question of points of view
Video Games / Audience.
This short reflection is intended for those who wonder what links can be created between regular video game players and the world of live performance.
You know that this is Altair’s goal and that gamers are explicitly the target audience.
So I’m going to start with the character of Darth Revan, doing my best, I promise, to not spoil anything.
Revan is a major character in KOTOR, a game from the Bioware team – a team of developers who love stories, and stories that blow your mind and neurons away at the same time.
Without rambling – but still – I had to try the 4th ending of their Mass Effect 3 to finally understand exactly the particularity of the change between generations in relation to the stories.
All this to say that you can absolutely trust the Bioware team to deliver games that are absolute masterpieces – and right up there in terms of storytelling.
To give you a very brief background on Kotor, it’s a game set in the Star Wars Expanded Universe – so there are Jedi and Sith, and obviously issues related to the Force and going to the dark side of it.
The story takes place largely before the Star Wars episodes, which gives the developers a lot of freedom to play with – if I may say so – many of the canonical elements and those added by the creative fan communities.
As in the arcs featured in the movies, the game begins in the 3rd war: there was the Republic War against the Mandalorians, won by the Republic and two of its most promising Jedi: Revan and Malak.
Revan is smarter and stronger than Malak.
Unfortunately, both Jedis turned to the dark side, Revan became Malak’s Sith master. They have turned against the Republic and the Sith are beginning to undermine the Republic for good.
When KOTOR begins, you will, in a sense, finish the war – Revan has been killed, or so it is reported – replaced by his former apprentice Malak. And you, the player, enter the scene.
A big part of the game is finding the source of the terrifying power found years before by those two Siths, Revan and Malak. Of course, it will be a matter of not letting you get ahead of yourself in your search. If – or when – you find that source, you’ll surely be the strongest, the Republic and the Jedi will have won – and those who follow will be able to recall those great wars that once shook the Republic.
This story, told by another team, would have been linear. The story would have been very well told and the player would have had a good time.
But it was invented and built scene by scene by the Bioware team and the song was not at all classical.
Now, as I write to you, I have two possibilities for you:
Either you’ve played this game and you may very vaguely see what I’m getting at or you haven’t played it and are waiting for me to explain.
I’m going to assume that you haven’t played this game – while maintaining the: no I’m certainly not going to tell you the story, are you kidding me or what?
The first particularity of this game is its combat mode. You start with three characters. You and two members of your team.
If you play ‘normally’, you’ll be killed quickly – because if you play normally, letting your companions take care of themselves, you’ll see them throwing themselves at the enemies, at the mines, putting themselves in the middle of all the fire – you’ll be alone quickly and even more quickly dead.
So you learn to play three characters at the same time during the fights – the game mode was designed for – and you’ll “stand” in different places during the fight, choose which enemy you’re going to attack, choose your strategy of fighting with three and not with one.
And then … and now, you’ve done something rare enough for the literature teacher to point out and cheer: you’ve changed your narrative points of view – not once, but an impressive number of times – almost in every fight.
When you master this very strange and pleasant way of experiencing your game and your characters, when you feel that you have become really good and that it’s no longer necessary to lose your whole team as soon as it gets a bit hot, you start to have expectations of stronger, more difficult, more technical fights. Don’t worry, you won’t be disappointed on this point.
However, the moment when you sit there, in front of your screen, saying to yourself: no, but no … but no … and that the developers show you the but yes but yes, with all the cinematics that go with it … this moment is a pure summit of narration.
You are literally bluffed by this game, by this Darth Malak and by this Darth Revan that you have not stopped hearing about during the whole game.
What I think is great about this series is that the game plays with you in exactly the same way that an author plays with you in a book or a screenwriter plays with you in a movie.
The connection is so obvious – the players (Kotor is an “old” game if you consider that time is totally accelerated in the video game universe) are used to these changes of narrative points of view, to these slaps of scenario, to invest themselves as much as possible in several characters, to choose for these characters without ever really knowing how to choose by the way – right answer or wrong answer? what will happen after what I just chose?
Which for me means very clearly that:
no, the players are not disconnected at all from the literature and the narrative worlds – they are up to their necks in it!
yes, they necessarily have very strong narrative expectations
yes, they are used to unexpected changes of viewpoint and yes, they will be there if Altair manages to offer them unexpected changes of viewpoint during performances.
Of course they will be there.
They will probably even be the first to be there and to appreciate it.
I didn’t mention Revan by accident.
Revan, in the gaming community, in the YA community, is the Sith Lord who has marked them – who has traumatized them.
Revan is the character that, for them, works as a marker: yes yes, all of us were bluffed by Revan.
Revan, is, in short, the incarnation in play, of that major principle of stories – of plays – of films – that refers to unexpected emotional shocks, to narrative points of view and of course, but need we say it, to the epic.
If you don’t know this character, you’ll have to believe me.
If you do know him, then I know you know, you know I know, and …. I’m not exaggerating – I may not even be saying enough. Never mind.
In the meantime, for Revan… so listen to the symphony that is just waiting for its stage to welcome its audience:
Featured Image : Darth Revan – by Bioware – Lucas Arts