on Feb 7, 2013
Notice in a lot of games where you are directly piloting your character, players will balk at the limitations the game presents. Why can’t I jump this gap? Why can’t I climb over this chest-high wall? Why can’t I scale this fence? Why do I die from a simple three-meter drop? This is true even if you’re at 2% health and supposedly clinging to life. We don’t complain when Corvo or Garret slings a grown man over one shoulder and glides silently across the room at a light jog. We don’t complain when our character soaks up bullets, much less object to them being able to engage in strenuous exercise for hours without ever showing signs of fatigue, overheating, hunger, thirst, or loss of focus. We resent it whenever the game tries to convey these things by shaking the camera or fading the edges of the view to red.
I’m not saying these complaints are wrong or bad. I’m just saying that there’s something about inhabiting or piloting a character directly that creates the expectation that our avatar should operate at peak performance forever without experiencing pain, confusion, or faltering morale. It’s not always the case, but we historically have a hard time getting us to accept things that stand between us and the controls.
Now we have the Walking Dead, and suddenly we’re making the opposite complaints. By removing direct control of Lee and placing us in the position of a guide and not a pilot, we’re suddenly able to accept and even insist on Lee’s physical limitations. He shouldn’t be able to do this after losing so much blood. Where is he carrying this stuff? No way should Lee be able to break through that thing! How come Kenny isn’t dead from that gunshot? No way could he make that catch!
It’s very interesting how moving to a TV presentation creates TV expectations with regards to character ability.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.