The other night I had an interesting conversation with one of my friends about the game Heavy Rain, a game which I hold near and dear to my heart as one of the best games of this generation. He made the argument that the writing in that game was confusing if not incredibly poor at times, with some of the characters’ motivations making no sense at all and it was hard to disagree. There were a lot of things in Heavy Rain that quite simply didn’t add up or were just poorly executed, but I’ve time-and-time again ignored these flaws because quite honestly, the game did so much right and strove to do things that most normal games weren’t even considering that these flaws could easily be looked over.
(There are going to be some major spoilers in the next few lines, so if you’ve yet to play Heavy Rain or LA Noire, please, do yourself a favor and do not read them.)
You play the game from the perspective of a few characters, one of which is not only one of your main protagonists, but is also the antagonist, the bad guy. It provides for an interesting twist at the climax at the game and gives you more incentive to want to push on and not only see the rescue of a boy and a vicious child murderer brought to justice, but someone that you trusted and betrayed you brought down as well. It is an interesting concept but would have worked a lot better if you weren’t put inside of this character’s head through a good portion of the game and listen to his thoughts. He was concerned about a few of the boys and seemed like he wouldn’t rest until he solved the mysteries and was able to right a few wrongs, only for him to have been the cause of these wrongs. It just didn’t make sense.
We saw something similar in Rockstar’s throwback to the film noir movement in LA Noire where there was a main character that you got inside of his head for a good portion of the game only for him to be a vicious murderer at the end. It just didn’t make sense outside of a split personality disorder, which in both games there were no real hints at that. Both games, but Heavy Rain especially, were well-done and were a joy to play through, which meant that some of those flaws were easy to sweep aside for the sake of enjoying the game. Apparently not all games are made from the same cloth, though, as when Mass Effect 3 made some indiscretions fans were in an uproar. It wasn’t enough for the game to be fun and engaging, there were some flaws and fans demanded it to be fixed.
Without a doubt I consider strong character development and coherent writing to be a must in any form of entertainment that I digest, from literature to television, films and yes, games, but it seems like with games there is a bit of a gap. Sometimes a game is just good, even with the flaws involved with it. I would love to see stronger writing in future games to help really bring the medium up to a new level, but it is fascinating that some games are just good no matter what the flaws and are worth turning a blind eye to.