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Article - 'A Trip To Seriousville' by Angroth

An item about Game Design posted on Jul 16, 2004

Blurb

Need a vacation? Welcome to Seriousville...

Body

I bought Summoner 2 not that long ago on the spur of my excess £10 and I was delighted by the game. For me, it was reminiscent of Vagrant Story. Then I asked myself, well what did I like about Vagrant Story? Personally, I liked the fact that it has a darker, grimmer and more serious edge on a game. For a game to be like this and not end up tacky (Max Payne cough cough) is no mean feat!

After all, not every gamer is a kid. I think it helps more mature people relate to the game, especially seeing as life isn’t all as chubby and fantastic as most RPG games would make it out to be. I remember Diary of a Madman (rm2k game) was an enjoying game to play for me, and remembering back it had that same serious, critical edge that notches it out from most other games. Notably it was a game about vampires etc, but not all games have to be about vampires or hell to be like this. However if your game is about hell, undead or vampires then it will obviously have a scarier and darker streak. (unless you’re Square)

Now seeing as games are likely to be more interesting in this style / theme, what aspects derive from it? And how can we replicate the same atmosphere?
Well, most people stab holes at clichés and with whole hearted honesty a lot of what makes games happy and chubby comprise of these clichés. So in a sense, we all want games to have similar themes to Vagrant Story and Summoner 2. What if when the hero’s girlfriend is abducted by the villains (hi Aeris) they get transmuted into some horrific beast, or just killed. What if Red XIII had tore Aeris apart? Maybe when the villain tempts the hero, he isn’t just and moralistic and does what we all think we probably would, join the impossibly hard to defeat evil forces.

It’s not until you take each cliché element and put what is realistically likely to happen in place of it, that some truly interesting things start to happen. Not that clichés themselves are bad, even if we think they are we still buy in to the same things again and again (whether it be by games or cinema).

However I’d like to say that when I say realistically I don’t mean completely realistic, if the hero could barely fight three men at the beginning of the game and by the end could fight about seven or eight (reasonably realistic) it wouldn’t be very fun. This dark, grim, serious game theme needs to be your same old mundane adventure but with a few grains of realism thrown at it. That way we keep what is fun in a game but can make it less likely to laugh at (for bad reasons) and draw players into the game.

Whether or not you can relate to the hero very well won’t matter too much if s/he is going through the same tedious (or beneficial) situations as you. It’s undeniable that it’s interesting to see someone doing things that you do or have had happened to you, even if only to see how they react. This coupled with a well developed character should make a powerful combination and provide an eerie attraction to you game.

Whether or not you agree with me or like my given examples I’m sure there’s at least one game you like that I could pick out, with that same satisfying atmosphere. Either way I hope there are people to take heed of this before making their games. Good luck making your dark, grim game!