Stories in Video Games

In Red Dead Redemption, you take on the role of John Marston, a former criminal who leaves his life behind for his family, only to have them kidnapped by government agents who want Marston to track down his old criminal gang members and shoot them down. When you hear this for the first time, it sounds pretty intriguing, intriguing enough to make you want to see where the story will go.

Of course, Rockstar made a fortune with Red Dead Redemption, the story was universally praised by critics and players alike, the gameplay being a little clunky made no bearing on the legend status it has today, and while there are people who enjoyed it’s multiplayer, the game is universally recognized for it’s fantastic story, believable and realistic characters, and for being a one of its kind. There really isn’t any other game like Red Dead Redemption. The game is unique, it works when it clearly shouldn’t, and it makes us all wanting for more.

Video Games have moved beyond the realm of simplistic jump-here-save-her storylines, today video games are the vehicle, where you, the player, are the driver and the experience and the story of the game, along with the gameplay, are the road on which you’re traveling. The journey of your protagonist in the game is your journey, their sadness is your sadness, their happiness and triumph is your own, and all this works because of the fantastic story that ties it together.

At IACG, we work with our students to understand what makes a game tick for them and understand that while single player games with stories won’t satisfy everyone’s needs, especially those who prefer competing and playing with others, they have a place in the industry because of how important it is to tell stories, stories that connect with the player.

The opening sequence of Naughty Dog’s immensely popular The Last of Us is one of the most emotional scenes for a game, Naughty Dog even takes the time to make the protagonist and the one he’s close to connect emotionally to the player before the opening sequence plays out, something that defines the protagonist’s actions over the next 20 years and finally culminating as the events of the games play out.

Designing games with stories worth experience are extremely important, as important as making movies that tell stories of characters we grow to love, and this is why game development is so important. The world could always use more heroes, even if they are fictional.

eSports and the Future

eSports and the Future

Wikipedia defines eSports as eSports (also known as electronic sportsesportse-sportscompetitive (videogamingprofessional (videogaming, or pro gaming) are a form of competition that is facilitated by electronic systems, particularly video games; the input of players and teams as well as the output of the eSports system are mediated by human-computer interfaces. These video games are often multiplayer, played with other human players over the Local Area Network or over the Internet, and require skill and decision making, both often being required to react to rapidly changing situations happening on the screen in mere milliseconds.

You may be wondering what good a video game can do for a professional career, and you would be wrong. During the ultimate DoTA 2 championship, The International 5, in 2015, the team Evil Geniuses took home 6 million dollars becoming the first American team to win the major DoTA title. Much like America, the team itself was very multi-cultural, consisting of Clinton ‘FEAR’ Loomis, the grand old man of DoTA, a 28 year old legend and veteran of DoTA, Saahil ‘Universe’ Arora, an Indian American 27 year old who’s single move is seen as the difference in pivoting their team to victory, and Pakistani born young man Syed Sumail Hassan, who was all of 15 when he was a part of the winning squad, the 17 year old today is one of the most feared players of the game. Together, they won a grand total of 6 million dollars, and they did it playing a video game.


Growth and eSports

It’s safe to say that eSports will grow and continue to grow in the foreseeable future. Even UTV boss and producer Ronnie Screwvala wants in on the action, and is funding a Rs. 100 crore project on eSports, calling the event USports where teams like IPL franchises will be formed and auctioned after the first two seasons are over. Screwvala is also in talks with Indian television networks to telecast games every day for two hours, and if it goes through, it’ll be a massive boost to the Indian eSports scene, which was left in it’s infancy because of the lack of proper internet infrastructure in the country. eSports tournaments have existed for quite some time now, the first ever was held by Atari way back in 1980 where players pitted their skill in Space Invaders against each other for the grand prize. What Atari probably knew was that they were setting a precedent for a whole new sport, but I have my doubts on whether even they knew how big of a name eSports would become as the years passed.

growth and esports

growth and esports

The spike in viewership numbers after 2010 is attributed to the fact that DoTA was being pushed by Valve as their next big eSport hit and it worked, today DoTA is one of the biggest eSports in the world, followed closely by favourites like Counter Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends. These games, combined by the old-school games like Street Fighter, are the highest viewed eSports in the world, and while Street Fighter has always been popular with viewers, the market for it has been niche and with acceptance of eSports into the mainstream, their popularity is only going to go up.

So no, next time someone tells you playing video games is a waste of time, show them this. We here at IACG encourage gaming and eSports among our students and recognize the immense potential video games hold over becoming an actual recognized sport tomorrow, like Chess. We might even see eSports at the Olympics one day.

Virtual Reality in Medicine

Imagine being trained in complex surgeries without actually having to open up a real life human being. Sounds insane, but with VR it is actually possible, and achievable. With Virtual Reality, medical students can be introduced to the intricacies of medicine, surgery to point one, in a virtual environment which can stimulate an operating theater. Students can be allowed to participate in virtual surgery that’ll help them identify problem areas of the case presented to them, designed by animators and programmers, and come up with solutions, without ever having to procure a body or participating in live surgeries.

Of course, it goes without saying that a virtual simulation should not be the benchmark in deciding a medical student’s calibre, and that real-life experience counts more than virtual, as there are many thousands of factors that can go wrong, a virtual experience not only can save the medical institute time and money, it also comes with a bonus of educating the student quickly and in a unique and interesting way.

VR can also help dentistry, with a program known as ‘HapTEL’ which is based upon haptics (Greek for touch) in order to train new dentists. This virtual dental chair includes a training scenario in which the student is shown a 3D set of teeth that they work on. Work on a VR program designed to train Paramedics is also under way, helping them with responding to emergency medical calls and performing first aid on the victims.

Science and technology has given us newer and better ways to fight diseases by advancing healthcare and medicine by leaps and bounds over the last few decades alone, VR is just another step on increasing the efficiency of healthcare professionals, doctors and paramedics into helping save lives, and it is worth investing in. VR Medical training and becoming a virtual surgeon can equip a student into facing an actual surgery and learning in less time that before, and that is better for all of us. Which just goes on to show that this world, with medicine being omnipresent, needs more animators and game designers, which we here at IACG are training. For today and for tomorrow, keeping the changing world in mind, IACG is ahead of the curve.

Virtual Reality in Military

Designing Virtual Reality worlds are not just for video games, which is a whole other topic to be covered, but the applications of Virtual Reality can be applied to real life applications, for training and practical experience.

Simulations have been a popular tool for training new recruits since the inception of computer based simulations, like Flight simulator, which is quite popular with pilots for some casual flying with a proper setup, and it also facilitates adding flight sticks and other assorted accessories to make your experience flying a virtual flight as real as flying the real deal. A cursory google search will lead you to pictures of computer setups by Flight Simulator enthusiasts that are amazing to look at. When I was a child, I remember going to HAL office in Bangalore for a flight simulator experience.

The reason I’m speaking about flight simulators, and simulators in general, is because this stuff works, and developing a VR simulator for basic training will not only elevate the amount of realism when it comes to being trained by simulators, it can also become the most effective method of peacetime air force and infantry training by adding the necessary equipment to felicitate the process.

Video Games like ArmA are already a very good army simulator, where you can play as a soldier from fighting on the front lines to going into special ops, the United States army realized the potential of training new recruits with VR, and have implemented it, there are instances where recruits are given VR headsets and given exercises to complete, paratroopers can be trained in skydiving without investing in multiple real life jumps, by strapping a parachute harness onto the recruit and giving them a VR headset.

Virtual Reality is already making waves in military training in the United States, in the coming years, there’ll be an increase in VR training, and this opens open prospects for game designers and animators to design simulators that help the troops in their training.

Keeping the changing trends of the world in mind, we here at IACG train our students to adapt to the rapidly changing multimedia and animation technology world. VR is the future, and it’s happening now, the students who will design the worlds for this are being trained right now at IACG.

How Horror Games Work?

I’ve been gaming for a really long time, and used to absolutely love survival horror games because of how creepy and how right they were made, emphasis on the word were, since I honestly believe there’s no good survival horror games left, with most of them resorting to jump scares than actually doing what it takes to build a proper horror game.

The most recent example would be Alien: Isolation, of a horror game done so right it was amazing. But the question is, what exactly makes a survival horror game?

I really enjoy watching Ben Croshaw, or Yahtzee as he’s known online, rip apart games because that’s his job, he’s a video game critic who does his job right, and much like him, one of my all-time favorite games is Silent Hill 2, not because of its gameplay or the story, both of which are great but of course now can be considered questionable when it comes to gameplay specifically, but there’s one thing Silent Hill 2 did so right it hasn’t be topped till date, with Alien: Isolation coming close, it’s the atmosphere of the game.

Many people ask me what is so scary about a horror game, often wrongfully assuming a player already knows what’s coming towards the player. This is a misconception that I would like to dispel, because in a horror game, it goes without saying that you know something is going to happen, it’s the anticipation of what’s going to happen, and the atmosphere that accompanies it. IACG understands this and imparts the importance of building atmosphere, which is often as important as anything else like gameplay or character design in ensuring immersion.

The essence of a Survival Horror game is not how scary the monsters are designed to be, but how creepy the atmosphere is. No matter how scary a monster is, it is still something you can see and attempt to attack it to find weaknesses, but you can’t actually attack the atmosphere, Silent Hill 2 has the knack of making you feel completely lonely, like there’s nobody around. Sure, there are a few human characters here and there, but they’re mostly crazy and run away, and you’re left with just monsters and the town itself.

Silent Hill 2 worked because it wasn’t just the monsters that were out to get James’s head, but the town itself was the enemy. The omnipresent fog gave it an ever-present sense of danger lurking just beyond your line of sight, which wasn’t very far thanks to the very same fog. The monsters are notably feminine, except for the notable exception of one very large monster, the Pyramid Head. The reasons of which we shall not talk about today because if you still haven’t played this masterpiece then I don’t really want to spoil it for you.

Later Silent Hill games tried to recreate the magic, but failed miserably. I’m not saying Silent Hill 2 was a one hit wonder, because while Silent Hill 3 and Silent Hill 4: The Room might not be as good as 2, they have their moments and can be clearly identified as a Japanese horror game, the true downfall of the series came with the selling of the IP to western developers, none of whom actually understood what it takes to actually make a good Silent Hill game, forget talking about a good survival horror game. There was the laughably bad Silent Hill: Homecoming and then another one I can’t be bothered to remember. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories however, attempted to recreate the original Silent Hill magic, the game even has a Psych profile test at the start to help create a creepy atmosphere for you, the player, in game. But then again, Silent Hill 2 managed to do this without an actual test that you can take way back during the days of the PS2, and that is what makes this game so special, the developers didn’t have to resort to any gimmicks to get under your skin, the game bled its atmosphere into the real world, the feeling of desolation and despair weren’t just limited to James’s mind, but yours as well. That’s something you don’t see in games anymore.

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