TSM Episode 298: The Triumph of Gameplay

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When worlds collide.

Download: Produced 2014.11.16

Lusipurr, SiliconNooB, and Mel discuss Vagrant Story at length, and pass judgement on one of the great ideological debates from the past: Gameplay vs. Story. And, in advance of Thanksgiving, Puritans receive a well-deserved sledging from all parties.

18 comments on “TSM Episode 298: The Triumph of Gameplay”

  1. Apologies in advance for the long comments ahead.

    I’ve heard the argument a lot lately that gaming needs to be about the message, not the fun (primarily from the SJW side). The problem with that is that gaming is an expensive hobby with big budget gaming having made it so big only because it’s remained focused on providing, well, fun. Even with all the killjoys like DRM, DLC, etc trying to monetize it into oblivion, it still -needs- fun at the core. The free market answers only to the bottom line, financially. If it stops being fun, the audience won’t stick around. And the cult of SJW is not nearly vast enough to sustain this industry.

    In regards to the discussion about SJWs being the new puritans, I’ve heard that said a lot recently. I said it several times this week during social media rants and compared this to the PMRC days of the 80s. Isn’t it astounding that generations who grew up fighting against these sort of morally right brigades are now following in their footsteps?

    “Shirtstorm” is a clear indication that social justice, and it’s left arm, third wave feminism have gone way past too far. I’d like to take this moment to point out that Time magazine recently ran a poll asking readers what word they’d like to see banned in the year ahead. It was feminist. By a 45% lead. Time since removed the poll, following complaints from a vocal minority.

    In regards to the idea of steering clear of places where you know the loudest voices (journos) are speaking nonsense, yeah. I agree that steering clear of sites that support absolute garbage ideals (often spiced with hypocrisy) is in the best interest of us all as it starves them of attention and revenue. At the same time, there’s a line. You can’t just give up every free voice on the internet or there will be no places to speak. I’ve been more active on social media in the past few months than I have my entire life because there -has- to be a push back, however small (and my voice is a very tiny one for sure).

    I really appreciated this discussion gentlemen. I’ve linked it to several places and hope you get some well deserved traffic.

    Re: Vagrant Story: I bought the game day one years ago. I lived in Tucson at the time so I have very vivid memories of playing and enjoying it. However, I also recall a sincere frustration with what I considered a very difficult gameplay style, and oppressive sense of atmosphere that I could only handle in small doses. I don’t think we, as gamers have outgrown it. My experience is that it was a slow burn of a title that slowly wore away my resolve to finish it. The stress it generated outweighed the fun of the experience. Ironic, coming from Mr. Dark Souls.

    I do agree wholeheartedly with the notion that we all became gameplay people. I remember the era of gameplay titles vs story titles. If you were playing Lunar, you weren’t there for the gameplay. There were some happy exceptions, however. Like Chrono Trigger. But those were special occasions and not the rule. I should add however, that I dropped both Final Fantasy XIII and Dragon Age because the stories were aggrevating the hell out of me, however, and the gameplay wasn’t likable enough for me to carry the weight.

    Re: digital vs hard copy: I will always opt for hard copy. Cannot stand having a title I can’t touch. Somehow it doesn’t feel like a real product.

    Re: Nomura: I propose we accurately capture his obvious teenage angst in appropriate fashion. By remaking the teenage comedy sitcom Parker Lewis Can’t Lose into a show about everyone’s favorite belt-crazy visual K artist’s day to day life in the Square office. We’ll call it (obviously) Tetsuya Nomura Can’t Lose.

    Re: ACUnity: Just happy to see big developers getting called on releasing broken games finally. I hope the upcoming DA: Cisquisition faces a similar blowback.

    Re: Sonic Boom. It looks like fanart I drew when I was 13 and through giving Sonic muscles was hardcore.

    Re: Xenoblade. I felt exactly like you’ve described here, Mel and eventually just got so bored/irritated that I stopped. Somewhere around the glowing, violet swamp area.

    Re: Anne Rice: I read the Vampire Lestat roughly 15 years ago and can’t remember too much about it. I’ve never been a big vampire person, but listening to the readthrough of Interview is making me want to go back and try the series again. This is definitely the most I’ve enjoyed the readings and I’m not sure what that says about my tastes in literature (which are anything but high).

    This was a very enjoyable listen. And I’m going to let it play again while I toil away at my work area through the night. Thanks much gents.

    Oh, and the episode’s accompanying pic, much like the one in Julian’s news post from the other day had me laughing near to tears.

  2. “And the cult of SJW is not nearly vast enough to sustain this industry.”
    A fact they explain away by saying that once they’ve taken all of the apples out of this world, and all that is left is oranges, no one will want apples anymore because no one will even know what an apple is. We’ll all love oranges because oranges is all there will be. Doesn’t that sound charming?

    “Time since removed the poll, following complaints from a vocal minority.”
    Another victory for freedom of thought and speech. If the word were ‘Gamer’, it would still be there. But I thought people were against double standards?

    “You can’t just give up every free voice on the internet or there will be no places to speak.”
    Quite right. There’s a great line from Beckett:

    Bishop Foliot: I beg of you do not do this. You will strike a blow that will split Church and state for a generation.
    Becket: If I do not strike it now the Church as we know it will not survive a generation.
    Foliot: God will see that is survives.
    Becket: No, the Kingdom of God must be defended like any other kingdom.

    “Tetsuya Nomura Can’t Lose.”
    If I win the lottery, I will spend it all in funding a production of this.

    “This is definitely the most I’ve enjoyed the readings and I’m not sure what that says about my tastes in literature (which are anything but high).”
    I’m glad to hear from so many people that they are enjoying it. It is a very different work and I worry that I may not be doing it justice–since the entire thing is being related through Louis, I have to do the voices (except the boy, whose name is Daniel, although I don’t know if that is ever related in the book) in a much more muted way: they are Louis’ own, muted, versions–and he is a person not given to mocking or exaggerating, and so they are understated, as he would understate them.

    “And I’m going to let it play again while I toil away at my work area through the night. Thanks much gents.”
    Thanks for the comment, which distracted me (briefly) from my own work.

    “Oh, and the episode’s accompanying pic, much like the one in Julian’s news post from the other day had me laughing near to tears.”
    We quite literally shrieked with laughter when we found it. There was much mirth. It is quite the find.

  3. My friend is a social justice warrior. I always want to slap him in the face for it.

    On the subject of gameplay vs story, I always believed myself to be a story person. However, I started thinking about it after hearing what you all had to say and realize that you are correct. Gameplay is king. No matter how great a video game narrative is, if the gameplay is no fun I will not continue playing. I never really thought about it before, but that is the reason why I couldn’t finish Bioshock Infinite and Mass Effect.

    On the subject of Assassin’s Creed Unity, I have taken a stance against that game and all it represents for the video game industry. I will not support companies releasing games before they finish them just for a quick buck, it’s insidious.

  4. “On the subject of Assassin’s Creed Unity, I have taken a stance against that game and all it represents for the video game industry. I will not support companies releasing games before they finish them just for a quick buck, it’s insidious.”

    The world needs more people like you, LegendaryApple. It would solve many of the problems in gaming.

  5. The story vs gameplay focus of a gamer is something I had always been aware of but never had time to think about. For me, I feel I’ve always been a gameplay person, but then again I didn’t get into RPGs and games with stories until later than some.

    All I know is I’ve made numerous excuses for games with poor to no plot if I enjoyed the gameplay (Grandia Xtreme is an example) but I’ve never done the reverse. In the past that would mean I simply skip the game, but these days if I’m still that interested I’ll watch an LP. And games like that include “good” games I personally don’t care for or am bad at. So most of Platinum Games’ work, like Bayonetta or MGS Revengeance. They’re fun to watch, I think. But I don’t want to actually play them.

  6. Wow removing content after purchase. This is why I am militant about buying only physical. The rant about #shirtgate and its greater implications was great. More of this please. I shared it with lots of people I know.

  7. I had always imagined myself as a story person because of how much I enjoy a good narrative, but that is something that does not hold up under scrutiny. I cannot endure games like FFVIII and Ni no Kuni despite the fact that I enjoy the setting of both games, yet can quickly find myself engrossed in a game of RE4,despite its awful story.

  8. Info Blast is a lumberjack and that’s okay

    This week’s panel
    Silicon Noob
    Mel
    Lusipurr
    Also featuring:
    Bup

    Podcast Feature
    Not this week

    Consumer Advice
    Fall Playthrough
    Now In Progress!
    I’m still in the first dungeon…

    NEWS
    Nomoura goes metal for KH3

    GTA Patch removes content
    How did we not see this coming? I bet expiring content is next: “Buy in the first week before we remove content!” “I’m sorry, your season pass for this DLC has expired. Please re-purchase to play.”

    AC: Unity and Sonic Boom

    Blood Borne bumped to March

    Reggie CoD/Watch Dogs Wii U

    Bup Talk
    Most important elements of gameplay
    Bup’s had better. Is he running out of stalling ideas?

    Imitanis Literature Corner
    Interview With A Vampire by Anne Rice
    That was a short reading. Bah. I want to know more! It’s been very difficult to not read ahead.

    Imitanis Gaming Moment
    This week I played more Castles of Burgundy. I’ve covered this previously ->HERE<- and I still stand by everything I said there.
    See the next segment for why that’s the only thing to report.

    DiceAdmiral Travel Moment (Named after the commenter who writes the most Info Blasts.)
    This week I drove a couple hours out into the woods to cut down a tree and another couple hours to bring it back. Then I did it again the next day after learning that I’d cut down the wrong species the first time. At least I got to wear my plaid jacket unironically.

    I also saw the National Theatre production of Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbach and Jonny Lee Miller. This was a fantastic show. I haven’t read Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein but I am told that this version follows that novel fairly accurately, which means that it’s a good deal different from what pop culture presents. The showing that I saw had JLM as the creature and BC as Viktor Frankenstein though they switch roles on alternate showings. Strongly recommended.

    Final Quotes
    “If you have a physical option, take it. They can’t take it away from you…. They can try, but it’s a lot harder” -Lusi.

    Donators
    Cumulative total record holder: Imitanis
    Single Donation record holder: Imitanis

    Donators eligible for end of year drawing:
    Greg H.
    John V.
    Matthew D.
    John M.
    Brett W.
    Aram Z.
    Peter V.
    Billy B.
    Les E.
    Martin B.
    Jeremy V.
    Simon H.

  9. “I bet expiring content is next: “Buy in the first week before we remove content!” “I’m sorry, your season pass for this DLC has expired. Please re-purchase to play.”
    You heard it first here, folks.

    “Bup’s had better. Is he running out of stalling ideas?”
    He was running out of something this week.

    “I also saw the National Theatre production of Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbach and Jonny Lee Miller. This was a fantastic show.”
    Now on my list. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is an excellent work and very much worth reading.

    This was an Info Blast lite–more of an Info Bang, or an Info Pop!

  10. “This was an Info Blast lite–more of an Info Bang, or an Info Pop!”
    Yeah, I agree. I think that this is mostly because you guys spent a lot of time talking about SJW stuff and while you made several good points I’m weary of the topic at this point so I didn’t cover it in the IB. The rest of the length usually comes from game rundowns, which I didn’t have this week.

  11. I’m on staycation, so I’m out of the loop more than usual, but I’m excited to listen to this cast and jump in on the conversation. I haven’t read comments yet, but I do think that separating story and gameplay when thinking about games is essentially an error. Gameplay does tell a story over the course of a game and story themes should understand what that story is and compliment it for the best experiences, I feel.

  12. Good podcast,

    Two thoughts of mine regarding the subject at hand. For a game to be “fun” it must often contain things in it that are not fun. Aerith dieing in FF7 is a good example as it is the game conveying sadness that enriches the game as a whole. If your game was just a pile of happy joy fun time you’d get Candy Crush and it would suddenly seem horrible and bleak. A game needs to have something in it to get the player emotionally attached in some negative fashion whether it be controller throwing frustration (Dark Souls), insane boredom (grinding in an NIS SRPG), the grotesque (Binding of Isaac), or just plain old scary (Silent Hill).

    On the subject of story in video games, I think that you can have a game that is mechanically enjoyable but lacks a story, like Mario. However, you can’t really have a game that has a good story and lacks any sort of enjoyable game play. It is a game after all, and if you just want to tell your story, then tacking it on to bad gameplay is pointless. Just write a book, comic, play, poem, or movie. And if you have good gameplay and a good story then I guess its win/win.

  13. One aspect of gaming that doesn’t get brought up as much as game play and story is the environments. It would sound weird to call yourself an “environment” person, or even a “music” person when it comes to explaining what attracts you most to games, but that’s a huge one for me. I would have considered myself a “story person” – having played RPG’s since 1990 it becomes very embedded – but looking back upon the most enjoyable experiences and particularly the SNES-era, the places where you go and walk around in meant as much as why you went there. For instance, I love the point in Chrono Trigger where you first enter Zeal Kingdom because of the place itself and the music tripping it out further, not really because I enjoy what’s happening there. So while the story goes hand in hand with the environments, often it’s the place and not the events which really stand out.

  14. I was thinking even more on the subject, and I’ve recalled a few exceptions to playing a game only for the gameplay. Horror games, in my experience, have long been an exception and I think they have been for other people as well. The Silent Hill and Resident Evil games were never described as being excellent in the gameplay department, but everyone wanted to play them because they offered pretty intense or disturbing stories. Tank controls might be under a lot of fire now, but people knew back then that they were kinda clunky. They were just more willing to get used to that.

    I can say at least for myself that when I bought Silent Hill 2 (waaay after it was first released) on the PS2, it wasn’t for the gameplay. And I feel the same is true for the old Resident Evils, which I was introduced to during the GameCube era.

  15. LOL, people did not want to play mechanically simplistic horror games because of the stories [especially not RE!], Mel. It was because of the rich environmental exploration through detailed and atmospheric locations – and I’d argue that good exploration is a form of gameplay [while at the same time contributing to story through notes and the like].

    Good exploration is one of the most satisfying elements that you can have in a game.

  16. I guess it could all be considered part of gameplay if you include passive elements like notes.

    And the stories of RE and Silent Hill might have been camp or downright cringe-worthy, but I certainly enjoyed those elements because of it. However, most people were indeed probably in it more specifically for the atmosphere. I should have clarified that, as I think it’s the major aspect for me as well beyond any guilty enjoyment of laughable plot. But the mechanics and character control are definitely being given a pass because of those elements.

  17. I guess it could all be considered part of gameplay if you include passive elements like notes.

    It’s kind of shared – the notes themselves are story, but the act of scouring the haunted house environment for them [along with much-needed supplies] clearly falls under the heading of gameplay.

    The first three Silent Hill games had really strong narratives, but RE has never been able to stake a similar claim. Regardless, story wasn’t really the primary draw for either game series initially – or at least it wasn’t at the time. After the fact SH2 became legendary for its story, so it’s not something I dismiss out of hand, as it’s probably the reason that someone would look into the game now days.

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