Hey there, Gamers and game Makers!
Recently I finished playing "Little Nightmares" and before that "Inside". Now, after playing these I started to think a lot about how they tell stories and why we need to follow their example.
I know what some of you might be thinking. that those games didn't really tell much of a story. That there was no dialogue or cutscenes. But the reality of it is that those games told rich and interesting stories without a single word and what we took away from them was partly left up to our own interpretation. Let's start with "Little Nightmares" as it's fresh in my mind from just finishing it.
The game starts you off locked in a cage with no introduction as to who you are or how you came to be there. You must push yourself off the edge in order to break the cage and from there begin your escape. Throughout the game you encounter a number of characters, most of which want to capture you.
As you explore it becomes clear that you are aboard some form of vessel and as you encounter areas of children locked in cages, you slowly begin to see a theme emerging. Now, what exactly is going on varies depending on who you ask. Now, I won't go into details as not to spoil the game for those who have not played it but we see a story taking shape through the use of primarily environmental storytelling.
The game combines great environmental storytelling with fantastic game mechanics design to create a sense of tension in the small world it has created. The characters feel alien yet familiar. While they may appear grotesque, what they represent may feel all to close to our own human nature.
Another game that makes great use of environmental storytelling is "Inside" The game begins with you as a young boy on the run from people who clearly intend to do you harm but why we don't know. You push on with purpose but not to escape but rather to return for a greater purpose. Inside just like Little Nightmares tells an interesting story without so much as a single word of dialogue. And as with Little Nightmares, what the true meaning of Insides ending may be left up to the interpretation of the player.
So, why is a game that leaves us with no real answers so great? The mystery! While we play games to get to the bottom of things and save the day and feel like the hero, not all mysteries should be solved. It's possible to go through a story, an experience and still have questions and that's not a bad thing.
The sense of a world much deeper than what we're presented with makes it feel all that more real. In both these games, you're landed right into the action of it without explanation and you must adapt and learn. And by the end of it all, hat you learn and understand comes down to how much attention you payed to the world around you and what you took away from it. These games did something great and that's not spoon feeding the player. We sometimes think to have a narrative game means to load on the dialogue and cutscenes. The reality of it is if we stop holding the players hand so much and toss them in, they may take away a more meaningful experience and what now feels more like their story. This is something I hope to see more of in games and something I hope to apply to my own games in the future.
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Until next time!