Jackie, otherwise known as That Flighty Broad, is a talented freelance illustrator and gaming enthusiast with her own Let’s Play channel. We’re very pleased she agreed to help us officially kick off FemHype‘s series of interviews with women who game. Let’s get to it, shall we?
Hello, Jackie! Thank you so much for talking with us.
I became enamored with Let’s Plays when I first developed depression and began exploring different self-care techniques that worked for me. I sometimes found that playing the games I loved triggered my anxiety, but I would still want to envelop myself in the sounds, atmosphere, and story of those games. I started by watching other people play the classic Tomb Raider games, and eventually started watching LPs of different games in the background while I got work done.
I began seriously considering recording my own LPs after watching John over at HarshlyCritical, because I really enjoy his conversational style. His videos made the whole recording process seem more accessible, and after a while I buckled down to start recording and resolved to just have fun while doing it.
At this point, it’s pretty obvious that the team here at FemHype loves to tweet. Since the sheer number of poignant, 140-word quips all but summarize our mission statement, we figured a weekly “looting” post was in order. So! Check back every Sunday while we round up the tweets we think are hella rad. As always, the best is saved for last.
Haha, BioWare has a dig at chainmail bikini armor, and gets a pun in there too (http://t.co/HLr4yd8gQO)
— Chris Priestman (@CPriestman) December 2, 2014
I really wanted to like WildStar. I also really wanted WildStar to be a good MMO, but you can’t always get what you want. The promise of a fun, cartoony sci-fi game drew me in, and while Carbine Studios delivered on two out of three of those promises, I was still let down in the end. That’s the trouble with following a major game from its early stages of development—the finished product will never exactly align with your expectations. Even so, I never imagined WildStar would turn out as badly as it did.
But before I start picking at the game’s current scabrous state, let’s jump back to 2013 when my hopes were still high. I enjoy role-playing in MMORPGs in spite of years of finding myself amongst characters with dark pasts and eyes that changed color with mood, so I was excited when Carbine’s staff actually seemed to give a shit about WildStar’s nascent role-playing community.
The game’s lore, bits and pieces of which were dropped like breadcrumbs by the devs, made me confident that WildStar would be fun. I told myself that even if the game itself was mediocre, I could make my own fun with other role-players. Here’s the point where I pause for audience laughter.
As I write this, the state of WildStar’s role-playing community is about what you’d expect for a half-dead game, with a few diehards desperately holding together what little remains. A good portion of the staff members I knew are gone now, and the rest are just as desperately trying to keep the game itself afloat.
What elevates a game from moderately entertaining to irresistibly addictive? The kind of game where you tell yourself you’ll put your controller down, but four hours later … Anyway. It’s partly the story structure. Graphics that aren’t too hard on the eyes is also a plus. But in my experience, the soundtrack is what hooks me, engaging me in the story in ways I couldn’t escape if I tried.
As in other forms of media like movies and television, video games are similarly shaped and, essentially, all but narrated by the music that accompanies it. I’d be willing to bet the much-lauded Skyhold cutscene in Dragon Age: Inquisition wouldn’t have had quite the same impact without the swell of strings and crashing drums to carry the theme itself. Music is an absolutely imperative component to the gaming experience, and without it, a game will almost certainly fall flat.
From the vast expanse of soundtracks across all genres, I’ve rounded up my top favorite atmospheric songs that exemplify the different variances in storytelling techniques. Let’s start with the more seasoned contenders and analyze what, exactly, these forms of music add to the narrative and overall gaming experience. If you can put the controller down once one of these songs starts up, there’s no hope for you. Unless you ordered a pizza, in which case, carry on.
What is it that sets video games apart as a medium from, say, film or literature? The answer lies right in your hands: the controller. Video games require direct interaction between game and player in a way that no other medium does.
When analyzing literature, theorists and critics often talk about the “contract” that is made between author and reader when a reader picks up a book. It’s a promise implicit in every work of fiction: read this and you will be entertained. What form this entertainment takes depends on what kind of book; it might be informative, thrilling, hilarious, inspiring, terrifying, or any number of experiences. But it must be entertaining or the reader will simply put it down and move on.
The same principle holds true for film and, of course, for video games. But with video games, the need for player interaction adds an extra dimension to the promise made by the medium. The promise is not simply “this game will provide you with entertainment,” but also “you, the player, will help shape this story.” This ‘shaping’ of story can be as basic as determining whether the hero succeeds or fails, or as complicated as choosing what pixel to place where in an infinite digital space.
This demand for interaction complicates the creator’s already challenging process of telling an interesting story. The player must be allowed to weigh in on the story at some level, or they’ll feel betrayed by the medium, the creator/player promise having been broken. So game creators must construct stories that are not simply told to the player, but also adapt and change based on how the player chooses to interact with the game.
The types of stories that game creators construct to deal with this problem fall broadly into three categories: linear, multipath, and RPG/open-world. Obviously, there are many games that straddle the line between two of these categories, or plant themselves in one category but borrow elements from another. Because of this, it’s perhaps easiest to think of these categories as benchmarks on a sliding scale, rather than strict divisions.