First some background points to help paint my mood:
A few days ago I saw this MTV interview with Alex Ward (Creative Director of Criterion Games). It gets a little ranty, but burried in here is one very interesting point -- the story in Black, the game that was marketed as 'Gun Porn' was written by Alex as a form of social commentary on America's foreign policy. Alex, it would seem, is a little frustrated that most gamers these days just skip the story to fast track to the explosions.
The next piece that caught my attention, also on MTV, is an interview with Midway Creative Director Harvey Smith. Harvey talks about his efforts to take the played 'Area 51' mythos and turn it on its ear a little by injecting some modern dilemas and, once again, social commentary. I like this quote:
We have here two over-the-top action games (one shipped, one in development) where the core gameplay mechanic is to shoot things -- a lot. And yet here these guys are saying, even with a game like Black, they need their games to say something - to mean something - or they'll have a hard time developing them (or, at least, thats what I read between the lines). I'd like to buy them both a beer.
But the hook that makes this game matter to its creator is its political
charge, its twist on the typical good-guy/ bad-guy gaming relationship. "You
could just make a metaphor for terrorists. But the most interesting sort of
multidimensional part is, 'Wait, what if they are terrorists we helped
The game I'm currently working on has a similar ambition. We want the core experience to stand on its own -- to be fun and sexy and appeal to all levels of our target demographic. But, we also want there to be meat and substance to the story and the meaning of the game -- something that can make the player stop for a second and consider what message they think we are trying to make with a given sequence.
And yet I'm torn. I'm currently playing Okami (yes, only just now) and on the one hand I am loving it (really rewarding gameplay and, of course, a visual aesthetic that screenshots just don't do justice to) but I find myself impatiently trying to skip through the dialogue in order to continue on in the game. As a developer, I want to explore the story Clover developed, but as a gamer I find myself wanting to skip ahead to the next sequence where I get to heal the world. It is difficult to reconcile the two (and no, before you ask, the writing in Okami isn't bad, so I can't lay the blame there).
What are the games that draw you in with the narrative and story and make you stop and think, but still keep you itching to jump back into the action and play all the way through to the end?