Today my brother and I talked about the excellent video game Rock Band. This got me thinking about video games in general.
It saddens me that as the industry matured, production costs rose, and risk-taking became more expensive and hence more rare.
It's nice to see breakthrough games like The Sims, DDR, Guitar Hero. I wish there were more games in that vein, and not just reiterations of formulas that worked before. I like seeing a true innovation, and not just an improved graphical effect like hyper-realistic blood splatter pattern on the wall, or having the blood stay around forever even after the avatar leaves the room.
For a time, it seemed as though storylines within games were becoming more advanced. I was very excited about this. There were ARGs with interesting plots, and in-game cut scenes were getting longer with witty dialogue. Alas, that trend never really came to be.
My favorite video game of all time embodes a great story: Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within.
It's a beautiful game with full-motion video. You solve puzzles to help Gabriel Knight hunt down a werewolf. Halfway through, he gets bitten, so you race against the clock to find a cure.
Gabriel has a lady friend. As he weakens from his condition, she takes over portions of the game. There's romantic tension, but they stay platonic friends. It's so nice to see a video game where the male lead and female lead do not hook up!
Along the way, you learn interesting facts about the history of werewolves. The acting is pretty good too.
The way I encountered this game was by accident. During my senior year of college, I was fortunate enough to have a job offer from Blizzard. As enticement, Blizzard gave me a few T-shirts, and a Starcraft beta pre-release CD. "This will make you the most popular person at your school," they said.
How indisputable. People borrowed my Starcraft CD day in and day out. My friend Victor took it for an entire week. After much nagging from me, he finally presented me with a nice gift-wrapped box.
"You wrapped my Starcraft CD?" I said, amused.
I opened it and was puzzled to find a box for The Beast Within. "Ah, he must have recycled an old software box," I said to myself, "For easier gift-wrapping."
Then I reached in the box and pulled out the Gabriel Knight CD. It dawned on me that Victor did this to stall for time.
So I played the game, and it turned out to be wonderful! I was completely hooked. I let Victor keep the Starcraft beta for another week without any further complaint. Instead, I was full of praise for his kindness in giving me the Gabriel Knight game.
I think he was pretty shocked. He later told me that he felt guilty for my grateful reaction to his gag gift. But the game was so good!
Will the world ever have a full-motion video game again with great acting and a compelling story?
I miss you, Gabriel Knight 2.