Quantic Dream and the others: how much does gameplay really matter?

Quantic Dream and the others: how much does gameplay really matter?

Quantic Dream and the others

“ Every narrative gimmick is real, you can be sure of that. Poetry is as exact a science as geometry. ”

– Gustave Flaubert

By now it is a fact: the video game has managed to transcend the dimension of "simple" entertainment, becoming in all respects a medium capable of communicating in many respects different. A video game is not limited to entertaining, but can educate, transmit values ​​and even serve to understand society as it has transformed over time.

In short, the underlying concept has evolved, just as they have gone to transform the languages ​​used: the big steps forward in technological terms have certainly given a hand in this direction too, and today we cannot even imagine where all this will lead us. Speaking of language, the amount of very different experiences that the market has come to offer is incredible: let's think, for example, of the graphic adventures, of all imaginable genres, that we have at our disposal today.

These products start from a very simple assumption, that is to prefer the narrative aspect to the purely entertainment one. The final result? Unique stories of their kind, capable of involving while requiring minimal interaction on the part of the user. From this point of view, Quantic Dream is one of the realities that has experimented the most over the years, and today we want to reflect with you on the real extent of the contribution that Cage's study (and other similar contexts) have brought to the world of video games.

Games and storytelling: a really thin line?

A quick look at the video game industry of the last decade manages, almost immediately, to give us a truly impressive general picture: in fact, there is a product for practically anyone , regardless of what personal tastes and needs may be . There are many works, for example, that focus heavily on the narrative aspect, giving life to experiences capable of leaving an indelible mark on the hearts of gamers.

Among these, there are some for which storytelling is not only a component, but turns out to be the backbone of the entire project. Hence the role of "protagonist" of Quantic Dream with regard to this article is explained: the French software house is in fact an emblematic case in this sense, precisely because it is able to offer experiences ... Which almost give up on gameplay, in a more or less marked.

A journey that began with the second title by Cage and associates, that Fahrenheit released in 2005 and which immediately received joint acclaim from critics and audiences. We are in fact talking about a product where the player mostly exercises his control through binary choices, thus gradually shaping what his story will be .

A standard that the studio then carried forward with Heavy Rain first and then with Beyond: Two Souls , to then propose it in a further refined version with Detroit: Become Human . Works that, while sometimes showing gaps and no small ups and downs in terms of consistency, nonetheless represent more than commendable cases in terms of experimentation. From many points of view.

More often than not, everything is perceived as a gamble by a large group of players, who openly criticize what can actually be labeled as a lack of gameplay. The interaction is in fact minimal, with the most agitated scenes using Quick Time Events and not real-time actions. As always, the truth lies somewhere in between, and it is wrong to totally rely on or brand one opinion or the other as incorrect.

If it is true that in practice an active involvement on the part of the player is not actually required, the other side of the coin shows how this is captured precisely by a strong attention to the narrative sector. In short, the story is the real focal point of the experience, and all the rest can and perhaps should be labeled as a side dish.

We are perhaps dealing with products closer to the cinematographic medium than to the gaming one? Maybe yes, but even here expressing yourself in absolute terms is wrong. Instead, it is more correct to speak of an increasingly marked convergence between these two forms of communication that are no longer so distant, which in this way can think of reaching ever wider and more varied audiences. If a work like Heavy Rain can interest just a small part of the gamer community, why couldn't it also capture the attention of some cinema enthusiasts?

Telling a story while playing.

The gaming industry is an ecosystem full of realities, authors and giants that make the overall panorama truly rich in terms of variety. In short, Quantic Dream is not the only protagonist when we talk about experiences which, in the way we have described, decide to focus decisively and markedly on the narrative. Another example of considerable importance is absolutely Telltale Games which, as the name suggests, has made this feature its forte for several years.

Thinking back to the first season of The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us , in fact, unique memories of stories capable of involving, moving and even hitting hard come to mind as in the case of the adventure of Lee and Clementine. Also in this case the player is not required to have a particular skill but rather a very strong empathy, built step by step with a story still capable of leaving an indelible mark.

Unfortunately Telltale is not managed over the years to renew itself, always maintaining the same structure which in the long run ended up boring a good part of its (already very small) catchment area. The rebirth of the software house by LCG Entertainment could be an opportunity to bring back that particular type of story, which after all is something that is often lacking in the video game industry.

A honorable mention must then be made to Life is Strange : the series signed by Dontnod in fact has the merit of building an atmosphere and very specific sensations down to the smallest detail, thanks to a narrative made up of many small elements. The dialogues, the construction of the characters and above all the soundtrack are in fact founding and fundamental elements of a unique narrative system of its kind: a scheme that makes simplicity its strong point, with the player being accompanied on the discovery of a world with an incredibly realistic and at times raw basis which is the "banal" everyday life.

Without obviously forgetting those products that are probably the progenitors of this trend, or rather the dear old graphic adventures. Exactly, we are talking about titles like Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, Broken Sword and so on and so forth. These experiences managed (and yes, still manage today) to let the player immerse himself in worlds that we cannot fail to define as exceptional. Take, for example, Grim Fandango's Land of the Dead, a world that Schafer and company have built with truly commendable attention to detail. Every line of dialogue as well as the small expressions of the characters have made the whole experience that yes, the writer considers the best video game ever conceived. Absolutely personal tastes, but I want to take the opportunity to recommend again to experience this adventure at least once in a lifetime.

The difference between these products and those previously mentioned, Quantic Dream and Telltale above all, lies in a greater freedom in terms of exploration: the player can in fact move within scenarios that may not be particularly large, but rich in details that go to build an environment that is itself functional to the narrative.

In general, however, today we talked about experiences that, net of everything, manage to tell a story without resorting to particularly complex or multifaceted gameplay elements, but it is clear how one should not think in terms of extremes anyway . In short, the presence of a compelling gameplay does not have to correspond to a sketchy narrative and vice versa, and the examples in question are also very many in this case.

Masterpieces such as Uncharted and God of War are in fact able to captivate those who play with action that is always of the highest level, which does not give up on deep, fun and equally capable storytelling to entertain without any limits. Titles of this caliber are the right compromise for those looking for a playful experience in the true sense of the term, in an industry that, as we often say, is beautiful precisely because it varies. The only limit, at a certain point, is only that of the imagination.

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