Pulling the amnesia card

quoge

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You know the cliche I'm talking about. The one where the main protagonist wakes up with no memory of who he/she is, where they are, or how they got there. It's used in games, books, movies, comics,and even in some MMOs (RaiderZ and Aion being two examples I can think of off the top of my head) as an immersion device, so discovered information regarding the plot, setting, and even the character themselves can act as direct exposition to the audience. It can also add an element of mystery.

I think that limited information given to the audience can be used interestingly, especially if one plays on natural assumptions. In general though I see a lot of people use it lazily and it does start to feel pretty trope-y after a while.

What are your thoughts on this method of storytelling?
 

TheHarmp

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I honestly love the amnesia approach, especially the initial mystery around it, 

but like you said, it often get's done lazily or just horribly.
 

mlogan

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Well, I'm using it. It just seemed to be what worked with the story. So I guess I don't mind it. ;)   I will try not to be lazy or horrible with it.

In all seriousness, as with any cliche, if it's done well the player won't even realize it's a cliche. Otherwise, it's just another regurgitated story.
 

Mouser

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I've seen it done both well and poorly.

It's a defining trait of the Rune Factory series. Final Fantasy X used a version of it that I think worked rather well for Tidus. Vampire the Maquerade: Bloodlines took a similar tact (you're a Kindred now, so nothing that you used to know matters).

I'm trying to think of a specific example where it wasn't done well, but none are really coming to mind, and the ones that are sucked for so many reasons that attributing it to just amnesia isn't really right.

To a point, unless you're doing a sequel or another game in an established game world, you have to get the exposition in there somehow. Since almost all of the story in an RPG is typically told through dialog, you need a reason for someone to tell the viewpoint character all this stuff (see: Luna in FF X). So you either go with amnesia, stranger in a strange land, or some variation to allow the player to hear the explanations in character.

The other way to do it is simply have a bunch of tutorials or narratives pop up every now and then. Personally, I prefer dialog every time, though I do have a very brief narrative 'backstory'  at the start of my game. A bit of humor thrown in, and I think it sets up the game without being too dry. After that, you learn everything by talking to people or reading books on bookshelves. There's a lot you don't know you don't know: and that's one of the subtexts running through the game.
 
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quoge

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Well, I'm using it. It just seemed to be what worked with the story. So I guess I don't mind it. ;)   I will try not to be lazy or horrible with it.

In all seriousness, as with any cliche, if it's done well the player won't even realize it's a cliche. Otherwise, it's just another regurgitated story.
Fair point, I guess the only times you really notice a cliche is when it's... Well, glaringly cliche. I look forward to trying out your game, I'd like to experience some fresh spins on this theme.

I like the variety of opinions here, good points everyone.
 

Alexander Amnell

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   I don't mind it by itself but it's really overused these days and like you said a lot of people use it as an excuse to be lazy. Personally, though people say it breaks immersion to do this I love it when my played character is actually an expert in what he/she does and fields the tutorials for other npc's benefit rather than an npc fielding one for my own. (think, the Witcher series or Final Fantasy 7) It allows me to learn the unique mechanics of the game without playing an 'experienced' warrior that has to suddenly review the basics even though he/she has been doing this for countless years. I don't care that Geralt, when faced with a problem starts spouting off the names of items that I'll need for defeating whatever I'm hunting even though I don't know that and I'm playing as him, to me it validates the character and their story as something more than just a placeholder for my enjoyment, which I love to see in a story-driven game.
 
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KeyJester

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Amnesia is one of the most over-used cliches out there, but, like all cliches, if done correctly I think it can bring a lot of good to a story. I personally love cliches, actually, to the point where I totally abuse them just for my own amusement. I Actually pulled the amnesia card on the test-project I'm working on in RPG maker right now, for no other reason than me being a lazyass. It's not really well done, so for now it just serves as proof of how horrible cliche amnesia can be (and how a horrible humour I have), but I do want to have a proper go at writing a good story where amnesia is an important part of the plot. It's a nice challenge, especially if you're fond of writing. =) I generally enjoy reading, and writing, stories where overly used cliches have been made good.
 

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