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Opinion Game Dev The Last of Us director Bruce Straley on ludonarrative dissonance.

IbizaPocholo

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ibiza

The Uncharted series may be a multi-award winning, best-selling franchise, but it has always struggled to escape criticism targeted around ludonarrative dissonance. Nathan Drake seems like a generally decent guy, but he's also killed thousands of people, and appears to be largely unbothered by that fact.

For most fans this isn't an issue, and it doesn't necessarily have to be. But in pursuit of making better games, the reconciliation of this dissonance will allow developers to craft more rewarding experiences; it's an artistic endeavour, rather than a technical one.

It's a problem which former Naughty Dog game director Bruce Straley noted when leading development on Uncharted 2, and something he says was solved with The Last of Us.

"Nathan Drake is an action adventurer, but the threat is a video game threat," Straley told GamesIndustry.biz at the Fun & Serious Game Festival in Bilbao, Spain. "Its main antagonist gets to throw his minions at you so that you can overcome the obstacles to get to the treasure... That being said, whether it be a puzzle game or a shooter, you have to have interesting core mechanics to keep the player invested. That's our problem as designers: in 2007, that's where the industry was, that's where we were. We didn't necessarily have the wherewithal, the clarity so to speak, that we do now."

Check the link for more.
 

Danjin44

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This why back then Yako Taro made character like Caim.

People who kill thousands are no longer sane.
 

Whitesnake

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This has the same beat as that shite PC Gamer article that was like “it’s awful that you have to hunt monsters in Monster Hunter”.

Fuck off, I don’t care your personal moral quandaries with killing shit, let video games be fun.

Personally haven’t played Uncharted or Last of Us, but between the two, Uncharted looks way more fun.

Also LOL at that “protagonists with a voice were new” bullshit. Straight-up revisionist history.
 

Herr Edgy

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This has the same beat as that shite PC Gamer article that was like “it’s awful that you have to hunt monsters in Monster Hunter”.

Fuck off, I don’t care your personal moral quandaries with killing shit, let video games be fun.

Personally haven’t played Uncharted or Last of Us, but between the two, Uncharted looks way more fun.

Also LOL at that “protagonists with a voice were new” bullshit. Straight-up revisionist history.
You are confusing things. In Monster Hunter the setting is you being a hunter. Hunting monsters fits both gameplay and story. The article you are thinking of is questioning the ethics behind that in general.
With Uncharted, the story is being a treasure hunter - not being a sociopathic killer. You have gameplay that doesn't match the story. There is no ethical questioning going on here.
 
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WTF is ludonarrative dissonance?

It sounds like a board game with a story for posh twats

Ludonarrative dissonance is the conflict between a video game's narrative told through the story and the narrative told through the gameplay. Ludonarrative, a compound of ludology and narrative, refers to the intersection in a video game of ludic elements (gameplay) and narrative elements.
 

Whitesnake

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You are confusing things. In Monster Hunter the setting is you being a hunter. Hunting monsters fits both gameplay and story. The article you are thinking of is questioning the ethics behind that in general.
With Uncharted, the story is being a treasure hunter - not being a sociopathic killer. You have gameplay that doesn't match the story. There is no ethical questioning going on here.

Pretty sure you kill them because they’re trying to kill you because you’re trying to get that treasure, yes?

Unless you’re telling me guys with guns always show up out of nowhere with no justification and Nathan Drake decides to shoot them for no reason?

The narrative provides enough justification. If every character who killed people in a video game became a PTSD-addled self-pitying trainwreck then video games would be shit. That’s why it’s fiction
 

kaworid

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In a weird way this is now a movie thing too at least for me.. john wick while being short of being Terminator 1&2 awesome action movies... it just feels fucking weird and even a bit disgusting with just how many people the dude kills lol
 
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Clear

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Honestly, this whole argument is so arrantly stupid I feel like slapping people who argue it.

Its about genre. period.

In most action movies the hero/heroine isn't traumatized or troubled by the amount of death and mayhem they cause, because the promise made by the genre is to provide action and excitement to the audience, not to beat them over the head with dire consequences.

I'm sorry its like watching porn and complaining that you don't get to see the performers being checked for STD's at the end, or worrying what their friends and family think about their life choices!

In interactive entertainment, gameplay defines genre even more so then film. Because games are built on repetitive core-loops which continuously define and reinforce the type of experience on offer. But that should not need to restrict the tone and character of the story/scenario/overall fiction.
 
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This is why Kratos (the original one made more sense in therms of narrative)... The guy is clearly uninged.

But I enjoy the easy going nature of Drake, the banter, and I feel that in uts own videogame c9ntext it "makes sense", but I can see how a writer would want to push in a different direction.
 
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Herr Edgy

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Pretty sure you kill them because they’re trying to kill you because you’re trying to get that treasure, yes?

Unless you’re telling me guys with guns always show up out of nowhere with no justification and Nathan Drake decides to shoot them for no reason?

The narrative provides enough justification. If every character who killed people in a video game became a PTSD-addled self-pitying trainwreck then video games would be shit. That’s why it’s fiction
The thing is that it doesn't really matter to the story that he ends up killing many, many people. And that's where the dissonance comes in. Sure, I agree that it doesn't need to be the focus - or that it is necessarily a huge problem to be fixed. But to overall quality, making things make more sense is something good. It's a matter of "how can we improve things", not "how can we make things not suck".
 
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Humdinger

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Honestly, this whole argument is so arrantly stupid I feel like slapping people who argue it.

Its about genre. period.

In most action movies the hero/heroine isn't traumatized or troubled by the amount of death and mayhem they cause, because the promise made by the genre is to provide action and excitement to the audience, not to beat them over the head with dire consequences.

Exactly. And it's not true of just movies and games; it's true of books and comics as well. This is escapist entertainment designed to be light and enjoyable. Plowing through bad guys while making wisecracks is part of the fun.
 

Fbh

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I never thought there was much of a ludonarrative dissonance in Uncharted. What the game presents itself as during cutscenes: a fun, lighthearted and over the top treasure hunt adventure inspired by Indiana Jones, is fairly well reflected during the gameplay.



It's not like the rest of the movie after this scene is Indie going to therapy to overcome the trauma of having shot someone as well as fighting the legal consequences of firing a bullet in an area surrounded by innocent bystanders.



I really hate this notion that Drake is a mass murder and somehow there is a ludonarratice dissonance.

The bad guys are trying to kill him. If he adopted the Batman rule of no killing, Drake would have been dead on the boat in UC1.

I think the argument some people make is that even if its self defence, killing hundreds of people should have an effect.

Which to me is just stupid. It's a fun treasure hunt adventure game going for a movie blockbuster feeling. It's not some deep character study and at no point does it present itself as trying to be realistic or grounded in reality. If people have a problem with Drake not having a psychological breakdown from all the killing then they might as well complain that he doesn't die after getting shot or doesn't break every bone in his body during every setpiece moment
 
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MAtgS

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I really hate this notion that Drake is a mass murder and somehow there is a ludonarratice dissonance.

The bad guys are trying to kill him. If he adopted the Batman rule of no killing, Drake would have been dead on the boat in UC1.
He could just let the bad guys have the damn treasure. But no, he has to stick his nose in their business, & force them to shoot back. They're the ones with the self-defense claim, not him.
 

xrnzaaas

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It's still better than Drake becoming Batman and pretending that all enemies he defeats in combat end up okay.
 

The Scrivener

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Honestly, this whole argument is so arrantly stupid I feel like slapping people who argue it.

Its about genre. period.

Not saying you're wrong, but I'm trying to understand the term. Isn't it closer to say it is trying to get the gameplay to fit the story, not vice-versa, so that it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb? It's a technique to get the gameplay to feel smoother and play better.

For example, the final scene in Life is Strange 1 was a straight up stealth videogame puzzle that came out of the blue and didn't sit well with me but Life is Strange 2 fixed that and the puzzles are far more integrated to the context of what you need to do.

I feel ludonarrative dissonance is more concerned with the gameplay side of the medium, than the storytelling side, no? Am I understanding you? Maybe it's both ways.
 
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Saruhashi

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It's one of the more interesting videogame conversations for me personally.

If Uncharted is just a plain old-school game with no cinematic story and just a brief plot that is really just a coat of paint over tons of action and obstacles and enemies to beat then there is no issue.

It's when the game tries to be more like a movie than a game that you run into this interesting barrier. How can I write my character to be one way in a cutscene but then hand control of that character over to the player and allow them to do various things that might not jive with what we just saw in the "movie" part.

Like trying to fit the square peg of movies into the round hole of videogames. (Phrasing?)

This is why I think I prefer the "silent protagonist" model. Use non-playable characters to tell the story and show off the narrative of the game and the backstory of the world and then the players actions can have weight in the sense that they impact the NPCs without being dissonant.

I think Dishonored had a fairly decent stab at solving the issue also with how they told their story and how the players actions can influence the world.
 

Herr Edgy

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I feel ludonarrative dissonance is more concerned with the gameplay side of the medium, than the storytelling side, no? Am I understanding you? Maybe it's both ways.
It just describes the mismatch between gameplay and story and doesn't suggest what exactly needs to be done to solve it. You can change the story, you can change the gameplay, you can address the issue by creating a make-believe reason and call it a day so you can always refer to that one small dialogue that happened at some point. It's a spectrum. Of course, you can also just not give a sh*t about it.
 
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billyxci

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it's a bloody video game for goodness sake!

most games are sold on how many people you can kill.

the problem is with that lot at Naughty Dog who think they are creating some kind of masterpiece/artwork bullshit. you make games. ok i get it that doesn't make sense that a character kills people during gameplay when the story tells otherwise (call it whatever you want) but it is being taken way too seriously. you're not creating art. you're not rewarding us with shit. it's not an experience. it's a fucking video game. get off your high horse and wake up.
 
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But to overall quality, making things make more sense is something good. It's a matter of "how can we improve things", not "how can we make things not suck".
The thing is that they steered away from the lightheartedness a bit in 4 (or at least made it more questionable in the context of the game), and that certainly did not improve things at all, in fact I believe it did hurt the game quite a lot.
It's not some deep character study and at no point does it present itself as trying to be realistic or grounded in reality.
As you say, not all games/movies should be either... but I often read or ear in these circles "why not take the occasion to teach a lesson, or analyze that subject, etc." obviously this "exploration" is intended to have foregone conclusions when pushed by some representation goal.

How do you re-conciliate the fact that you get extra tips for taking pretty big risks in the Crazy Taxi games and reality? at least some clients should refuse to pay when you almost kill them? What about accidents, shouldn't your client be killed from time to time? Also, wouldn't they want to show the struggle of immigrants by having some clients being mean to you when you pick the black driver? some clients harassing you when you pick the lady driver? What about the police? How come the car don't get damage? Gaz anyone?... Man, that taxi game would suck, but it would probably be more realist.

In fact I think most times you try to fix ludo narrative issues in a game the game aspect of the game is sacrificed to a certain extent... however, this is not to say a game can't be good if it's fairly consistent, I really like The Last of Us, and I see the whole thing as pretty consistent given the world characters are set in and the way the game is played.
He could just let the bad guys have the damn treasure. But no, he has to stick his nose in their business, & force them to shoot back. They're the ones with the self-defense claim, not him.

Maybe Nathan Drake is some sort of fun loving psychopath.

I mean, who is Mario going around killing turtles who are literally just walking around? There must be some animal group telling us how bad it is.

I mean, while we are on the subject of inconsistencies, I though Kratos was wayyyy too sensitive and tolerating of his annoying son in the latest game considering he is a Spartan. I mean, they had a festival where they whipped their own kids in front of a crowd until they could not stand anymore... He is probably too annoying for any parent before very recent times (and still this is not guaranteed he would not end up savagely beaten up now either, some parents are just like that... imagine in a society where this is encouraged).

Kratos is a pretty nice guy now, but this makes no sense, there should have been at least one spanking qte in the latest God of War game.
>when the game forces you to fight to progress but you're actually a good boy
Well, if you are really a nice person you would not play violent games... keep playing Tetris you should be fine, I love Tetris, I just don't find your angle of criticism to be very interesting. If you don't like sci-fi just don't read the books from that section of the library.
 
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The Scrivener

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It just describes the mismatch between gameplay and story and doesn't suggest what exactly needs to be done to solve it. You can change the story, you can change the gameplay, you can address the issue by creating a make-believe reason and call it a day so you can always refer to that one small dialogue that happened at some point. It's a spectrum. Of course, you can also just not give a sh*t about it.

Sure, but it's a descriptive tool for game designers or directors to be aware of and use if they so wish, in order to improve gameplay. Because, if we compare storytelling to films, if you watch say Die Hard or Transformers, the bad guys and people are just fodder, like in Naughty Dog games. Whereas in the films the bad guys get blown up for special effects, in games the bad guys get blown up for points. There's no dissonance there. Surely any ludonarrative dissonance is visible, or felt in the example of gaming, when the function of the game in that moment doesn't match what the player is used to (story and expectation) or what the player has been told to play like (A is jump, B is dash, etc.).

Sorry, didn't mean to engage you on this if you don't care. It's quite a poncy term on face value if looking at shallow videogame narratives, but has a greater effect on the medium of gameplay. It's probably why games are constantly striving to become easier (Valiant Hearts for example, or walking sims as a new genre). There's probably more to this conversation than just Naughty Dog games, and it's probably not just a case of slapping a story on top of a game.

In my defence, I haven't played nearly enough of these AAA shit-narrative games anyway to know what I'm talking about. Alan Wake was good, but that shows my age. I find them cringe inducing levels of writing, generally.
 
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Whitesnake

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The thing is that it doesn't really matter to the story that he ends up killing many, many people. And that's where the dissonance comes in. Sure, I agree that it doesn't need to be the focus - or that it is necessarily a huge problem to be fixed. But to overall quality, making things make more sense is something good. It's a matter of "how can we improve things", not "how can we make things not suck".

I inherently disagree with the assertion that it’s a problem at all.

Most beloved action movies involve some slick guy killing dozens to hundreds of people without any remorse and without any consequence. We accept it because it’s cool.

I don’t see why suspension of disbelief wouldn’t apply to games as well.
 

Herr Edgy

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I inherently disagree with the assertion that it’s a problem at all.

Most beloved action movies involve some slick guy killing dozens to hundreds of people without any remorse and without any consequence. We accept it because it’s cool.

I don’t see why suspension of disbelief wouldn’t apply to games as well.
It does apply, the question is, again, how much? There are things that you can ignore because they don't matter, others you can't. People coming back to life after a dramatic supposed death requires some good explanation and in the best case foreshadowing. Otherwise it's bad storytelling, plain and simple.
I'm arguing that making things make more sense is always a good thing, as opposed to not doing that. It does not imply that you shift focus of the game i.e. Drake does not need to become a crying wuss going to therapy now. But acknowledging things will make it better.

I don't think action flicks are good movies if all they offer me is vfx.
John Wick going on a killing spree because his dog was killed makes more sense than John Wick going on a killing spree because someone ate his snickers.
Narrative elements don't exist in a bubble where anything goes because it's fiction, there are objective measurements, as well as subjective ones.

The argument that it can't be a problem implies that anything goes whenever, whatever and that is just not the case.
In that sense, it's not about calling something a problem in the first place but instead a value-proposition that could be improved.
Like I stated before, it's a spectrum.

Having Mario make a joke to Peach about how he jumps on all the heads of those Goombas and wondering what happened to them will fix the dissonance to some degree and will neither need to change story or gameplay, for example.

EDIT:
The Scrivener The Scrivener No worries. Making games is hard, because it brings together countless fields that require expertise, and a lot of those fields clash.
That's why you get so many different games, ranging from Visual Novels to walking simulators to Naughty Dog games to proper RPGs to RTS games.
A book's story is easier to produce than a game's story because a book can be written by a single person, whereas a game with good production values can not be made by even a small team of people. Every game's design process is different and no game dev has 'the answer' to game production. There are a lot of known factors about what you should not do, but little about how you create a successful new IP.

Comedies tend to not give a shit about inconsistencies in the stories themselves, dramas do. The degree to which those inconsistencies are handles determine, among other factors, quality of the work. It's the same with games, it's just a hugely more difficult task because so many different people are involved and often it's just a matter of budget or tech available, not vision. Some games want to favor story above else, so they care less about gameplay and that is fine. Gameplay is a narrative element in its own however, so making the same game with gameplay that assists the story would be better still. If it's feasible due to restraints is another story (heh).
 
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synchronicity

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This has the same beat as that shite PC Gamer article that was like “it’s awful that you have to hunt monsters in Monster Hunter”.

Fuck off, I don’t care your personal moral quandaries with killing shit, let video games be fun.

Personally haven’t played Uncharted or Last of Us, but between the two, Uncharted looks way more fun.

Also LOL at that “protagonists with a voice were new” bullshit. Straight-up revisionist history.

Yes, for me as well. Games should strive to be fun/engaging above all else. Whatever eggs that have to be cracked in that pursuit, so be it. If you achieve that goal, I'll happily overlook everything else because I'll be drawn in and having a good time. (Not saying that all games need to be the same type of "fun" fwiw.)
 
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Clear

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I feel ludonarrative dissonance is more concerned with the gameplay side of the medium, than the storytelling side, no? Am I understanding you? Maybe it's both ways.

What the term means and how it is commonly used are two separate things.

This excerpt from the wikipedia entry on the subject I think outlines this pretty well:

The term was coined by Clint Hocking, a former creative director at LucasArts (then at Ubisoft), on his blog in October 2007.[2][4] Hocking coined the term in response to the game BioShock, which according to him promotes the theme of self-interest through its gameplay while promoting the opposing theme of selflessness through its narrative, creating a violation of aesthetic distance that often pulls the player out of the game.[4] Jonathan Blow also used BioShock as an example in his 2008 talk.[5] Writer Tom Bissell, in his book Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter (2010), notes the example of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, where a player can all but kill their digital partner during gameplay without upsetting the built-in narrative of the game.[3]

Jeffrey Matulef of Eurogamer used the term when referencing the Uncharted series, saying "Uncharted has often been mocked for being about a supposedly likable rogue who just so happens to recklessly slaughter hundreds of people", and commended developer Naughty Dog for their self-awareness with Uncharted 4: A Thief's End's trophy "Ludonarrative Dissonance", which is awarded to the player for killing 1,000 enemies.[6] In an interview with Naughty Dog's creative director Neil Druckmann (who directed the game alongside Bruce Straley), Glixel's Chris Suellentrop noted that the trophy was "a reference to the criticism that Nathan Drake doesn't respond emotionally to all the killing he does"; Druckmann replied: "I told all the people on the team, 'This is my proudest moment, the fact that I came up with this trophy on this project.' We were conscious to have fewer fights, but it came more from a desire to have a different kind of pacing than to answer the 'ludonarrative dissonance' argument. Because we don't buy into it."[7]

The original usage was quite specific, but by the time we get to Uncharted its been bastardized by critics trying to appear more intellectually insightful than they are.

Uncharted was and is a clear riff on Indiana Jones, which in itself was a call-back to the sort of serialized pulp heroics popular in cinema of the 1930's and 40's. Stories that trade on an ultra-simplistic goodies versus baddies worldview. Legal and emotional consequences simply never entered into the equation because the morality was implicitly righteous as per genre convention.
 
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Uncharted was and is a clear riff on Indiana Jones, which in itself was a call-back to the sort of serialized pulp heroics popular in cinema of the 1930's and 40's. Stories that trade on an ultra-simplistic goodies versus baddies worldview. Legal and emotional consequences simply never entered into the equation because the morality was implicitly righteous as per genre convention.

Meh. I agree but...say that to Uncharted 4.
 

JohnnyFootball

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He could just let the bad guys have the damn treasure. But no, he has to stick his nose in their business, & force them to shoot back. They're the ones with the self-defense claim, not him.
Then you don't have a game.
 

Whitesnake

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It does apply, the question is, again, how much? There are things that you can ignore because they don't matter, others you can't. People coming back to life after a dramatic supposed death requires some good explanation and in the best case foreshadowing. Otherwise it's bad storytelling, plain and simple.
I'm arguing that making things make more sense is always a good thing, as opposed to not doing that. It does not imply that you shift focus of the game i.e. Drake does not need to become a crying wuss going to therapy now. But acknowledging things will make it better.

I don't think action flicks are good movies if all they offer me is vfx.
John Wick going on a killing spree because his dog was killed makes more sense than John Wick going on a killing spree because someone ate his snickers.
Narrative elements don't exist in a bubble where anything goes because it's fiction, there are objective measurements, as well as subjective ones.

The argument that it can't be a problem implies that anything goes whenever, whatever and that is just not the case.
In that sense, it's not about calling something a problem in the first place but instead a value-proposition that could be improved.
Like I stated before, it's a spectrum.

Having Mario make a joke to Peach about how he jumps on all the heads of those Goombas and wondering what happened to them will fix the dissonance to some degree and will neither need to change story or gameplay, for example.

EDIT:
The Scrivener The Scrivener No worries. Making games is hard, because it brings together countless fields that require expertise, and a lot of those fields clash.
That's why you get so many different games, ranging from Visual Novels to walking simulators to Naughty Dog games to proper RPGs to RTS games.
A book's story is easier to produce than a game's story because a book can be written by a single person, whereas a game with good production values can not be made by even a small team of people. Every game's design process is different and no game dev has 'the answer' to game production. There are a lot of known factors about what you should not do, but little about how you create a successful new IP.

Comedies tend to not give a shit about inconsistencies in the stories themselves, dramas do. The degree to which those inconsistencies are handles determine, among other factors, quality of the work. It's the same with games, it's just a hugely more difficult task because so many different people are involved and often it's just a matter of budget or tech available, not vision. Some games want to favor story above else, so they care less about gameplay and that is fine. Gameplay is a narrative element in its own however, so making the same game with gameplay that assists the story would be better still. If it's feasible due to restraints is another story (heh).

Again, I inherently disagree that eliminating absurdity is a good thing. Forced self-referential humor in a Mario game, which would fit neither the tone nor the characters, is not a good thing.

I think John Wick going on a rampage to avenge his dog because of what his dog represented to him is a way better variation of the generic action plot of (friend/family member) has been (kidnapped/killed) by (organization/military).

Similarly, I think Nathan Drake killing tons of people (in self-defense) and still being cocky and funny is way better than the alternatives of either having less enemies or making Nathan Drake a sad-sack. I think believability would be an active detriment to such a game.

Saying “X is always good” is a dangerous path to walk down.
 
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LordClansman

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This is something that J-RPGs have been dealing with since forever, sacrifice part of the story to justify 50 hours of killing monsters and enemies (you will never read a fantasy book about a party of adventurers killing the same monster over and over to get stronger), a lot of games don't really require that part to tell the story (FF7, Lost Odyssey, on the top of my head), sure there's combat with certain main villains, but the rest has to be justified by the story, instead of the story justifying it happening (oh btw we live in a world filled with weird looking and aggressive creatures).

Uncharted doesn't give a shit and presents a story and gameplay that are almost completely disconnected, except for the puzzle part and probably persecutions.
It's not even a common thing among shooters, since in almost all of them you're at some kind of war. But Uncharted puts you in a war scenario with the excuse of being a treasure hunter.
 

GreyHorace

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Oh vey. Another artsy fartsy game developer trying to justify his artistic sensibilities.

I play games as an escape from everyday reality. I'm just here to kill shit and do stuff that I can't do in my normal everyday mundane life. Why would I give a fuck about ludo narrative dissonance? I've not played Uncharted but I've killed a ton of people in Grand Theft Auto and not once did I give a crap. But I won't mind it if games take a more thoughtful and serious approach to violence. The last game I played that I thought did this well was Red Dead Redemption 2.
 
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Herr Edgy

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Again, I inherently disagree that eliminating absurdity is a good thing. Forced self-referential humor in a Mario game, which would fit neither the tone nor the characters, is a good thing.

I think John Wick going on a rampage to avenge his dog because of what his dog represented to him is a way better variation of the generic action plot of (friend/family member) has been (kidnapped/killed) by (organization/military).

Similarly, I think Nathan Drake killing tons of people (in self-defense) and still being cocky and funny is way better than the alternatives of either having less enemies or making Nathan Drake a sad-sack. I think believability would be an active detriment to such a game.

Saying “X is always good” is a dangerous path to walk down.
I get your point; the humor part in Mario was more of a proof of concept rather than a suggestion. It was supposed to demonstrate how just a small tweak will close a hole and still justify the way the games are made. Certainly, John Wick going on a killing spree because of his dog is more interesting than generic evil-organization plot. My point is that you have to take this character trait of John Wick, being someone who would murder many people to avenge his dog, and delve deeper into it. If he was portrayed as this super sympathetic guy who wouldn't hurt a fly in his general life otherwise, that would be weird, inconsistent and will kill suspension of disbelief. How to solve that? Add another personality, show how his character shaped up to be what it became, or just don't show him being compassionate about random people so that he stays consistent at least.

As someone who reads a lot of manga and isn't into realism, I can appreciate absurdity - however, I believe there has to be some kind of consistency within the absurdity - otherwise it becomes a mess that is hardly smart.

Just recently I read a slice of life manga about a former yakuza, called 'the Immortal Tatsu' (for single-handedly cleaning up an entire gang on his own), who chose to retire from yakuza life and instead started living as a house husband, doing all the things a stereotypical house wife would do. Including taking dancing lessons, buying an ungodly amount of house appliances and thinking about discounts at the local grocery store.

Now, the entire thing is hilarious because parts of his former yakuza-life are still in tact, including previous acquaintances in the yakuza and looking like a roughian, therefore regularly throwing off cops' suspicion-radar and scaring people unwillingly.

This is definitely absurd, and the answer to the question of how Tatsu went from yakuza to house husband isn't directly expressed and instead just hinted at. But if we took and change what it means to be yakuza and what it means to be a house husband, to further the absurdity, it would bastardize the entire premise. No, you are not yakuza if all you did in your life was work at a bakery. No, you are not a house husband if you are continuing going to work.
Familiarity is needed for communication, be it familiarity of language itself, or concepts. Fiction has its root in reality and therefore fiction that refuses to adhere to a ruleset that is familiar to the consumer will be worthless.

The manga is hilarious exactly because it combines two unlikely scenarios as past and present of a character, and then the mangaka takes those scenarios and takes a deep-dive into them, exploring how his former yakuza self affects his present and how his present house husband self affects his previous acquaintances. That way, an absurd piece of fiction becomes familiar, understandable, original and hilarious.
None of that happens in a game that portrays a characters as both a likeable rogue and as a sociopathic killer who fails to acknowledge his killing sprees.
The concept is not explored despite happening in real-time, and that's where it becomes dissonant and improvable.

EDIT:
All of this applies to just game mechanics as well. Number one reason why I'm not into that many games nowadays is because they fail at considering their own mechanics. You notice how some mechanics don't make sense, as some mechanics invalidate others, or how you have plenty of items which never quite find their opportunity to be used, or just a bunch of different facets thrown onto each other without much care.
It's the number one reason why I like systemic games so much more - games like Moonlighter, Hades and typically games that you tend to find from the Japanese more often than from western developers..
Every mechanic is connected to other mechanics in a way that gives each mechanic a reason to exist and to be considered (balancing issues aside). There are so many games that have an 'inventory' feature, but there are so few games that add inventory mechanics.
It's called holistic design: you can imagine all the mechanics, the visuals, the story as a huge map of connected dots. The more you connect the dots to each other, the more 'holistic'. In games where story and gameplay doesn't really connect, those dots aren't connected either - in games where gameplay directly influences story and vice versa, you have numerous connected dots. I'm in favor of combining as many dots as possible as I believe that is what quality is all about to make all the individual elements of a game, story etc. relevant.
 
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Whitesnake

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None of that happens in a game that portrays a characters as both a likeable rogue and as a sociopathic killer who fails to acknowledge his killing sprees.
The concept is not explored despite happening in real-time, and that's where it becomes dissonant and improvable.

I have 0 problem with the games not focusing on the number of people he’s killed. Evidently, the vast majority of people don’t.

Maybe you would like it better if that was the focus. But to act as if that would be an inherent improvement to focus on it, and that it is an inherent failing of the game to not focus on it, is ridiculous. That’s not the point of the story, the tone, or the character.

It’d be one thing if the game outright tried to deny that those events happened, but it doesn’t. That topic is simply sidelined in favor of other things.

You may have a problem with this aspect of the game, but the aspect itself is not a problem.
 

Herr Edgy

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I have 0 problem with the games not focusing on the number of people he’s killed. Evidently, the vast majority of people don’t.

Maybe you would like it better if that was the focus. But to act as if that would be an inherent improvement to focus on it, and that it is an inherent failing of the game to not focus on it, is ridiculous. That’s not the point of the story, the tone, or the character.

It’d be one thing if the game outright tried to deny that those events happened, but it doesn’t. That topic is simply sidelined in favor of other things.

You may have a problem with this aspect of the game, but the aspect itself is not a problem.
I wrote like 3 times that it does NOT need to shift focus.
I wrote like 3 times that it's not about problems./"inherent failings".

I won't respond anymore to you.
 
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Again, I inherently disagree that eliminating absurdity is a good thing. Forced self-referential humor in a Mario game, which would fit neither the tone nor the characters, is not a good thing.

I think John Wick going on a rampage to avenge his dog because of what his dog represented to him is a way better variation of the generic action plot of (friend/family member) has been (kidnapped/killed) by (organization/military).

Similarly, I think Nathan Drake killing tons of people (in self-defense) and still being cocky and funny is way better than the alternatives of either having less enemies or making Nathan Drake a sad-sack. I think believability would be an active detriment to such a game.

Saying “X is always good” is a dangerous path to walk down.
The bold reminds me of Extra Credit's "Stop Normalizing Nazis" video. The "This piece of media does not address X the right way. Therefore, it's problematic and it must address X with Y" shtick doesn't work.