ludonarrative interference

AI partners, stealth problems, subpar shooting, and ludonarrative interference in The Last of Us by Alec Kubas-Meyer

Why is it that, in The Last of Us, enemies can walk through Ellie’s crouching character model without noticing her or Joel? Because video games.

When I complained at length a couple months back about the painfully stupid line, “You can stealth your way through this, but I know that’s not your style,” I intentionally neglected to mention one of the biggest reasons it bothered me: because for someone whose MO is apparently “shoot first, ask questions later,” Joel is a pretty terrible shot. My complaints were focused on the narrative and character reasons why it made no sense, but now it’s time to talk about the gameplay.

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Ludonarrative dissonance and ludonarrative interference: An introduction by Alec Kubas-Meyer

It’s time for me to finally explain two topics that I have offhandedly mentioned on multiple occasions (and will talk about a whole lot more in the future): ludonarrative dissonance and ludonarrative interference. But before we talk about them, let’s talk about BioshockBioshock’s release in 2007 was a milestone for video game narratives. It was a console shooter that said things and made points.  It had choices (even if the black and white nature of the Little Sister harvesting decisions wasn’t all that compelling) and it commented on the nature of player interaction with a game. Plus, it was basically the sequel to Atlas Shrugged (if John Galt’s weird pure-capitalist society hidden in the mountain was a modern-ish Atlantis). And since it was critiquing Ayn Rand’s philosophies, it had to be smart. (I mean, not really. A monkey pointing to 2008 on a calendar would be making a pretty compelling argument for some regulation of industry, although Bioshock was released before the economy blew up but that’s not the point. I digress.) It also received some serious academic-style criticism in a way that few games before (or after, to be honest) had.

And I find it ironic that one of the most enduring critical analyses of the game also missed the game’s most interesting hook.

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The Last of Us, the WGA awards, and thoughts on poor video game writing by Alec Kubas-Meyer

As I’m writing this, The Last of Us has just been given yet another award, this time from the Writer’s Guild of America. The last award on the list is the “Videogame Winner” for “Outstanding Achievement in Videogame Writing.” Impressive, right? Not really.

The problem with the WGA awards is that they can only be given to scripts written under the jurisdiction of the WGA. With film, this isn’t a major problem since there are a lot of fantastic written works being produced under that umbrella, and even if Before Midnight should have crushed the “Adapted Screenplay” category, Her was as well written as anything that came out in 2013.

Not so in the land of video games. The Last of Us was up against four other games, each of them well into their respective franchises:

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