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Interpreting Art within Games: The Case of Syberia I & II

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Afternoon all. It often pains me to hear of how some people just couldn’t get into the feel of both Syberia I & II, because it’s one of the best video games (let alone point and click adventure games) out there.

I am no stranger to fighting for a good cause (for example Lobotomy Software were criminally overlooked as a development studio and so with the help of some of the team members I created a history video to give them the justice they deserved in time for their anniversary), but have come across some friends who just couldn’t enjoy Syberia. On top of this what with Syberia III confirmed, I thought it was a good time to try and convert some people so that they don’t miss out!  Wink

Now I appreciate that not everyone will like a particular game no matter how much we may try to convince them otherwise, but I thought I would create a video to help people who are struggling with how to go about enjoying/appreciating/interpreting Syberia. We have to remember that Sokal is an established comic book author, and he’s shifted all that expertise to an interactive setting; one of the best attempts I’ve yet seen within our industry.

I’d appreciate your thoughts about this. Thanks again.

     
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A beautiful and insightful review, thank you for making such an elaborated effort. Like you I consider Syberia as well as one of the best games created in the past decade, but quite some people think otherwise, as we have seen in many threads on different forums. Here’s a quote (with typos) from a recent posting on the Kickstarter forum for Broken Sword 5:

“Looking for automans to power train and looking for Hans to sign a contract for a toy factory. He appearantly left city and his factory to try to discover Mammoths that still exist. That is the entire storyline. That’s it. You keep thinking that their is going to be more story, more substance, something secret, something sinester. A more complex storyline, more character development, but there isn’t.”

Indeed, just looking for Mammoths, that’s about it (and please do take the search for Mammoths just literally).

Here’s another one, even from a well-known video game writer (Lee Sheldon in his book about character development and storytelling - p. 337):

“(...) Syberia and Syberia II are beautiful-looking dreamlike fairy tales, but at their core they are as insubstantial as a snowflake.”

For me though, Syberia is a game about longing and lost worlds, magnificently expressed in scenes and events (and the definition of characters). Sokal is a master in “telling” stories in this way. I think the main reason that some don’t get or like it is that they prefer a more “verbal” approach of conveying a story (in dialogues, comments, journals, explanations in cutscenes etc.). There’s nothing wrong with that, as we all have our preferences. But the quotes assert something that isn’t true: Syberia does have a complicated (and superb) story that is expressed in hundreds of details, but to understand/appreciate it I guess reading or hearing words isn’t enough.

I guess you pointed out the same by referring to Sokal’s background as an established comic book author, which probably explains his strong visual (in stead of verbal) approach of “storytelling.” I am an admirer of that approach, but as said, it’s just an opnion/preference, and others prefer gameplay over story or visuals (etc.).

     
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Gamnos - 27 January 2013 09:11 AM

A beautiful and insightful review, thank you for making such an elaborated effort. Like you I consider Syberia as well as one of the best games created in the past decade, but quite some people think otherwise, as we have seen in many threads on different forums.

Yes there were a couple of established forum members who didn’t particularly like the game, which is sad really.

I have to admit that I too cannot look beyond fickle things such as The Lost Crown’s abysmal voice acting, which for me has always ruined an otherwise brilliant game.

“Looking for automans to power train and looking for Hans to sign a contract for a toy factory. He appearantly left city and his factory to try to discover Mammoths that still exist. That is the entire storyline. That’s it. You keep thinking that their is going to be more story, more substance, something secret, something sinester. A more complex storyline, more character development, but there isn’t.”

Indeed, just looking for Mammoths, that’s about it (and please do take the search for Mammoths just literally).


It may not have occurred to them that were we to have mammoths or Dodos brought back to life the whole world would take interest, yet when a story is based upon them it’s meaningless. Don’t quite understand that perspective Tongue

Gamnos - 27 January 2013 09:11 AM

For me though, Syberia is a game about longing and lost worlds, magnificently expressed in scenes and events (and the definition of characters). Sokal is a master in “telling” stories in this way. I think the main reason that some don’t get or like it is that they prefer a more “verbal” approach of conveying a story (in dialogues, comments, journals, explanations in cutscenes etc.). There’s nothing wrong with that, as we all have our preferences. But the quotes assert something that isn’t true: Syberia does have a complicated (and superb) story that is expressed in hundreds of details, but to understand/appreciate it I guess reading or hearing words isn’t enough.

I guess you pointed out the same by referring to Sokal’s background as an established comic book author, which probably explains his strong visual (in stead of verbal) approach of “storytelling.” I am an admirer of that approach, but as said, it’s just an opnion/preference, and others prefer gameplay over story or visuals (etc.).

Wow thanks for the details here! Indeed I think that comic books are the best ‘go between’ when it comes to literature/movies and video games, because it encompasses more than one discipline (as do video games). The thing with some I feel is that they take Syberia too literally. The automatons could never possibly exist in our reality for instance (because you see in the cutscene in the trailer when one of them is being put back together - they are more or less hollow). Thanks for your lovely insight buddy Smile

     
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I loved both Syberia games as well as Amerzone. Your video/critique/commentary obviously took a lot of effort. I appreciate it. It makes me want to go back and play all three again. Providing my “hyper-buzzed” PC will allow me to do same.

     

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Microïds warms up syberia with a Video review for Part I & II

—————————————————————————————

EDIT: Ouch! this the link of the thread/1st post ..
LOL ..
But thanks Diego Ma Man for telling me .

Timo what should i do, maybe delete the post or transfer it to the Syberia III thread and delete that edit/add..
i dont know you are the admin here.

How embarrassing !!!

     
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Nah, man, maybe someone missed it! Tongue BTW, this reminds me again I should play Syberia 2 sometime soon Frown

     

Recently finished: Four Last Things 4/5, Edna & Harvey: The Breakout 5/5, Chains of Satinav 3,95/5, A Vampyre Story 88, Sam Peters 3/5, Broken Sword 1 4,5/5, Broken Sword 2 4,3/5, Broken Sword 3 85, Broken Sword 5 81, Gray Matter 4/5\nCurrently playing: Broken Sword 4, Keepsake (Let\‘s Play), Callahan\‘s Crosstime Saloon (post-Community Playthrough)\nLooking forward to: A Playwright’s Tale

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Advie - 04 February 2013 02:44 PM

Timo what should i do, maybe delete the post or transfer it to the Syberia III thread and delete that edit/add..
i dont know you are the admin here.

Just leave it. Another link to the video can’t hurt, and it’s not like it’s off-topic or anything… Tongue

     

Now playing: Blade Runner (post-CPT) | The Witcher: Enhance Edition (on hold) | Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (on hold) | Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy (3DS)
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“THE BIG QUESTION
Benoit Sokal will come to visit us next Monday.

What would be the question you’d like to ask him about SYBERIA I OR II ?

The best one will be selected and we’ll try to have an answer from the Syberia creator.”

Microïds FB

     

Recently finished: Four Last Things 4/5, Edna & Harvey: The Breakout 5/5, Chains of Satinav 3,95/5, A Vampyre Story 88, Sam Peters 3/5, Broken Sword 1 4,5/5, Broken Sword 2 4,3/5, Broken Sword 3 85, Broken Sword 5 81, Gray Matter 4/5\nCurrently playing: Broken Sword 4, Keepsake (Let\‘s Play), Callahan\‘s Crosstime Saloon (post-Community Playthrough)\nLooking forward to: A Playwright’s Tale

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diego - 07 February 2013 07:02 PM

“THE BIG QUESTION
Benoit Sokal will come to visit us next Monday.

What would be the question you’d like to ask him about SYBERIA I OR II ?

The best one will be selected and we’ll try to have an answer from the Syberia creator.”

Microïds FB

To the question ask by Marine R. Cuvilliez to Benoit Sokal : « Is there a character in Syberia who refer to you ? », the answer was not easy but after a little bit of thinking, Benoit admit have a spécial bond with the character of Hans Voralberg but also added that he was prettier than him

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151480603175797&set=a.10150759659425797.465506.23467375796&type=1&theater;

     
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Congrats from me, too, for your beautiful and thought-provoking review of one of my favorite games. It’s rare that a reviewer strings together that many intelligent comments on a, duh, video game. (Is it Art? Is Stephen King an artist? Do heathens have souls?)

To compare Kate Walker to a sufragette wouldn’t have occured to me. Wink And it doesn’t really stick, though of course she can be seen in a similar vein - a modern career woman under pressure to prove herself, who’d rather follow her heart. I suspect Sokal used a female protagonist precisely because, eh, being a romantic is still the prerogative of females. This is what 100 years of feminism has got us. Wink

I agree with your interpretation of automatons vs cell phones. The tendency of modern technology is to hide, to become invisible. Probably that accounts for the popularity of steam punk in the internet age - a machine that doesn’t hide its bits and bolts is somehow less threatening. The fact that you’re exploring this fairy tale world on a computer is ironic and maybe something that you’re supposed to be subconsciously aware of. I rewatched the Matrix trilogy recently, and there’s another example of grubby “real-world” technology vs the terrible invisible irreality of “the matrix”... while I’m at it, you should also re-watch Terry Gilliam’s Brazil for its great trashy tech! Wink

     

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