I don’t want to sound bias but do video games lacking story make you want to play the sequel or even finish the game? I think a well-established story can motivate you to playing a game to its full completion. There are so many video games that I have picked up that I just can’t finish because the story and game play are so bad that I don’t even want to bother completing it. Do game companies just think of a good game mechanic and just say “Ya know what? Let’s just build something decent around this engine and hope it sells.” I honestly believe that even a game with a shitty engine could sell well if its story is captivating.
I used to be part the creative team for an online forum text based role-playing game. The game mechanics were simple. Write a 1,000 word role-play depicting what you’re doing that day in your adventure and myself or one of the moderators will come in and grade your writing and let you know how much damage you did if you were fighting, what you would be fighting, or how you should proceed given the options you are left with. Sounds tedious doesn’t it? Writing over 1,000 words just to illustrate what you were doing is a bit obnoxious but we did it this way so we got players to make actual stories and not just “NATHANIEL WALKED INTO DA BAR AND PUNCHED MACARTHUR SO HARD!” and then we’d have to moderate that. Instead we got a short story about the character’s adventure. You may ask yourself why anyone would play this game if it was obviously so tiresome to make a post this long just to advance. Well, compared to other message boards of the same category, we were the largest with around 150-200 active members. What made people keep playing and want to part of this world? It was our story, the world, and the characters within it. It ran for about three years with constant activity until we finally shut it down because we couldn’t handle the work load with our current staff and also come up with more stories since we spent way too much time moderating. The story overtook game play and also made a lot of people much better writers than they were when they first began at the site.
Lets take Final Fantasy for instance. Very few people actually anticipated the sequels to Final Fantasy because they needed their turn-based action. People kept playing Final Fantasy because the story made you want to fulfill the accomplishment of beating the game. You wanted to be that hero with the help of your ragtag group of adventurers, which saved the world. Stories make the game memorable and even make loyal fans keep playing. I still played Final Fantasy 13 even though I thought it was one of the worst stories in any Final Fantasy or RPG ever. I continued to play it because I believed that Square-Enix would turn the story around somewhere and make this an experience that was worth enduring the bland characters and adventure. Alas, ADD addled maniacs wrote it and it ended being a total piece of shit. I did think, though, that the game play was better but not worth the agonizingly retarded story. But you get where I’m going with this? I loved the Final Fantasy franchise because of the story and STILL completed this abomination of a sequel just because I loved previous stories and believed in the game’s track record.
There are games out there with good stories but are horribly paced. Red Dead Redemption has a good story from what I can tell by my six hours of game play that I put into it, however, I’ve had the game for almost 2 months now and I haven’t bothered to keep playing it because it is astoundingly drawn out. I don’t feel I’ve made a dent in the story because of all the “filler” non-sense in between pivotal moments in the game. The initial taste of story you are given doesn’t give you an urgency to want to see what happens next because the game takes so long to introduce you to anything worthwhile and intriguing.
Then, you have games that have a story that is apparently fleshed out but it sounds like a SyFy Channel Original Movie. I know it was a blockbuster game, but Assassin’s Creed’s story was horrible. The game play is atrocious and the story is almost vomit inducing. You know how in the Matrix when they upload the knowledge of Kung Fu into Neo’s head and it only takes a whole 5 seconds for him to be a total badass? Ok, imagine Neo learning Kung Fu but it requires him to deal with some past master’s life over the course of a few hours. That is Assassin’s Creed. The introduction to the sequel had me turning off my 360 almost instantly when they mentioned the word “Templar Masters.” For villains who take place in the modern era, aren’t masters kind of a childish thing to call them? That sounds like something a five year old who couldn’t think of a creative name made up while playing with his action figures. The main character himself looks like a chump and is way too foolish to be a hero, which is what this series is setting him up to be. He has to learn from his French ancestors how to fight better or something but if memory serves me right didn’t he learn how to be awesome in the first game? Apparently not, because he couldn’t even handle security guards who lacked batons or guns on his own. He needed a GIRL to save him. Good job, nerd. A chick had to back you up against rent-a-cops. I lost interest in this game within 30 minutes.
Some games have too much story. Think about Metal Gear Solid 4. Were we playing a game or an interactive movie? From what I recall, I got to sneak around some hallways for 5 minutes before being interrupted by 30 minutes of cinematic and dialog. If you’re going to make a game heavy in story make it interactive so I have something to do while you’re blabbing about your military and science bullshit. You know what I remember about the MGS4 story? Not much at all due to the fact that every single time the game would take control away from me I left the room to make tea or I put a pillow over my face and woke up when I noticed the talking ended. The story became way too encumbering and I only finished it because it was the finale to the series or so it was believed at that time.
If the gaming industry needs someone to look to in order to make games with decent game play but highly engrossing stories there is a little company called Bioware that completely decimates the industry with its captivating stories and player involvement. Dragon Age and Mass Effect are their two hottest franchises right now and it’s hard to argue that either has a monotonous story or boring main character. Commander Shepard is a bad ass and they sway from good or evil but the ends always justify the means regardless of the decision. The nameless Grey Warden leader in Dragon Age does what needs to get done despite the situation he/she is placed under. While I love both franchises, I dislike the villains and I feel they could do more than just have a villain who wants to shit dicks all over the world because they are evil. In Dragon Age, Loghain was a rather interesting character but they didn’t focus much on him. I feel if they did it would’ve been much more difficult to stomp on his dreams and kill him when it came down to it. The game always leaves you thinking that he is possessed by a demon or somehow working for the enemy, but he isn’t. He’s just a man with an opposing view and you aren’t really given a chance to understand his action because you get the option to decapitate him, which any reasonable person will do. Only a total pussy wouldn’t chop off someone’s head if given the option. Do note how I compliment the story so much in these Bioware games but I don’t even mention the game play experience. That would be because it is rather simple and nothing introduced has been revolutionary. It’s the story that kept me playing over and over and over.
So video game industry, this is what I’m demanding from you from now on. There will be no “ifs”, “ands” , or “buts” about this. I want a hero who isn’t a metrosexual and has a beard. Yeah I said it. I want more heroes with beards. I want a villain who has a really good reason to want to do the things they do other than just being a total chode. We need someone we could see siding with if given the appropriate circumstances. I don’t want “The dark forces of” to be part of a story anymore. I’m sick of one-dimensional villains. Why can’t it just be an opposing country or something? Sephiroth wasn’t born evil. He went bat shit when he found out how he was made and wanted to destroy the planet for his mama. See? I can side with that. He loved his mom so much he wanted to make her proud. I’m sick of Ganon being a total dick for no reason. I want likeable party members. I don’t need anymore Wakka’s or Snow’s who think they are hot shit but are incredibly obnoxious. Do the creators even play the games? Do they not notice how annoying these kinds of characters are? Get rid of them. If you want a fun loving side character make him a happy drunk or something. Don’t make the game a movie by leaving us on the sidelines with lack of interactivity. I don’t want to sit through dialog that I have no say in for thirty fucking minutes. If this scene really has to happen make it worth listening to. Don’t get all scientific and shit. I’m playing this game for entertainment, not to learn how to fucking make a clone in real life. This is all I demand from you. In return, I will give you my money if you don’t somehow fuck this up.
Do you guys think that the story matters in a game or are you fine with stories that are as bland as Tetris?