Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
The Mario games, the Kirby series, and Sonic the Hedgehog do not have deep,
twelve-act structures loaded with Freudian conflict or Jungian angst, and even though
as a writer you might yearn to pen such stuff, they don't need this depth. There are
games that are happy with basic story frames, and there always will be. This does
not mean that there cannot be deep stories in platform games, but it should demon-
strate that there is nothing wrong with game stories this elementary. The decision
to implement a complex narrative rather than a simple story frame comes down to
the game's intended audience. Audience is a factor that exerts a keen influence in the
platform genre.
Story Genre and Audience
Game writing is based firmly on the genre of game in which it is set. Otherwise,
you wouldn't be reading this topic, right? So, game genre comes first, narrative genre
second. This does not make the narrative genre a poor cousin, but the game genre
sets the boundaries within which the narrative genre must exist. Once the game
genre has been determined, the next predominant factor in deciding story genre is
the age range of the game's intended audience. From their original release to to-
day, Crash Bandicoot and Sonic the Hedgehog have been aimed at the “family” mar-
ket as games intended to be accessible to all ages. As a general rule, the industry
seems to assume that family titles must employ simple stories, often cartoons, as
this is all a family audience can handle (despite both television and film regularly
proving that family audiences are open to satire and other more complex forms).
Since the release of the original Sonic , the game market has fractured and diversi-
fied. Gamers have grown older, and there has been an increase in demand for a
more mature gaming experience. This in turn has left family games being aimed
even more squarely at a younger audience and simpler stories. There are titles, how-
ever, that have taken the expected, a cartoon setting, running and jumping chal-
lenges, and then subverted it. Psychonauts is one example of this. Psychonauts is
a cartoon platformer with a teen rating 1 that maintains the family elements people
have come to expect from many platformers but then laces it with satire and social
While the plethora of Mario titles, new Sonic incarnations, and the focus on
younger and younger audiences might suggest it, platform games do not have to be
set in cartoon worlds. There are a number of more “realistic” games aimed at an
older audience. Naughty Dog's Uncharted: Drake's Fortune boasts an age rating of
teen 2 ,whileUbisoft's Prince of Persia series has regularly wandered into the mature
rating. It should be noted that Uncharted and Prince of Persia don't aim to attract an
older audience simply by containing swearing or violence. Both have more complex
gameplay sequences and deeper story worlds than their cartoon contemporaries. The
plot of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune follows its hard-bitten hero on a quest to discover
1 ESRB Teen; PEGI and USK 12+.
2 ESRB Teen; PEGI 16+; USK 16.
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