Tag Archives: game design

Metadating: “Judith”

7 Dec

So I watch the Geek and Sundry channel on YouTube and have gotten really interested in “Metadating”, the show in which three video game designers play through and analyze video games on romance.  The fourth episode included a game called “Judith” that was a rough take-off on the Bluebeard fairy tale.  One of the designers (fellow liberal arts grad) took a stab at analyzing the themes, and then suggested someone else could write an article on it.  So I obliged.  Sort of :).

Jones, Joia and B. Graner. The Heuristics of Exploration in “Judith”. 26 November 2012.

As the game designer of this duo, it shall be left to my colleague Mr. Graner to analyze the gameplay design of “Judith”. But as the literary authority, I can say with absolute clarity that “Judith” wasnarratively flawed. As this article will explore, the retelling of a well-known myth (“Bluebeard”) fell apart along the line where story met interactive gaming, i.e. the practice of exploration. However, this “failure” neatly illuminates the need for specific “good practices” in the context of narrative gaming standards.

Seriously, “Judith” had major problems. It took a lot of tokens from the Bluebeard myth (the key, the bloody knife, progression of doors) and applied them haphazardly, which broke up the story. The logic was faulty: ‘In order to truly love my husband, I need to know about every single person he’s murdered”? Yeah, no. In “Bluebeard”, there’s no slow reveal of increasingly graphic atrocities because that doesn’t work when you identify with Bluebeard’s wife. You find a hidden room in your husband’s castle filled with “bloody hay”, you run, end of story. The “I love him so I have to know” actually seemed like a save: maybe the game designer realized that the character of Judith needed a better motive than curiosity to stick around and explore, but the salvage was really clunky.  Games require items to manipulate, puzzles to solve, and monsters to fight, but “Bluebeard” is not a story that neatly accommodates those elements.

The relationship between the two plotlines was weak, but I actually thought that illuminated an second interesting difference between the narrative demands of a story vs. a game. My best guess is that the Jeff-Emily story was supposed to be a framing device, with Jeff standing in for the reader. A parallel example would “Wuthering Heights” is the story of Heathcliff and Cathy, but it’s being told to Mr. Lockwood, i.e. you. As “Wuthering Heights” progresses, your consciousness of Mr. Lockwood as a character melts away because you don’t see him – you see with his eyes. But as Day(9) pointed out, he identified the most with Jeff, because that’s the character he led off with playing. Because the player feels like Jeff, not Judith, Jeff has to have an ending: he “finds” Emily (who disappeared for the entire game because their story wasn’t the important part). Again, the fact that it’s a game rather than a story required the designer to close a loop that results in a “meh” ending.

In conclusion, it was suggested that you could read “Judith” along the lines of two interpretations 1.) the mythological character locked into flow of the story, or 2.) a feminist allegory of patriarchal control. Third option: the myth of Pandora’s box – curiosity gets punished. Exploration is the essence of gaming, and “Bluebeard” is a story that punishes exploration.  Which makes “Judith”, as a gamification of the “Bluebeard” story, antithetical to the medium it inhabits.

</pretension> 🙂