Monday, April 14, 2008

Pathologic

"A couple of years ago I had an argument with a friend, one of those differences of opinion that leaves you fuming and coming up with witty ripostes for days afterwards. I was saying that a good game doesn’t have to be fun. She was saying that was ridiculous.

My argument, though I botched my explanation at the time, is that games have incredible untapped potential in the field of negative emotions. Just as the lowest common denominator of any art form appeals to ‘positive’ emotions, whether it’s humour, arousal or excitement, so it is that our young games industry is obsessed with the idea of ‘fun’.

I think this is one of the core reasons that the games industry hasn’t had its Casablanca or Citizen Kane- we’re still in the era of musicals and slapstick comedy. No games developer’s going to try and make its audience feel sad, or lonely, or pathetic, at least not for long stretches. You might get games that dip their toes into that water from time to time, but by and large developers are keen to keep you smiling.

But that debate is just a big, ugly thorn bush that I’ve run through too many times already with nothing to show for it. The point is that Pathologic fearlessly wields desperation, brutality, hopelessness, exhaustion, cruelty, even ignorance and pain, and, if you can stomach it, the result is phenomenal."

...from a three part overview of the Russian FPS/RPG Pathologic by a man clearly obsessed with said game.

6 comments:

-b-o-b- said...

so... like a "the Mist" video game.



GTA4 > All

bob.

Pete said...

I've employed fear, frustration, and angst in my own games, but not entirely on purpose. I've been told that my game design reflects my own grim outlook. :-)

Mr. Alex said...

I've been told that my game design reflects my own grim outlook. :-)

Yeah, I thought you might get a kick out of this one, Pete ;-) That said, read this guy's write ups when you get the chance. Very interesting stuff...

I remember reading something once about "evil being the child of desperation", a theme which it sounds like Pathologic captures very well...

Ironically, I think I read this statement used to describe Bioshock in the PR run-up to its release. Read: Bioshock failed as a "game of moral choices and desperation" that its Devs seemed to sooo want it to be. It was a wonderful set piece, but not a wonderful game. System Shock III 4 reelz tnx plz kthxbye!!!

Don Jason said...

It is not the design that is grim and frustrating in your games Pete, it is the game mechanics. It`s the precise mathematics that measure, clarify, and then accelerate one's profound failure at "winning Nintendo D&D" to quote some fellow game testers. It`s the numbers, man!

Pete said...

You're complaint regarding the experience penalty has been submitted to the appropriate departments.

Have a nice day.

Pete said...

I have a new plan regarding character death, risk/reward, etc. I'll share it with you sometime.