VG boundaries 4

“Thomas Was Alone” and “Undertale”

Game mechanics and narrative storytelling are two criteria that come to mind when thinking about Thomas Was Alone. Game mechanics describe how the player interacts with the game in terms of game controls and what the player does to actually play the game. Narrative storytelling includes any kind of plot that moves the game forward and provides the player with a purpose for going forth in the game.

In the case of Thomas Was Alone, the game mechanics and narrative storytelling are relatively clear to notice. I bought this game off of the iOS system and played on my iPhone, so my experience with the game mechanics does not include the Playstation version of this game. However, the game controls were very easy to grasp; the player moves the in-game characters by tapping the left or right arrows on the screen’s bottom-left side and jumps by tapping on the screen’s bottom-right. To switch between the playable characters in each level, the player simply taps on the tabs on the left or right sides of the screen that match the characters’ colors. Personally, I prefer the game mechanics of a touch screen phone rather than the remote controls on a Playstation because the phone controls seem more straightforward, which allow me to become more immersed in the game itself rather than stressing about remembering how to use the controls as I would have on a Playstation. Moving along the lines of immersion, the narrative storytelling in Thomas Was Alone played a large role in getting me immersed in the game. At first, the game seems like a standard “moving things around to escape and move on to the next level” type of game, which it technically is on a basic level, but the third-person voiceover narrator gives character and personalities to the otherwise non-sentient boxes serving as AIs. It is this addition of a narrative that allows the game to have an emotional affect on me, sympathizing with a lonely Thomas, the red rectangle that is the main character, or rooting for the relationship between a small green square and a long pink rectangle, more fondly referred to as Chris and Laura, respectively. Thomas Was Alone‘s straightforward game controls and quirky narrative are what make this game different from other “moving objects to escape” games and so enjoyable to play.

Looking at Thomas Was Alone in conjunction with Undertale, while both games feature intriguing narratives that bring life to the in-game characters, their game mechanics are quite different. I played the PC version of Undertale, so although I did not have as much of a struggle learning the controls as I would have had I played on the Playstation, there was still a bit of fumbling to remember which laptop keys to push to bring up the menu or read a sign. The difference between a PC and an iPhone also had a small role in the inconvenience of mechanics while playing Undertale; because the laptop keyboard is located separately from the screen, at times I had to look away from the on-screen gameplay to make sure I was pushing the correct keys for the right controls. Eventually, I did get used to the game mechanics of playing Undertale on the PC, and became just as immersed in the story as I did with Thomas Was Alone. I appreciate both games in different senses because of their differing mechanics: when I want to spontaneously become immersed in puzzle-solving, Thomas Was Alone is there just by taking out my phone wherever I am and continuing getting to know Thomas and the other AIs. If the want to explore a new world and take on the challenges of facing monsters for hours at a time, I can sit down with my laptop and dive into Undertale.

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One comment on ““Thomas Was Alone” and “Undertale”

  1. ktvg4
    May 12, 2018

    Hi kassidy179,

    I had similar experiences with both Undertale and Thomas Was Alone! I thought the narrative really brought all the characters to life and gave emotional depth to otherwise mechanistically simple games. What I really liked about your post was your emphasis on how using different devices (PC vs. iPhone vs. Playstation). I think the interface has a huge influence on how we experience games. Like you pointed out, there is almost a break in the immersion when you have to look down at a keyboard while playing on a PC versus touching inputs on the actual game screen using an iPhone. On the other hand, the accessibility of an iPhone can make playing iPhone games more casual and maybe stand in the way of prolonged immersion. Whereas as playing on a PC is less spontaneous and more of a purposeful commitment, paving the way for deeper immersion. Obviously, there are merits to both devices, but it is really important in game studies to consider the platform and the interface games are played on, because they have a substantial effect on the gaming experience.

    Like

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