Walking Simulators and the Importance of Narrative

In class on Thursday, one of the complaints that people had towards That Dragon, Cancer was that it wasn’t really a “game;” instead, it was more of an interactive narrative.  They went on to say that, since they were expecting a more gameplay-driven experience, the extreme focus on story and lack of choices that That Dragon, Cancer had left a disappointing taste in their mouths.  However, I would argue that lack of choice is incredibly important to the story.  Furthermore, I would argue that That Dragon, Cancer does count as a game, because the very act of playing serves a purpose and communicates core concepts to the player.

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A scene where gameplay matters.  Source

A major theme of That Dragon, Cancer is the sense of helplessness that Ryan and Amy feel.  At a certain point, they realize that there’s not really anything they can do to save Joel’s life.  While faith (specifically Christian faith) gave the pair a way to cope, by the end of the game they realize that there is nothing they can do.  While it is subtle, much of the gameplay in the game leads you to have the exact same feeling.  The scene shown in the screenshot above is a good example of this.  In it, you play as Joel and eventually a man who died of cancer in the family’s church.  While there is a lot going on in this scene, one thing in particular stands out.  If you are good at fighting the dragon, Cancer, (see what he did there), then you will realize something interesting; no matter how long or how well you play the game, you will eventually succumb to the dragon because the dragon will never die, but stay at 1/2 heart until you eventually die.  What is interesting is that the game is not exactly hard; if you’re good at retro video games (which I am not) and figure out the pattern(which I did not), you can theoretically stay alive and continue fighting indefinitely.  However, if you want to continue the game, you have to give up.

There are many other places where you have to give up in order to continue.  Specific scenes where this is a theme are the Temple of God scene where you have to stop moving to continue and the scene where you play as Ryan and the only way to continue forward is by swimming deeper into the ocean.  These scenes serve to make an important point-moreover, they make you, the player, feel the point in a way you would not from simply hearing the characters describe it.  This is why I consider it, and many other “Walking Simulators” like it, games: because games aren’t just narratives that you affect, they are narratives that affect you in ways that a novel or movie does not have the ability to. Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from you guys in the comments!

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Digital Media: Real World Applications

Our class on digital media has covered many topics, a majority of which have been in relation to creative media. In my personal future of nursing, real world application in the workplace for digital media would be limited to simulated anatomy tech and record-keeping; I mean, pagers are still used in many hospitals, so digital media? relevant, but not exactly a major priority. 
 
So instead, I think I’ll focus on a possible thing that I’ve always wanted to do; novel writing.
I know, I know. What am I doing going into nursing if I love writing? Well, something has to pay the bills, right? So that’s that, I’m being practical.
 
Anyway, with everything that we’ve gone over in this class on digital media, I think it’s really vital for any potential writers to realize the power of the various social medias and forms of remediation that exist today. 
 
Obviously getting published is the first step. But after that? The possibilities for remediation and interaction with the digital world are endless.
 
Blogs, videos, all the social networking opportunities . . . it’s all out there, and available for authors to use. Some of them take advantage of it, as I know one of my favorite authors, Brandon Sanderson, keeps his own website updated with the percentages of progress on his books, but others remain hidden. Maybe it’s some misplaced ideas of professionalism, but I wish that authors would interact more with their readers.
 
What it comes down to is that the field of digital media is growing ever faster, and in many different fields, from the creative to the professional, exploring the different avenues available is key to success.  
 
-JKH