Com-cast Ep. 18: The Aftermath


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Theme: Cowboy Bebop


The Aftermath

Full Text of Ben Mazzara's Response

  • Do you agree with Ben and Whiplash's viewpoint?
  • Is there really room for interpretation and fan ideas in video game stories?
  • Is it wrong for video games to tell you about the game world more thoroughly?
  • Does the "Valve" version of storytelling work because the plot is more ancillary?
RAM's picture

Simon and I would just like to take the time to apologize for the extremely late nature of this podcast. We ran into some technical difficulties, and given the extremely hectic and busy time of year that this is, they took longer to resolve than we would have hoped. We hope you all enjoy this podcast and we promise another one will be on the way much sooner.

Whiplash's picture

My god. I sound so weird on the podcast!

Now that I've been on the podcast and have actually seen how they operate, I can really say this with emphatic meaning. The WikiGameGuides Com-Cast is to gaming, as National Public Radio is to world news.

I want to thank Simon and Alex for taking the time to arrange this episode and the many times they've entertained not only myself, but others as well with their long, thought provoking discussions since the first episode. Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah to you all, and have a wonderful New Year.

I was listening through the episode, and there were times where Alex's voice would appear on top of my audio at times, one somewhat early in the recording, and one during my discussion to back up what I said in the previous episode. I don't know why those were there, but they were mainly appearing in the right side of the audio, and not the left and right. It was really weird, but I got over it really quickly, since they were very brief.

darthskeletor's picture

At last, at last, at long last the new one is here! I started to wonder what happened around the usual two week mark, and then it kept on dragging on...

Anyways, I think that the Valve version of narrative does only work for them because the plot is secondary. Left 4 Dead and Portal aren't narrative/cinematically oriented in the slightest. Leaving things for people to discover is fine and all, but I think that Whiplash and Ben need to acknowledge, and maybe they have already, that this is a niche viewpoint.

disgruntledavians's picture

Missed you guys for awhile there. There were some audio glitches, I presume that's what went wrong. Anyways, call me stupid, but I prefer the encyclopedic version of storytelling in games. Maybe it's not subtle, but it works. I agree with darthskeletor that people like Whiplash and Ben are a minority, albeit a very vocal one.

Can't wait for the next one, hopefully more regular.

Whiplash's picture


Please leave. Like now.

EDIT. He seems to have disappeared.

Solifluktion's picture

I think Ben and Whiplash both have a valid point as far as games that tell the player to much are concerned. It always annoys me when the maincharacter that really should know more about the world can ask people about every single detail. If I remember correctly some Originstorys in Dragon Age Origin were pretty bad that way. I'm willing to accept that my Dalish Elf living in a forest doesn't know too much about Fereldens History and Culture but when my Human Noble acts like he/she spent their life in a cave it just pulls me out of the game. 

However I don't think Mass Effect tells the Player too much. I always thought of the Codex as an almanach that is strictly for the type of  player who REALLY wants to get into the details about everything. I never felt that Shepard would read the Codex himself since as far as I see it he already knows all the relevant stuff.

No matter if the Systems Alliance and the Council Races live in peace and relative harmony...Shepard is still mainly a soldier and as such his knowledge of the Council Races would extend more into their military capacities and less in their reproductive habits. It would be interesting to see how Mass Effect feels without having read any Codex entry at all. Anyways I never got into any situations where Shepard would ask anything stupid he should already know.

Some games even have the main character know and refer to stuff that the player never learns himself. This at least helps to make the main character feel like he/she has a past. That's why I love the Witcher games. Geralt has a back story and past relationships with the main NPCs and we see him refering to stuff we don't know about. But for me it never got so far as to make me feel like I had to research before playing on.


As to whether or not intrepretations or fan ideas have room in video game stories I believe it always depends on the game and the extent of those interpretations and ideas. 

Sometimes those are even necessary for example when a game doesn't explain anything. Ben's mention of Skyrim really got to me. I also made up my own stories for each crypt I was looting.  Strangely enough this really helps with immersion. That's why suggestive horror is way more scary than explicit horror (I'm not sure about my choice of terms here but I think everyone will know what I mean).

And since Simon brought up the Indoctrination Theory I' have to add my support. I don't go into much detail as far as Shepards indoctrination is concerned since "Shepard is indoctrinated therefore the ending is weird." totally suffices to help me accept the ending. Laugh away.


Now on to the Valve way of storytelling. In Half Life you experience the story first hand so no one really has to explain anything.

Science experiment goes bad --> Aliens attack, people die --> Marines come and kill survivors  -->Gordon to the rescue.

A simple but compelling plot without much storytelling. But than again apart from all the SciFi aspects Half Life 1 still plays in our present world. No weird cultures have to be explained.

In Half Life 2 it's mostly the same except for the fact that the world as we know it doesn't exist like that anymore. You experience the Combines brutallity, you remember that Headcrabs and Zombies are bad --> Gordon to the rescue.

Portal 1 and 2 and to a certain degree Left4Dead tell their storys in part through the use of writings on walls which I really like but the main plot is told through everything the player experiences. There are no relevant occurences outside of the players sphere of influence.

So all in all I wouldn't say that Valve Stories take aren't that important, they're just told in a very subtle way. Also I don't expect the same amount of story and background in a Shooter that I expect in a RPG:


Great Podcast btw. Having Whiplash on might actually have been even better than a direct shouting match between him and John. 

Keep 'em coming and have a happy New Year.

Joe Harris's picture

This was really entertaining, great job.

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