is also descriptive of table talk RPGs but by applying it to all media you’re turning it into prescriptive definition. You think RPGs should be like this. But that is only an opinion. Of many. In reality we need a consensus and your definition just doesn’t meet that consensus.

  117. “EightEyes: What do you reckon is happening during, say, improvisational theater?”

    Erm, I’m not sure, exactly – it’s not something I’ve had much exposure to. Do you mean more in the vein of people collaboratively telling a story, building on what each other contributes? If it’s that, then it’s probably not really a game, as I’d define it. Or do you mean that there are a set of agreed to rules within which each person is allowed to act? Like playing “questions”, perhaps? Sure, I could buy that as a game, but I’m not sure what sort of a story you end up with at the end of it.

    Because some games are played using words, which is what a lot of stories are built out of, it could get a bit blurry, I agree. I’m pretty sure that even in the grey areas, though, when you’re uttering words, you’re either telling a story OR playing a game (with respect to working within rules to achieve progress) at any given moment.

    I’m certainly not holding myself up as any sort of expert here, just thinking out loud, really… but intuition tells me that even when it seems like we’re playing and storytelling at the same time, it’s likely that we’re just interleaving the two to an increasingly fine degree. Playing a game is always going to be about rules and consequences, whereas telling a story is about something else.

    “To put it another way: Don’t you think that Newton’s physics tells a different “story” of the universe than, say, Einstein’s? (Newton thought his, for instance, showed that there was a Christian God.) Do you think using the word “story” in this manner is disingenuous?”

    In saying that I think play equates to scientific method, I’m not saying that you can’t tell a story about science any more than you can’t tell a story about a game. I don’t think Newton or Einstein discovered a “story” – I think a story is something they may have used to contextualise, make sense of, or otherwise add to the rules they uncovered. The “game” here is the process of experimentation, observation and induction – the story comes after that, I guess, once the game has already been played. It certainly isn’t contained within the game, nor does it follow logically or automatically from it – religious, philosophical and political discussions would be a lot simpler if it did! :)

  118. EightEyes:
    Of course stories can be played. And it adds to the experience. See my first post.
    Also although Icy thinks that stories in games are absurd and degrading, he still is interested in “true” RPGs, where you create the story yourself. Doesn’t make sense, does it?

  119. “You know, if nobody but you understands you when you talk, there’s got to be a point where you stop blaming everyone else and start blaming yourself.”

    Blaming myself for others being retards? I am not a Christian, you know.

    As for why most people don’t understand me, well, I would certainly be offended if they did! The more people understand you the more worthless and stupid the things you are saying, after all. If SOME people do understand me (which they clearly do, in this thread and all over the internet — I’d say roughly 1 out of 3 visitors to my site understand at least SOME of the things I say, as evidenced by the countless forum discussions that link to my articles) it’s because I am not really saying anything difficult to understand. If I DID start talking about difficult things in here you people would thing I was talking Chinese. At the highest levels of human understanding there’s only ever 2-3 people on the planet who can understand each other at any given time.

    As for the rest of the recent posts, EightEyes was getting somewhere but he got sidetracked by the retards. That’s the job of the retards: to confuse everything so that no progress can be made. Because if progress is made they won’t be able to understand, so they have to do their best to put a stop to it.

    Now we have:

    games=science=narrative=art

    lol, yeah. How could we possibly make progress when all our concept are the same! Everything is everything! 0=0! Long live useless tautologies! Long live pathological retardation!

  120. “Also although Icy thinks that stories in games are absurd and degrading, he still is interested in “true” RPGs, where you create the story yourself. Doesn’t make sense, does it?”

    If you are a retard, no. Everyone else understands that in ALL games you “create” “stories” in a sense.

  121. It’s just that in real RPGs you create stories with a human interest, whereas in basketball, chess, etc. you don’t. That’s what the definition means when it talks about “stories”.

    Now back to something retarded:

  122. I don’t think you *create* them, even in CRPGs that come close to your ideal. They are acted out according to the outline already there. Even multiple paths are all already written.

  123. You do, of course, in table talk RPGs. But CRPGs can never be like that.

  124. Here, I’ll take pity on you retards and give you a clue. This is the most insightful thing you will ever read in your lives:

    The ultimate game a human being can play has no story, and there is a very good reason for that.

  125. And with that I think I’ll bow out of your “discussion” because it has started to depress me.

  126. “The ultimate game a human being can play has no story, and there is a very good reason for that.”

    this reminds me of something i read in my economics study lately re: human instinctual craving for narrative being linked pretty directly to the downright maniacal lack of “concrete” narrative in human life / history.

  127. “Do you mean more in the vein of people collaboratively telling a story, building on what each other contributes? If it’s that, then it’s probably not really a game, as I’d define it.”

    Why not? I take your point very well about the subtle interleaving of game and story concepts. But what happens when the substance of the game IS creating/rearranging/altering the pieces of the story themselves? Seems to me that at that point the “interleaving” is so subtle that you must say that the game and the narrative are inextricably intertwined – separating them is an intellectual exercise of little use. Is the process of editing, in the publishing sense, a game? If not, why not?

    “this reminds me of something i read in my economics study lately re: human instinctual craving for narrative being linked pretty directly to the downright maniacal lack of “concrete” narrative in human life / history.”

    Oh, there’s no doubt that all narratives are created by humans, ex nihilo. But, you know. So are all mathematics! That’s why narratives are so wonderful, not why they’re inconsequential.

    To put it another way, arguing about whether or not games “have” narratives, or whether they are two separate concepts that are just interleaved, or whatever, is again little more than an intellectual exercise if the reason we play games is to get the narratives out of the other end.

  128. icy> 2.I have already explained in excruciating detail why JRPGs are not RPGs. Besides, only a complete fuckhead would not get it after reading the Encyclopedia definition that I quoted. The rest of my explanations are for complete and UTTER fuckheads.

    My simple (fuckhead-understandable) point was that you made the statement “JRPGs are not RPGs” before you clarified what you meant. If you say “RPG” on a video-game site, don’t be surprised when people *gasp* use the commonly accepted definition in that individual field, rather than the one from Britannica. If I’m in a topology seminar and I say ‘open,’ don’t yell at me because I’m not talking about a door.

    I’m shocked how high and mighty you act when you’re wrong. If you say something ridiculous, it’s because you mean a ‘more correct’ definition! If you’re unclear, maybe you’re just trying to separate the wheat from the chaff! If you say something objectively wrong, we’re fuckheads who don’t understand!

    Proof is a concept for idiots. This was explained 120 years ago. I realize, however, that it is beyond your abilities to grasp it. I am genuinely sorry for you.

    I’m beating this dead horse because you don’t have a good escape, and I love seeing you lament my ‘lack’ of understanding rather than address the issue. It’s good that this was explained 120 years ago… If it had happened a little earlier, then Maxwell might have gotten the memo, and wouldn’t have been able to use a pure math PROOF to show that Stokes’ Law and Ampere’s Law were inconsistent, necessitating the inclusion of a corrective term and forming the foundations for electromagnetic theory as we know it today. Wait, no, you’re right. Maxwell was simple minded. It was a tautology that nobody had realized, making the entire human race simple minded.

    Who cares, though. Why listen to me? Carry on, continue to split hairs about bullshit, and hopefully you can hit that 1000 reply mark. It’s a shame, you seem like you often have something meaningful to say, and it might be a bit more accessible if you weren’t so goddamn full of yourself.

  129. “It’s a shame, you seem like you often have something meaningful to say, and it might be a bit more accessible if you weren’t so goddamn full of yourself.”

    It could NEVER be accessible to YOU! You are not at liberty TO KNOW — very few people are. I am sorry for you, but that’s how life works. Look at that Maxwell bullshit you mentioned. You can’t get away from that simple-mindedness no matter how hard you try — AND I CAN SEE YOU TRYING. Perhaps you’d get a little further if you ACTUALLY WANTED TO UNDERSTAND, but you clearly do not. You’ve become far too comfortable in your little make-believe world with its little proofs and refutations and scientific arthouse videogame narratives, and would be completely lost in the real world. You wouldn’t survive there, not even for a second. It’s your instinct for self-preservation that keeps you chained to a pathetic Wikipedia-level of understanding.

    Now what can I do about this? You have no idea how much time I’ve spent wrestling with this issue: It is the curse of the intelligent man. He WANTS to help everyone, but everywhere he turns he comes again and again face to face with the impossibility of the task. And it’s not like it’s YOUR fault either, or Gilbert’s, or CubaLibre’s, or any other retard’s in this thread for being stupid. In the end you can only become what you already are, and what you are you have no control over. A billion books would not help you get anywhere because “in the end, what one has no access to from experience one has no ear for”.

    But experience is not for everyone! To educate ONE human being A HUNDRED THOUSAND OTHERS must act as extras and stagehands in the grand-style theatre of life! It is THAT which educates men and helps to raise some above others, and the higher one man is raised the greater the size of the human-pyramid below him. One cannot be raised above the earth on thin air, after all (in the figurative sense, retards, because in the literal sense of course one can).

  130. Like I said, this place is now depressing me. That’s why I ban idiots from my forum on sight. I would never be able to stand the place for long otherwise.

  131. Icy, you’re not as intelligent as you think you are. I pity you, really.
    Also, videogames.
    As a story-telling medium.
    Have lots of potential.
    This I would have liked to discuss.
    But no one seems interested.

  132. I’d love to discuss video games as a storytelling medium, X7, but the problem is that I’m too smart for everyone here, and there’s no way you guys would understand me!

    But seriously, you know what’d be a mildly interesting thing to study for this? The Metal Gear Solid graphic novel. The comic translates the entire game to comic book form. That sounds neat, but by “entire game”, I mean it includes scenes where Snake has to sneak around in a box, the scene where he has to run back and find the sniper rifle, shots of him getting wounded and eating rations, etc. The story was released in issues, so some issues are like 90% Snake walking from point A to point B while avoiding detection. As suspenseful as that is in the game, it feels incredibly strange in a comic. It’s like reading an Earthbound novelization that describes every single enemy encounter and item purchase in the entire game.

  133. Icycalm: You are indeed highly articulate and well versed, you have written many fascinating articles that have changed many things. Your abrasive manor gets you heard. So be it.

    If you were to sit in a room with two other artists and were told to show a world using but a mere pencil and paper, show me a world lucid and clear. Show me a world and do it without confines of language. What would you do? would you then become a retard?

    But that`s what you say in every post. You assume everyone in this forum has the same aspiration as you, to merely “write” “about” games.

    Seriously Mr big fish in small pond. Try doing that with film, try doing that with architecture.

    You forget that, in this small corner there are people who can see worlds, who understand colour, form, proportion and who dare to imagine. You forget this imbecile. Sit down with me and lets draw new worlds, call me a retard then stupid fool. Your not above me

    In respect to your perfect game should have no determined story your absolutely correct, but your forgetting something. There not called “Games” but “Video Games”

    Tell us, what should the ideal “Video Game” contain?

    Oh and you forgot Baudrillard`s “poetics of space” in your reading list. Considering the space oriented field were in i would have thought you would have included it. Its quite nice by the way.

  134. To be honest i think icy was told once that a philosopher must help others to see logically, to help others reason properly. His serious abrasiveness is a front for this endeavor rather than his emotional response to “Retards” as he puts it. If so i feel for the guy

    Naya egal!

  135. After finishing Metal Gear Solid 2, I was happy. We get a great scene of Snake jumping off Arsenal to chase Liquid in Ray, him showing up to inspire Raiden a little, and then learning the Patriots had all been dead for 100 years. This was a great ending to the story! Why do we need to know what happens after? Of course Snake is going to go on fighting. He’ll probably win. Maybe not. Who knows? We don’t need to. The story was over.

    Then Metal gear Solid 3 came out, and once again, I was completely satisfied at the end. Now we know who those dead Patriots were. It didn’t make complete sense with the last game, but it was there, and now we know the story of Big Boss. It’s finished. The open ending of MGS 2 gave ample room for a good imagination to run wild. The entire game of MGS 3 did everything so well, that I was pretty sure that no potential Metal Gear Solid 4 could ever surpass it, and I surely didn’t want there to be a MGS 4 so it wouldn’t have that opportunity to fail. However, soon enough, there it was. Metal Gear Solid 4.

    I was in a game store once when I overheard somebody talking about how they were going to buy a PS3 when it came out because they really really wanted to play MGS4 when it came out. I asked them if they had played MGS3 and realized that that, right there was the end, and it was incredibly well done. The reply was a simple, “But it’s Metal Gear Solid 4.”

    Eventually, The Metal Gear Saga video collection thing came out, and the whole world saw Hideo Kojima tired, annoyed, squirming, telling how he never really wanted to make Metal Gear 2 and basically saying, “Yes, I’ll tell you how Liquid is possessing Ocelot, I’ll tell you everything about Vamp, I’ll tell you exactly what happens to Snake, I’ll tell you who the Patriots are, just leave me alone so I can do something that I want to do.” This did not jive well with me. Since when has Metal Gear Solid explained anything? Since when has it needed to.

    If a Metal Gear Solid 4 had to be made, I think it would have served better to have another open ending, and possibly have nothing to do with the end of Metal Gear Solid 2, but I guess that would have defeated Kojima’s purpose on this one. We’ll probably find out in a year or two if he was successful or if we’ll be getting MGS 5 in a few years.

  136. RE: MGS2′s open ending-

    That’s what I want more of, room to wonder about what happens. This is kind of the era of thoughtless fanservice, though. That the player wants to see what happens next is addressed, rather than left to linger and improve the overall experience and become a thing of myth and legend.

    If Pulp Fiction had been a contemporary video game, they would’ve forced Tarantino to show what was in the briefcase.

  137. About the “narrative fallacy”, in the Black Swan (by Nassim Nicholas Taleb)

    [quote] We like stories, we like to summarize, and we like to simplify,
    i.e. to reduce the dimension of matters. The (narrative) fallacy is
    associated with our vulnerability to overinterpretations and our
    predilections for compact stories over truths.
    (…)
    The narrative fallacy addresses our limited ability to look at
    sequences of facts without weaving an explanation into them, or
    equivalently, forcing a logical link, an /arrow of relationship/ upon
    them. Explanations bind facts togetehr. They make them all more easily
    remembered; they help them /make more sense/. Where this propensity
    can go wrong is when it increases our /impression/ of
    understanding.

    (…)

    Post-hoc rationalization.

    (…)

    Split-brain patients have no connection between the left and the right
    sides of their brains (…) Now say you induced such a person to
    perform an act — raise his finger, laugh or grab a shovel — in order
    to ascertain how he ascribes a reason to his act (when in fact you
    know that there is no reason for it other than you inducing it). If
    you ask the right hemisphere, to perform the action, then ask the
    other hemisphere for an explanation, the patient with invariably offer
    some interpretation: “I was pointing at the ceiling in order to …”

    Now, if you do the opposite, namely instruct the isolated left
    hemisphere of a right handed person to perform an act and ask the
    right hemisphere for the reasons, you will be plainly told, “I don’t
    know” [/quote]

  138. I know that this site has a thing against scores, and I’m fine with that, but still, I don’t recall reading anything in this review that would say why this game deserved two stars rather than zero.

  139. “The ultimate game a human being can play has no story, and there is a very good reason for that.”

    The reason being that it inspires stories greater than those which have yet been told?

  140. I presume it wouldn’t “inspire” any particular story and any story you wished could be created by playing it. So the greatness of the story would pretty much depend on who was playing and what kind of mood they were in at the time.

    Either that or he’s actually referring to Chess / Go / Poker / Real Life or something.

    It’s Real Life isn’t it?

    Personally I’m not so fond of that one. That’s why I play video games, although I guess they’re sort of part of it aren’t they? Everything is, so it sort of wins by default. Damn you real life, cheating your way to victory in the ultimate game competition.

  141. i’m going to kinda ignore Icy, but i might agree with him anyway. i hate JRPGs. give me something like Baldur’s Gate or Fallout where you can actually control your characters and make meaningful decisions…

  142. “Personally I’m not so fond of that one.”

    There’s a reason for that. People really only like the games they are good at. And since that game is the most difficult of all — the most hardcore of all (1 hit and you are dead — for ever!) — well…

    Well well well!

    There’s your explanation for the rise of video games anyway.

  143. (That’s my score for that game. If you need a FAQ read Nietzsche and Baudrillard. If you need a superplay read a biography of a great man.)

  144. “yes! finally guessed one!”

    What are you supposed to have guessed? Here for example you are wrong:

    “The reason being that it inspires stories greater than those which have yet been told?”

    You are sort of on the right track here but still haven’t separated the concepts of game and story from each other. Games are not about telling stories, or about inspiring stories, but about LIVING them. In fact even the phrase “to live a story” is a contradictio in adjecto since a story is not something you live but something you narrate. Whether someone sits down afterwards and decides to “tell his story” to someone else is irrelevant to the game itself. That’s why every game whose description starts with “Game X tells the story of…” always ends up sucking in one way or another. Or when you hear a developer say that he wants to “tell a story” through his game you know you’re better off renting a DVD instead.

    What a story does to a game is limit its possibility-space, making it shallower and less complex, and therefore much less interesting to play. (I have explained what a possibility-space is here: http://insomnia.ac/commentary/on_complexity_depth_and_skill/). Now the artfags/retards will hit the roof at this point because by taking stories away from games you also take away the possibility of artfaggotry games that make you cry, etc. — OR SO IT SEEMS TO THEIR TINY RAT-LIKE BRAINS. Because in fact the opposite is true. The reason why is a bit complex and involves the concepts of loss and what I term “reality-linking”, so I won’t go into them right now.

    But I WILL go into them quite soon and at great length, and then everything will be cleared up and we’ll all be able to go on with our lives, for better or worse.

  145. Yeah, it really works with the Vizzini voice.

    Particularly the whole poison-swapping scene.

  146. sorry icy, i didn’t mean to say that the PURPOSE of the greatest game was to inspire great stories, but that the action of playing this game would result in events that were worth retelling, because the consequent story would be great.

  147. “Whether someone sits down afterwards and decides to “tell his story” to someone else is irrelevant to the game itself.”

    Whether someone intends to tell their story later might well alter what they do right now. Maybe it oughtn’t, but I thought your beef was existential, not ethical.

  148. Freedom in games is nice and all, but some of the best games offer zero freedom. How is a JRPG different from an average side-scrolling shooter, for example?
    The path is set by the level design; you don’t create a story, which you can later narrate, but you play out what is already there. Of course you can freely shape the details of the “story”, by your performance. How many enemies did you hit at which time and at which place. Same for JRPGs, actually.
    Every game that features any kind of design basically inhibits your freedom. That’s not a bad thing. There are well designed JRPGs, just as there are well-designed shooters. The story in JRPGs is just part of the design.
    And there are a lot of JRPGs that have great stories. They’re not bullshit by default, even if some may claim that.

  149. “What a story does to a game is limit its possibility-space, making it shallower and less complex, and therefore much less interesting to play. (I have explained what a possibility-space is here: http://insomnia.ac/commentary/on_complexity_depth_and_skill/).”

    In your article you write about the rules of a game and the depth that results from them. How does the story even factor into this? When told through cut-scenes the story is basically unrelated to the game play. It doesn’t limit its possibility-space at all. If part of the story is acted out like in a battle with a boss, for example, there still is skill involved. I don’t see how the story takes anything away from the game.

  150. In Metal Gear Solid 3, you have to protect Sokolov- oh wait no you don’t, you never actually see him during the gameplay.

    Sokolov is not a part of Metal Gear Solid 3: The Game.

    Maybe that was a joke on Kojima’s part.

    But yeah, essentially, the cutscenes don’t really do anything to gameplay, at all. They’re only ever tied together in your head. They might affect your attitude towards the gameplay, or they might affect the designer’s approach to designing a given level, but they don’t affect the gameplay in a concrete, direct way, because that’s literally impossible.

    And yes, I know that games aren’t actually concrete or real in the first place, please don’t somebody be a dick and split hairs over that.

  151. “Maybe it oughtn’t, but I thought your beef was existential, not ethical.”

    Ethical “beefs” are for idiots. This is because ethics and metaphysics are absurd concepts. This is something that was also shown 120 years ago (by Nietzsche) and then again 90 years ago (by Wittgenstein). Do yourself a favor and do some catching up will ya.

    As for this:

    “Whether someone intends to tell their story later might well alter what they do right now.”

    And it might also alter what OTHER people do LATER ON. That’s one more reason why the ultimate game is the ultimate game. But you still need to grasp the fact that a story is something which by definition comes AFTER THE FACT, the fact itself being the game.

    “In your article you write about the rules of a game and the depth that results from them. How does the story even factor into this?”

    It doesn’t. That’s why a story has no place in a game. Anything that doesn’t influence the possibility space is superfluous.

    “I don’t see how the story takes anything away from the game.”

    This is because you don’t see very far. You think in examples instead of in concepts. If you could think in concepts you would immediately see that a story, AS SOMETHING WHICH HAS BEEN PREDETERMINED TO HAPPEN, limits the player’s options. It’s basically what happens in the ultimate game with religions. Religions give you a plot for life, and therefore limit your options. That’s why they are all absurd and appropriate only for stupid people who wouldn’t know what to do with extra options even if they were available to them.

    Guys, we are getting into very deep waters here and this is really not the place to examine this subject, however much I may want to… I’ll try to refrain from posting anything more, except perhaps if someone says something incredibly compelling.

  152. To explain by example:

    Imagine a video game about chess, but with a mystery story. The gameplay is 100% actual chess.

    Between actual chess games, you are shown cutscenes where your guy goes from one chess player to another and they talk, and a plot develops, but the guy will only give you the clue you want if you beat him at chess. After beating X number of chess players, you’ve solved the mystery, etc.

    Admittedly not a great incorporation of game and story, but I fail to see how these cutscenes limit “possibility-space” or are detrimental to the gameplay, or have any tangible effect on the gameplay in the first place besides encouraging emotional involvement in the game proceedings.

  153. I don’t think games with stories have predetermined endings by the very nature of their being games.

    If you die and you don’t select continue, that’s how the game ends.

    Likewise, the only three possible endings in Chess are win/lose/stalemate. You could say that “Win” is the official, predetermined ending.

  154. “but I fail to see how these cutscenes limit “possibility-space””

    This is because you examine games with a story AFTER THEY HAVE BEEN DESIGNED. As long as you keep doing that you will never be able to see the story limiting the player’s options, BECAUSE OF COURSE IN A FINISHED GAME THEY NEVER DO!

    And your example was useless for that very reason. To make it useful you would have to FORCE the player to make certain moves at certain points while playing chess (for example to bring the king next to the queen at the halfway point of the game so that the appropriate dialogue cutscene could be shown).

    You are basically doing the equivalent of what people do when they examine statistics possibilities AFTER THE FACT.

  155. Level design also predetermines things. You can’t ignore that. Level design is a concept, btw. I do think in concepts, I just give examples for how they’re realized. Also look at all the examples you use in your articles. You’re a damn hypocrite. Who cannot admit when he’s wrong.

  156. “Likewise, the only three possible endings in Chess are win/lose/stalemate. You could say that “Win” is the official, predetermined ending.”

    Again, very very low form of thinking.

    Who gives a rat’s ass about “endings”? Only credit-feeding weaboos care about that.

    What matters is the breadth of the possibility space WHILE YOU ARE PLAYING THE GAME. Even if the game has A SINGLE ENDING NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO (see: the ultimate game ever) IT CAN STILL BE THE ULTIMATE GAME EVER IF THE SIZE AND SHAPE OF ITS POSSIBILITY SPACE IS GIGANTIC ENOUGH.

    I am using capitals because they often seem to work better with people like Gilbert than lower-caps… Sorry if they annoy anyone (they sure do annoy me).

  157. “You’re a damn hypocrite. Who cannot admit when he’s wrong.”

    And you are a damn retard who cannot understand ANYTHING. Also, I have never been wrong with anything I’ve written on my site. This is different from not being able to admit when I am wrong. I am in fact an expert in admitting when I am wrong compared to you. If I wasn’t I would be able to understand all the things I understand today. And if you are retard it’s EXACTLY BECAUSE you cannot admit when you are wrong, because you are not even capable of SUSPECTING that you MIGHT be wrong on something. You therefore end up being wrong in EVERYTHING.

  158. If I wasn’t I would *never* be able to understand all the things I understand today.”

    See, I can admit when I am wrong. It’s usually with typos though.

  159. “And your example was useless for that very reason. To make it useful you would have to FORCE the player to make certain moves at certain points while playing chess (for example to bring the king next to the queen at the halfway point of the game so that the appropriate dialogue cutscene could be shown).”

    But the game play in JRPGs is strategy, you said so yourself. Each of the battles is its own mini-version of chess. The story determines the amount of boss battles and sometimes the right strategy, i. e. escaping from Bahamut in FFIII. But the battles themselves, the actual game play is determined by the player’s choices alone.
    It’s true though, that the exploring part is very much predetermined by the events you have to trigger, as is the shooter by the scrolling of the levels. They’re driven by the design of the game. You like shooters, how are they any better than JRPGs? Other than them requiring a different kind of skill.

  160. Icy, you’re the one who mentioned endings.

    “If you could think in concepts you would immediately see that a story, AS SOMETHING WHICH HAS BEEN PREDETERMINED TO HAPPEN, limits the player’s options”

    Please organize your arguments a little better in the future.

    Anyways, Snake killing The End was never predetermined to happen.

    In fact, Snake meeting The End in the first place was never predetermined to happen, it was only ever a possibility.

    So no, the story is not a predetermined path in a video game, it is only one possible path. Even when the only other path is losing the game, so, too, are winning, losing, or stalemate, the only three “story” possibilities in Chess.

  161. Yes yes, I know, you’re not going to waste your time organizing your arguments for retards, blah blah blah.

  162. If you think “Possibilities” = “Predetermined to happen”, I don’t think there’s any talking to you, because that means that you’re so lost in abstract thought that you’ve actually lost sight of what is actually possible.

    If you have two possibilities, they can’t both be predetermined to happen.

  163. “Please organize your arguments a little better in the future.”

    What needs to be organized better is YOUR STUPID HEAD, but I am not even going to ask you to do that because I know you can’t.

    “So no, the story is not a predetermined path in a video game, it is only one possible path.”

    I am just wasting my time here. Enjoy Gilbert’s, X7′s, CubaLibre’s, ninjafetus’s et al. insights everyone. You are all beyond hope, anyway, like most of mankind.

    And Tim, you should consider signing up at my forum at some point. There we could talk in peace, free of retards and their impudent, incessant droning.

  164. Look at the stupid son of a bitch. HE actually thinks he got ME cornered! ME! Got me cornered with what? With random nonsense! Jesus fucking Christ. Only on the internet.

    Only on the internet.

  165. The arrogance to assume that we can learn so much from you, but you cannot learn anything from us.
    I read some of your articles, none of which were particularly hard to understand. They’re often insightful but far from being the end all conclusive stance on the subject.
    I also already knew some of the arguments on your site from other people. Like the JRPGs are not RPGs stance is a popular one at gamefaqs as well. Western CRPG-fans and table talk RPG-fans cling to this ideal very much like you, even though times have changed and the term RPG doesn’t even explicitly suggest the notion of freedom.
    By discrediting the actual usage of words, like for example retro, which CAN be used for playing the actual old games or games like MM9, you’re isolating yourself from the rest of us. Precise use of terms is nice but shouldn’t contradict the consensus.
    Also if you can answer me how the broad concept of level design is any different in predetermining the events of the game from that of story, which is just a part of the design anyway, then I’d gladly admit that I was wrong in this regard.

  166. I wasn’t actually even referring to my own comments, but X7′s. No wonder you can’t argue, Icy, you can barely think.

  167. “The arrogance to assume that we can learn so much from you, but you cannot learn anything from us.”

    Add up the contents of your posts in this thread with Gilbert’s/CubaLibre’s/nijafetus’s et al. What you get is a big fat NOTHING. In fact you get less than nothing, you get a bunch of RETARDED BULLSHIT.

    This is how life works I am afraid. Very VERY few people actually have something to say that’s worth anything. In a way it’s a good thing, because otherwise there would just be too much to take in. This is also part of how the world works — the human pyramid I mentioned earlier. The more a man can see the higher he must be standing, and the more people must lie below him in order to support him. It is nothing but your naive democratic delusions that make you wish it was otherwise. I mean it’s obvious: if you or Gilbert or the other retards in this thread ACTUALLY HAD SOMETHING TO SAY, you WOULD HAVE ALREADY SAID IT, in an article, blog post, essay, or whatever. Not that that would guarantee it was worth anything, but at least it would have proved that YOU YOURSELF believed that you had something to say.

    Which you don’t. And which is why you have never written anything and why you will never write anything — and ABOVE ALL WHY YOU WILL NEVER BE READ BY ANYONE.

    Am I arrogant to assume that you have nothing to teach me? No. I don’t even “assume” anything — I CAN PLAINLY SEE IT, and it is you yourself who has shown me this, again and again in this thread, along with Gilbert and the other retards. For, at any rate, in order to be able to say something worthwhile one day, you must first learn how to learn, and one more thing you and the retards have proved in this thread is that YOU ARE INCAPABLE EVEN OF LEARNING. A good student needs to have respect for his teacher after all, at least until he becomes strong enough to pay the teacher back with a vengeance.

    But what do you guys know of being a student? I was a student for nearly THREE DECADES before I became a teacher; you guys still haven’t caught up with things that happened centuries ago — how could your minds ever go where I am leading you?

    Well, there will always be one or two people who know how to learn, and how to respect, and I guess I’ll have to be satisfied with them.

    “43. Will they be new friends of “truth”, these coming philosophers? Very probably, for all philosophers hitherto have loved their truths. But assuredly they will not be dogmatists. It must be contrary to their pride, and also contrary to their taste, that their truth should still be truth for everyman — which has hitherto been the secret wish and ultimate purpose of all dogmatic efforts. “MY opinion is MY opinion: another person has not easily a right to it” — such a philosopher of the future will say, perhaps. One must renounce the bad taste of wishing to agree with many people. “Good” is no longer good when one’s neighbour takes it into his mouth. And how could there be a “common good”! The expression contradicts itself; that which is common is always of little value. In the end things must be as they are and have always been — great things are for the great, abysses for the profound, delicacies and shudders for the refined, and, in all, everything rare for the rare.”

  168. So you won’t explain how level design is any different than story in predetermining the events of the game? Like Gilbert said, I owned you.
    Your latest post is a joke. Page rank or authorities like Encyclopedia Britannica mean nothing compared to actual arguments.

  169. “So you won’t explain how level design is any different than story in predetermining the events of the game?”

    No I won’t. I refuse to explain anything more to such a stupid, ungrateful person like you. You DESERVE to never understand the difference between the concepts ‘story’ and ‘level design’ in “predetermining” the events of a game. In fact you also deserve to never understand what “pretedermined” or “event” means.

    You deserve to remain in the swamp of ignorance in which you were born.

  170. Icy, christ, what do you want from us? If you say you’re gonna leave, just leave already. We’ve given you your share of attention, leave us be.

  171. And after you post your next comment, absurdly spending paragraphs and paragraphs defending yourself from the accusations of people whose opinion you claim not to even acknowledge, don’t bother hitting refresh over and over again waiting for me to respond. You can have the last word, I’d rather discuss the issue at hand with people capable of discussing things (ie, not just hiding mediocre, rabble rousing arguments behind wall-o-text insults and “You wouldn’t understand!” Emo bullshit).

  172. You fail. Bad advertising for your website, too.
    You just repeat your little phrases over and over. You’re only good at name-calling, but nothing else.
    The existence of bosses determines you destroying them. Their weak spots determine where you will shoot them. These are events and if you are to beat the game you will act them out as it was predetermined by the design.

  173. I can see that as predetermined, actually. I was mainly addressing Icy’s complaint that it has some kind of concrete effect on the game (assuming that was the complaint he was making, though I doubt he really had a specific complaint in mind). With or without a story, winning and losing are both roughly equally possible. Even if the game wants you to keep winning, losing isn’t usually impossible, and the game-ness is preserved.

    The only difference between winning or losing at a game with a story and one without is emotional involvement. The actual mechanics, the level design, etc, can remain identical with or without a story, whether your guy is Solid Snake, or a polygonal man-shape.

  174. I think, basically, as far as icy is concerned being more limited than Real Life makes a game lesser than Real Life. Yeah the linear series of chess matches is not adversely affected by the cut scenes stringing them together but it would be a superior game if you could (and this is the absolute most basic example possible) choose who to play chess against, at which point the game would no longer be able to have that narrative, oh hey, the narrative sort of did adversely affect the game. Generally speaking, developers don’t create holes by shoving story into their games but rather fill holes that already existed with story. That doesn’t change the fact that they are holes.

  175. “I think, basically, as far as icy is concerned being more limited than Real Life makes a game lesser than Real Life. Yeah the linear series of chess matches is not adversely affected by the cut scenes stringing them together but it would be a superior game if you could (and this is the absolute most basic example possible) choose who to play chess against, at which point the game would no longer be able to have that narrative, oh hey, the narrative sort of did adversely affect the game.”

    In a shooter the order in which you battle the foes is also largely predetermined. Just like in the above example.
    I guess that makes MM a superior game because you can choose the order of the levels? Not really.

  176. COULD YOUR LEVEL OF THINKING POSSIBLE GET ANY LOWER?

    I guess that’s why I keep hitting refresh. Terrible stupidity can be as fascinating as terrible intelligence.

  177. Which brings us back to what I was saying before re: people only getting pleasure from doing stupid, absurd things.

    Imagine how life on this planet would be if EVERYONE was intelligent — unbearable!

  178. Well shit, I’m gonna ignore the troll. I don’t know about you guys.

  179. I kind of would like to play a non-linear chess video game. Even if it’d be kind of silly.

  180. Remember what Tim was saying about “soft” play modes in Ikaruga and how yeah you can make ridiculous challenges for yourself to play most games with self imposed limitations but it feels better in Ikaruga because there are these subtle nudges that you were supposed to be able to play the game like that, that those challenges were designed in?

    Choosing the order you play the levels in a Mega Man game is that sort of nudge. It’s the game designers telling you that they intentionally made all those levels beatable without those fancy weapons / items / whatever and if you want more challenge then it’s right there for you. Okay, so this occasionally falls apart in Wily stages but that’s sort of what they’re there for. If you were making a game with all that stuff in it, would you be able to resist designing one or two challenges that require it?

    Yeah, just picking your opponent from a list in that chess game would kind of not add very much, given that you’d still have to beat them all in order to “complete” the game anyway. That was more of an example of how pre-written narrative inherently limits choice. I would like to point out, that I don’t think I’ve seen it asserted here that it’s impossible for a videogame to be a more enjoyable experience by being a worse game.

    In fact, I think you’ll find, icy, that making a videogame a more enjoyable experience by making it a worse game is what GilbertSmith was talking (or, if you must, trying to talk) about with the stuff about a game “becoming less of a game and more of a movie”. However much what they’re doing or saying may annoy you, it doesn’t help when you’re trying to communicate a point to muddy the waters by berating someone over something else. Sometimes people struggle to find the correct words to express a concept and it’s generally considered courteous to (at least try to) listen to what they’re trying to say rather than what they’re actually saying. (I’m not saying that I don’t have any understanding for your aggravation at imprecise use of language, just, well, what I said.)

  181. Actually yes, that’s exactly it.

    Sacrificing perfection and purity of form for a better experience.

    Like that scene at the beginning of The Last Boy Scout, where the football player is gonna get blocked on the field, so he pulls out a pistol and shoots three opposing team members, and then kills himself.

    Not exactly football, but damn good entertainment.

  182. I mean, I’m sure Icy actually got that, but, you know, it’s ICY. If you don’t talk to armchair-philosophers in their own programming code, they’re like chickens pecking at a speck of blood.

  183. “I would like to point out, that I don’t think I’ve seen it asserted here that it’s impossible for a videogame to be a more enjoyable experience by being a worse game.”

    “In fact, I think you’ll find, icy, that making a videogame a more enjoyable experience by making it a worse game is what GilbertSmith was talking”

    I very much doubt that, but then again I wouldn’t worry too much about what Gilbert was saying or “trying to say”. He has, if you haven’t realized this already, the intelligence of a gnat.

    Now what is in fact going on here is that the waters are indeed getting deeper and deeper. And if Gilbert hasn’t been able to swim far enough to where YOU are at, he sure as hell is not going to understand the answer I will give you now, which is a LOT further out to sea.

    What, at the end of the day, is a BETTER game? Take Tim for example. He hates Cave shooters, even though the vast majority of good STG players swear by them and hold them up as some of the finest examples of the genre. Why is that?

    I gave you a hint before. To really enjoy a game ONE MUST HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO PLAY IT! So yes, a worse game can be more enjoyable to someone WHO DOESN’T HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO PLAY A BETTER GAME!

    But what is that to US! What is that to the great players!

    This is of course yet another feature of the ultimate game — it REQUIRES the existence of bad or mediocre players, just as any great movie requires the existence of extras and stagehands and characters in secondary roles. How else would the ultimate drama be able to unfold? A drama with only actors in starring roles would get old very quickly — how could complexity emerge in such a case? Certainly it could up to a point — but never any further than that.

    Does a starving child in Darfur enjoy the ultimate game as much as I do?

    Of course not! And how could it possibly have been otherwise?

    So yes, there is now on this planet a need for “worse games” which will be “more enjoyable” to people of limited mental and physical abilities. This is the very reason for the existence and rise of videogames!

  184. “Actually yes, that’s exactly it.

    Sacrificing perfection and purity of form for a better experience.”

    And look at the miserable little gnat flailing about, trying to sustain his pathetic sense of self worth from every little scrap that comes his way. “SACRIFICING PERFECTION AND PURITY OF FORM FOR A BETTER EXPERIENCE!” As if he had any idea what a “better experience” is like!

    Well, he certainly does, by his own little retarded standards. But let’s not try to measure the worth of the world by the standards of little gnats. That would be a great injustice to the world, wouldn’t it?

  185. But there are a lot of other factors which contribute to the quality of a game. Freedom is not everything.
    Also, I don’t think that life should even be considered a game. It contradicts most definitions you will find in dictionaries. Isn’t this like the equation

    “games=science=narrative=art”

    which Icy used to make fun of us? Equating things which are clearly not the same? He’s such a hypocrite. Accusing people of mistakes he makes himself.
    An important aspect of games or play is that there’s no consequences. You can try out stuff that is impossible in real life. It begins with children playing family (mother-father-child) where some of them take the roles of grown-ups.
    Actually freedom is also an important part of the definition of games, but even linear games (which I mistakenly declared as offering no freedom at all) have a degree of freedom. It’s just very restricted.
    To once again use the JRPG/side-scrolling shooter comparison: You can freely move your avatar around the screen, but the order of events is largely determined by the design. You trigger certain events by making your way along the laid-out paths. Each station, each developement in these games is predetermined.

  186. A lot of posts were made while I wrote my last post. It was in response to wateyad.

  187. Honestly quitting now. Whoever wants to learn what’s going on with games can just read my site anyway. It will all be nicely written and hyperlinked and whoever has what it takes to understand it will understand it.

    If it was WITHIN MY POWER to explain everything to people like X7 I sincerely would. But it isn’t! Such is life!

  188. Icy, why don’t you do me a favor and quote the Encyclopædia Britannica entry for game? It might enlighten the both of us.

  189. “Precise use of terms is nice but shouldn’t contradict the consensus.”

    Someone in Icy’s forum found this quote laughable. I don’t know if this needs explaining but consensus is a concept from linguistics which makes communication possible. Basically it’s an agreement over what a certain term means. This consensus is never negotiated; it is descriptively collected in written dictionaries, though.

  190. X7, uh, games inherently have no consequences for failure? Professional sports? Gambling? Last time I checked, both were generally agreed upon as games.

    I never actually said I personally thought that freedom was everything in a game. I said I thought Icy thought choice was the most important thing in a game and some stuff about playing certain games in different ways than the “default” and some stuff that has nothing to do with what you said afterwards. Games are kind of inherently defined by limitations, even Real Life. Being omnipotent and thus having genuine, complete freedom (ignoring whether or not that’s a logical impossibility for a second) would take the feeling of satisfaction out of achieving anything. The important thing is the amount of (meaning in the) choice that is left after applying those limitations.

    Yes, you have at least some limited form of freedom in even the most linear videogame, I thought that was implied in the whole “very limited form of brain dead story writing” thing I wrote way up in my first post in this thread.

    Icy (if you’re still reading this, who knows, you’ve claimed to be quitting several times), I can’t speak for Gilbert on this but when I was talking about making a game a worse game in order to improve the experience I was assuming said game to be imperfect to begin with (in fact I was assuming all videogames to be imperfect due to limitations in both the technology and the people making them), obviously destroying actual perfection gets you nowhere (or more literally, somewhere inferior to where you started). I was also thinking more along the lines of “in certain specific cases it may be possible to do this” rather than a complete generalisation. Like in the chess game example, the emotional impetus of the story (assuming it was a good one and that it was to the taste of the individual player) would probably add more to the experience than being able to select what order to play the matches in, after all, you’ll have to beat them all eventually anyway. I mean, there are definitely people who prefer their games in general to be less perfect but that’s not the only possible reason why making a(n already imperfect) vidoegame somewhat worse of a game may improve the experience for the player (if the particular impurities introduced in the process are of sufficient quality to their taste).

  191. I meant, of course, to say of sufficient quality AND to their taste.

  192. Didn’t think of those. I stand corrected. I was trying to remember the definitions of game I had read in the past but without much luck.
    Looking at the wikipedia article on games neither lack of consequences nor freedom seem to be essential. I still think that life is not included by the definition of game though.

  193. Consensus. I don’t really acknowledge it as language unless we can both agree on it.

    That bothers a lot of my pseudo-philosophy friends, but most of them don’t actually understand what they’re saying half the time, so I think I win.

  194. I would answer this on Icy’s forum but based on what he was saying I assume he would ban me on sight. Bradford, why don’t you register here and make your comments here?

    “Why do I feel so compelled to respond… I’m weak, I suppose.

    This is as simple as an SAT analogy:

    Terminology : Philosophy :: Mathematics : Physics

    Attempting to justify the use of imprecise terminology in the context of a philosophical debate is asinine. Justifying it by pointing out that language changes over time is … beyond my ability to describe the stupidity of.

    “What do you mean the ‘m’ in ‘E=mc2′ stands for ‘mass?’

    “I don’t see why ‘m’ can’t mean any damn thing I want it to. After all, the meanings of variables just reflect a consensus written down in a book somewhere, they can change over time. See, look – all my friends think ‘m’ stands for ‘monkeys.’ So if I say ‘m’ means ‘monkeys’ then it means ‘monkeys,’ goddammit! Who are you to tell me otherwise?

    “What? Of course this bomb will still go off! I’ve got all these monkeys right here to prove it!””

    RPGs are games where stats decide if the player’s actions are successful or not. These stats increase as the player gains levels by accumulating experience points obtained by playing the game.
    Is very much a precise definition. (It could be even more precise, but I can’t be bothered to further refine it right now.) It is also descriptive of the predominant usage today. The EB definition is also descriptive and useful if you’re talking about table talk RPGs but doesn’t really acknowledge most CRPGs and JRPGs, which nowadays have gained importance.
    Your attempt to ridicule me is rather poor. There’s no consensus for m meaning monkeys in E = mc².

  195. hey icy, will you unban me from your forum?

    please???

    I will be nice and sit and learn!

  196. My two cents:

    icy is right about games in general, they must lack a narrative or have an irrelevant one in order to function. Narratives in videogames are always superficial, imposed over the game´s mechanism, RPG´s are no the exception (perhaps this delusion make them such a weak genre). It´s superficial. Think about porn: the narrative is absurd, superficial, idiotic, because if they had a really compelling story they would immediately cease to be porn. Games are something like this.

    I think the only counterexample is perhaps Mother (the series as a whole). The story is absurd, but somehow the game mechanic´s succesfully manage to convey the “feelings” implicit in the narrative. But perhaps it is because this emotions have very little to do with the narrative, they belong to another level (the “gaming input” one mentioned by Rogers in his Mother 2 review). This kind of links Kojima and Itoi, but Itoi is always succesful and Kojima is not. Well, whatever, I don´t have time to elaborate…

  197. I don’t know what the fuck Nitzsche has to do with Kiwi Kraze but I’m reminded of an old story about the philosopher Diogenes. He was a big fan of God Hand by the way. Anyway, Alexander the Great happened upon old Diogenes one day, digging through a pile of bones. He says hey, Diogenes, the hell are ya doing? And Diogenes, he says, I’m looking for the bones of Icycalm but I can’t distinguish them from the bones of a Stupid Head Retard Ape type person.

    Any way Nitzsche, yeah, love that guys work. Love that theme from One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest too, and when the indian guy throws the fountain out the fucking window, feeling big as a damn mountain, gets me everytime.

  198. “Think about porn: the narrative is absurd, superficial, idiotic, because if they had a really compelling story they would immediately cease to be porn.”

    And yet porn with a plot is better than porn without.

    There is a key to be found here.

  199. man, can someone please remind me what the hell we were talking about/attempting to talk about here?

  200. story? narrative? something like that, right? (narrative IS story, wait a minute)

  201. uh, okay. want to explain to me how they’re different? because my friends Marion and Webster inform me they are synonymous with each other.

  202. wikipedia redirects to narrative when you type in story. is wikipedia lying to me?

  203. i think they are different things, though i’m not sure which is which… but i think we need to make a distinction between ‘Mario needs to save the Princess! Yay Mario saved the princess!”… lets call that ‘narrative’. bare bones a -> b
    and then you maybe have story, with some motivations and character and cutscenes – ‘Mario saved the princess out of a sense of duty, but he did not love her’. that’s a story

    i’m assigning the labels arbitarily…. but i reckon most games not a narrative but not much more then that – and if the game is fun you don’t even need that
    for MegaMan all i really care about is that i’m a robot fighting evil robots. i don’t need pages of backstory

  204. “icy is right about games in general, they must lack a narrative or have an irrelevant one in order to function. Narratives in videogames are always superficial, imposed over the game´s mechanism, RPG´s are no the exception (perhaps this delusion make them such a weak genre). It´s superficial. Think about porn: the narrative is absurd, superficial, idiotic, because if they had a really compelling story they would immediately cease to be porn. Games are something like this.”

    Why exactly are games something like this? Does a game stop being a game when it has a compelling story?
    Also I don’t see how narratives in games have to be superficial. Even if they are imposed over the game’s mechanism, like cinematic cut-scenes for example, their depth is only limited by the expression possible in these cut-scenes.
    Then there’s parts of the story that are acted out, like action scenes or interactive cut-scenes. In the beginning of FFVIII you walk down a hallway triggering text boxes to appear. These do not stop you from being able to control the character. Or in FFX you make your way through a mass of fans who want autographs from you. They are walking towards you triggering text boxes but you can still control the character and push through the masses. Or in GoHIV you lead a group of slaves (you’re a slave yourself at that point) to their workplace, where they have to perform a certain task. Getting there is somewhat dangerous and the fellow slaves can die on the way.
    Interactive storytelling is best when it creates its narrative by the means of game play.

  205. I just don’t go to games for storytelling! I’m a pretty introverted guy so i tend to compartmentalize my ‘media’ – so books are for storytelling and words and beauty and music is for passion and RAWK and yeah some storytelling in lyrics and movies are for spectacle but games are for PLAYING. I want to feel some control, some power. I want to explore a world or defeat obstacles or whatnot. I don’t want to spend 30 minutes watching a bad movie for 2 minutes of semi-interactivity

  206. Then (J)RPGs are just not for you, although you’re exaggerating. But it still doesn’t make them inferior to other games.

  207. The way I’ve understood story and narrative and the differences between are as follows (explained via Super Mario Bros, just because it is commonly known):

    SMB story: The Princess has been kidnapped, Mario’s gotta do his thing, save her, blah blah blah.

    SMB narrative: The actual events of Mario saving the princess, which is to say each little jump, run, mushroom grab, and so on. A truly complete narrative would be very boring to read, but would describe basically every action Mario takes.

    Story is basically the overall plot of a game, whereas narrative is the moment-to-moment how it all happens. Thus, every game has embedded in it the creation of a narrative (boring as they might be to read afterwards, but think of chess moves listed out to reconstruct a game later. This list is the narrative of the game) but not every game has a story/plot. Some of the best videogames work to integrate the two into each other. Sometimes they do this in clumsy ways (look, just because I can walk around while scientists in Half-life 2 talk to me does not mean I’m not sitting through a cutscene) while other times they do it incredibly effectively (the first garage/barn thing you come to on the canal in HL2 where you can reconstruct it being bombed by the Combine without a scientist sitting there telling you such). In order for a game to succeed, though, the construction of the narrative has to feel solid as hell, whereas the story does not. HL2 breaks down for me because I don’t enjoy the narrative, and so the flimsy story (really, even if you like the game, come on!) doesn’t work, whereas something like Doom has solid-as-hell narrative construction, so I don’t give two shits about whatever the ridiculous demons-from-Hell-take-over-Mars bullshit is going on.

  208. “And yet porn with a plot is better than porn without.

    There is a key to be found here.” – CubaLibre

    I’d definitely beg to differ. Although there is one thing going for porn with a plot; it’s a lot easier to get my girlfriend to watch.

  209. Porn is mostly narrative focused, though the narrative already has been created.

  210. ah, I see. so people differentiate between “story” and “narrative” only when relating to video games, because unlike movies or books you are directly creating your own story within the framework of a story. whereas in other media (yeah that’s right I said media) it’s all one concrete story which is also a narrative. I guess that’s what you all mean?

    well, technically the words DO mean basically the same thing. I think by “story” you actually mean “plot”. which IS different from a narrative.

    PLOT: Mario travels through the Mushroom Kingdom in 6 stages to save the Princess from Bowser.

    the plot is the entire story and the particular way it’s sequenced.

    NARRATIVE: Mario runs forward, jumps on a goomba, hits a block, etc.

    the narrative is what actually happens, the whole story.

  211. “Although there is one thing going for porn with a plot; it’s a lot easier to get my girlfriend to watch.”

    Another key is uncovered!

  212. “(look, just because I can walk around while scientists in Half-life 2 talk to me does not mean I’m not sitting through a cutscene)”

    Does the walking around advance the cut-scene? If it did, I think it’d be a nice way of making the cut-scene interactive.

  213. No, sadly the walking around does nothing but change what is on your screen while someone blathers on with the exposition.

  214. Remember in FF6 when you’re walking into that tomb while Setzer’s flashbacks appear in the background.

    That was pretty awesome.

    The worst cutscenes are, as Tim said, the ones that make you go “That would be awesome if it were in a video game”. Like if you’re watching a guy solve complex problems that never actually occur in the level design.

  215. Hey, leave the HL2 in the HL2 thread.

    booji you never answered my comment there. :(

  216. Not that Tim said that those are the worst cutscenes, but that I stole that phrase from him.

  217. The plot for MGS4 became uglier with time. Kojima and co. presented the story so spitefully, so venomously, its ruined my (admittedly fanboy-ish) love of the first three games.

    Trying to play MGS4 immediately pushes me back to my second play-through of MGS3. The games exist on different planes.

  218. I think I would want to play it more if Kojima had kept the execution ending he supposedly wanted, or if he had actually let Snake kill himself, if only because that’s a hardcore way of saying “Fuck you”, rather than the smug route he seemingly chose.

  219. My brother and I cringed when we saw the ending. But then, its business as usual for the series by this point: put wacky, unbelieveable shit in, then explain it away with 20 minutes of dialogue. Fanboys froth at the mouth like rabid dogs in response.

    Snake was a righteous dude. Offing himself to save the world should’ve been an easy task. Instead, Kojima uses the opportunity to jerk fans off a bit more.

    Sorry Gilbert, I’m still disappointed about this. I’m gonna go get a life now.

  220. Man the trailers were so misleading. I was really hoping for something with a stark, nihilistic worldview, where Snake kills himself by way of the player hitting the square button. Something like The Dark Knight, where the world isn’t so much saved as allowed to keep surviving a little longer. To know that it’s a cop-out, I’m sure that’s great for the kind of people who were up in arms over Snake’s mustache, but I wanted something more than fanservice.

    I watched the ending on Youtube, to know that Snake didn’t even know it was safe not to kill himself before not killing himself reflects pretty poorly on his character. He’s the kind of man who would kill the whole world because he’s a pussy.

  221. I’m surprised I haven’t seen anyone here tie the thought-knot between Snake and Raiden’s behavior (descrepancies between player and actor) in MGS2 and MGS4. I thought Snake’s utter uselessness during the cutscene parts was less of a jerk-off of the fans of MGS in general and more of a jerk-off to the people who were pretty sure they “got” MGS and didn’t necessarily want a 4…

    I don’t know, am I even making any sense?

  222. I don’t think it’s fair for filmmakers to keep making these action films that do not end in tragic duels between old men.

  223. Shit, leave a comment thread for a week and all hell breaks loose. Okay, here we go, assuming anyone is still listening:

    Games cannot have an integrated story, because they are not books or movies; they are really Possibility Space Architecture. Well, Tetris & co. are closer to Sculpture I guess, but we’re talking about MGS4 and other Big Games here. Are there any architects in the house to provide insight?
    Game designers are therefore architects and not writers. Most modern big-budget games choose to ignore this, and turn themselves into the equivalent of a ride. Really, how many times have you heard a game described as a ‘theme park ride’ (or maybe a ‘roller coaster’)? People intuitively get this. The metaphors line up nicely, I think; in this case, non-interactive cutscenes would be like a big video screen that you have to pass by on your way to the next room/level (‘level’ is also a fitting term). They provide *context*.

    You might think of better ways to provide context to your exploration of a building than video screens at every ten feet telling you where you are; maybe that’s fine by you. It’s the same with cutscenes. But the result is the same: you get *context*, not story. Someone way up in the thread said something to the effect of ‘I don’t care about the details, they’re demons from Hell invading Earth and I’m a badass Space Marine’. That’s context, plain and simple.

    So, most games today are designed in such a way that the player’s narrative combined with the context results in a retroactive story. They tend to do it by straitjacketing the player into an overly detailed context (masquerading as ‘story’), where we just have to play our little predetermined part, and everything will be OK. Others try for some sort of compromise. Hell if I know what the answer is. But I believe the parts of the puzzle are pretty clearly laid out.

    Also, for bonus points, let’s get into the Games as Art debate by stating that of course they *can be* because they can (attempt to) use possibility spaces as *tools to convey an emotional state or frame of mind*. What the fuck more can you ask of an art form? Authorial control? I don’t recall Frank Lloyd Wright crying ’cause “people don’t pass through my houses in the right way”! You buncha fuckin’ linear media pussies.

    That being said, I happen to think stories can be awesome in creating context for games; they’re simply not necessary (like I said, Tetris). Porn with story really is better – story makes shit better, because we care.

  224. Yes, KillahMate wins.

    I dunno if I qualify as an architect, but I say that with some degree of experience in designing and building homes.

  225. KillahMate, I believe a fistbump is in order.

    I also think this is mostly a semantic argument; you’re separating “context” from “story” where I’d merely describe them as two different types of stories, or maybe even just two different stories. I suppose your distinction is more useful, though.

    I want to talk about the way the “story” (in the sense of the retroactively remembered/told story) is influenced by the extemperaneous act of playing, and vice versa. If I know I’m going to be telling the story of my game later, will that affect how I approach the game (and its “context”) now? When do games need context (Tetris doesn’t have any), and how much, and why?

    Again, I think improvisational theater is an analogue worth analyzing. Aren’t those people making stories out of whole cloth, in real time? Don’t therefore these distinctions of “context” and “story” collapse? Does that mean that the distinction between context and story in games merely a result of technological limitations (specifically, imperfect/limited AI) and not a deep epistemological rift?

  226. If you can pretend that human beings are just objects (in a literal sense, we are), then a more in-depth AI, allowing complex drama to unfold during gameplay, would still hold up to Killah’s definition.

    Beyond that, I think we’re just squabbling over how to use certain words.

  227. Yeah, I don’t want to get all semantic about it, that’s just the word I use in my head; it’s as good as any other, I think. What I described as ‘story’ could probably also be called ‘plot’. But as long as you understand what I’m talking about.

    As far as influence on playing goes, on the simple end of the scale people will show off with cool but unnecessary moves while playing any game, even if they’re alone, mostly I think to make the experience cool – which is just another term for ‘improving the retroactive story’.
    On the complex end of the scale, what I think you’re asking is ‘will the player feel pressured to play a certain way, so as to improve the story?’ And I believe the answer is yes, in fact a number of game design techniques rely on this pressure in order to subtly direct the player.

    Like the chess example, it’s one of those tradeoffs where you diminish the game (because certain parts of the possibility space are now preferred, so you’ve lost the freedom/equality of choice of the “ideal” game) in order to improve the experience (the designer will obviously choose for maximum impact). On the one hand, ‘diminish’ sounds like it’s a bad thing, but I think it’s really okay, because most modern videogames (again, unlike Tetris, Quake 3, or Soul Calibur) really aren’t games at all, like you guys noted earlier, but interactive experiences that use specialized game fragments as artistic tools. Pac-Man would be harmed by a designer preference, but Shadow of the Colossus isn’t, because it’s trying to make a point.

    Someone upthread already mentioned that, as game mechanics get more complex, people start asking for reasons, so you need context to keep players engaged. That’s a pretty good way of putting it, but I would add that context is more important in directed experiences. When the designer directs your choices, you feel limited and you want to know why. When there are no limits, the game is easier to accept on its own. Soul Calibur, like I said, is a true ‘game’ (at least in its classic VS mode), even though it’s pretty damn complex. Does anyone give a shit why Sophitia is fighting some French dude? It’s just a game. They’re fighting because you want to fight.

    The improv thing I’m not sure about. The way I deconstruct it, there is no ‘context’, because improv is basically a pure game, just like a Quake 3 deathmatch (Soul Calibur, etc). The only thing you get out of it is what the players bring in; there is no ‘designer influence’, so there’s no need for context. The story is not the rules – the rules shape the story. Think of the story like the blocks in Tetris: not every block goes together, so you have to align them in accordance to a few rules (the main one being ‘the blocks will never stop falling’ which is actually pretty close to that main improv rule that you must always accept what you’re given and go with the flow). It’s only confusing because the raw material you work with is so similar to what’s usually a part of the context. It’s not so far from Guitar Hero, really, which is also a game that gives you something usually reserved for the context and makes you play through it. And just like there’s no background music in GH, there’s no story in improv.

    Also, GilbertSmith, that’s kind of where I went with the improv analysis, where you treat your co-players as objects to work with in the game.
    And leaving aside true AI (which would really be just another player), a designer-specified pseudo-AI, the kind modern games are going for, really is sort of a tool for dynamic rearrangement of the possibility space, with the goal of maximum drama. It’s a good idea, but I think people often go too far with it, trying for realistic human characters which are *also* game elements, which is so fucking hard I don’t think I’ve seen it work yet. But make a big, dark horse, make him come to the player when called, and not fall off cliffs when you ride him, and there you go, empathy, works like a charm. So obviously it’s doable. People truly *want* to love game characters. The designers just have to stand out of their own way, and stop with the rude awakenings, like the voice-acted well-spoken well-articulated mysterious sexy stranger that repeats the same three fucking lines whenever you talk to him.

    There. Hope that makes sense.

  228. Well, actually, that last part may have been a bit messy. When I say designer-specified pseudo-AI, I mean that all NPCs in any game are really just representatives of the designer. When the sergeant screams “MOVE!!!” it’s really the designer who wants you to run. Real AI would just turn them into real people, and if that’s what you want isn’t it better (and less ethically dubious) to ask a friend to play with you?

    Progress in games AI is simply trying to make the NPCs better and more faithful stand-ins for the designer. You’ll notice here that we already have games that do this perfectly, because the designers had the good idea of actually getting one of the players to co-design the game, and play all the NPCs in each session. That’s why CRPGs aren’t like the real thing; you lose the human factor, and computer DMs aren’t yet up to snuff. Maybe they can never be up to snuff, and someone should finally design a good multiplayer CRPG where one player is the DM (Neverwinter Nights was merely close).

    The difference between D&D and improv, incidentally, is that in D&D one of the players, the DM, has an agenda beyond the situation at hand. That makes him a designer, and moves the game closer to an experience.

    I’ll stop talking now.

  229. When rules shape the story, it oftentimes winds up being more involving. I never really cared what happened to Eva in MGS3, but when I accidentally killed the cobra I had been using to poison all the guards, I actually go kind of depressed.

  230. Let’s look at it through the lens of evocation. A story is designed to elicit x y and z from readers; people seek out stories because they want to be elicited in this fashion. Do games have a similarly evocative goal? Do people seek out games because of something they can get from the games? If so, are those the same things, or at least some of the same things, you can get from a story? If those areas of influence overlap at all, couldn’t you locate a story-game inside that overlapping area without violating the tenets of either stories or games and therefore diminish neither?

    Here’s a simpler first question: why do people play games? I think this question is incredibly difficult to answer, but all our problems could be resolved if we answered it.

    I’m still not sure I agree with you on the improv thing. There’s an extent to which the joy of participating in it, and watching it, comes from the actors’ manipulation of the rules – how they handle what they are given, like, as you say, in Tetris. This is especially obvious in improvisational comedy, which is essentially based around bending rules in creative ways (the core of all humor, though in more traditional “narrative” standup the rules being bent are social rather than defining the process of the standup itself. This is why good improv comedy can be “family-friendly” in a way that good standup can never be, because it has OTHER rules (i.e., of its form) it can bend instead of social ones).

    But dramatic improv is something different altogether, or can be. To the audience, a masterful improv drama is no different from a prewritten play. If the actors are good enough the audience won’t even be able to tell the difference. If the audience is aware beforehand, it’s “better” than an authored play in that the quality of the story is the same, but the awareness that it is ephemeral – that no one will ever see this again – lends it an additional air of profundity.

    This last bit, about the ephemerality, that’s the key. The audience isn’t moved because of the skill with which the actors manipulate the rules of improv; they’re moved by the fact that the traditional “story” that’s being presented to them is also temporary by virtue of the game-qualities of the improv.

    Of course, maybe I’m missing the point here by describing the audience’s psychology instead of the actor’s.

  231. GilbertSmith: yeah, exactly!

    CubaLibre: it does pretty much come down to ‘why do people play games’ – can we solve that one some other time? :-)

    I will note there’s plenty of overlap between games and stories (all media overlap), they just have different strengths and weaknesses. Who was it that said novels delve into characters, while movies watch them interact? The particular strength of video games is something I can’t quite name (maybe there isn’t a name yet), but the closest concept is maybe ‘sense of place’. I never really cared about Alucard, but I vividly recall the *castle* from Symphony of the Night. Except the ‘place’ in ‘sense of place’ doesn’t have to be a physical location, so it’s not exactly right… I’m still working on that.

    But that’s not important here. I’m convinced that a story-game properly placed in the overlap would be fascinating, and also probably *awesome*, but the evocation you’re talking about is a matter of player perception, while my concepts are mostly about the way games are *created*, and while I’d love to play what you’re describing, I haven’t the faintest idea how to *make* it.

    And yeah, I was mostly thinking about improv comedy when I wrote that, but the point still stands. Improv comedy tends to make like Kojima and go all meta ‘n’ shit, while drama is like a good shmup, and works within the rules to perfect the result. And you’re right, I’m focusing on the actors, because after all the actors are the players; the audience is… well… the audience. But here’s what’s important, to me:

    The audience is moved by the story because it’s a good story (its temporary nature is a cherry-on-top – if it were a *bad* story, the fact it was made up on the spot couldn’t save it). It’s a good story because the actors made it, and they’re self-aware, intelligent, emotional, social entities, which means they possess the massively complex mental toolset required to work those dramatic Tetris blocks into an impressive whole. It *is* a game, it is *played*, and the audience enjoys the result (you know Electroplankton? that thingy for the Nintendo DS where you, like, make microorganisms and they make music? show a particularly well-done blob to your friend and they might be moved by it, but it doesn’t change the fact that making it was a game to you). The thing that makes improv stand out among games is also why it has such an emotional impact – you will *never* (well, at least for a *very long time*) be able to play it on a computer, because it manipulates emotions directly, and computers just don’t possess that toolset and understanding of human nature. Hell, they can’t even talk properly yet.

    (That’s also why improv is a dead end to me, as far as video games are concerned. It’s a game, and it can be classified and all that, but the fact remains that it’s operating on a whole different level, and as much as we crave all that wonderful emotional resonance improv gets, we just don’t have the design tools to climb up there. We’ll have to think of a different way.)

  232. GilbertSmith said:
    “When rules shape the story, it oftentimes winds up being more involving. I never really cared what happened to Eva in MGS3, but when I accidentally killed the cobra I had been using to poison all the guards, I actually go kind of depressed.”

    Hee Hee, totally agree!

    I hated Drebin’s ugly little monkey, but not as much as I thought I hated Raiden when MGS2 was first released and I actually quite like him now. Soon MGS 4 will be a thing of the past and it will look better for it. It was a load of tripe and we all know it, but it certainly was worth talking about… even if it was just to slag it off.

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  235. “…the (seemingly) hour-long sequence in which Ninja Raiden Riverdance-Duels a gay vampire in order to buy Snake, Otacon, and their pet robot enough time to escape from the hell of South America via helicopter is a chief offender: look at those moves! The moment we, as a “player”, behold a scene in a “videogame” and think “Man, someone should make a videogame out of that”, the ghost is essentially given up.”

    The hilarious thing about the above quote is its (unintentional?) prediction: Kojima Productions went and actually made the fucking game (which you guys should totally review, by the way).

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