Narrative Games in Fanfare March 2, 2017 11:25 AM   Subscribe

As discussed in this Fanfare Talk post, there are some heavily narrative games that would benefit from Fanfare discussion. The rationale is that release threads on the Blue aren't really appropriate, because of the spoiler content, and (in terms of format) these games are similar to movies, shows, and books, in the way that discussion revolves much more around the plot and characters rather than game mechanics. I understand the reluctance to expand Fanfare any more than its current scope, but I think it's worth having the conversation about narrative games as an exception.

I propose that a test case might be Night in the Woods, which I think would lend itself to rich discussion, but couldn't be approached without heavy spoilers.
posted by codacorolla to Etiquette/Policy at 11:25 AM (19 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Quickie thoughts on this:

1. I like the idea! But I like the idea of opening up FanFare to video games more generally, which has been on the todo list for a long time but we've had a string of other priorities.

2. Like you say, we don't have an "expand FanFare" plan high on the docket—revamping the front page of it remains our main priority there and even that won't be just yet since we've got other site stuff that needs our limited dev attention right now—and so that's not a surprise pony I can unstable at the moment.

But, so, yes: I don't think we have a well-structured solution for this right now, since we're not going to shoe-horn in a Video Games category or a Narrative Games sub-niche or whatnot and so there's nothing completely appropriate to classify it in as. But I'm not against some self-organizing experimentation. Maybe start up a Narrative Games Club and make a Club Talk post for Night in the Woods?
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:29 AM on March 2, 2017

That's a good idea, Cortex. It would also give me an excuse to play / replay some classics. I had considered it, but didn't want to try it as a back door to discussion before consulting the mods.
posted by codacorolla at 11:35 AM on March 2, 2017

We were literally just talking about this on the podcast on Wednesday! I think it's a great idea to try working it in somehow. I bet there's a lot of other people Intersted in the idea.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 11:51 AM on March 2, 2017

Sorry if this is a dumb question, but what exactly makes a game a "narrative game"? Railroady-ness (plot with few branches)? Consistent theme and atmosphere? Focus on storytelling?
posted by rikschell at 11:52 AM on March 2, 2017

I would say that a narrative game is a game where the focus is on telling a specific story, rather than a focus on competition against player or engine at a particular skill. Sometimes they have linear (railroady) plots, sometimes no. Consistent theme and atmosphere are certainly an aspect of most games in the genre, but I don't know if that's necessarily a requirement. If there was a club, then I'd also be inclined to include Interactive Fiction and Twine experiences in the mix, although those devs might not be inclined to categorize their work necessarily as a "game".
posted by codacorolla at 11:57 AM on March 2, 2017

rickschell: Personally I'd say that any game where discussion would involve things other than the basic gameplay would be worth inclusion, with a lean towards permissiveness over hard-line categorical denials. Interactive fiction and highly story-centric games are an obvious inclusion, but I could definitely see good discussion being had about things like Titanfall 2's story mode even.

Two things I'm not 100% about, though: Games where interesting story content is outside the scope of regular gameplay like Overwatch or Team Fortress 2; and ARGs (or games with ARGs) like Portal 2, Frog Fractions 2, or the Battlefield series. I think both categories could work very well as Fanfare posts, but I'm not sure if other people might think it's stretching the boundaries of what Fanfare is currently considered to be.
posted by flatluigi at 1:10 PM on March 2, 2017

Repeating myself from over there, I think there's some potential for discussion of games with interesting narratives, as there are games with more story than some TV Shows or movies.
posted by lmfsilva at 1:24 PM on March 2, 2017

So it seems like there's at least some interest in a club. With a game that can take ~10 hours to play, I'm not sure how that works. Monthly, I guess? Night in the Woods seems like a decent test-case, although it's also new and $20 dollars, so maybe go with something cheap/free and more widely known?
posted by codacorolla at 1:25 PM on March 2, 2017

Life is Strange would be so perfect for this.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 4:38 PM on March 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

I would prefer older games as well--not necessarily ancient, but not just a few months old. They'd be cheaper, easier to run on older hardware (and hence more accessible) and I may have played it--the odds of finishing 40+ hours of gameplay within a couple months of release are vanishingly small for me these days. (I still play in binges, they just come fewer and further between.)

The being said I'd only be likely to join maybe 10% of the conversations so I'm no the one to cater to.
posted by mark k at 8:38 PM on March 2, 2017

I was about to recommend Read Only Memories as an older, cheaper game, but it looks like it's also currently 20$. So at least it's older? I presume I got it on sale or something, which is why I'd remember it as cheaper.

Lost Constellation is cheaper and shorter, and made by the same people as Night in the Woods.

Gone Home is also currently 20$ but again, I got it on sale or in a bundle. I think it's fairly well-known, as these things go.

80 Days is only 10$ but then there's enough branching that you play it and I play it, we won't necessarily get the same story because we traveled through different cities.

One Night Stand is only a couple dollars and pretty short. ( I haven't tried it, I'm just browsing Steam for things I've heard of right now. )
posted by RobotHero at 9:39 PM on March 2, 2017

Oh, I was wondering about this earlier! I was interested in seeing if anyone wanted to read through Umineko no Naku Koro ni, a series of visual novels that's sort of a mind-bending cross between and reexamination of mystery, fantasy, and romance, and has really catchy music. They have no interactivity at all, so apart from the medium, the biggest logistical challenge in getting it to work on Fanfare would be the length of each episode (maybe 10-20 hours depending on how fast you read).
posted by J.K. Seazer at 12:39 AM on March 3, 2017

I don't know if a club as the only solution would actually work out that well compared to just regular Fanfare entries. A club seems to imply only being able to talk about one game at a time and needing to play through all of it in a single timeframe -- something that I think works alright for books and movies but not so much for games, in my opinion.

There's a much bigger time investment for games nowadays, and a game like Night in the Woods, Firewatch, or Gone Home that's shorter and impactful is an obvious choice where a game like Watch_Dogs 2, Zelda: Breath of the Wild, or The Witcher 3 might be way too long for a club pick but could easily engender as much interesting discussion. It also obviates things like ARGs that I thought above might be a good fit for a fanfare post, as they're an easy analogue to event-type simultaneous watching that Fanfare has already been solidly used for.
posted by flatluigi at 10:16 AM on March 4, 2017

Yeah, to be clear, I don't mean "make a book club but for games" so much as "use the Club structure as an organizing principle for this doesn't-really-exist-yet media category", but I didn't really expand on that. The basic thought I have is: just go for it however works ad hoc and let's see how it goes for people.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:25 AM on March 4, 2017

That seems like a good idea. I'd like to do the narrative heavy game club. I'll make a voting post today.
posted by codacorolla at 12:25 PM on March 4, 2017

Planning thread is up here. For what it's worth, I'm happy to participate in other game clubs that people would be interested in running.
posted by codacorolla at 1:41 PM on March 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hi everyone: We're going with Gone Home, and I'll put up the first club thread on Fanfare next week (the 15th).
posted by codacorolla at 2:15 PM on March 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

What a coincidence! I just started playing that last night.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 3:19 PM on March 8, 2017

I've put up the Gone Home post here.
posted by RobotHero at 9:34 AM on March 19, 2017

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