Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

(And yes, I would have written “Amongst Thieves”… A habit I am trying to break.)

As regular viewers may or may not know, I enjoy the occasional computer game. Actually, I enjoy good computer games a lot, but “good” computer games are few and far between, so I tend to buy a fair few computer games but spend very little time playing them. I usually give up on most computer games after a few hours, and probably play one or two to the end in any given year. I usually like the idea of playing computer games much more than I do playing them. This is because I like computer games - I really thing that the medium has a lot of potential - but there really are not very many great games. So, most computer games, I play a couple of levels and then abandon through boredom. The last computer game I thought was truly superb was Portal (and I still love the end song to that; best song at the end of a game ever). The trouble with computer games is really quite simple and has been commented on in many places: while the technology has got better and better, the quality of the scripts has deteriorated - and they weren’t very good to begin with. (But I am thinking of some of the early text-only adventure games from the 80s - some of those were fun and well-written.) This has always driven me nuts. There’s really no reason a computer game can’t have strong characters you care about and a decent story that you get involved in - after all, cartoons and computer-generated movies such as Toy Story and Wall-E show that it is entirely possible to get wrapped up in virtual realities as much as any film driven by live action. Sure, it’s a harder balance to strike, as you have to play the game which means you can’t have people talking all the way through. But the main trouble is, games designers tend to get bogged down with the mechanics of the game and the script and story end up a secondary consideration at best. And until the scripts, stories and characters of games are invested with the same sort of care as those in a good film or even - dare I say it - a good book, then games are destined to remain low-brow and juvenile entertainment. Yeah, games are fun, but our involvement is purely kinetic.

Well, I’ve just completed Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. I played Uncharted: Drake’s Progress not long ago (having come late to the PS3), and was blown away by that. U2:AT is even better. The gameplay is superb - scenes that would be cut-scenes in other games turn out to be playable - a whole building collapses and you’re sliding along the floor with bad guys shooting at you and you suddenly realise you are supposed to be playing - it’s not a cinematic. Car chases in which you jump from car to car; an amazing train shoot-out in which you leap from carriage to carriage, clamber to the top and avoid getting killed by low bridges; finding yourself hanging from the train as it teeters over a cliff following an explosion… All superb action film sequences that you play. All of this would set it apart from your average game anyway, in conjunction with the amazing visuals. But what I really, really loved about this game was - it had a decent script.

Okay, we’re not talking The Godfather or It’s a Wonderful Life, of course. This was strictly and unashamedly Indiana Jones in plot. But unlike the superficially similar Tomb Raider series, it had a script that actually gave some character to the, you know, characters. And then it had decent actors playing the parts (and of course it didn’t hurt that Claudia Black, of my beloved Farscape, was playing one of the roles). As with Uncharted 1, it was clever about adding dialogue without having to stop the game - by giving you a computer-conrolled partner throughout different scenes, it felt as though you were interacting with other characters, and they carried on conversations (and witty insults and exchanges) while you were in the middle of the action. How come no one else thought to do that? (Answer: because not many computer game makers care about scripts or characters.) It pulled off the amazing trick - quite unique in my recollection - of making me actually care about the main characters. That’s right: I found myself caring about computer game characters. I really cannot remember any other game in which I have cared about the characters - usually they are all 2D grunts or babes, after all, and it’s hard to care for the generic.

So now I am rather gutted to have finished the game, as I very much doubt I’m going to come across another computer game that has decent characters for some time. I have high hopes for Heavy Rain, but we shall see. (On the plus side, of course, I’ll have more free time from now on…) I really hope that we see more computer games like this though. I’m so fed up of “shoot this, run there, shoot this, jump there” games. I will jump and shoot happily, but what’s my motivation, dahling?

So, um, yeah. I liked it. :slight_smile:

Right, that’s me done extolling this superb game. Can anyone think of any other computer games that have either a decent script or characters that you can invest as much in as you do characters in a good film?

All the best,

I really should shut up, but I can’t resist:

Remember when I offered to send you a copy of “Topsy-Turvy” and you declined because you had no interest in Gilbert & Sullivan? Well, you’ve just returned my compliment.

I love films, but I think computer games are the death of our race and hope they will vanish when The Rapture finally comes.

The only bigger waste of time might be a daily round of golf and then a visit to the Red Lion in good old Stockpot, UK.

Yes, I know: this is war. Meet you on WOW or HALO, take yer choice :smiling_imp:

“Dead man walkin’. We gotta dead man walkin’ here!”
[size=85]Percy Wetmore - The Green Mile[/size]

I knew I was risking it by posting anything about computer games on a writer’s forum. :slight_smile:

Did that actually happen? I have no recollection of it whatsoever… But my memory is a dodgy thing at the best of times so I genuinely have no idea if this is a joke or a real event. Hmm… Now I think I do remember it, but maybe that’s only because you’ve made me think it happened. Argh!

Hmm, I didn’t think you believed in The Rapture? Nah, this ain’t war. I perfectly understand that this is the attitude of many, and based on most of the drivel available it’s understandable - and certainly the game I was extolling above wouldn’t change anybody’s minds, either, with its guns and action - it’s just a small, incremental step along the way in a medium that I hope one day matures. But the same was said of Hollywood and films - that they were the death of the human race, that they infantilised us all, etc etc. And that criticism is quite valid for a good number of films, but there are enough good, thought-provoking films that such ideas seem a gross generalisation and misrepresentation. I don’t believe - and here I believe that we’ll have to agree to differ - that there is anything inherent in the medium of computer games that says they can’t be good, and who knows, maybe even one day thought-provoking. But sadly that just hasn’t happened with the medium. Generally it’s run around, pretend to be a hunk with guns, and kill everybody etc etc. Yawn. You could argue that the interactive element stifles it as a storytelling medium, and you may be right, but I don’t believe all entertainment has to be highbrow. I love Madame Bovary and Dostoyevsky - but I also love seeing John McClane going mano a mano with a fighter jet, and I ain’t ashamed to say so. (And when talking about highbrow vs lowbrow, let’s remember that two of Chaucer’s tales - one of them among his best - revolved around a fart; and the Arabian Nights had tales about farting and masturbation - although not together I might add.)

The fact is, though, whether you like them or loathe them, computer games are here to stay. I grew up with them, from Pong and Space Invaders through to Manic Miner and Horace Goes Skiing and onwards. And while we are unlikely ever to see the back of big, stupid shoot-everything games any more than we are ever to be rid of Hollywood dross such as Transformers 2 (and hey, I love robots in disguise…), given that it’s a medium that is here to stay, I would like to see it evolve so into a medium that produces more intelligent and thoughtful games with more interesting scripts than “Kill them!” It is a unique medium that allows for story, action, puzzle-solving, lateral thinking, fast reactions and lots more. But sadly most games try to borrow the worst elements of other mediums rather than create something unique.

But let’s face it, all of the above is over-intellectualsing. Sometimes, after a really crappy day, I just like shooting things and blowing stuff up. :slight_smile:


Sounds like a good game!

I’m a final fantasy fan, although I don’t have time to “invest” in playing them much anymore. I find that playing on my daughter’s DS - while it lacks the immersive environment and the high quality graphics - it can be played in small snatches of time here and there which is something I can manage!

But I like them because they are story-line games, somewhat linear, but with developing characters and an end goal in mind and a resolution to work towards. And hopefully part of the action is strategy and puzzle solving in order to progress the plot. I want to play a game where I empathise with the characters. What I don’t like is “grinding” - repetitive fighting in order to level up.

But because I don’t have a lot of time for games now, I don’t really know what other games would suit me. Final fantasy is definitely a game firmly slotted into a niche, with each game different, and yet very much the same as the last one. I haven’t really looked out for other ones (considering I have 2 unplayed PS2 games sitting in a drawer!)

On a what!!
Come back, ‘Artificial Stupidity’, all is forgiven!

I have some bad news for you Druid sir. We agree on this point.


Just to be a little more (or less) offensive (which seems like a feat until you consider my liberal use of parentheses), I think the prevalence of “personal” time with video games is slowly undermining most of what we consider “good”. I am not suggesting that the occasional couple hours with “Star Wars Battlefront” when the wife and daughtidtor are out of the house is necessarily “bad”. I will say that games that are set in current and realistic scenarios and are ridiculously violent (such as GTA) should not be considered acceptable in modern society.

But then I plan SW Battlefront with “the boy”. We talk about “it is not real” which is obvious. I guess That makes me a bit of a hypocrite.

Hey, my BFF and I have some of our funniest times beating each other up on Dead or Alive! (I don’t own a game console, so her expression when I made 2nd place on the endless mode on my 6th try was great. :laughing:)

But as someone who gets easily addicted to computer games, I understand both the concerns and the appeal. Limits are good. When I realize I’ve lost my limits on a game, I go cold turkey.

I’m fond of retro RPGs, but I don’t know how sympathetic you’d find the MCs in Geneforge, considering you as the narrator go (a bit) psycho in many storylines.

On MMOs, I even tell some of my in-game friends that I’m a writer, so they can nag me about how the novel’s coming when they see me log in too much. :mrgreen: (Yes, if you’ve met a “Carradee” in RuneScape or Oberin, that’s me.)

Speaking of Oberin, the graphics are… simplistic–beg pardon, Jinker!–but the community’s great! Just follow the crowd if you see players running like heck from one of the GMs or anything nasty they drop in the middle of newbie bank. And don’t try to kill any creature whose name is blue, please. That means it’s someone’s pet. Possibly mine.

I want to look up that “Among Thieves” game now. It looks like it’s only for PS. Pity.

My husband had a great time with the old “Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic” game on the XBox. Not only did the other characters have some character, but there was the added dimension that the player’s character could shift from the light side of the Force to the dark side and back, depending upon the choices the character made throughout the game. It was a great RPG!

I think that like anything, moderation is the key. I remember a day when I had a really bad cold and was off work, and played final fantasy VII for the entire day. And I got so hooked on it (that was my first ever playing of it) that I considered playing sick the next day too. Luckily I didn’t allow myself to do that, but I am sure that some people DO. That inability to self moderate what is makes video games such an “evil” influence.

Oh, I totally agree on over violent games - especially for younger players. Although I guess most games have some level of violence. If the game involves hacking monsters with a sword it’s got to have a healthy dollop of viciousness. As long as the monsters are bad ones… rather than a game where the player is actually the bad guy and is supposed to kill off law enforcement.

I watched my dad play DOOM II while I was in elementary school, though I was 5th or 6th grade, I think before I first played, myself. I’m fine. My penchant for the slightly morbid existed before that.

To mimic our mutual friend, Vic:
Wot? On the games or The Rapture?

OK, serious and valid point. The key here is interaction, certainly the essence of computing, but what role can it play in narration, of whatever quality? For thousands of years, the situation has been story teller and rapt listener/reader. Think Scheherazade could have saved her neck by letting the King play with her story buttons? (Hmmm…) I think that reading for pleasure is the willing suspension of disbelief, thank you Mr. Keats, and that readers should not interfere or impose their will on a story’s line of development.

Does it improve a story to let readers choose between multiple plots? I’d rather live with the author’s choices and learn why they fit with an overall structure. Interaction would ruin tragedy, comedy, or history, where the whole point is inevitability, or surprise, or consequence. I suppose interaction might work in speculative or science fiction, taking place in an alternate or future universe. But if those genres aspire to higher status, they’d better leave interaction out. (Though I have often wished I could create alternate versions of the later Star Wars episodes…)

Probably the only kinds of games I would play are of a Trivial Pursuit nature, where you get to advance or win a prize via tests of general knowledge. The first-person shooters are really horrid. Why engage in any kind of violence, simulated or not? Guys who need to pump up their testosterone should go for a run or lift weights. Mock fighting and killing are on the level of cock fights and bear-baiting, savagery that we need to outgrow.


Computer games don’t satisfy, or nourish: they’re a diet of Cheetos. They spring straight from the commercial culture. And they’re all about Me: look at Me win, look at Me smash, look at Me acquire superpowers, look at me in this tidy virtual playpen, obeying the rules, coloring inside the lines. Synthetic fun. If I wanted to go to the mall, I would. Real art means risk, and making all new.

I don’t think computer games are empty calories because it’s inherent to the form. I look at them the same way I do rap music — they’re that way because of the target demographics, young and often white males. I just youtube’d the cutscenes for Devil May Cry 4. And while the story fell short of the moral ambiguity it was aiming for, I could see the potential it could have achieved if the writing had been tighter. As comics evolved into graphic novels with larger and more educated target demographics, I think a similar direction is where computer games are headed.

The possibility (italicised because it is rarely realised) of computer games is to simulate experiences we can’t have in real life. Novels and films are - in a sense - the records of the daydreams of others. They are not interactive to the reader, but they were very much so the writer. And we enter simulated interactive realities every day, every time we daydream about a possible future, about an alternative life, or go to sleep and dream about being a Kitkat (or whatever wacky impossibility our psyche decides to throw at us). So in this sense, computer games are just somewhere else on the spectrum of make-believe realities (yes, I know, an oxymoron) to novels and films. And interactivity is a spectrum, too: most games are only interactive in that you have to hit a button to swing on a rope or whatever; usually the story is already laid out and you are just following its path - you just happen to be travelling through the story using a controller rather than by turning pages or watching images flash before your eyes 24 times a second (although you are doing that too). There’s nothing to stop you getting involved in this experience as much as you do in a good film - except for the quality of script and direction and so on. There’s a good reason most computer games make terrible films: had they been pitched as films in the first place, they would never have been made, because the characters and story are terrible. (Conversely, good films often make bad computer games because either you already know the story and the implementation is lacklustre, of the film-makers don’t want to spoil the story and so skip most of it in the game; plus the mediums are different.)

But the main thing here, I think, is that computer games aren’t going to go away. You can hate them and decry them as the epitome of mankind’s decadence, but you could say the same - and worse - of giant gas-guzzling cars (look at me!), buying the latest (or indeed any) mobile phone (look at my iPhone - I can shake it!), buying from a supermarket, smoking a cigarette, using a plastic bag, or any number of other things that are doing much more real and tangible damage to this planet than a few computer games. So given that they aren’t likely to go away (and I wouldn’t want them to, let’s face it :slight_smile: ), it would at least be nice to see the medium mature a little.

As for violent games… I disagree. Do you watch Die Hard movies? Westerns? Or any other Hollywood fodder or TV shows that generally involve a shoot-out? If not, fair enough. But it’s not so different. You could argue that the interactivity is the key element, and that by allowing teenagers to act out interactively these violent fantasies then they are having their minds warped, but that argument is deliberately obtuse in that it ignores the power of film and books to do much the same - when we become engrossed in a movie or book, we cease to exist and in a way become the characters. We live violent fantasies in books and movies as much as in any computer game. As I say, this argument doesn’t relate to you if you shun violence in all media, but I would think you are missing some superb entertainment if you do. Computer games, like TV before them, get demonised because they are an easy target. It’s much easier to blame computer games for violent teenagers and the breakdown of society than it is to blame the barely comprehensible complex web of socio-economic structures and history that are really responsible for such things. Any half-conscious human being knows these things aren’t real. Of course, I’m not saying that desensitisation by over-exposure to violence is not a real phenomenon; but violent computer games aren’t the cause - only a symptom.

As a friend once said to me: “A good bit of violence never hurt anyone.”

(The only reason I haven’t posted here for a couple of days is because I became distracted by Tekken 6. :slight_smile: )

One problem with some RPG style games is often the story line is so linear that don’t have a lot of choice - and when it comes to something interactive, actually you do want to choose and have control over the destiny of your character.

When I was a kid (a small one) I loved the “choose your own adventure” stories, where each page left you with an option - pick action a, go to page 12 or pick action b and go to page 13. That allowed you to control the destiny of the character. Of course, having died a gruesome death at the hands of a huge spider, you then backtracked and took the option, and kept doing that until you’d read all the eventual outcomes!

A good game should offer the choice of consequences by your actions. And not just the fear of dying and having to restart from your last save point.

If they get the combination right - great plot and characterisation plus challenging gameply, then an RPG should be totally immersive in a good way. (I cried when Aerith died in final fantasy VII - despite the fact that she was a funny little block character with square hands!)