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BonkersTheAutomaton

Should Stories in video games matter?

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So I have been going back and fourth recently on a video game concept that I have been wanting to do for a while, problem is, I keep changing the story around.  not much else to it, while I know I don't want it to be complicated in therms of plot, I do want the game to have multiple endings.  Not because I want to at least make a story, but because I want to increase replay value by adding multiple endings and levels (similar to that of Shadow The Hedgehog in 2004).

 

Now some of you are probably thinking?  "But Bonkers, why don't you just write a simple story that isn't that hard to understand?", well I would but the problem is.  The story I keep rewriting ends up sounding like a clone to another story out there (mostly Sonic the Hedgehog 1 and Mega Man) or it ends up being really cliche.

 

So that point I'm trying to get to is, should story in video games matter?  And if anyone could give out advice as well on story telling would be much appreciated.

 

P.S.  The game I have in concept is a Sonic Rush/Unleashed Clone with a heavier emphasis of multiple pathways and speed, hence the multiple endings/levels.

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Well if people want Video Games to be taken seriously as a form of art, I'd say story in certain games should be a pivotal piece, despite there being other ways to show a game is art.

 

Not to mention story can really push the player on through a game when done well. It can create memorable and defining moments for games, and can be a way for players to connect to the world and environment they are put in. Just playing a game imo can really get boring without any drive. I mean simplistic plots can be greatly executed, but when you got the whole, "save princess" syndrome going on for countless games, it can really have you wishing for more.

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Video games, like films, are works of art that rely on entirely separate artistic disciplines coalescing together to create one large vision. Ideally they should be considered a segment of a unified, whole experience. Stories are a puzzle piece, not some free DLC add-on whose quality doesn't matter at all to the experience; at least not anymore. To include a story in your game means that, artistically, one should strive to have the narrative inform and be informed by the other disciplines of video game development. It should not be developed parallel to everything else. If the story tells me that the villain is in the mountain, I should- either immediately or over the course of several gameplay segments- be heading towards a mountain. Simple things like this are extremely effective at creating context that aids in how believable a universe is. Fumble the story or refuse to give it the attention it deserves, and you will end up with a game that feels like a disassociated level pack or becomes a jumbled mess, and at that point you would do better in just not including one outright.

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Yes and no. Let me explain.

No because the history of video games started pretty nonsensical from being silly games about eating random pills and running from ghosts to saving a chick from a giant monkey. Needless to say the plots in early video games are very small and the most elaborate ones comes from movie plots. Infact some modern games do have a gameplay over story setting and I don't see a problem with not having a strong story if the game is great, specially since we haven't mastered the art of story telling in video games.

And yes because let's face it, when games started to get complex so did the stories attached to them did. A new interactive medium appears and its definitely a great way to tell a story while giving a different experience from other mediums such as movies and books. Stories give people more to do and to think about. Remember when Mario was just about saving Princesses? Well since then he's been saving the world, heck even the universe from trouble whenever it showed up and the plot did get deep if I recall correctly. Stories in video games are all over the place as they rarely tell the same story at all. There are some games that are better off without a story but there are definitely great stories out there as well.

But honestly if this is for a new video game project, why not experiment with it? If the story writing process isn't working out why not build a simple plot or throw out the plot just to give the player something fun to do. Its nice to have ideas so why not test the waters and see where they'll take ya.

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Without a doubt. Even though games I've thoroughly enjoyed like Mario 3D World have very little story, I couldn't play more than an hour or so without putting it down for a while. I've been way more invested and willing to play games for long periods when there's a captivating story there, especially if there's characters I care about and want to see achieve their goals.

 

What all games need is a strong balance of gameplay and story to me. If both are on point, there'd be no reason to ever want to put your controller down.

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Sometimes. In terms of making your own game, it matters as much as you want it to matter.

Sometimes a game has no story, or practically none. Tetris is a simple puzzle game without any context beyond the puzzle. Pac Man has characters, but there's no story, just a repeating maze that only ends when you quit, die, or break the game.

Sometimes a game has a little bit of story, but it's not the draw of the game. Bowser having kidnapped Peach in SMB isn't anything more than the impetus and eventual (successful) conclusion of the game. What Dr Wily is planning this time is less important than the fact that there's 8 more robot masters to blast, 8 new weapons to use, and a new castle to climb.

Sometimes a game has a big story, and maybe the game only exists to tell it. Visual novels straddle the divide between games and audiovisual storybooks. Series like Final Fantasy and MGS have lengthy, elaborate cutscenes between strips of gameplay.

And of course, there's a full continuum between these points, with games throughout gaming's history falling all along it. No particular point is inherently more valid or worthwhile than any other.

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It entirely depends on what kind of game you want to make.

 

Even in a simplistic story, you could still offer alternative paths and endings, even if it's something as simple as - if this is a lighthearted game - a slightly different little quirky amusing 20 second cut-scene at the end before the credits roll or whatever.  If it's the kind of game where the gameplay is the focus, like Mario - the different levels played to get to that ending will be the reward in themselves.

 

 

 

Check out the episodes Extra Credits have done on narrative in video games here. Extra Credits is a super awesome series that goes in-depth of game creation and culture.  Not all of them may be relevant to your project, just pick the ones that sound interesting to you.

 

 

EDIT: URL disappeared from my post for some reason.

Edited by JezMM

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Depends.

 

In an RPG, if you don't have a story your game fucking sucks ass juice.

 

In, say, a beat'um up or platformer, story is non-essential but is not necessarily bad.

 

I've been playing Devil May Cry 4 a lot lately and I can tell you that the Nero cutscenes were totally expendable as Nero is a shallow character with an unlikable attitude.

 

However playing as Dante wouldn't be nearly as fun without his witty retorts and humor during cutscenes.

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Yes.

 

/thread

 

The real question, I think, is how stories should be conveyed, and even then I feel like it depends on that individual game. You can tell a story through cutscenes, dialogue, gameplay itself, and so on and so forth. But of course, you can have more than one way of telling a story in one game, or movie, or whatever, and generally speaking I think conveying the story with more than one method is the way to go. Genre is also a factor to an extent. Platformers have a lot of potential to weave together gameplay and story through stuff like (dare I say it?) atmosphere, progress, and just in general how you and the NPCs interact with the environment.

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Thanks a lot for the advice guys.  And you all bring up very valid points and statements.  It's nice to have second opinions on what to do in projects just so it helps with people make up their mind.  I've continued with the more complex concept, it's not that complicated the second time I went through it.  It still has it's cliche if you will (In fact the 4 main characters are pretty much Sonic characters with a makeover if I fully honest) but let's face it everything is a remix.

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Story can be quite important to a game, so long as it's done well and it suits the type of game you're playing. Platformers like Mario and Kirby have their simple, cute stories that sometimes delve into darker territory (Zero in Dreamland 3 and Rosalina's story in Super Mario Galaxy) but do so in a subtle way.

Indie games are even more subtle in this case, where games like Journey and Thomas Was Alone sucker you in with their very simple plot from the very beginning, but gradually the story evolves and becomes much greater and more epic, especially in the case of Journey.

And of course RPG's need a great story, cos like Solkia said, if your RPG lacks a good story then it really does let the whole game down. =P

 

Then we get to the so-called AAA games and their epic stories; stories that rival those of a blockbuster movie. Now in my opinion, this is more hit and miss. Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite have amazing stories with gripping moments and great characters throughout. A game like Assassins Creed 3 on the other hand (yeah yeah gotta mention this one again!) is flawed because it tries too hard to be epic. Plotholes abound, boring characters and a cop out ending make this a failed attempt at a movie-like story, even a failed attempt at emulating the brilliant story found in both AC2 and Brotherhood! So sometimes it can work, but other times it fails badly.

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Some of the greatest and most definitive games of all time have had no real story whatsoever. Look at games like Pac-Man and Q*bert, those games don't present a real story in the actual game. It is, as has been said by others, completely dependant on the type of game you want to make.

 

A great story can help give the player context for what they are doing and why they should be doing it, but sometimes a story can be hammered on a little too thick and make the player feel bored (as much as I love the series, Metal Gear Solid 4 was incredibly guilty of this). 

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A story doesn't make or break a game though it will have some impact as there are many gamers who love a good plot. I think the gameplay is the most important thing in a video game because it's a video game not a book. However I think RPG's are the only exception to this.

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In the last episode of Did You Know Gaming? there was a quote from one of the guys behind Doom who said, "The story is games is like the story in porno movies, it's there, but nobody really cares".

When I heard that, my first thought was, "What utter bullshit".

 

One of the most impressive and exciting things that the ps3/360 generation has taught us is the ability of gaming to provide exciting stories that engage audiences on a way we've never seen before. The interactivity that gaming provides is unlike anything else, the character is no longer removed from you, you physically manipulate them, their decisions are yours.

This affected me most when I played the Walking Dead, which is basically a novel in game form. There where decisions I had to make that I genuinly felt, It forced me to do tihngs, whether it was abandoning a character or pulling a trigger that stayed with me for days afterwards. Games like the Last of Us also allow you this level of interactivity.

 

That said, not all games need that full immersive novel-complex story to work. Journey uses its definitive lack of background to effect the player. You're left to understand this world for your own, to come to your own conclusion about what the events in the game mean.

 

So while there's varying levels of story you can include in a game, it's definitly an essential ingredient in anything more complex than a puzzle game. Even games like Space invaders have a story, albeit the simplest possible narratvie, "there are aliens invading from space and you must stop them". No depth, no character development, but there's still some basic story there.

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No.

 

/pitchforks

 

It really depends. However, one of the trends I've most been hating in gaming and which I'm sorry, I see spread here so often, is the demand a game NEEDS story.

 

If your game works well without story, you don't NEED to add it. The best and most classic games of the industry had barebones stories or none at all. Nothing wrong with that. For all the talk of "but they must be art like movies", people forget video games are their own medium. They have their own tools and needs. Sonic 06 has a story, but Pacman's much more of an artistic game. Hell, Transformers has a story, but Koyaanisqaatsi is much more of an artistic movie.

 

The PS2 Generation already started showing that, but the PS3 Generation had an awful thing where many games that'd have been better off without the clutter of "BUT STORY" suffered for it. Worse still, games that decided to go off without said clutter and focus on a short, sweet experience being lambasted for no story. Ridiculous. Thank heavens for indie games balancing things out.

 

It's important not to fall into the other extreme, though. If you want a story in your game don't go "but games aren't supposed to have story". Feel free to tell it however you want.

 

Avoid both extremes of expectation, which are both harming to videogames. Not all games need story. Not all games need a lack of it.

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I don't really think I feel the need to elaborate on points that other people have made. But I would like to elaborate on something else related to narrative in gaming.

 

 

Gaming's biggest problem when it comes to story/narrative in gaming is, so far, its inability to decouple the conveyance of narrative from techniques that are inherently non-interactive. The vast majority of substantial narrative conveyance in gaming involves the player having control taken away from them, most prominently being dialogue sequences and cutscenes. Sure, it was more understandable in the days when there were severe limits to interaction in virtually any game, but when the most prominent games that champion player choice and narrative interaction do it almost entirely through QTEs and dialogue sequences with a set possible number of choices where the participants do absolutely nothing but stand and stare at each other, either of these cases providing absolutely no other player interaction until you get the chance to walk around again and kill things... Isn't this kind of demonstrative of how little narrative interaction has evolved? Sure, there's been games that use narrative conveyance through the world itself (visuals, sounds, etc.) and stuff like item descriptions (eg Souls games), but any multimedia work can do that.

 

Why not provide in-built mechanics that enable players to respond to dialogue without even being prompted? Why not give players control over their character at all times, make their own non-verbal choices, again without prompting (Spec Ops: The Line has some sweet moments of this, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution has a brilliant and potentially heartwarming scene that can make you feel like a total badass by doing something that might seem hopeless at first)? How about other means of interaction - body language, gestures, that sort of thing. That's not to say stuff like cutscenes are the bane of gaming, they're tools like any other, but they're not particularly suited to the medium in the vast majority of cases, and gaming has a crippling dependence on them.

 

Problem is, like all mechanics, there needs to be room on the controller for it, and despite the complexity of the now-standard dualshock setup, already game designers are running out of space for buttons for various mechanics, which results in stuff like certain buttons being forced to be used for multiple functions. I know I've said this before in other threads, but this is another reason why we need new controller designs that provide more functionality, there shouldn't be a be-all-and-end-all to controller design. The Steam Controller should be the logical evolution, but that shouldn't be the end of it either.

 

Of course, this isn't as much of a problem for mouse and keyboard. [sarcasm] PC gaming master race for the win! [/sarcasm]

 

But, anyway, stories do matter depending on the game, but if they really want to be taken more seriously, gaming needs to wean itself off its dependence of techniques borrowed from other, non-interactive mediums.

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To me, a story not being "needed" doesn't excuse having a shitty story. I think this happens a lot in genres where the story is an after-thought such as a racing game. Spare me the cringe fest and just work on the gameplay please.
 

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It matters a shitload to me.

 

Thing is, I can't get invested in gameplay alone. Graphics aren't very important to me, as long as they're not broken, and soundtrack is something that can greatly increase the experience of gameplay but still isn't enough to make me care about the game outright. What can make me care is watching characters grow and develop and forming a connection with them. Without that, it's legitimately hard for me to get invested in a video game.

The story doesn't need to be grandiose or deep, it just needs to make me care about what's going on. If I don't have something to get invested in past the way it plays or the way it sounds, then at best I'll just have a few hours of shallow fun with it before putting it down and pushing it out of my mind. Not every game needs to be like BioShock Infinite and the story doesn't need to take priority, but if I have something I can care about then I'm pretty solid. Maybe it's just the way my mind works, but if I don't have something that I'm invested in, then why bother? I have no reason to play something I don't care about, and if a game is just like Tetris or Pac Man, then like I said, at best I'll play it for a bit before getting bored. 

 

So is it of the utmost importance? Nahh, not really. Is it important? Very much so, to me at least.

 

I can understand why some might not think it's important, though, because some people like that kind of lighthearted fun that most arcade-like titles offer and I can totally respect that. It's just how I work - if the game doesn't give me reason to care, then I just won't care.

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A game's quality can get me invested, but stories and in turn, characters can make things much better for me. Especially in the cases of an RPG. I like Sonic Lost World's gameplay and music, but it's story is complete crap. Doesn't turn me off totally from the game but it still rubs me the wrong way and I make fun of it this day. This is proof enough that story matters, at least to me.

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I think we have as close to an objective answer as we can get as of the ESA's latest report on the gaming industry: story is by far the most important thing to gamers when it comes to making their purchase.

This isn't that surprising. The Walking Dead isn't even close to being the first game to have zombies and isn't close to being the best looking either, but the characters in it really have heart and you'll likely get attached to a lot of them, making their demise all the more powerful. The mixture of "anyone can die" with "you hate to see them die" is part of what makes the Walking Dead so successful.

I'd say the same principle applies to any media form, gaming or not. While a small subset of the population are content to play plotless games like Pong, most clearly crave something more. While some are content with pointless violence in an FPS, I think a lot of people actually want to feel there's a sense of purpose. Are you shooting guys for shits and giggles, or are you racing against time to stop a terrorist attack, for example?

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I think we have as close to an objective answer as we can get as of the ESA's latest report on the gaming industry: story is by far the most important thing to gamers when it comes to making their purchase.

This isn't that surprising. The Walking Dead isn't even close to being the first game to have zombies and isn't close to being the best looking either, but the characters in it really have heart and you'll likely get attached to a lot of them, making their demise all the more powerful. The mixture of "anyone can die" with "you hate to see them die" is part of what makes the Walking Dead so successful.

I'd say the same principle applies to any media form, gaming or not. While a small subset of the population are content to play plotless games like Pong, most clearly crave something more. While some are content with pointless violence in an FPS, I think a lot of people actually want to feel there's a sense of purpose. Are you shooting guys for shits and giggles, or are you racing against time to stop a terrorist attack, for example?

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1. Bloodborne

2. Demon's Souls

3. The Last of Us

4. Shadow of the Colossus

5. Metal Gear Solid 3

 

Top five favorite games of all time. All renowned for their stories and/or lore and world-building. A game with no story and no context is only a game, but as a medium video games are capable of so much more than selecting a dot on a world map and grabbing a flag a bunch of times.

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In the last episode of Did You Know Gaming? there was a quote from one of the guys behind Doom who said, "The story is games is like the story in porno movies, it's there, but nobody really cares".

When I heard that, my first thought was, "What utter bullshit".

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