An unreliable storyteller who deliberately lies is a rather old storytelling device that first appeared in books, and then in films and games. It was in the latter that the reception of an unreliable storyteller was able to fully reveal itself. How and why should you cheat the player at all? Let's figure it out now.
Why is it unreliable?
If we talk about books or films, then they have one storyteller and he has to believe, since there is no other way to learn the story from the reader or viewer. We have to conclude such an unspoken agreement: “you tell, and I believe you”. With such an agreement, there are different ways to manipulate the trust of the reader / viewer. This is where the unreliable storyteller's trick comes in.
This is a hero who knowingly lies, or partially hides the truth from us for certain reasons. It can be insane, stupid, embellishing a story, or telling rumors. All this is done only in order to make the work of realism, as well as stun us with the twist that lies behind the lie.
If you are familiar with the work of Agatha Christie, or just with classic detectives, then you may remember how often investigations are conducted. The detective listens to several of these storytellers at once, and, finding inconsistencies in their words, understands which of them is the killer. This concept was further followed by Agatha Christie, who published in 1926 the novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. According to the plot, the detective [also the narrator] hunts down the killer for a long time, and in the end he turns out to be him. This twist made deceived readers re-read the book to understand how GG did it. In one of the reviews of the novel at that time, one critic put forward the thesis: “To surpass this ending next time, it remains to make the reader himself a murderer.”
Continued the tradition of Christy Chuck Palannik in his "Fight Club", where this technique was also used, but there it is due to Tyler's mental disorder rather than his personal urge to lie.
Such stories with a narrator who is not honest with us migrated to the cinema. For example, the movie American Animals tells the story of two students trying to steal an expensive book from a library and sell it. It is based on real events and its real participants in the film tell how everything happened, at this time the actors act out their story. So one character off-screen says that they have come up with a robbery plan on the street, and the second interrupts him and says that he is in the car. At this time, on the screen, we see how their characters are teleported from the street to the car during the correction. This is an example of how the narrator is unreliable due to his memory.
As a result, this technique has reached the games. In them, he acts a little differently, because if in literature and cinema the audience can only observe, then gamers themselves can influence the story.
In gaming, this technique is a little more difficult to use, because games should have confidence in the interface and mechanics. You can not deceive the player, for example, on his minimap and direct him in the wrong direction. Or imagine how infuriating it would be when you shoot a red barrel, and the game itself chooses whether to explode or not.
An unreliable storyteller in games can give some tasks, direct the plot or, being a character, influence the gameplay itself. Let's walk through examples.
In the very first Metal Gear, our commander Big Boss always gives us assignments and reports on the situation, as we progress through the plot. At one point, he asks us to get into the car, which takes us to the very beginning of the level. We again get to that place and the Boss again asks us to get into the same car. And if you ignore the order, it will be even stranger further and Big Boss will ask you to turn off the console. Then you finally understand that he is deceiving you and you need to act differently.
This technique fills some unrealistic moments with logic, for example, death in a game. In the first Prince of Persia, all gameplay is the story that the Prince tells. And when we die, it is attributed to the fact that he made a reservation.
And the apogee of using an unreliable storyteller is precisely that games can make a "reader killer." In Spec Ops The Line, for most of the game, we believe that we are conducting a rescue operation, and in the end it turns out that we ourselves are responsible for the deaths of many people. We become the "killer".
This is revealed in Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. We play as Saref, who thinks that he is heroically saving the world from an evil wizard, and as a result learns that he is the son of the Devil, a dark messiah who has been trying to help his father escape from Hell all this time.
And my favorite, masterfully implemented technique of an unreliable storyteller in games is Assassin's Creed 3, where playing the entire prologue for the father of GG we think that he is an assassin, and as a result it turns out that he is a member of the Knights Templar.
Believe it or not, there is little choice
An unreliable storyteller in games can directly affect gameplay and create a variety of situations during the passage. In Tales from Borderlands, we play two characters at the same time, who tell the same story, diluting it with all sorts of fictions in their own way, trying to exaggerate their importance.
In the latest Call of Juarez, our hero poisons a bike in a bar, and constantly adds different details to it or gets confused, which affects our gameplay. So we shot all the enemies, and our hero says to drinking companions: “Oh, stop! There were 20 of them, not 10 and I had a hard drive! " And then, unexpectedly, we are again in an ardent battle with another weapon.
In The Stanley Parable, this generally unreliable storyteller is our enemy, who is constantly trying to adjust the story for himself, and we treacherously interfere with him in this, getting into certain situations.
The whole point of an unreliable storyteller in games is that he does not just affect the narrative, as it happens in movies or books, but fully invades our actions with his lies or inaccuracy, which makes this game technique one of the most unusual in submission of the plot. It can distort our motives and change the main goals of the game, making it something more than a shooter or walking simulator.
At the same time, it must be directly related to the universe of the game and its rules. Because otherwise it would be cheating. For example, in the first Bioshock [by the way, read our analysis of the plot of this series], without delving into the plot, you may find it strange twist that happens to Atlas. But it is the elaboration and weaving of Atlas as an unreliable narrator that makes it a great example of how it works.
The Topic of Article: Game design in detail. The untrustworthy storyteller.