Using Games to Tell a Story 遊戲敘事的優勢

Someone once asked me why I develop games. I told him that it was “Because I want to tell a story.” The person merely replied, “You can do that with novels or movies as well.”

It isn’t strange for someone to think that. Recently, there is a trend of storytelling games becoming more movie-like in nature, a lot of chart-topping games are essentially using CGI movies in combination with QTEs (Quick-Time Event) to create interaction scenes. But it is the overly brilliant camera movements and angels that nullified the visual impact of QTEs. That is also why younger players tend to associate storytelling through games with watching a movie.

Due to that, let us discuss about just why advantages do games have over other media for storytelling.

1. Interaction can help players understand the logic behind everything

Like many others, I would summarize a game as “taking actions, getting responses”. For example, when you play Mario games, pressing down the right key will move you forward, which helps you to understand that the left and right keys are keys for movement in the corresponding direction.

This sort of response will make it easier for players to understand the logic of things compared to watching a movie. In a movie, events will only take place once chronologically, so the audience might not have been able to fully grasp the impact the event has on the entire plot.

However, games are different. Players are able to replay the scenes multiple times in order to fully understand the plot from various angels.

The game Life is Strange allows players to rewind time in order to change what happens in the future.

The player is able to constantly influence the different events surrounding the main character in order to understand her relationship with others, her social status, his values etc. The player will also be able to understand exactly why something happens through the process of trying to stop the event from happening in the first place.

For example, if main character’s friend commits suicide, the player will need to think about what needs to be changed in order to stop this from happening. Did say the wrong thing? Or did they accidentally trigger the friend in some way? Unlike movies, the audience must think for themselves and take action, instead of just being told what is what.

It is the constant thought process behind the trials and errors which helps the player understand the cause and effect of every incident

Episode 1 of Life is Strange is free, so check it out!

2. Events are more realistic for the players

In a movie world, the audience must try to think from the character’s point of view in order to understand the character. However, the player of a game must not only try and think from the character’s point of view, they must also take the same actions as the character.

Unlike the above mentioned Life is Strange, Florence is a linear game. The player is unable to influence the main character’s movements and decision, they must instead follow her line of thoughts.

During the chapter when the main character welcomes her boyfriend who is about to move in with her, a problem arises – they don’t have enough storage space. She originally lived alone, and now she doesn’t have a lot of space to place her boyfriend’s things. The player must then decide what they need to put away in boxes, and what must be kept. During so, the player might find it very annoying, because there seems to be a use for everything, but there just isn’t enough space for all that.

This is a problem that is very hard to actually express such a situation so realisticly because the audience is not placed in the situation, making it very hard for them to remember such details.

In Florence, the player must decide what is placed in box, and what is left outside.

3. Players are more empathetic

At first glance, this might seem like the same as the previous, but that isn’t the case.  Whether someone feels like something is realistic is not the same as whether they feel like they are experiencing the same thing. I’ll use above-mentioned event in Florence as an example once again. You might think that what the main character goes through is very likely to happen, but if you have never dated someone before, you might not understand what she actually feels.

This is where I must praise the game We Become What We Behold, a free game on itch.io It is definitely a textbook example. (Spoilers ahead, you have been warned).

The player takes the role of a reporter, and is allowed to take photographs of anything, which will then be shown on the news.

The problem is that if the reporter takes photo of peaceful scenes, people won’t react to the news, and the journalist will also be reminded to not take more interesting and newsworthy photos.

As you take more and more photos, you will start to understand what is newsworthy according to the people’s reaction of the news (in game). Violent, negative and emotional scenes are what people want to see, only that is interesting and newsworthy.

As you can probably imagine, the ending will be a society filled with hatred. Because they only received information that helped the hatred grow through the player’s photos.

After playing this game, you will likely start to pity what is going on with society, you’ll realize that the people are just victims as well. The player (the media) is the real culprit here.

I feel like this stems from players understanding that it is something unavoidable and something that they are helpless against. This isn’t a feeling that movies can provide you will. Only when a player goes through endless trials and errors in search of other possibilities before finding the truth will they understand it.

Of course, movies are able to provide you with a similar plot, but will the audience really pity the reporter? No, the audience will only feel that the reporter is cowardly and someone who is willing to give up his morals to get report more interesting news. The reason behind that is also simple, because it is the reporter that goes through the scolding and failures, not the audience.

If you are interested, then you can check out the game in the link below, the whole game only takes around 5 minutes to finish.

We Become What We Behold 

A scene from We Become What We Behind, the tagline is “#peace is boring, violence goes viral”

Conclusion

The key process of taking action to get responses is what separate games form other medias. But this advantage is also very unique in that if you don’t make good use of it, then it is a wasted opportunity, you would be wasting a perfectly good medium.

Let me just make it clear right now, I’m not degrading other types of media. The beauty of words in novels is something that games cannot compare with. But this post is about games, so that’s why I didn’t talk about the advatanges and uniqueness of other media types.

Also, someone also mentioned to me that VR movies are able to better at making you feel like you’re put in the same situation compared with normal movies. I agree with this, but since we aren’t focusing on movies today, there isn’t really a point of me bringing it up in the main post.

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有次被問及為何做遊戲?我回答:「因為想說故事。」對方回了一句「小說和電影也可」。

其實有這想法並不奇怪,最近遊戲敘事有「電影化」的趨勢,你會見到很多大作用全 CG 電影配合 QTE 去製作互動場景。由於越趨優秀的分鏡和運鏡把 QTE 的存在感都刷走了,因此現在的年輕玩家容易把遊戲敘事想像成「看電影」。

因為這樣,今次我們談一下遊戲相比於其他媒體,有甚麼說故事的優勢。

1、交互能幫助玩家了解因果邏輯

跟很多人一樣,我用八隻字去概括遊戲:「做些行動,獲取反饋」,例如玩馬利奧時按住右鍵便會前進,你便知道左右鍵是向著對應方向移動的意思。

透過反饋,玩家比看電影更容易理解因果。在電影的世界,事情只會線性的發生一次,玩家未必能深刻了解每一件事情對整個故事的影響。

但是在遊戲中,可以透過不斷重覆的嘗試,從更多角度地理解整個故事。

《奇妙人生》(Life Is Strange)中玩家可以透過時間逆流,去改變本來要發生的事情。

玩家透過不斷影響主角周圍的事件,探索更多關於主角的人際關係、社會地位、價值觀等等。玩家藉著如何阻止一件事情發生,去理解一件事情為何會發生。

例如玩家的朋友自殺了,玩家要自行思考如何阻止這件事發生。是自己說錯了話?是自己的不小心無意中掀起了朋友的情緒?跟電影不同的是,玩家必須自己思考,並去嘗試行動,而不是被喂食,被灌輸。

因為這個不斷思考,反複嘗試的過程,玩家會更深刻理解一件事情的因果邏輯

《奇妙人生》的第一章,可是免費的哦~

2、事情更具實感

在電影的世界,讀者按著角色的想法和動機去思考,去理解那位角色。但玩遊戲,玩家不單要順著操作角色的思維,還要做著相同的事。

《Florence》跟上面說的《奇妙人生》 不同,是一隻線性的遊戲,玩家無法左右主角的行動和決策。玩家可以做的就只是順著女主角的思想去行動。

比如同居這一章,玩家(女主角)迎接搬進來的男主,立刻出現了一個問題,就是空間不足。原本女主的屋一個人住,沒有太多空間擺放男主的東西。玩家要決定把甚麼東西放進儲物箱,甚麼東西保留。過程中玩家會覺得很麻煩,因為好像甚麼都有用,空間卻又不夠。

這些事情,在電影的同居情節中,很難把這個情況表達得這麼具體,主要原因還是玩家並不是站在「真的要實行」的立場,會很難記住某些細節

《Florence》玩家要決定把甚麼東西放進儲物箱,甚麼東西保留。

3、玩家更具同理心

乍看之下,不就和第二點同一意思嗎?其實不然。人是否感到一件事情很真實,跟會否對事件中的人物身同感受,是截然不同的兩件事。以上面講到的《Florence》為例,你大概會認同女主角的經歷是絕對可能發生,但如果你沒有談過戀愛,你大概不知道她實際上是甚麼感受。

這裡想特別吹捧一下《我們的所見會塑造我們》(WE BECOME WHAT WE BEHOLD),一隻itch上的免費遊戲,卻是教科書級別的作品。(後面的介紹含劇透,不喜勿看)

玩家扮演記者,甚麼都可以拍,拍照後照片會在電視新聞上播出。

問題是,如果記者拍一些和平、和諧、沒甚麼特別的畫面,人們對新聞沒甚麼反應,記者也會「被提點」不要找這些沒「新聞價值」的照片。

當玩家反覆拍攝,會根據人們對新聞的反應(遊戲反饋)了解「何謂新聞價值」,原來暴力、煽情、負面,就是人們想看的東西,就是「有價值的內容」。

遊戲結局可想而知,整個社會充斥著仇恨,因為他們透過玩家的照片,只會獲得滋長仇恨的資訊。

玩完這個遊戲,你會對社會上發生的事產生同情,因為原來他們也是受害者,而玩家(媒體)才是加害者。

我想這份同情,大部分是因為玩家明白這結果是無可避免又無可奈何,這種無力感是電影所不能給你的。透過玩家自身的不斷嘗試,去尋求其他可能性,到最後透過反饋得出「新聞價值」的本質。

當然電影可以描述一模一樣的劇情,但玩家真的會同情記者嗎?他只會覺得記者沒骨氣,為新聞價值放棄原則。理由很簡單,因為被罵的、沒成績的,是「那記者」而不是「讀者自身」。

有興趣可點下面網址遊玩,遊戲總長大約5分鐘(中文版哦~):

We Become What We Behold 中文版 

《我們的所見會塑造我們》遊戲畫面:照片被評價為「和平只帶來無趣,暴力有助散播」

總結

正是「做些行動,獲取反饋」這一關鍵的過程,造成了遊戲跟其他媒體的不一樣。但這種不一樣,若不能善用,那就是空藏美玉,浪費了一個好媒介。

這裡作個保障自己的聲明,我並不是要眨低遊戲以外的媒體,小說那種文字的美也是遊戲所無法攀比的,只是本文集中討論遊戲,故忽略了其他媒體的優勢和特色。

另外,最近有人提出沉浸式影像,即 VR 電影,也能達到比普通電影更感同身受的效果,這一點我亦同意。但今天不是討論電影所以就不作闡述。

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