Sunday, 10 January 2010

Storytelling in Games

As a gamer it really grinds my gears that story seems to be this mystical and rare gift bestowed upon games these days. It’s like the development team put all this effort in to making these games and then go and pay a monkey in bananas who has watched to many American soap operas and moody cop shows to right the storyline and the script.

You get a choice of about three things happening with story in the games industry.

1. You get an amazing blockbuster Spielberg-esque story.

2. You get a more watered down version of Spielberg’s story as if someone had vaguely described one of his films, as if they had watched it a few months back missing out vital plot points and then filling them quickly at the end leaving you a bit confused dumbfounded.

3. You get someone who should never be let loose with a pen and paper, shouting about the best story ever where they just rattle off a list of cool action sequences usually to do with aliens or monsters or something roughly set in the future or something and tell you they’ll finish the details off later…and never do.

Without a good story in a game you might as well just be running around shooting stuff or using magic for no apparent reason and have characters with the personality of a grapefruit. Story doesn’t just involve an Act 1, 2 and 3 but also sets up the world everyone lives in and the way the characters act, look, behave and relate to the world they are in. To many times, does a lack of good story, kill a potentially great game. I mean the Tomb Raider series started off well and then went all weird and tried to be dramatic and cinematic and ruined the gameplay and then decided to commit game suicide by killing off the main character in their franchise which then had to be explained away in the next title whilst the old title was being quietly swept under the carpet.

To me story is one of the most important and often overlooked parts of a game. Nowadays, consumers are expecting that with next gen graphic and physic engines a next gen story should be involved as well. As £40 or even £50 is a lot to ask people to part with if they are only getting something that is half-baked. To end on a positive note games are getting better with their stories and developers a starting realise the effect story has in so many parts of their games, I mean just look Mass Effect and its soon to be released title Mass Effect 2 where the choices you made in the first game effect the way you play the next game. Interesting ideas like these will push the ways in which games will look feel and play and add a better sense of depth to them.