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Why games shouldn’t try to be movies: My latest Slate column

Several times in the past, I’ve blogged my thoughts on why video-games make terrible vehicles for storytelling — and why those who seek to “tell stories” via games fundamentally misunderstand the basic nature of narrative. For my latest Slate column, I did a version of my longstanding rant on this subject. A snippet:

For many designers, crafting bravura cutscenes has become the best way to transform a mere game into a genre-smashing event. When Halo 2 shipped, for example, the game’s creators bragged that they had created nearly a feature film’s worth of scripted scenes. These Hollywood flourishes are good for dazzling mainstream journalists and pundits. That’s because there’s still a weird anxiety about adults playing games. Most people still think that video games are sophomoric kid stuff; the ones that have a narrative and emulate the movies seem more serious and, well, mature.

The column has prompted a storm of criticism over at Slate’s discussion board, The Fray. It’s worth checking out — there are several extremely smart, perceptive posts: This is one of my favorites!

I’ll blog more, later, about some of the other responses I’ve gotten, including several game designers who wrote to agree with me, and/or take issue with how broadly I dismissed the idea of narrative.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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