Rain cut campfire preparation short so might as well get an early blog post out and about. This time I want to talk about video games and how their particular brand of serialization affects their method for designing an actual conclusion. If there were ever a medium that got the short end of the stick for storytelling fanciness, video games would be at the top of the list. Back in the old 8 bit days of Nintendo your basic form of storytelling was walls of text in between the actual gaming and completing your objective. Some games like, like any of the Mario spin off games aren’t so much a story as they are a premise. Characters from the Mushroom Kingdom come together to play a sport, race, or just have a frustratingly weird party. Others gave you a quick intro of storytelling before going straight into the action. Perhaps the most famous of this is the game Bad Dudes which perfectly summed it up by stating: “The President has been kidnapped by ninjas. Go rescue the President.” That’s it. No more. Intros are not great but necessary. Finales on the other hand for most of the more difficult games was rarely achieved by the player and was sometimes rushed so you more often than not saw something half assed. Brentalfloss explained this way better than I ever could in the following song.
Serialization of games and a definitive ending is even harder to fully define. Games will keep happening and companies will keep making sequels at a nearly yearly basis. Sports games get a pass because they are supposed to be an updated roster with improved graphics and mechanics. FPS games get a lot of flack for doing the same thing and focusing on a purely brotastic audience but their actual campaign mode has a decent Tom Clancy style story that follows proper serial storytelling. Final Fantasy games technically have nothing to do with each other (unless specifically stated like with X-2 *shudder*) but have common overlapping elements like Bahamut and Chocobos. From here on out let me talk about different game series, many of which I have played completely throughout, and how their official endings modify the story.
Every fighting game ever
This genre normally has you choosing a character from any of the available fighters. Should you win, then you get that characters ending. Rinse and repeat with everyone else if you want to find out what happened. The sequel will have an official winner from the previous one that will define how the story goes from thereon out. Your choice of playing in previous games technically does not alter the narrative as opposed to other characters where it is implied that because you saved the day with the hero, the world needs saving later on. The final Mortal Kombat game (not including the vs DC game crossover game though it had a similar style) had the story mode going through prechosen characters for you. The players choice is removed from the equation and game mastery over a variety of characters throughout the game (not all of which you get to play as) allows for a more concrete and defined narrative to be told. However, this really instigates the narratology versus ludology debate. The final game retells the story of all the previous (official) storylines of the previous games so there is a good balance of nostalgia through replaying and some decent character development. However, it pretty much erases the need for the previous games in the first place.
Not counting the X, NT Warrior, the Gameboy games, or some of the other spinoffs, there are ten official Megaman games. 9 is basically seen as a retro sequel focused entirely on nostalgia for classic “jump and shoot man” gameplay. 10 was the thing as they say the cash cow had not run completely dry. The closest to an actual finale came in Megaman 8 for the SNES which wasn’t all that good. The finale as always had the evil Dr. Willy cowering and pleading for mercy after being soundly beaten once again. At this time, the hero would normally just accept his surrender and take him to jail. In 8 however, our hero contemplates just ending the problem right then and there and just kill Willy. 9 played with this idea to show just how pathetic Willy was but never even tried to go with it. 8 seemed convinced that he was going to do it had a minor deus ex machine not saved him. This video talks about the psychological undertones of declaring that Megaman can break Asimov’s laws because he is “more than just a robot” so give it a looksee if you are interested in the topic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LT23zdgwNSk
Again, too many spin offs to have an official timeline so I’m going with the classic sequence of Solid, Sons of Liberty, Snake Eater, and Guns of the Patriots, ie 1-4. The last of these was amazing in that there was so much continuity and callbacks to all the other titles, so much so that the developers are believed to engage in “continuity porn”. Four however was far more movie like than the other ones. Things were happening to you, rather than you as a player having control over the actions. Lots of reveals are awesome throughout but only if you have played through the previous three games and at least acknowledge the existence of the spinoffs and the original Nintendo games. I know more games are being done and an official Metal Gear 5 is coming soon but 4 played all the right notes when it came to finales, especially with the reunion between Snake and Big Boss in an eye patch off at the end.
To be honest I’ve never actually played any game in the trilogy. However, the finale of the third installment made Gaming news through its infamously bad finale. Fan outcry and criticism was so bad that the developers had to make a patch to the game with a new and improved ending. Video games are a bit more concrete when it comes to production and reception in that you can’t really alter the content once it is published, which is what happens with all the not new media. Digital connectivity now makes it so that games are far more fluid through downloadable content (DLC) which can forever keep altering the game as the developers see fit within the official storyline mechanics.
There are certainly a ton more games out there worth talking about but I will let other voices handle that one.
Here’s to not running out of continues,