Friday, November 20, 2009

Authoral Gaming, Part 2

So I mailed Uncharted 2: Among Thieves back to Gamefly (it's like Netflix for games) the other day.

There was a point during my rental that I thought I might try to acquire the Uncharted 2's "Platinum Trophy," the highest accolade available on any Playstation 3 game. Platinum Trophies are the award for getting all other trophies, a special prize reserved for those players that don't just beat the game, but master it to the level of mockery.

Course then I came to my senses.

See, I follow a simple rule for playing video games, really for consuming any form of entertainment: When I stop enjoying the experience, I walk away. Never burn yourself out on something that you don't like, even if you feel like you SHOULD like it or because you feel obligated to complete it.

With Uncharted 2, I enjoyed playing through the game, for sure. In fact I loved every minute of it. I even enjoyed hunting down some of the more difficult "silver" and "gold" trophies.

I DID NOT enjoy attempting the trophy for beating the game on the highest difficulty. I did not enjoy that at all. And the reason I didn't enjoy it goes back to the authorial aspect of games.

Even though Nathan Drake, the main character in Uncharted, is a firmly established "action movie hero" character, the player still has a lot of authorial room to work with while taking on that role.

-Does Drake stick to the plentiful automatic rifles? Or is he more of a skirmisher, using shotguns and rushing his enemies?

-Does Drake go into a situation carefully, sneaking around and using stealth take-downs? Or does he toss a grenade out as his opening move?

-Does Drake spend lots of time searching out every hidden treasure in an area?* Or is he just looking for the next challenge?

And the brilliant bit about Uncharted's storytelling is that all of these options are compltely reasonable for the character. When I play, I blind-fire from cover all the time, use grenades as a distraction while I change position, and frequently run-and-gun an advancing enemy. But watching a friend play through the game, I never felt strange watching him scope out an area so he could take out several enemies with stealth, then find a long-range position where he could pick off the remaining baddies with his pistol.

There's enough room in Drake's character for all these options to be reasonable, and enough leeway in the game mechanics to allow all of them to be successful.

. . . Unless you turn up the difficulty. "Crushing mode" limits your options while playing the character. I simply can't jump out of cover to bring down an enemy. I can't even change position very often because I'd be cut down too quickly.

Doesn't that make the game more realistic? Sure.

But I'm not in this for a combat-simulator. I'm in it for a narrative experience that I get to take part in, and that experience gets broken when I have to play the character a certain way.

*Because I guess some people author their character as a severe obsessive-compulsive.

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