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Amnesia: an overused storytelling technique?
Jakob Rosenblatt Offline
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#1
Amnesia: an overused storytelling technique?

Amnesia is a commonly used (imho overused) storytelling technique.

In a lot of cases it`s simply applied to (a) hide poor character development or (b) to overleap the difficulties of finding a proper and believable beginning to a story

But the exception proves the rule: A game that made an ingenious use of amnesia was "Planescape Torment". Simply one of the best games I have ever played. It may sound odd, but it was the first and only time that a computer game really touched me emotionally. Kieron Gillen wrote (in [1]):

"It’s the archetypal videogame story of an amnesiac hero trying to discover what’s going on, favoured by developers since the beginning of time as a means to make the hero’s perspective of the world be identical to the players. But Planescape is the total exemplar of this plot. The issue of identity and memory permeates the entire tale rather than acting as a mere introductory tool."

Gillen`s conclusion:

"Irony – a game all based on amnesia turns out to be something you’ll never forget."

He further states:

"While we’re a long way from the videogame equivalent of a Tolstoy or a Dostoevsky, for what it’s worth, Planescape is as close as we’ve come, and worthy of real literary consideration."

p.s. If you want to play it, you should use the high resolution/widescreen patch [2].

[1] http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2007/09/...e-torment/ [This essay is very interesting but contains fairly heavy spoilers]
[2] http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2008/05/...andscapes/
(This post was last modified: 03-22-2010, 12:50 AM by alfie.)
03-22-2010, 12:43 AM
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WindexGlow Offline
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#2
RE: Amnesia: an overused storytelling technique?

overused != don't use it at all

Please -REP me.
Honestly, please do. I want to see how low I can go!!
Ignore that error message too. Just ignore it and keep going to give me -rep.
03-22-2010, 01:25 AM
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Thomas Offline
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#3
RE: Amnesia: an overused storytelling technique?

In Amnesia, the amnesia comes directly from the plot and what we want to do with it. To start the game with "you wake up with no memories" scenario was actually one of the last things we added in the plot development. So it is not something we have just slapped on, but something that grew out of the story's intended meaning.

I also think that even though amnesia might feel cliché, it can be used in many different ways. For example compare the movies Memento, Dark City, Lost Highway and Total Recall. All are amnesia stories, but they are also all very different.

Finally, is amnesia really that overused in games? I cannot come up with that many games that have used amnesia plots. Bioshock, Flashback, Witcher, Second Sight and Planescape Torment is what comes to mind right now (although I am sure there are more). To me it seems like "save kingdom" type of stories are far more used. But I am of course biased on all of this and might be wrong Smile
03-22-2010, 08:21 AM
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Jakob Rosenblatt Offline
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#4
RE: Amnesia: an overused storytelling technique?

(03-22-2010, 08:21 AM)Thomas Wrote: In Amnesia, the amnesia comes directly from the plot and what we want to do with it. To start the game with "you wake up with no memories" scenario was actually one of the last things we added in the plot development. So it is not something we have just slapped on, but something that grew out of the story's intended meaning.

Thanks for your answer. I am certain that the game will make very good use of amnesia, a fortiori, when it is inspired by Lovecraft's works. Is it? Cool I am just thinking about one of Lovecraft's stories that makes use of amnesia: "The Outsider". It seems to be one of his most personal stories. The setting of "Amnesia" kind of reminds me of it. It would be great if you could catch this atmosphere:

The Outsider [1]

Unhappy is he to whom the memories of childhood bring only fear and sadness. Wretched is he who looks back upon lone hours in vast and dismal chambers with brown hangings and maddening rows of antique books, or upon awed watches in twilight groves of grotesque, gigantic, and vine-encumbered trees that silently wave twisted branches far aloft. Such a lot the gods gave to me - to me, the dazed, the disappointed; the barren, the broken. And yet I am strangely content and cling desperately to those sere memories, when my mind momentarily threatens to reach beyond to the other.

I know not where I was born, save that the castle was infinitely old and infinitely horrible, full of dark passages and having high ceilings where the eye could find only cobwebs and shadows. The stones in the crumbling corridors seemed always hideously damp, and there was an accursed smell everywhere, as of the piled-up corpses of dead generations. It was never light, so that I used sometimes to light candles and gaze steadily at them for relief, nor was there any sun outdoors, since the terrible trees grew high above the topmost accessible tower. There was one black tower which reached above the trees into the unknown outer sky, but that was partly ruined and could not be ascended save by a well-nigh impossible climb up the sheer wall, stone by stone.


(03-22-2010, 08:21 AM)Thomas Wrote: I also think that even though amnesia might feel cliché, it can be used in many different ways. For example compare the movies Memento, Dark City, Lost Highway and Total Recall. All are amnesia stories, but they are also all very different.

Of course, it is only a storytelling gimmick and necessarily open to all kinds of interesting uses (and misuses). The list of "amnesia-movies" seems to be endless...

(03-22-2010, 08:21 AM)Thomas Wrote: Finally, is amnesia really that overused in games? I cannot come up with that many games that have used amnesia plots. Bioshock, Flashback, Witcher, Second Sight and Planescape Torment is what comes to mind right now (although I am sure there are more). To me it seems like "save kingdom" type of stories are far more used. But I am of course biased on all of this and might be wrong Smile

When I said that amnesia is a commonly used and maybe overused storytelling technique, I meant storytelling in general: literature, movies, games. Here is an incomplete list of games that use amnesia for storytelling [2]

[1] http://www.dagonbytes.com/thelibrary/lov...tsider.htm[/php]
[2] http://www.giantbomb.com/amnesia/92-286/
03-22-2010, 11:10 AM
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Thomas Offline
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#5
RE: Amnesia: an overused storytelling technique?

The Outsider is a nice one! "The Shadow out of Time" by Lovecraft is another interesting take on the amnesia theme.
03-22-2010, 11:33 AM
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Jakob Rosenblatt Offline
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#6
RE: Amnesia: an overused storytelling technique?

I was also thinking of "The Shadow out of Time" but "The Outsider" reminded me of the atmosphere of "Amnesia" (mysterious castle, decay, antique books).
03-22-2010, 12:03 PM
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nofsky Offline
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#7
RE: Amnesia: an overused storytelling technique?

I think the amnesia plot device will work great for this type of game because, as Mr. Rosenblatt quoted, it will make the hero’s perspective of the world be identical to the players. That will improve immersion and therefore also the scare factor.
03-22-2010, 08:39 PM
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Jakob Rosenblatt Offline
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#8
RE: Amnesia: an overused storytelling technique?

Yes, and above all atmosphere and immersion should take priority over the story of a horror game. Look at Lovecraft's works. Most of his stories are plain and at times even ridiculous. What makes them so valuable and effective is the atmosphere Lovecraft was able to create.
(This post was last modified: 03-23-2010, 01:19 PM by alfie.)
03-23-2010, 12:14 PM
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Yithian Offline
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#9
RE: Amnesia: an overused storytelling technique?

The main intention of H. P. Lovecraft was poetic effort to capture a perfect image of elusive, magical and captivating atmosphere, which he perceived. Romantic and nightmarish at the same time; his stories is based primarily on the dreamy spirit of his whole work ....

PS.: Please, excuse my english ....
03-23-2010, 04:30 PM
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Guyra Offline
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#10
RE: Amnesia: an overused storytelling technique?

@Jakob Rosenblatt: Looking through that list you posted, I notice that five of the twelve Final Fantasy games in the main series, plus one spinoff, uses amnesia for storytelling. Haha! I find that a bit funny... ;D
03-25-2010, 11:19 AM
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