Story iIn Video Games: How To Implement It Properly
Posted on Sunday, February 27 2011 @ 14:21:55 PST
When I step into Gamestop and gaze at the shelves of video games, I can hardly keep myself from shaking my head in wonder at how video games are growing as story-telling medium. As that line of though goes through my mind, I find myself applying that same willpower to keep myself from groaning over how so many games destroy nearly destroy themselves to tell those stories. If developers want push video games as vehicles to deliver a story, then they need to understand what makes video games a viable method for telling a story and how narrative and exposition can be best combined with the gameplay to deliver a cohesive story
Not all video games have a story, and truthfully not all video games need one, I’ve lost enough hours of my life to Bejeweled and Tetris to attest to that. However, video games offer a unique opportunity for story-tellers: the ability to not only create a story and world for the audience, but also to give the audience the ability to interact with that story and world. Instead of merely watching events unfold, the player gets to become a part of the story, and become mentally invested in the events unfolding around the player.
Given the tremendous advantage that video game provide when it comes to creating an immersive and engaging experience to the player, it makes the shortcomings of many games more obvious.
To properly examine a few of the issues that often hold video games back from showing their true potential, I’d like to bring up Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIII. Externally, it doesn’t seem to be doing much wrong, the visual detail is brilliant, it takes place in a unique fantasy world, and it features a very strong, character-oriented story. Despite how well this advances the story, Final Fantasy XIII is not much of a game. The actual input from the player is almost insultingly minimal, especially early in the game, it is loaded with cutscenes, many of which only barely move the plot forward, and background information has to be accessed through a text menu, rather than woven into gameplay or dialogue. It feels more like a DVD compilation of a TV show (especially on the 360 version, which has four disks), than it does a game.
Final Fantasy XIII is just one example of the many story-heavy video games that makes the mistake of making the story overpowering toward player involvement. The key word in the term video game is the word game, after all is said and done, and what many developers need to focus on is having their players feel that they are involved in the outcome o the story.
Fortunately, some developers have been successful in creating great story-heavy. One example, to contrast in particular with Final Fantasy XIII, is another fantasy game Dragon Age: Origins. Dragon Age gives a lot of room for player involvement; the main character is created by the player and can take control of party members when needed, non-interactive cutscenes are kept to a minimum, and instead favors dialogue sequences which give to player access to important information, and to advance the plot and character relationships. While not a perfect game, Dragon Age: Origins is an excellent example of a game that takes great strides in giving its players involvement over the larger story unfolding within the game.
For developers to continue pushing video games forward as a medium for story-telling, then they must remember that the player and the player’s involvement with the story should be the most crucial part of designing the story and the game itself.