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Blow: Stories In Games Are Just Hot Air

Jonathan Blow, One man creator of the oh-so-pretty Braid platformer, as amazing for its interesting gameplay as its surreal visuals, says, essentially, that videogame stories are bad and probably wouldn't get much better with better writers since trying to tell a story in a game is a bad idea. One might wonder whether he's paraphrasing film director John Huston, who famously remarked, when asked about the "message" in one of his movies, that if one wanted to send a message, one should use Western Union.One similarly might imagine that if you were to ask Blow about the story in his games, he'd say that if you want to tell a story, you should make a film. Or, perhaps, write a book. Seeing at what some triple-A titles have become-- long cutscenes with repetitive gameplay inserted instertitially-- one can't help but admit to at least some truth in the idea that there's something suboptimal about the way narration and gameplay are currently being combined. The flaws of the method get a pass when the separate elements are well executed in otherwise popular products. When either or both is weak, the combination itself makes the whole enterprise seem foul. In some games, one so dominates over the other that it is a wonder that anyone bothers; I tried the demos of a couple of JRPGs over the holiday break, the first ones I've ever played, and was amazed to find that the first hour or so of each of them consisted of scripted, in-engine cutscenes with no choices and player interaction limited to pressing the green button to advance to the next scene. Where's the game, I wondered.  Click here for the complete text.