Gamer Louis is a weekly Blast column written by Louis Schuler. It cover all types of video game news and opinions. Louis will be taking a break after this column, but he’ll be back!
We live in an era of online interaction, specifically with first-person shooter games, MMORPGs, and other genres. Yet, there has been a recent emergence of a genre that has been practically nonexistent in the gaming industry since the late 1990s.
This genre is known as the graphic adventure game.
However, it should be clarified that, when I use the term, ‘graphic adventure game,’ I am examining a specific sub-genre, which generally uses point-and-click scenarios. Within these instances, players are given dialogue options that can change the pace and story throughout the game.
Throughout the course of these experiences – “Life is Strange”, “The Walking Dead” and “The Wolf Among Us” are prime examples of the genre – the gamer is given an opportunity to feel a sense of control over their own destiny. I would almost equate it to spectators being able to insert themselves into the story itself while watching a movie.
Of course, this movement left the market in the United States while being largely popular in Japan and Europe. But it has been able to make a comeback in the states after a long hiatus.
How could this happen? Like with many trends, it often takes a popular legendary trend to spark a movement.
That legend was Star Wars.
In 2003, Bioware, which was eventually bought out by EA games, developed “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic” (”KOTOR”). Along with receiving virtually an entire portfolio of critical acclaim, “KOTOR” became a huge success. It eventually sold over one million units and became one of the few Xbox titles to eclipse that mark. In a list compiled by Time magazine, “KOTOR” was among the 31 other titles elected to the best games during the 2000’s decade.
In ”KOTOR”, players were able to play as a fallen Jedi who eventually became immensely powerful because of choices the player would make throughout the game. Its successor, “Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords”, exemplified this gameplay material while adding the ability to influence other party members depending on their choices in the game. These choices would determine whether or not the protagonist of the story would fall to the dark side or become a Jedi knight.
As someone who has garnered a decent amount of experience with these types of games, I have to say that they certainly hold an alluring charm that not many other titles offer players in this era.
My first dialogue-heavy game was “KOTOR” and I have been hooked on that kind of experiences ever since. This kind of experience offers gamers significantly replayability, where they can restart the game to see how the story will end when playing in a different manner by exploring different choices throughout the story.
Telltale Games understand the importance of dialogue and choice, and have used it with their most successful masterpiece: “The Walking Dead” (“TWD”).
After playing both season one and season two of “TWD”, I found myself enjoying the game more than the actual TV show. However, “TWD” mastered something that is not easy to do within the world of video games: it set itself apart within a sub-genre among its competitors. Unlike other graphic adventure games, “TWD” incorporates an overwhelming amount of dialogue options for the player to enjoy that can lead to numerous conclusions to the story.
Although it is embarrassing to admit, “TWD” marked the first time I have cried (though let’s be honest, not full on crying, but ‘tearing up’ nonetheless) while playing a video game. I found myself at a crossroads with nearly every decision I had to make whether it was for myself, Clementine – the main protagonist in Season 2 – or other characters.
The game unlocks a myriad of possibilities, whether that was in the form of me choosing to kill certain characters in favor of others, leaving behind an integral character, or even killing the main protagonist. I was always on the cusp of losing or gaining influence with people within my survival group and the choices were truly difficult to make during virtually every part of the game.
Another trait that separates graphic adventure games from others is how it makes the player feel connected to the characters. After completing “TWD”, Lee Everett and Clementine are a couple of my favorite video game characters of all-time, up there with the Master Chief, Ezio, Link, Zelda and Donkey Kong.
How does the graphic adventure game make the player feel connected to the characters, you might ask? The answer is simple: genuine empathy.
When I first played through “TWD”, I didn’t expect to develop a bond with the characters. Even after playing “KOTOR” multiple times I never felt any connection to the other supporting characters. The only person I developed a rapport with was Clementine.
As Lee Everett, you are tasked with the responsibility of looking after Clementine, a pre-adolescent girl whose parents died during the zombie apocalypse. As a result, I found my paternal instincts kicking in during just about every phase of the game.
After being tasked with surviving the zombie hordes and braving other ruthless, apathetic humans, I found myself constantly being forced to choose to either expose Clementine to the real world or to shelter her. This was for almost every imaginable scenario: from including her in arguments to choose or spare another human being, existential questions, neglecting or electing to let her witness horrific occurrences, chopping her hair off to decrease the chance of becoming ‘zombie bait,’ to choosing whether or not to use swear words in her presence.
In all honesty, “TWD” and other graphic adventure games open up an untapped facet of gaming. One common, overlying principle with most titles is to give the player an objective to obtain – although in many cases, this is in addition to downloadable content that developers often utilize for more revenue. However, the main goal or objective in graphic adventure games is never static, it is constantly in a state of flux when the player is given multiple choices to make in a dialogue or action scenario.
It is good to have this genre back in the game industry; it provides another untapped outlet for gamers to experience, especially for those born in the late 90’s. I would encourage everyone to give these games a shot, as you will surely experience nothing else like them.