You take games too seriously.

Gore Verbinski Announces The Weatherman – The MMO

The Weather Man

Or not. But the Nic Cage bowfighting mini-game (pull out your Wii Zappers, kids, it’s time for a metaphor) is too good not to imagine.

No, Gore Verbinski is talking more about his newfound love of videogames, as evidenced by his keynote speech at DICE last month, and now his words in the LA Times, which quotes him as saying:

The initial response is that gaming needs good writing. I’ve heard that. They need screenwriters. Well, hold on a second. Before you jump to that conclusion, I don’t want to impose cinema’s narrative onto a completely different medium. I think that’s naive. The fact that the player is also the audience means you shouldn’t be imposing a scenario where the audience is passive. Don’t put those rules onto gaming. So out of that came in my mind new forms of narrative. I said, “Well, wait a minute, what if there is zero narrative?”

Well, what if?

Zero narrative, it seems to me, has two possible forms. The first is a removal of nearly everything but the play mechanics. The title that Verbinski gets most excited about here is Beautiful Katamari, but this back-to-basics movement has a lot of supporters in this day and age. Think about the indie scene – are you really going to give a fuck why Fez is jumping up and down? I doubt it, and I’d honestly be a little disappointed if it asked me to invest much in its story. I like the way it looks, and I like platforming puzzles. That’s enough to sustain my interest for a few hours.

The exception, though, is Portal, which could have easily been left as just a series of puzzles off the portal mechanic – hell, that’s the solid Flash version in a nutshell – but was elevated to the phenomenon it’s proved to be through a script that was a little funny, a little scary, and unlike anything else you’ve heard in a game.

The other option for zero narrative, though, is what Verbinski seems to be angling in on – he says in the interview about his dream Pirates of the Caribbean project being:

A MMOG [massively multiplayer online game] where you can dress up as a pirate. You can have a social network where you meet other pirates, and maybe three days in, you meet Jack Sparrow. Maybe you have to sell your soul to the devil to get to this level or that. Let the players write and create it. Let them evolve it.

This goes along with Molyneux’s Fable 2 plans – where the players make their own stories, and, as we can only imagine – fuck everything up.

 If left to our own devices, how many of us are going to want to create the whole narrative? Do we want our friends and neighbors pretending to be pirates (or failing miserably at it, or deliberately subverting it) to be the sole story mechanism?

For my money, console gaming hell is other people. Call it a lack of respect for the gaming public if you wish – but these assholes will destroy any mechanic in their way out of a desire to win – or, in an MMO’s case, just level-grind – and will do whatever juvenile antics amuse them on the way there. You want a lack of narrative? Give me a new mechanic, or you’re only giving me Second Life in pirate suits.


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this is a blog about video games by chris plante, sam ryan and chris littler.

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