We’ve recently been discussing Façade’s unique meta-media approach to Electronic Literature (as well as its very… permutable platform). Yet, to be quite honest, I feel very underwhelmed by our conversations thus far. Perhaps it’s just me, but I feel there is still so much to say with regard to Façade’s brilliant execution.
Whether or not you define Façade as an Interactive Story, a game, or both, one cannot ignore its use of modern game mechanics. The first person perspective, the tangible in-game items, and the interactive characters are common features in many of today’s more popular games. What separates Façade from the pack, however, is more than just its inclusion of a parser and a colossal array of input values: it’s Façade’s commitment to the complexities of virtual reality long since abandoned by the game industry.
No, that was not a hasty generalization — there was indeed a time when many game developers shared Michael Mateas’ (co-author of Façade) focus on Immersion and Transformation. Games like the Petz series of the early 90′s, which Mataes coincidentally promotes at the bottom of Façade’s homepage, strove to produce the same unscripted realism that we encounter in our everyday life. More so than that, these developers sought to add the same subtle yet very distinct behavioral patterns and personalities now absent in most modern games.
It was unfortunate that the game industry’s rapid climb in commercial viability during the 90′s changed developer’s focus. The little nuances such as facial expressions, music-accented mood changes, and involved character interaction have taken a back seat to more profitable mechanics like game content and… well… more game content. Of course, the recent rise of game publishers certainly hasn’t helped matters either.
And this brings us to the question I’ve slowly been working to from the start: is the New York Times correct then in their assertion that Façade is indeed the “future of video games“? I typically try to open that question up to everyone else, but this time I’ll do that in conjunction with actually answering — and you’re damn right it is. Façade argues with convincing sound and fury in favor of quality over quantity; it suggests a recognizable value in the culmination of these nuances, and proves that a one-room game with only two characters, no leveling system, no DLC or add-on packs, and no scale of benevolence can still be fun.