Introductions in video games are often used incorrectly, this especially applies to games built from the ground up on emergent gameplay and narratives that exist solely in the player head. Now when talking about introductions that are terrible and introductions that are “good:” I’d like to define the term because in a game the introduction and its purpose are rarely defined, and when we do define a section or the purpose of an introduction we do sin in a manner that is dubious at best, but let me put down that in introductions serves the singular purpose of introducing the world, and at least the main character. Not mechanics, it should be singularly focused as to do its one job in a manner that is satisfactory, that is where most games go wrong instead of trying to introduce the game world and the people within they try to introduce mechanics and other gameplay features.

Now some would argue that that an introduction in a game is about establishing player agency within the world, but the last thing I need or even want is player agency in a world I don’t understand. Its like putting a child in the cockpit of a jumbo jet it’s a bad idea I don’t know what the buttons do and how they relate to systems is don’t fully understand. Id argue the best way for a game to introduce the world is to take the god forsaken buttons away, it’s hard to do any harm when I don’t have the means to do harm. The last thing I want to do is harm or even save people I don’t know or care about, not so much in the real world but it’s hard to become attached to a data string, so to recap a introduction should do two things and NOTHING more, introduce the world and the people residing within it.  This will lead to one of two responses, either we will care or we won’t. But the last thing I want is to be walking around in a world that at best I am indifferent to the plight of the people within.

The introduction to the Last of us is an almost perfect introduction phase it establishes the world, characters, and motivations for the rest of the game and it does this by preventing the player from having any agency, this is the most important part of the introduction is the lack of agency. The lack of agency is driven in part by their use of a child rather than the bog standard space marine looking fare that is all so common. It sets up the game by simply having the world happen to you rather than you happening to the world by putting you in the shoes of someone who cannot fight back we can actually feel the terror of a Not-Zombie apocalypse.  This establishes the relatively bleak world the game takes place in and in doing so reminds us of the clear fact of mortality that is a core theme of the game.


One thought on “Introductions”

  1. I like this: “the last thing I need or even want is player agency in a world I don’t understand.” It’s interesting to me, because your “Bob the Builder kills everything” approach seems essentially ludic to me rather than narratological. I think what works well about The Last of Us is that it incrementally introduces mechanics in story-appropriate situation; even the second chapter, after all, still feels like the introduction. It’s patient storytelling, but it definitely emphasizes narrative over interaction.


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