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Donkey Kong Propels Structured Narrative«»What makes games worth playing? I know that's a totally loaded, subjective question, and everyone is going to have a completely different answer. For some, it's all about the action of games, whether shooting, punching, running or solving. For others, it's about the escapism of a virtual world. Still others it's about challenging yourself and overcoming adversity.
But for a few, the idea that a story can be told in a completely new method is what entrances them. It's become an engrossing enough subject that people can now go to college and study the concept in an official capacity. People get into massive debates about the importance of story in games, some say it's as important as plot in porn, others, that it's the ultimate goal of digital entertainment (such as in the attached video).
But who got the ball rolling?
Well, not Nintendo. Games like Adventure (1975) proposed the concept of a fictional world deeper than what graphics could display, but weren't terribly popular, and Pac-Man (1980) is arguably the first mainstream game with characters and bits of plot. But for the most part, what's now known as Interactive Fiction remained within the confines of a relative few, whereas most everybody else was rather content to shoot aliens or bat a ball back and forth with sticks of light.
It was in 1981's release of Donkey Kong, that the first full story came into a popular arcade game. Unlike Pac-Man, Donkey Kong had a definite beginning, middle and end, though It was crude to say the least: Ape steals woman, Man defeats Ape, Man saves Woman. But it gave context to an otherwise nonsensical set of actions (jumping over barrels and swinging hammers) that made the game easy to like, quite similar to Pac-Man, but just that little bit better.
This concept of applying a narrative framework with a definite end point was brought to most, and then eventually, all Nintendo games released in the 80's and soon enough other game developers followed suit. After all, even if you want to simply shoot aliens, it's nice to have a reason to do so. This is just a part of our human nature; add personal context to even the most illogical of situations!
In a lot of ways, Nintendo kind of wins this by default, since the NES was the first popular home console that had enough horsepower to actually deliver this to the masses, and surely this idea would have come about regardless of who provided the medium (especially once you consider the considerable growth PC games made in the same time frame). But due to the encouragement of the value of story by putting it into their own games, Nintendo ensured that the acceptance of at least some narrative was a standard, rather than an exception. And due to the sheer number of NES consoles owned across the world, it became the standard expect similar treatment, at the very least in the manual of a game. Even if it's just a "porn Plot", or a window dressing in many games, it's a heck of a lot better than having nothing at all.
And for some , these plots are just the start of something much larger.
Here's hoping we eventually get there.<< PREV 1 of 25 NEXT >>
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