• "Many deep, sophisticated emotions can emerge from those three plots. But they should emerge in the experience, in the actions the players take, in the reactions they receive, in gestures and decisions and deaths and tasks and achieving or failing to achieve a goal. They should not emerge from people sitting around talking to each other in a cartoon." Chris Dahlen on post-GDC09 narrative.
  • "This project, shot on 4"x5" film, documents London's remaining professional darkrooms. It is based on my nostalgia for a dying craft (there are no young printers). It is in these rooms that printers have worked their magic, distilling the works of photographers such as David Bailey, Anton Corbijn and Nick Knight into a recognisable 'look'. I have lit these often-gloomy spaces to reveal the beauty of the machinery; enlargers are masterpieces of industrial design. And I have sought to shed light on the surrounding personal workspaces (snapshots of family members, souvenirs from globetrotting photographers, guidebooks to Photoshop, out-takes from glamour shoots, lists of unpaid invoices)." Gorgeous.

Africa Wins Again: Far Cry 2′s literary approach to narrative

22 December 2008

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Far Cry 2 is a difficult game to write about; difficult because it’s an experience that doesn’t coalesce in individual moments or fragments. Whilst there are many memorable moments I can point to – the dynamic, emergent gunfights that characterise the gameplay, the starkness of the major plot beats – it is the player’s overall experience of the game that is its greatest strength.

And isn’t that how things should be? For a game that revels in the open world that it’s set in – a fictitious African country that covers desert and mountain, swamps and savannah – it only seems appropriate that it be a game about the impact of a world on a character, rather than that character’s interactions with the world. Far Cry 2 takes the mechanics of its open-world shooting experience, and works out how to wrap them into a much larger narrative without losing the coherence of the player’s actions.

Far Cry’s references to Conrad (and, in particular, Heart of Darkness) are well-documented already, but I think to focus on the words used, the plot the game follows and the references within the game so explicitly isn’t necessarily useful. What struck me was not the game’s similarity to Conrad; it its much broader, deeper appropriation of literary techniques – whilst using them in an inherently gamelike manner – as a way to tell stories.

(Before we go on: there are likely to be what you might call “spoilers” ahead, so there’s a break in the text for those of you viewing on the web. I don’t see how we can talk meaningfully about this game without talking about specifics, so if you’ve not finished it and really care about this kind of thing, look away now.)

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