Monday, 21 October 2013

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Game Mechanics Vs Narrative


What makes a game has been the subject of much debate recently with the argument torn between mechanic vs narrative. In my opinion it's game mechanics that make a game, where the narrative ties the mechanic together, the mechanic is what keeps a player coming back and adds replayablity to the product. There are plenty of examples of games that became wildly successful with no narrative to speak of, e.g Tetris, Pac-man, and more recently Minecraft. There are also examples of games that purely focus on the narrative and while they give the player the ability to choose their own path they offer little in regards to replayability, once the story is complete there is little more to experience bar a few slightly different scenes and endings, e.g. Heavy Rain, Dragon's Lair, even Modern Warfare to some extent.


Recently there has been a fusion of the two that marry both in the way no other media could do, I believe it is the next evolution of the genre, a perfect example of this would be Brother's: A Tale of Two Sons, created by Starbreeze Studios. Initially released for XBox Live on August 2013 the game follows the story of two brothers on a quest to cure their terminally ill father. Unusually the player controls both brothers on the the same controller, it may feel a little overwhelming at first but the game eases the player into the mechanics through a series of easy environmental obstacles. These mechanics tie beautifully into the narrative throughout the game as each brother reacts differently to context sensitive obstacles within the world, the player discovers more about each brothers individual personality naturally with this method rather than being told outright.


This fusion of mechanic and narrative becomes starkly apparent during the final levels as the older brother (SPOILERS) dies, not only does the player feel the loss of the brother through the emotional narrative that the player has been on but through the loss of control of the character. It's quite difficult to describe the feeling to someone who hasn't played the game but I can only describe it as phantom limb syndrome, having controlled both characters throughout the game, only controlling one feels extremely odd, this loss mirrors and enhances the narrative in a way I haven't seen before and has really inspired me. I believe this is the future of the genre and it's what sets games apart from any other medium.

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