You take games too seriously.

GTA IV’s Brucie Kibbutz, the Man Behind the Curtain

If you haven’t had time to pop in your fresh copy of GTA IV and don’t want a single blood-spattered moment ruined for you, don’t read further. Though this article won’t go deep into the plot or contain any major spoilers, I will be talking almost exclusively about a character encountered a good two hours into the game. You’ve been warned.

At first, I had trouble connecting with GTA IV’s narrative. A few months ago, I saw Ken Levine speak about Bioshock, and he stated that designers must consider that the majority of buyers are meatheads who want to fire first and get story later. He may be right, because I couldn’t help it, but feel that the guns and guts weren’t coming soon enough. After a half-hour, I Googled “GTA IV cheats” to find the weapons, health, and spawn codes.

Then, for another half an hour or so, I went on a massacre across greater Liberty City—helicopter duels at the statue of liberty, grenade tosses on the highway, and, a new favorite, rocket-jumps off the Empire State Building.

With that out of my system, I returned to the campaign’s narrative, and have since been able to enjoy the game at a leisurely pace, even undertaking the wide variety of side-missions with my dealer, Little Jacob, my cousin, Roman, and my girlfriend, Michelle. Yeah, we’re so dating.

When I drunkenly drove Michelle to her house after drinks at Steinway Beer Garden, she announced we were an item. She then flew out the passenger window as the vehicle careened into the tale of an ice cream truck.

A similar event happened, again out of the blue, when I met a peculiar, wealthy man roaming the streets. I walked up to him, and the game entered a cinematic where he criticized my European heritage, then flattered himself by forking over a fresh one hundred dollar bill. Strapped on cash and in desperate need of health, I gladly took it. Then, as a symbol of true good fortune, I spotted a hotdog stand across the street—two steps forward and a garbage truck blindsided me.

What I’m getting at is GTA IV’s narratives, intentional or unintentional, are dark and brutal.

That’s why Brucie Kibbutz is both a breath of fresh air, and, for me, the cherry-on-top of a carefully crafted story sundae. Brucie’s a steroid-popping, car-thieving maniac. As a cliché, a stock version of the same character would play a lot like Biff. Instead, he’s highly likable and surprisingly wise, all because of one well chosen character trait: Brucie’s impenetrable confidence both in his existence and his role in Liberty City. He’s a dude. He’s a ‘roider. He’s a racer. And he’s definitely “alpha.”

But best of all, those labels are never a problem for Brucie, because he’s always the first to identify himself. He’s resolute and so is his image.

How Brucie Kibbutz pulls back the curtain of GTA IV’s mechanical world after the jump…

Read the rest of this entry »


Filed under: Commentary, Story Analysis, The Save Files, , , ,

Aristotle’s Super Poetics Bros.

Mario Aristotle Poetics

In theater, film, and television writing, authors rely on the power of dramatic forms to shape their work. A blank page intimidates the writer, likes an empty ocean before a doomed sailor. Forms provide the tools, methods, and successful examples to put your awesome work to page, and ideally, get it on a screen.

The videogame is a new medium, and unlike theater, which has had centuries to develop, it lacks established forms. Many designers and scholars have written guides and manuals to game structure, but most of these books rely on genre, a tool devised to delineate audiences for marketing games, not for game craftsmanship. As writers and avid fans, HardCasual will participate in game forms analysis in a bi-monthly column titled “The Save Files.”

Little debate went into the topic for the first “Save File.” Aristotle’s Poetics is recognized as the guide to popular drama. Utilized by every major sitcom and blockbuster picture, to some screenwriters it’s a tool, to others, a Bible. Today, FPS’s use the form to tell epic, Hollywood stories, but it was in 1985, when one mustachioed hero first jumped, fireballed, and plumbed, that the form reached gaming stardom.

To understand Super Mario Bros.’s play mechanics is to understand the Aristotelian form; yet, games offer an interactivity unfamiliar to previous mediums. Below, the affects of SMB’s interactivity on and relation to the five parts of the Aristotelian form are broken down in three ways: the literal, Mario’s actual action; the traditional, Aristotle’s definition of the action; and the game factor, how the game either subverts, modifies, or expands Aristotle’s method.

The Aristotelian Form in 5 Parts:


Mario Aristotle Poetics

a.) Inciting Incident:

The Literal: Mario sees a pile of rocks. He cannot turn around. He climbs.

The Traditional: The player is often allowed a brief moment to absorb their surroundings before they are forced to progress. In SMB, the inciting incident is simple: a Goomba. The player must either evade or jump on the Goomba to survive.

The Game Factor: SMB forces the character forward via an invisible wall. As the player progresses, the wall, a constant few paces behind Mario, restricts the player from retracing any ill-chosen footsteps. It’s great for adding action, and sucks for catching 1Ups off a bad bounce.

b.) Rising Action:

The Literal: Mario hops from rock to rock, avoiding potential enemies and gaps.

The Traditional: As the level progresses, enemies’ and obstacles’ difficulty increases. The player receives a sense of accomplishment as they stomp Koopa-Troopas and explore dangerous pipes.

The Game Factor: In other narrative mediums, the character often learns one lesson, and applies it to his next trial. Videogames force the player to continually learn and fail and learn and fail against a single enemy. A SMB novice may take a few lives to stomp their first Goomba. They may then encounter an enemy that requires a different method to avoid or defeat. Each enemy teaches the player a lesson and requires that lesson’s application, thus each enemy represents its own miniature rising action.

This will be discussed further through Aristotle’s Tri-Partite Structure. Likewise, it will include an equally adorable handmade diagram.

The Climax, a diagram, and Mario’s Tri-Partite Structure in Tri-Parts After the Jump… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Commentary, Story Analysis, The Save Files, , , , , , ,

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