Saturday, May 4, 2013

Extra Credits Advice Useful For Games Mastering, Part 2

Videogames are one of the best interactive mediums out there so it should come as no surprise that you can learn a lot from a critical analysis of that medium.  Yes, there are a lot of differences between video games and roleplaying but so long as you keep these differences in mind (namely that roleplaying players must be able to meaningfully alter the game through their decisions and behaviours and thus the game must be more flexible). Since there's not generally as much critical analysis of roleplaying games (especially in video format), I've been highlighting some of the really good vlog articles made by the Extra Credits team that has merit for roleplaying games as well.  I've already done one article highlighting a few of their videos over here, as you've doubtless figured out by the inclusion of 'Part 2' in this article title.  You won't need to read that article first but you might want to take a look at the end.

In this video they talk about children in video games and how the Walking Dead video game succeeded where so many failed.  I think this is an important one because it can be hard to do children right in a game world but at the same time there are a number of games where a player might choose to make their character save a child or even be a parent, in which case you really have to figure out how to make a child character interesting and likable in their own right.  There are a number of pitfalls most people stumble into when making children, either by engaging the freewheeling stupid-card-carrying stereotype of children (which ignores how well children can adapt and survive) or by making them bland little adults (ignoring those idiosyncrasies unique to child development).

Combining Genres.
Unfortunately videogame genres are divided by style of play (adventure, strategy, action, etc.) than about thematic genres (horror, Noir, Science Fiction) but some of the basics still count.  Don't just mash together all of the genres that you like.  Try to find what is at the core of these different genres that you love.  Once you find that core, you can then use those different genres to reinforce the core.  You might like, for instance, Science Fiction and Post-Apocalyptic Horror sandbox games because of how vulnerable protagonists need to muddle through strange and dangerous settings as well as having players caught in a bubble of relative safety, trying to keep the horrors (or the void of space) from rushing in.

Religion In Games Part 1 and Part 2
These two videos talk about how religion is generally treated in video games and how few aspects are generally investigated in video games.  They talk about how you can explore the mechanics of religion, the lore or trappings of religion, and the heart (faith) of religion.  If you're in the midst of worldbuilding a religion or wish to include a religion on center stage in your game (e.g. Lancea Sanctum for vampire or clerics in Pathfinder / D&D), then this is a really good pair of videos to watch to see which aspects can, or have, been explored in video games.  Then you can go out and figure out which aspects you would like to explore in your own game.

More Than Exposition
This video talks about the sheer amount of explanation and exposition that you get in games about worlds, histories, and even prior games in the series.  This challenge is a really big one for GMs, especially in games where the players may have experienced other games set in those worlds, but their new characters don't have that information yet.  I've dealt with this a lot in my World of Darkness games where I've run multiple games for players who have played freshly turned (or returned) monsters.  In those games we have to then give the character the basic information of what they are and what that means all over again.  Summarising such an important event for the character by saying "I tell you all the basics of being a vampire and our political covenants" is also quite unsatisfying as it deprives the character from coming to their own conclusions based on your character's biases.  This video doesn't give you a lot of answers but it does give a few, alongside a hefty dose of food for thought.

Word Choice
This is a really important video to consider for those running, or playing, in games that are based entirely on the words we use.  Word choice defines the game.  It applies the shade of a genre, evokes mood, highlights importance, and defines the story itself.  This video talks about the different techniques in word choices that can be applied to a game.  Definitely worth a watch.

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