I’ve noticed more and more over the years that gamers and some reviewers seem to judge the worth of a game based on “the story”. For some reason, I think the story because a simple thing for people to focus on. But I’m of the opinion that story is not what video games are about, they’re about the gameplay. Story is secondary. And it’s fair to say that different gamers play different games for different reasons. But – if you’re only playing a game for the story, I think you’re missing the point.
Game A has absolutely amazing gameplay, but the story is terrible. Game A is still enjoyable.
Game B has terrible gameplay, but an absolutely amazing story. Game B is a nightmare to play.
See? Story can “add” to the fun of gameplay, but it is no replacement, yet a game can still be fun in spite of a terrible story IF the gameplay is good enough. As games focus more and more on story, what seems to happen is that they’re competing with movies. Which to me, leaves video games horribly outgunned. Movies will always have much better stories, acting and cinematography, because they don’t have to be concerned with gameplay, and everything is pre-rendered. So to me, if a great story is what you’re looking for, you need to go see a great movie, actually much better yet, read a good book.
Here’s a good analogy: race cars. It is like saying your main thing you like about a good race car is how it looks. YES – many race cars are gorgeous looking, and that’s great and all. But they are designed to go fast and handle corners, looking pretty is secondary. If what you care about most is how it looks, there’s no point in spending hundreds of thousands or even millions on engineering to make it go insanely fast, and have great handling. You can just go get yourself a scale model of a prettier car. But saying that the focus of the race car should be it’s looks, will make it lose races. Everyone likes seeing a gorgeous race car win, but does anyone care about the amazingly gorgeous race care that game in 12?
One big factor for me about how fun a game is, is its replayability. And let’s be honest, if story is the main thing, how many times are you gonna want to go through the same story? I’m not saying it impossible, there’s certainly movies I’ve seen half a dozen times. But 40+ hour games? Not something I’d see myself doing multiple times to relive a story I already know what is gonna happen.
Look at classic games. The stories are non-existent or laughable. Pac man? Donkey Kong? Pit Fall? Any story for these games could be described in probably 2 sentences max. Did that make them bad games? Nope – they had great gameplay and were highly replayable.
And I think the problem is, that for video games, we need to not focus on “the story”, instead focus on “the experience”, which in fact, is the story that is unique to each gamer who plays the game. Video games are an interactive media, focusing on a linear story takes away from that. And this coming up with 20 different endings is a band aid measure, slapped on at the end when you realize, oh crap, everyone who plays this has the exact same experience, why in the hell would anyone play this more than once? Problem solved!!!: Multiple endings!!! (+100 to *weak*)
Something else besides gameplay I feel is more important than the story: environment. The actual game world you’re in. To me, if it is a pointless, boring, rehashed, cookie-cutter looking place, where I really don’t give a crap about what is around the next corner, it doesn’t matter how good the story is. But an amazing environment, which is exciting to explore, can really compensate for a bad/nonexistent story. This is where games prevail over movies. Movies don’t really have an environment, they have a set, which is recorded once, and never changes. Video games however, can have an interactive, exploreable, changing environment. The success of minecraft is a good example of this.