After I spoke at GDC in Shanghai yesterday morning, Gamasutra posted a summary of my keynote. Their report was very good and accurate, but I want to clarify a comment that set off alarms with some Sands of Time game fans:
Film and games, though they have similarities, have important differences as well, says Mechner. “There’s no button on the controller for sit down with someone and have a nice conversation… The game story was just an excuse for getting the player to get from point A to point B and kill everybody he meets.” It is not, in his words, “this epic, romantic action movie that [the film version of] Prince of Persia was setting out to be.”
This sounds like I’m saying the Sands of Time game story is somehow less ambitious or less fully realized than the film story. That definitely wasn’t my intention.
Just because a game story is designed to support and enhance a particular game play mechanic (which, in the case of Sands of Time, does indeed consist largely of getting from point A to point B in various challenging, acrobatic ways, while killing sand monsters along the way) does not mean that it can’t be every bit as sophisticated and nuanced in terms of dialog, character development, emotional and thematic resonance, literary qualities, etc., as a movie story. Indeed, the Sands of Time video game achieves some narrative effects that are beyond the scope of film, or at least beyond the scope of a 110-minute action-adventure movie: for example, the counterpoint, sometimes emotional, sometimes ironic, between the voice-over narration, the onscreen banter between the Prince and Farah, and the Prince’s actions under the player’s control.
The 2003 Sands of Time game doesn’t need me to defend it, but I hope this post helps clear up any misunderstanding.