The games that made me a gamer - Part III - Narrative

Up until this point, all the games I've played I did so for the gameplay, I didn't care about the story / narrative. But that was about to change.

The games that made me a gamer - Part III - Narrative

Up until this point, all the games I've played I did so for the gameplay, I didn't care about the story / narrative. Partly because at this time (mid to late 90s) my English skills weren't on the level to even understand a complex narrative. So I was basically oblivious to the narrative even in games that had them.

The Legend of Kyrandia

But I was also of the mindset that cutscenes were stupid. My sentiment was:

I don't want to watch the game play itself, I want to play the game!

It's hard to pinpoint what game won me over to the side of narrative driven games. I think interactive movies had a big role in this, as they were a cross between a game and a movie. And at the time the feat of showing FMV (Full Motion Video - for you younglings) was a technical feat that left our jaws on the floor. The first game with FMV cutscenes I saw was Wing Commander III, sadly I never got to play it, as I could not afford to purchase it at the time. So the first fully narrative driven game I played was to be Wing Commander IV, which I purchased at a computer fair in 1997 at a big discount.

Wing Commander IV

Still it was more the novelty of the FMV that made me fascinated with the game, on the whole I still preferred in medias res games over ones with long cutscenes and conversations with NPCs.

So what changed me? It was two particular games to be precise, that came out within one year of each other. The first game in which I actually remember enjoying the narrative was System Shock II. It was a huge game changer. Or game game changer? I remember to this day thinking:

Hm, that's very strange attitude

when Polito said:

Why are you moving so slowly?

While I was busting my balls in hydrophonics trying to clear the elevator shaft to get up to the command deck. And then it all suddenly made perfect sense.

System Shock II

It was a huge moment for me, as you can see, one that stuck with me for 20 years now and counting. But while one moment of this game stuck with me, the other game I eluded to stuck with me in its entirety. And to this day I believe it is the best videogame ever created. One that I'd make mandatory learning to every game designer. I'd tell them that they are only allowed to do better than this game.

If it is not obvious already, the game I'm referring to is Deus Ex. The game that proves that you don't have to be open world to allow seamless player choice. And you don't have to be open world to have replayability. For Deus Ex could and did surprise me even after I finished it a dozen times and thought I knew everything about it.

Deus Ex

So from this point forward I was actively seeking out games with a narrative. I could never be satisfied by gameplay alone ever again. So in a way Deus Ex changed me, it raised the bar. Which can be a good and a bad thing. I've became much harder to please, so less games meet the bar, but also I enjoy games on a much higher level.

And there is only one more step left in my evolution as a gamer, the embracing of RPGs. While System Shock and DeusEx both incorporated RPG elements they weren't actual role playing games.  But that's a story for another day.