Game Mechanics & The Genre of Story-Based Games: ‘The Wolf Among Us’ + ‘Life Is Strange’

Life Is Strange

In my hands I hold two games. One is a gritty, violent noir where you play a sheriff trying to catch a murderer in a corrupt and classist regime. The other, a high school drama, where you play a teenage photographer who has to navigate social situations with themes of bullying, mental illness, and teenage rebellion. Now what if I told you they are the same genre: Graphic Adventure?

The games I described are Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us and Dontnod’s Life Is Strange. The mechanics of these games are fairly simple: a single-player character, point-and-click environment interaction, and multiple choice conversation options. These games also share an episodic release schedule with player choice statistics at the end of each episode.

The main mechanical difference in these games has to do with pacing. The Wolf Among Us has a time constraint on conversations, forcing you to make quick decisions or else remain conspicuously silent. By removing the ability to dwell on decisions, the game gives the impression of non-stop action and encourages rushed or even reckless choices.

Life Is Strange, on the other hand, has few timed events, and introduces a time travel mechanic that allows the player to revisit decisions endlessly. When your friend’s step-dad comes home, you have all the time you need to find a place to hide, even though the event only lasts until he reaches the top of the stairs. This lifts a lot of the tension of decision-making, and the game feels more leisurely as a result.

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