So, as I’m bloging GTA4 I’ve noticed that typing up even a blog brief of my activities in the game takes up just as much time, if not more, than the actual play-time in-game.
I think this reflects a trend in another form of storytelling in another medium – Comic Books. In comic books there is something called Decompressed Storytelling. Decompressed storytelling is the idea of taking a story and spreading it out over more pages (spreading it to more then one ‘book’) by increasing detail, visuals and character interaction. The result being a slower paced and more spread out narrative.
It’s actually funny, I didn’t notice this in the last sandbox game I played (Spiderman 3) because it is actually based on a comic, so that sort of storytelling is expected. However, this form of narrative is a natural for sandbox-type games like GTA4.
It’s not unusual in the field of games to see narrative decompressed in this manner. You see the same type of narrative in Grim Fandango and many other games as well. The focus of these games is just as much on the character interactions and creating an opportunity to show of intensely detailed graphics as it is on telling the story. Sometimes this works out very well, other times, not so much.
Oddly, while the comic book industry is moving more and more towards decompressed storytelling, the majority of the game industry is moving in the opposite direction. Yes there are plenty of sandbox games where the story is littered throughout the landscape and completion means dozens of hours. However, for the directed games (case in point: Gears of War) the industry is moving towards shorter games with tighter stories.
Both narrative styles have their advantages and disadvantages. It really comes down to a question of what the consumer wants and what the industry can get away with.