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ARTICLE

Weekender: Open To All

Firstly, context.

This isn't a new story, but it's only come to my attention recently.

It's not the vilification by narrow-minded of an industry worker's opinions that I'm addressing. That disgust should speak for itself. No, more the point raised in the original interview regarding gaming and accessibility.

Discussion spurred by two other agents: one will be familiar to regular readers, that of the continued adaptation of my play sessions to fit in with my better half's interests (no games involving second stick camera manipulation, no battle-scarred brawlers - hello Rayman Origins). The second you may have come across yourself if you'd downloaded the Mass Effect demo: Story Versus Combat.

Bioware offers players the ability to neuter narrative choice for purely automated cut-scenes, for those that favour their decisions to determine survival in the battlefield, and not social interactions.

Yet it seems perfectly natural that the alternative - a story-driven choice where combat is automated, or absolved from player input and the emphasis put on the sprawling branching story - should be offered as well. A thought that didn't register until reading over Jennifer Hepler's interview.

Could we see a Mass Effect game were control was solely mapped to conversation branches than combat?
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No, such choice couldn't be offered to all games. But for those that have heavy emphasis on story lines and player choice, such as western RPGs in particular, why should certain players be ostracised from that enjoyment?

The obvious argument is that what would result wouldn't a game. But as we're seeing with the advent of mobile gaming, and even before with the ushering into the gaming arena of the casual crowd, we're having to re-identify the definition of what a video game is.

Even with a current example, Asura's Wrath. I pointed out in my review it was very close to Dragon's Lair, an 1980s game that offered slick animation sequences at the sacrifice of complex control input: simple button presses at key moments would decide your fate.

It was the early precursor of Quick Time Events, and in a way was the high-end version of the Choose Your Own Adventure books - which aren't too dissimilar from what Hepler reasoned would be enjoyable for those gamers with two left thumbs.

We're a very open industry. Despite some the horrendous comments fired at Hepler, or even what we have to listen to online, I believe those people are in the minority.

Dragon's Lair: a story-driven adventure that can be enjoyed by all.

I keep referring to Kevin Butler's speech at Sony's E3 Conference in 2010 as he asked, and argued, "What is A Gamer?" and why the inclusion of new audiences wasn't to the detriment of the industry - we're a diversifying field. There's room for all.

And a story-driven adventure that only requires button prompts to progress? That's not a bad thing, even if the quality isn't quite there yet. No one's forcing you to play it, nor opt for that choice in a pre-game menu before playing. For people that can't adapt to button combinations hitting the double figures and coordinating character control and camera however, they've no choice to opt out completely.

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