Pulp Fiction

Games didn't stop featuring stories after the death of interactive movies of course, so what was the route forward? In part, the broadening popularity of games in general and new talent entering the industry meant new influences and ideas, but it's also the case that the passage of time improved things - games were a young medium and their creators were learning.

Chet Faliszek, games journo turned scriptwriter for the Left 4 Dead series, describes a parallel between narrative in pulp television of the 60s and video games. He argues that relying on the sort of storytelling trends that have been repeated for ages is just a natural part of easing the industry into its own shoes:

If you go back and watch early Twilight Zone episodes they will seem painfully slow and obvious. The medium of television was young and the language writers could use with the viewer was lacking,” Faliszek told us.

How Games Tell Stories Pulp Fiction and Chet Faliszek
There's not a lot to do post-apocalypse, admittedly

As television progressed viewers grew comfortable and the language writers and directors could use advanced. Compare one of those early episodes with a show like Arrested Development. There is more going on in 10 seconds of that show than an entire episode of an early Twilight Zone. That isn’t to say the Twilight Zone writers were bad, they weren’t. They understood their audience at the time.

A rough and ready beginning, followed by increasing sophistication is a pattern you can see time and again across many different cultural forms - take comic books, for example. They have a rough lineage, birthed out of a similarly cheesy rayguns/superheroes/babes-in-distress filled canal as video games and yet the early pulp stories developed rapidly so that now graphic novels such as Watchmen and Y: The Last Man have become fodder for university curriculums. As the description implies, they're appreciated as their own medium, one that's different from drama, the novel and non-fiction.

Is Faliszek right that games are on a similar path to TV and comics? Perhaps - but are games ready to stop pretending to be films? If you've been playing Metal Gear Solid 4 you might be under the impression games still have the same wannabe movie mentality they've had for decades.
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October 14 2021 | 15:04