So this is my little writeup for the site right here, where I have the opinion that fools need to acknowledge greatness, and b#$$%%!t needs to be reduced. My topic for this entry of the Kegger, (Huhuhuh, Nattie Lite Bro!) is the issue of storytelling within gaming.
There’s a debate out there now if video games count as art, and perhaps the story element is one reason that video games have this issue. Video games are a relatively new medium, movies are only 100 years old or so, and still considered young, and video games even more recent, so we still have a ways to go with them as a form of entertainment.
I myself will admit that I have almost never played a video game solely for its story content alone. When I first started playing video games, the stories were simple, just groundwork and context for the gameplay on the screen, the important part was how you interacted with the game and what you were doing, not why this was happening or what plot elements it had.
Some games like Sonic, had comic books and cartoon series that expanded on the very basic storytelling put forth in the games, but the games themselves always featured more focus on Sonic’s movements than his inner motivations.
In my mind and opinion, video games are not too far removed from basic childhood games or sports in reality. You have a task to complete, an objective, and there are rules, limitations, and certain methods that you have to use that require you to complete that task and win at the game. We don’t need a story to make basketball or hopscotch interesting, they offer an activity that if you put yourself into, occupies you enough. Does that mean throw away story completely? No. That’s not what I’m saying. As I said before, earlier games used a story outline to give you a context to the action you played, and everybody loves playing as great video game characters.
The point I’m getting at in this article is that I think that game developers should always focus on gameplay first. First and foremost, making what you actually do in the world of the game with the controller should be the main focus of all effort in the game. They need to remember, it’s a game, not a book, not a movie.
Books and movies are passive storytelling methods. It’s how stories have been told since the beginning of time. You gather around the campfire and listen, you don’t get up and do tasks to get the storyteller to unlock more of the story.
I don’t count FMVs, cinematics, and cutscenes as a unique way to interact with the story. Those are simply movies, a passive, not interact method of storytelling, created with the game’s graphics. Unless the interactivity and actual gameplay furthers the story, which it usually doesn’t, video games aren’t a different way to tell a story than another medium, which is what they would have to be in order to truly stand out from books and movies.
And there are some games where how you interact with the game does advance and affect the storyline, that’s true! But a game is defined by interactivity, and if the majority of the story is told through videos that you don’t interact with, then to me that doesn’t really count as the gameplay telling you story so much as the gameplay having movies bundled also.
Something that I feel supports my claim is the format of traditional RPGs. These are games that aren’t based around skill or gameplay, or what you can do, but rather the story. Since stories generally have to be told in a passive way, the focus has to be taken away from actual performing the combat, or using hand-eye coordination to navigate obstacles, and instead is put on walking up to characters and getting bits of dialogue, getting to cutscenes, and button pressing throughout battles where the characters do everything for the gamer.
In short, I don’t think it’s coincidental that the most story driven genre of games is also generally one of the least interactive.
In summary, you can have the twistiest, deepest, most well thought out narrative of all time for a game, but to me, if you don’t give the gamers something interesting to do with the controller, with the character, then all you have is what should’ve been a movie, book, or comic book, just trapped in the confines of something that forces interactivity. If you put the story first and interactivity second, what’s the point? It’s a game, and games are not watched or listened to like stories, they are performed. They are played.