Why Episodic Gaming’s Critics Are Wrong
Every month in Play Magazine, we take a hot topic and look at the arguments for and against. Episodic gaming is the subject of debate this time. Last week Retro Gamer editor Darran Jones, who isn’t a fan of the genre, broke down everything wrong with episodic gaming. Now we have the response from Play’s own Drew Sleep who stands up for episodic gaming.
My introduction to episodic games wasn’t exactly great. I tore through the Half-Life 2 episodes and I was enjoying them, all two of them. Now I’ve been strung along by Valve for nigh on ten years waiting for the next instalment that’s, let’s face it, never going to happen. So, forgive me for taking so long to warm to the episodic formula.
I waited for the entire season of The Walking Dead to be available before jumping in because I’ll be damned if I’m having another decade-long cliffhanger, and the same went for The Wolf Among Us. My argument was: why not release these games as a whole? Why are developers periodically taking the controller away from us when we are at our most captivated?
Believe it or not, though, salvation came in the most unlikely of forms: Resident Evil: Revelations 2. Here comes a game with an actual schedule – something unheard of in the genre. Capcom told you what you’d get beforehand (an episode every week, on the damn mark) and it delivered! It was a revelation. I was playing it at the same time as a friend and we’d have weekly conversations about what was going to happen next in the story and, more importantly, what was Barry’s ridiculous one-liner going to be – we totally called the return of the ‘master of unlocking’ quip, by the way.
It was here where the whole concept of episodic games clicked for me: they’re like modern television shows, essentially. They’re something to talk about with friends and they’re something to look forward to. That second point is a little tentative at the moment, as developers – specifically Telltale – just seem to release a new episode when they feel like it, disrupting the pacing of their stories. You can choose to wait for the full package, sure, but just like when Game Of Thrones airs you must remember: the wait is long and full of spoilers.
Life Is Strange is a perfect episodic game, in my opinion. The game is written to be absorbed in small pieces, and the following wait is just enough time to get your emotional shit back together for the next punch right in the feels. If you played that game in one, collective block it’d be like watching Requiem For A Dream crossed with Grave Of The Fireflies – honestly, you’d need a therapist by the end of it all. Besides, the wait is part of the fun. It’s the perfect time to converse and craft theories with all of the other people who are up to the same point as you are.
I’m genuinely won over by the genre and I cant wait to see more of these amazing stories. Although, let’s try and keep the waits between episodes consistent at least.