I've had a belief for some time now, that if a zombie apocalypse were to happen, that I would do a decent job of surviving it. I'm not a violent person in the slightest, but I think that if I realized that the world we live in had changed that drastically, I think I could get REALLY violent, REALLY quick.
However, if the zombie apocalypse ends up being like that in Left 4 Dead 2, I don't think ANYBODY would survive it, least of all four people stranded in the middle of zombie hell.
That's my fancy way of saying that I've been able to play L4D2 recently. I know, I've previously been a little down on the L4 D series.(more because we have 2L4D games, and barely a word about Half-Life: Ep.3) But I've recently been able to have some extended sessions with the game on my friend Nick's Xbox 360. I had went over to his place to play Eternal Sonata,(that game, and my feelings about it are a whole other blog post on it's own) but I ended up spending more time play L4D2.
The game just seemed so incredibly well made. From the level design, to the strategy of using items, and the different abilities of the special infected, I just couldn't put the game down. I surprised myself by putting down JRPG for a FPS! What has the world come to???
With the amount of storytelling mediums, and the fact that storytelling has been around essentially forever, it's not surprising that certain ways of advancing the story have been reused over and over again. Yet there are some games that seem to include these devices a surprising amount of time.
Overused Plot Devices
Entry #1: The Double-Cross
We've all seen this one. That's not a figurative statement; we all have literally seen this before. If you play games, you've played one that features a character betraying, backstabbing, or tricking our player characters. It's almost surprising to realize how often it occurs. Nearly every Final Fantasy since 4 includes a deception of some kind, each of the GTA games has their own share of backstabbing, and the Metal Gear Solid series is practically built on the double-cross. Even games like Shadow of the Colossus and Portal include them.
Why so much use? The double-cross is intended to create a paradigm shift for our player characters. Once the double-crosser has revealed themselves, the betrayal exposed, the motives, intentions, and emotions of the characters should change, hopefully in a dynamic, interesting way. We're shown different sides of our characters that we haven't seen before, and hopefully creating some interesting conflict in the story. For instance, in Metal Gear Solid 2, the betrayal of Raiden by his superior, the Colonel, is used to make Raiden question his identity and purpose in the world, as well as what's real, and what is an illusion.
Characters in games aren't just entities unto themselves. They are controlled and operated by us, the players, and when something happens to them, it also happens to us. This is especially true in games where the player character doesn't speak. Take for instance, Portal. At the beginning of the game, our intentions are not to destroy Glados, or even to escape the facility. But when Glados finally shows her hand and tries to kill you, simple escape is not what we want. We, the player, want revenge, because Glados didn't try to kill some spikey haired guy, or some rough sounding mercenary. She tried to kill us.
Sometimes though, the double-cross is not used intelligently, and comes off as a cheap way of exploiting our emotions. Trish's betrayal in Devil May Cry is neither clever, nor surprising, and it doesn't show us anything new about Dante, Trish, or the world that they inhabit. Dante's mission doesn't change, and the double-cross ends up feeling like an event that was included in order to make it feel like somethinghappened. The double-cross can be an easy way to try to create some interesting dynamics between your characters, but when it's not used correctly, it comes off hardly as such.
We haven't seen the last of the double-cross, and never will.(again, literally) And as long as the people making games try to use the device in clever, new, ways,(read: Bioshock) it won't go from being an overused plot device, to an annoyingly overused plot device.