Can Games 'Hook' You Like Movies Can?

In movies, there's a simple rule: if you haven't hooked the audience by the time the film's 10 minutes in, you've lost them. But how can this work for video games?

A great piece over on Gamasutra by Leanne C. Taylor offers some ideas, showing how some of the industry's most successful games have used "hooks" very similar to those of big movies to grab gamer's attention.

Sounds simple, and it is, especially when you think about games that have stuck to it. Compare StarCraft - which opens with a mystery, the destruction of a Terran ship - to StarCraft II, which jumps straight into the boots of a cast of established characters and events.

Or look at Oblivion, which opens with both history and mystery, and as a result ranks as one of the greatest introductions to a game of all time. or BioShock's, which is even better.

Thing is, Taylor's theory - which I agree with - only holds true for games that make use of a story. That feature characters, dialogue, plot sequences. If you're sitting down with, say, Tetris, or Minesweeper, or even FarmVille, well, the game's mechanics are on their own, and the movie industry's rules aren't going to be of any use whatsoever.

History, Mystery and Story: Games and the 10 Minute Rule [Gamasutra]


Comments

    Where's this "first 10 minutes" law of entertainment? Maybe for Hollywood films there needs to be an explosion or some sexual joke in that first period...

      Its a basic rule of thumb, you need your piece of literature/film to captivate the audience within the opening chapters, that way they keep reading and watching. Videogames tend to fail at this, Assasins Creed2, MGS4, Bayonetta fail dismally. I don't follow through with games if they dont manage to interest me early. Why should it take 5 hours for a game to start being good? There is no excuse (cough FF13)

      Yeah, I have a longer attention span than that. That said, I generally don't go and see movies or play games that I didn't have an interest in first.

    There's no 'hook' for gaming. Unlike films where an audience is just a passive observer, a player is an active participant, hence the 'learning curve.' The player EXPECTS this, and adjusts it according to an internal checklist: Control settings, basic introduction (who, what, when, where), pick up vanilla weapon (usually pistol/crappy sword), mentor, exploration.

    Because the player takes these first steps on his own accord expecting a more enriching game later, there IS no need for a 'hook'. Of course, the better written and engaging games will throw you in the deep end and keep you hungry: Bioshock, ME2, etc.

    But think of the ultra sellers like GTA4 or CoD4 which take their sweet time having you drive a boring cab, or do a training course with little characterisation.

    The cinematic hook theory is rubbish. Some of the best-selling games of our generation are bereft of this storytelling technique. It's just more liberal arts nonsense from a game blogger who has way too much time on his hands and attempting to legitimise his hobby.

    i think its a ratio thing
    videogames are longer by comparison, i think they have a longer hook time

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