Wednesday, February 4, 2009

My, Haven't We Come a Long Way?

I just beat Eternal Sonata, and now the credits are rolling and all the characters are judging and patronizing me :(. AND OH GOD NOW THERE IS A FUCKING SNAIL TALKING TO A CATERPILLAR AFTER THE CREDITS ROLLED.

Without spoiling too much, an important character turned on the rest of my party, becoming the final boss for no believable reason. Then another character kills them self for no believable reason (though it is foreshadowed), then the credits roll with random party characters telling me I shouldn't give up until the end or something. This is after a good 24 hours of typical RPG narrative nonsense where for some reason I end up with a dozen characters in my party that decided they had no lives and desired to follow my group around. Cait Sith Syndrome, if you will. In the basest sense, I feel I can explain "why" characters chose to do what they did and why the story followed the path that it did, but I just didn't "feel" it. I didn't "feel" that my party would so readily turn on a long time ally just because he said "lol Let's Fight!" I didn't "feel" sorrow that one character commits suicide while another one lets her monologue for several minutes, asking afterwards what he could have done to save her. I am getting a similar feeling that I got at the end of Braid, a game which, for some reason unsatisfied with being an exemplar of the interactive arts via its mechanics, had to pull a narrative switcheroo by "not really being about what you think it's about" in the end. I know I know, "art" and all that jazz, but art is allowed to be critiqued, and, feeling as if I've somehow "missed" something in Eternal Sonata (ugh), I can't say that the ending is all that satisfying to me. I suppose that an ambiguous ending, or an ending where there is a deeper meaning to "get" can cause some water cooler/forum discussions that extend the life of your game past its ending, but is that really the best way to extend the life of an interactive experience? Via tricks of the linear narrative trade?

Eternal Sonata is a fantastically beautiful game visually and aurally, and it even has an innovative combat system and faster-than-usual progression for those of us who don't want to commit 50-70 hours to beat an RPG. Thus I am a little disappointed that, while captivating enough for me to put over 20 hours into beating (which is more than I can say for many video games nowadays), I found myself lacking emotions, empathy, and understanding of the characters' motives for most of the game.

I guess games have matured? I mean, I'm thankful that modern games give me a narrative drive extending beyond being a bad enough dude to save the president from ninjas, but... do I need that same pseudo-intellectual pretension, that coy "this is our story but this isn't really our story" attitude that filled many a poetry explication in high school Literature classes? Are cheap shots like this taken from old linear forms of media the best way to expand our interactive arts?

If High School Lit is any indication, then soon all of our narrative games will "really" be about masturbation or something. Or has this already happened and I'm not "educated" enough to have noticed?? @_@

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