Wednesday, November 26

The Mirror's Edge Debate Continues

Ben Fritz continues the debate about Mirror's Edge and reviews and innovation, of which I discussed a couple of days ago. He responds specifically to N'Gai Croal's most recent discussion on the topic. I think Fritz makes some excellent points, but Croal does as well. A particularly apt comment, I think, that Croal asserts, and also quoted by Fritz is this:
Mirror's Edge, far more so than traditional platformers, is at its most exhilarating whenever you achieve an unbroken chain of continuous motion. But because it uses a first-person camera, it drastically reduces your situational awareness as compared to a third-person camera system. That fact, combined with the need to create varied, challenging gameplay scenarios, results in a good deal of trial-and-error--which is precisely the opposite of Mirror's Edge at its most exciting. Why? Because it breaks the flow and grinds the action to a halt.
I'm in the same boat as Leigh Alexander, haven't played Mirror's Edge. But with what I think I know about game design, things gotta work together. All the pieces of the game have to complement one another. If the game is as its best when you've got the flow of parkour going, as Croal, and many others, suggests, then the level design has to accommodate that feeling. But I'm going to stop here, because having no personal experience with the game, I'm in no position to make judgments.

The other half of the Mirror's Edge discussion between these journalists concerns reviews. Fritz writes, "Too many reviews, I'm saying, don't focus enough on the big, new important elements of games. Instead they focus on the same list of attributes they always have." He cites, specifically, IGN's reviews in what I think is a fairly good criticism, calling the review "a checklist" of paragraphs. And continuing, "That's the kind of thing I find annoying, particularly for an innovative game that doesn't neatly fit the standard criteria." I agree whole-heartedly. I've read many, many, many reviews over the last eight or so years. And I can pretty much predict what they're going to say, or at least their structure. In fact, I don't even read the first two paragraphs of reviews anymore, not normally, because they house basically zero value.
Returning to the point at hand, Fritz reaches beyond reviews and discussion of Mirror's Edge and brings Left 4 Dead into the mix. Lengthy quotation ensues:
I've been surprised to see how some (overall positive) reviews criticized Left 4 Dead because the story is non-existent and a playthrough of the campaigns doesn't take too long. These are important elements in scripted single player games for sure. In a game that explicitly uses Hollywood cliches to immerse players in a world where dynamic enemy A.I. and co-op or competitive gameplay make for nearly endless opportunities for repeat gameplay, they hardly even seems worth mentioning.
Again, haven't played Left 4 Dead yet, but Fritz makes an excellent point. L4D is attacking narrative from a completely different angle than the traditional method. I have also been surprised, reading reviews of the game, to find people criticizing the story. Isn't the real story, after all, the gameplay experience. Left 4 Dead is heavily hinged on the fear and excitement of fighting off zombie hordes. The real story is the player's unique experiences. However, I do concede that players are justifiably curious about the events of Left 4 Dead's world. But as the game is structured in chapters, Valve apparently wanted players to be confused early on (much liek the characters, perhaps), with more truths to be revealed in later DLC.

It will be interesting to see how this Mirror's Edge discussion pans out from here. I've thoroughly enjoyed it thus far, that's for sure. Ultimately, I think critical discussion like this is pivotal to pushing the game industry forward. It is a good thing when such passionate individuals take it upon themselves to engage in intelligent conversation about not only a game's design, but also the state of industry and game reviews. Reviews are clearly a very important part of the game industry whole, so whatever we can do to improve the overall critical eye and process will help mature the game industry as a media circle, and therefore the game medium as well.

Side note, if you've got any awesome Left 4 Dead stories to share, send them to me, and I'll put them up on my other site, My Game Story.

1 comment:

  1. I had very much fun playing through Mirror's Edge. Sure, basically it's a jump'n'run, but you have never played one like this. Surroundings are a bit too sterile, but that's the art design. I'd like to see more games in this style.