Syp has a nice post up about the latest Adventure Game from TellTale Games – The Wolf Among Us.
To preface this, I have not played the game, I have only Syp’s description to go by. But give that its an accurate description, I know exactly what he is talking about:
Telltale is starting to specialize in a type of adventure game that’s almost adventure-lite. It’s heavy on dialogue, character development, storytelling, and nuance, but light on puzzle-solving or really anything presenting an obstacle to progressing the tale. There are a few scenes where you have to investigate an area, but that means you just click on all of the context popups. There are a couple of quicktime events, which are the only ways that you can “fail” the game (although you immediately start the quicktime event over).
To each his own, but for me, what he is describing falls outside the boundary lines of “game” and into something more like “choose your own adventure.” For me growing up, I enjoyed, for example, the Lone Wolf line which is described as a gamebook. Technically the Choose Your Own Adventure Series also called itself gamebooks, but there was a clear difference between the two. One involved dice rolling, combat, skills – actual game mechanics, if you will. The other used only one game mechanic, user choice, and I can’t even really bring myself to call that a game mechanic. The end result was that the COYA series, while good in its own right, was never popular with me because it wasn’t a game for me to play – it was just a book to read with some alternate endings and deleted scenes. I consumed – but I never really felt all that participatory. And while there are certainly games that are “on rails,” the good ones layer interesting mechanics over the rails in such a creative way that you can’t see the forest for the trees. COYA doesn’t bother covering the rails – in fact it seems to revel in them.
And there are more and more products like the Telltale Games, like “adventure-lite” as Syp says. That you can purchase on Steam and GoG and so forth, which to me personally is irritating. Its like somebody slipped The Fray into my hard rock station and then acted surprised when I pointed out that this wasn’t in fact hard rock. I know why its there (its commercially successful and has the potential to draw a new audience spectrum) but I don’t appreciate its presence.
Again, to each his own I guess, and I’m aware that to some people I probably sound like the grumpy old gamer who is set in his ways. But if that’s what I am, I understand the terror. I’m scared to death that the out of touch publishers are going to get the wild hare that they can make way more money if they start giving us less game to play and more “game” to watch. That move absolutely ruined the Final Fantasy franchise years ago, and the spectre of it still haunts the gaming industry. Any success Telltale has, in that regard, just makes me all the more grumpy.