Saturday, February 18, 2012

Story Time

Story in video games is quite the hot topic (no, not the store).  People stand on both sides of the debate.  Some think story is incredibly important aspect of a video game.  Meanwhile, others don’t want all of those complicated words getting in the way of their virtual genocide quest.  Who’s right, then?  Can games be good without a story?  Does a story actually detract from a game?

The truth is, both sides are right to a certain degree.  First, story is certainly important.  An involving story can certainly add more investment to a game world.  The opposite is true as well.  Problems in a story’s structure, plot holes, and poorly written characters can work against the immersion that some games strive so hard to create.  A story in games is used as a means to take the player through all of the gameplay and strings together what might otherwise be disconnected events.
At the same time, a story is not absolutely necessary for a game to be good.  This is often true of the simplest games.  Think about Tetris, for example.  It has no story to speak of at all, yet it is one of the best known video games in the world.  The puzzle game genre in particular can escape from the need for a story.  Other games use a bare-bones story as a means to string together gameplay.  Perhaps the best example of this would be rescuing a princess from some terrible evil (the model that Nintendo has managed to survive on).

Who needs a story when you've got multi-colored blocks?

This debate will continue indefinitely into the future of games.  Why?  People want different things out of games and play them for different reasons.  Those who play Modern Warfare multiplayer for hours on end probably wouldn’t even notice if the story mode were suddenly gone one day.  On the other hand, those who appreciate story decry any time a developer puts more time into polishing the multiplayer to the detriment of the single player.  Overall, though, we all play games for the same reason:  fun.  Well, except maybe the people playing Facebook games to the detriment of their real lives.  That’s called compulsion.

All images courtesy of our soon to be overlords, Google.

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