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Interactive Drama, is it really a new genre?

I discuss why Interactive Drama is a new genre in the gaming industry.

David Oso, Blogger

April 17, 2011

11 Min Read

Nowadays it is very hard to get a new genre to be created in this industry and I believe the latest genre well sub genre to be created was under Strategy games and I can't remember the name of it, I think it's called X 4 Com or something, or 4 X (my opinion). Anyway the newest genre to appear is Interactive Drama, you can only experience this genre for the game Heavy Rain exclusive to the PS3.

Is Interactive Drama really a new genre for this gaming industry? I believe it is, many can say it isn't but more of a blend of other genres together or many game mechanics formed into one. Last time I checked Heavy Rain in an 'opinion' source Wikipedia, listed it as an Adventure game. Now the game page has been updated to Interactive Drama, thus interactive drama having it's own article. However Wikipedai seems to be getting the wrong impression of what Interactive Drama is, I mean how can you list "There have been some recent video games that have used this approach using fully-animated computer generated scenes, including various adventure games such as the Sound Novel series byChunsoftShenmue", Shenmue as an interactive drama?:/

Anyway Wikipedia words are nothing but opinion and same as mine. Why is Interactive Drama a new genre?
Because of the formula that makes it as its own. Heavy Rain's gameplay consist of QTE (Quick Time Interactive) mechanic throughout, you can control the character and interact with almost everything in the world of Heavy Rain. The story is obviously adventure, and not only are you experiencing a story however the story connects to the player based on their feeling and how they should feel in a particular scene. And the final thing is the conscience, emotion and feelings of the character that the player deeply relates to. 


*FEELING AND EMOTION WITH PLAYER AND CHARACTER- In Heaven Rain you  play as 4 different characters with different feelings and emotion, it's almost like you can connect to them so easily. If you think of another game that can use Interactive Drama formula, you would obviously know the feelings and emotion for that character. If Kratos from GOW was in an interactive Drama game, you would feel and connect to his hatred and also feel sorry for him. How can you determine the character's feelings and emotion? Because you can listen to their 'thoughts' all the time. If you accidentally stabbed someone in real life, what you would be thinking? you'd grow fear in you as well as panic, you wouldn't know what to do. This is the same thing with characters feeling, if you feel fear, the character would feel fear. However not everyone thinks the same, some people might think "i stabbed him? good let him die", or "he deserved it". The video game character can have that similar sinister thoughts which is how you feel.


If the character is sad, you will be feeling sadness 


*INTERACTIVITY- You can interact with the world in the video game. This interactive to the world is not new, it was something Shenmue and Nomad Soul: Omikron did and very well executed. I can even say the title Interactive Drama, Interactive sums up the definition of interacting to the world. In Heavy Rain you can literally interact with any thing you see in the world, television, coffee maker, remote, sound player, basket ball, switches, lamps, items in shop etc. All these interactive makes the game feel more realistic and doesn't limit those items in the game as dead weight or being there for decoration.



*QUICK TIME EVENTS/ MOTION- QTE is just a gameplay mechanic that existed in Panzaar Dragon, Shenmue fully utilised QTE so well that other games started using the QTE mechanic while some executed it well (Resident Evil 4, God of War 3) and many used it badly (Knights Contract, Heavenly Sword).  Aside from QTE, you can walk, think and interact. However the basis of Heavy Rain consist of QTE through out, when you interact you have to perform QTE's on screen. Why is there QTE? QTE gives the impression that you are really doing something, like the action you are doing is the same the character is performing. However in terms of immersion, a simple game console controller could not do it well, it just couldn't give the 'immersion' impression. The PS3 controller DualShock 3 comes with 6 Axis motion sensor. Quantic Dream took advantage of this and implemented feeling mechanics to take use of this feature, for an example walking on a wooden plank from one end to another means you have to be careful with your steps and balance. This is where you move the controller steadily to get that character to the other destination without falling. Later Sony released the Playstation Move controller which is a more better motion than the Wii using 12 axis motion and more precise. With this Move controller even gives a better impression to playing Heavy Rain. For an example when pick locking a door in the game, you would have to make QTE and gestures using both hands to give the impression like you are really pick locking a door. The motion was not desgined or developed for Heavy Rain at start of production, it was just an add on after the final game was released. Thus making the motion not 100% accurate. You only make gestures but not realistic gestures.


If Move was designed for Heavy Rain at start of pre-production, you would rely on real proper motion gestures rather than QTE's. QTE gives the impression that you are doing something with the character. Heavy Rain really should have been developed with Move at start. Heavy Rain was developed using full body scanning, meaning all the things every character performed where performed and acted in real life. So if you can make a realistic gesture of 'slapping' someone therefore it would sum up the realistic experience and definition of Interactive Drama.



*STORY- As for the story, the story can really be anything or set in a different world. Heavy Rain just picked our era world to be more realistic. Interactive Drama story can really take place in fantasy world or sci-fi. The settings or geography is not the importance of story to Interactive Drama. The importance to the story is telling a good story and giving a 'feeling' and 'emotion' to the story. In Heavy Rain during some scenes you would feel really angry in certain situation, in other part you would feel sorry. For an example, I was jaw dropped when I accidentally shot Nathaniel, I never meant to do it as it was an accident, because of this I felt guilt and sorry for myself. Another part was taking care of the baby Emily, I felt sorry for the baby because she was all alone and I also felt kindness and love when I took care of her. Taking care of Emily was the best moment in Heavy Rain, it was really priceless because it captured the true feeling of how a human can have an emotion towards a video game.

The feeling and emotion of a story is quite important in Interactive Drama, if those 2 key elements are missing therefore the game is just another typical story in a video game.


*YOU ARE THE DIRECTOR-  This phase 'You are the director' exist due to you given the ability to change camera angles, choose different dialogues for the character, interact with the world, move around and chose the character's feelings. Choosing your own character dialogue is not new as it can be perceived in many RPG games. However when you play Heavy Rain, the way things are set,  things happening and the actor/actresses voices feels like this game is one big drama tv series. Hence the title Interactive Dramaagain. You are the director in this game because you can decide how a character talks or listen by leaning back against the wall, sitting down next to the character or looking out the window. Everything you do causes effect, if you successfully cook an omlette, Laura would like it, if not cooked right she would hate it. If you slam the dishes on the table, Ethan's wife would be furious, if you place the dishes carefully on the table she wouldn't say anything.


Being the director in Interactive Drama is the best unique feature about the genre, changing to different camera angles is the feature I love the best. Let's say for an example "Sizzly's Place- the first time you meet Lauren playing as Shebly". When entering the motel you can make Shebly walk straight up the stairs without talking to the receptionist. Or make Shebly bribe the reception into giving you the where about location of Lauren. I also do think this Director experience is a powerful tool because if you do things right, you would get hints and information you were not aware of in the game. For an example when Madison goes to the hospital to see Ann. If you speak to a nurse, she would reveal Ann's memory condition to you that she needs props and items shown to her so she could remember things. If you don't speak to her you might be confused why Ann is acting like that, you'd feel like Ann's trying to p*ss you off with her memory.

And to top it all, you can decide the ending of the game. Having different ending in games is not new, most RPG inherit this feature. Like I said before you are the director, this game plays out like a drama, when you watch drama series different things occur and makes use of the "what if" this happens or that happens. In drama the protatongist has his/her own purpose or agenda, let's say his agenda was to find out who killed his wife. In the final episode you thought was going to be final and reveal the person that killed his wife. This is where drama power plays it role, some other character would just appear and say he knows the person that killed his wife or someone else is invovled or the best his wife planned the whoel thing (the reason for this twist is to extend the series and give more to the story). Because of twists and turns of event would eventually spawn more to the drama. This is the same case with Heavy Rain,Shibly spoke to Lauren and did not reveal much information, and to change events Troy came him to personally talk to Laruen, and since you are the director you decide to help her or leave. Your actions determines the cause of event: if you take your time to interlope, Lauren would have deep bruises on her face, if you interlope without hestitation, her face wouldn't be badly damaged. Depending on how you handle the situation, you can leave the motel badly injured, clean or your ass kicked.  


*MEMORY, EMOTION AND FEELING- I've already talked about emotion and feeling previously above however that was Emotion and Feeling towards the player and the character. This emotion and feeling is based on the human side. Another example, when playing the Taxidemist DLC mission. However the player feels when the killer gets back home would give a  shock to the player in terms of feeling. The player would be confused and wouldn't know what to do. Should you escape and sneak past the guy? should you hide? or should you find your way out by any means? As the player's emotion strikes, time is of the essence because the killer would start moving around the house, this is where the player's feeling comes in contact. You will be scared and afraid that he might just find you. Memory now comes to play, remember the squeaking floor board earlier? or remember the window by the stairs?

In Interactive Drama: Player's memory, emotion and feeling plays a big role in this game. Your memory is needed when you go to the police station and detective asks you "what colour jacket was Shaun wearing?" Your emotion is needed to defend the psychiatrist from being hit by Blake or you assiting Blake into getting information out of the psychiatrist. And the last thing needed is your feeling, how do you feel when Mad Jack is trying to kill Jayden? or how a suspect linked to the murder is running away?



Heavy Rain is a powerful game that immerses player and gives them feeling and emotion towards and when playing the game.

To develop any Interactive Drama game it should consist of: Immersion control- 
-typically motion gesture via Kinect or Move
-Emotional and engaging story
-You Are The Director: you decide the outcomes of scenes depending on your action and how you want things to play out or turn out
-Player feelings, emotion and relationship towards protagonist or NPC's
-Player Memory, Feelings and Emotion when playing the game
-Interact with everything of the game's world (they are not there just foe decoration, they are there to give an impression that this space/earth/mythology/fantasy world are real!)
- the camera angles can be in Over the Shoulder, First Person or Above the Head (3rd person not top view/birds eye)
- Interactive Drama is really a drama, you are the director and you can decide who dies, who lives, who gets hurt, what ending should occur, what character should say and how things should turn out. Meaning the script would be very deep!


I believe if there are mor Interactive Drama games like Heavy Rain, it would draw more non gamers to the gaming industry. Instead of Wii drawing these kinds of people into gaming, Heavy Rain or Interactive Drama can do this.

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