July 14, 2014
Let Me Tell You A Tale (Part 2)
So now that we have looked at Telltale’s The Walking Dead, let’s examine what we can learn from The Wolf Among Us. The Wolf Among Us is a game based on the Vertigo comic titled Fables, which is a story that asks what if characters from children’s stories were living, hiding amongst us, in a small community in New York, the inhuman ones disguising themselves via “glamours” to appear human. In the game, you play as the sheriff of Fabletown, Bigby Wolf, or as most know him: the Big Bad Wolf. In the game, you are investigating a murder and, in doing so, begin to unravel a dark secret about the community you have fought so hard to protect.
This is a marvelous game. Another point-and-click adventure style game like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among us feels a more natural choice for that specific genre, given its focus on investigation and social interaction, which is not to say that The Walking Dead does a poor job in either case, but what can this game show us in regards to storytelling?
Two things stand out to me: consequences and the illusion of choice. I have already discussed dealing with the consequences of your actions in games, but here the very words you choose to say can unintentionally have a great impact on the story. Much of the game is about the choice of how much you say and to whom. Who do you trust? Who do you suspect? How much do you have to say while still getting what you want out of your fellow fables? This poses an interesting challenge that I was not expecting from the title when I first began playing, and it really made me think about several recent games I have been involved with. Players, and by proxy, their characters, tend to divulge everything they come across to certain non-player characters, while holding back from others. Of course, this makes sense. Everyone has people that they trust, right? However, this got me thinking as to the “why.” Why did the players trust these non-player characters over others? What traits do they find trustworthy? Is it the connection with their character? Is it something to do with a perceived favoritism of a certain non-player character by the Gamemaster? More importantly, could this be manipulated somehow for the sake of the story?
Secondly, there is the illusion of choice. I have not talked much about this matter before, something I hope to rectify soon, but in a nutshell this is the perception of giving your players choices while still keeping them to the story you have prepared. Giving them the feeling of total control while, in reality, giving them little. Video games make use of this all of the time. They have to. The more open the game world, the more they have to create an illusion of choice for the player, and Gamemastering can be the same thing. The Wolf Among Us does this incredibly well by creating divergent paths of investigation. Which crime scene do you investigate first? Or what two events do you deal with when there are three happening at once? It all ends up at the same place in the story eventually, but it gives the player the freedom to make the decision of how they want to get there. This is a trick I feel that every Gamemaster should familiarize themself with if they want to create open-world seeming narratives, while still holding fast to a story they want to tell.
So, there you have it. The Walking Dead, seasons one and two, and The Wolf Among Us, two wonderful games that have a lot to teach us about storytelling and running a tabletop role-playing game. There is much more that both of these games can offer, but for now I will leave it at that. I highly recommend checking these games out… unless you are a player in my upcoming Dresden Files game. If so, leave The Wolf Among Us be. I may have… borrowed a few story ideas.
As always, thanks for reading and I wish you all good gaming.
Image Credit: Telltale Games