Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Post About Saying Something Cheesy

Y'know, sometimes I think writers are so afraid of writing something cheesy, they avoid any deep emotional conflict whatsoever.

Having a character confess that they love another character is a pretty dramatic event. Often I'll hear writers say they're "uncomfortable" with writing something that emotionally naked, saying "it'll come off as cheesy". So instead of writing a story that should end with a love confession, they write a story that ends with the two characters waiting in line at Starbucks.

"See, it's more realistic!" they'll say. I disagree. I've been around the emotional block, and love, hate, compassion and pity - all those "cheesy" feelings that writers often skirt around - are so present in everyday life. Every day, someone gets their heart broken, or someone falls in love. Why should those events, quite realistic themselves, be "less believable" than people waiting in line at Starbucks?

I feel the difference is the emotional commitment the writer is asking their audience to make to the story/game. Video games have never been marketed for their "extreme emotional commitment" until relatively recently with certain games (FFX made me cry like a baby, just saying.) Some game makers might say that inserting a deep, heart-wrenching story in a game is a mistake. After all, a player buys a game to play a game, not sob in front of their TV, right? It's an activity meant strictly for entertainment.

I disagree. All the best games I can think of at this moment (Shadow of the Colossus, FFX, Prince of Persia 2008) have all asked for some emotional commitment out of the player by presenting very real and very tragic relationships. I can talk about those games for YEARS, play them over and over again, picking apart their great story-telling every single time. You'll never hear me talk that way about Tetris or Pac-Man.

If you want your game to be memorable, make it memorable. If you want your game to be as memorable as waiting in line at Starbucks, then have them wait in line at Starbucks. But be honest with me. Which of the following stories interests you more?

A.) "So I really wanted a latte, so I waited in line at Starbucks, then I got my latte."

B.) "So I really wanted a latte, so I waited in line at Starbucks, but when I got to the counter to place my order, my ex-girlfriend, Lily, walked in the door, texting fervidly on her cell phone and quietly crying to herself."

Seriously. Which do you want to keep reading? The one where nothing happens, or the one where the characters might actually talk about something important?

So when approaching game-making, I encourage developers to tell the story they want to tell, and not be afraid of "saying something cheesy". I'd much rather play a game with broken hearts and emotional triumphs than eighty levels of Tetris.

1 comment:

  1. Balancing story and gameplay has always been an ongoing challenge for me. As I've written more games I've written less and less dialog. Or rather, I give the characters more exchanges but each exchange is short and punchy. You can achieve much more with much less, I've found. Man, do the characters in the first Blackwell game talk a lot. :)