I write this to you while careening towards Niagara Falls in a Toyota Yaris, on a highway in the middle of New York, mountains hugging the tarmac, guiding the path. I’m going on a road trip through America. Why? Why not? I actually pose a question in response to the first question because I’m not exactly sure myself. Maybe I think I won’t come back. Either way, I’m on the road to Niagara Falls, New York, Chicago, South Dakota, Colorado, Death Valley, and then home.
Doing this has made me realize what I said in earlier editorials was true.
This little road trip of mine, a little adventure, is great and all, but it needs some meaning, some purpose. I’m getting to see my home country before I disappear for half a year. Had I just decided to hit the road without any true intention, then I would just be meaninglessly completing a series of tasks. But now, I have some greater purpose, some reasoning. And with that, comes a greater sense of understanding.
Stories aren’t video games, sure, but I still think they’re important to the cause. Think back to the first Half-Life. It didn’t really have a story, I guess, but it definitely gave a sense of urgency, of purpose. The greater story arc was pretty simple: get the hell out of Black Mesa.
There was another layer to Half-Life 2. Because the arc carried over multiple goals, it felt like you were getting something done with every completed portion.
With that said, you can’t just tell players to get the hell out of a building and expect the suspense to create itself — you have to nurture that feeling within the player. Pacing, story events, and dialogue are details in the greater scheme of giving a player purpose. Remember the iconic scene where the scientist was ripped out of a room through a plate glass window by the huge tentacle thing in the first half-life? Valve wasn’t just doing that because it was cool – they were subversively telling the player that shit was going down, and that this wasn’t just some holiday.
It seems mods have a hard time with this idea.