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Posted by Rejizzle (677 posts) 3 years, 25 days ago

Poll: What is more important to you're video gaming experience: the story, or the game play? (266 votes)

The story 10%
The gameplay 28%
Both in equal measure 13%
Depends on the game 49%

I just finished The Last of Us and loved the nuanced characters and mostly enjoyed the story (little cliche heavy at the start), but I really disliked the controls. I felt that the game borrowed mechanics from both, action and survival horror, and the two types of game play were at odds with one another. Although I enjoyed the story, the mechanics cause me to have my reservations when recommending it to friends.

Anyways, this got me thinking about how one balances story and game play when judging a video game. I certainly understand why someone might value one over the other and thought I'd gather some data on what's more important to the Giant Bomb community.

Thanks for your time.

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#1 Posted by csl316 (13709 posts) -

It used to be the story. But now that time is more limited and I have other stuff going as I play, I'm all about mechanics. But a good story is certainly pretty awesome to get.

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#2 Edited by ajamafalous (13319 posts) -

The gameplay; no question.

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#3 Posted by Kaiserreich (891 posts) -

I play games for the gameplay.

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#4 Posted by Turambar (7992 posts) -

Depends on the game. When it is a cooperative experience, gameplay easily trumps story. For solitary experiences, story usually trumps gameplay, with certain exceptions like Civilization.

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#5 Posted by benspyda (2129 posts) -

In most cases a game wins me over with its gameplay, but that odd case like Tell Tale's The Walking Dead Season 1 where the gameplay is just there to compliment the story, I was won over by the story because it was outstanding.

I can forgive a lousy story if the gameplay is great or even just above average really, but If the gameplay is poor the story really needs to be amazing.

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#6 Posted by BigSocrates (1275 posts) -

This totally depends on the game. Some games have killer stories/aesthetics (I think by story you mean things that aren't mechanics, not just the wikipedia summary) but pretty mediocre mechanics (Almost all good adventure games). There are obviously many fantastic games with no story at all (Tetris.) If forced to choose I'd go with mechanics because game mechanics can only be done in video games while there are many media to tell stories in, but we aren't forced to choose. We can have Spec Ops: The Line AND multiplayer Battlefield. The story is great in the first, while the mechanics are obviously what matter for the second. In the very best (story based) games the two work in harmony and complement one another.

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#7 Posted by horseman6 (1079 posts) -

Games aren't really games without good Gameplay. If the game has very little or really bad gameplay, I would find it hard to call it a game.

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#8 Posted by BigSocrates (1275 posts) -

Games aren't really games without good Gameplay. If the game has very little or really bad gameplay, I would find it hard to call it a game.

I understand "very little" gameplay but isn't a game with bad gameplay just...a bad game?

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#9 Edited by JasonR86 (10174 posts) -

It depends. Sorry if I can't be more detailed. It goes on a case by case basis with me.

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#10 Posted by BeachThunder (14507 posts) -

So, um, isn't "depends on the game" the only reasonable answer in polls like this...

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#11 Posted by Video_Game_King (36564 posts) -

Is the story going to get any votes?

None from me.

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#12 Posted by Dimi3je (486 posts) -

here we go...

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#13 Posted by BeachThunder (14507 posts) -

@dimi3je said:

here we go...

Loading Video...

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#14 Posted by Slag (7147 posts) -

I play Tetris for the story.

in all seriousness, "depends on the game" of course.

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#15 Edited by Ares42 (3473 posts) -

I had a fun stint with story-based games for a few years, but lately I don't have the patience for it at all. Even these "amazing" games we've seen this year (Bioshock and Last of Us) really tested my patience to the point that I just barely finished one and quit the other halfway through. Although there's nothing wrong with a strong story-presence in a game, as long as I'm actually enjoying playing the game as well. Actually, I think one of the key roles for me to enjoy games with story is when it allows me to choose when to engage with it. If I can dick around for hours and have a good time, then the fact that there's a strong campaign I can engage with too is just icing.

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#16 Posted by Mycroft_Ampersand (105 posts) -

It really does depend on the game.

Although I am curious as to what it was about the controls of The Last of Us that you disliked so much? I thought that they were a vast improvement for Naughty Dog over the mess that was the Uncharted series.

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#17 Posted by Random45 (1719 posts) -

It depends on the game I suppose, but I would definitely prefer better gameplay over a better story. If anything has taught me that, it would be Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs - the story was good, better than the first game even, but they stripped out almost every single gameplay mechanic from the first game, and as a result it was boring as hell to play through. Since you didn't have to worry about losing sanity, and you could stare at the monster all you wanted, it lost almost all of the scares that the first game had. I remember just turning the game off when I was at roughly the halfway point because I was just so bored with it.

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#18 Posted by huser (1385 posts) -

I selected it depends on the game which for me is true. However, right now gameplay generally matters more than story. Hopefully we get to the point (ideally before needing a holodeck or Matrix to achieve it) in games both in their design and in their informed consumption that storytelling can be expected to be at least as important.

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#19 Edited by falserelic (5761 posts) -

Gameplay all the way. I don't give a fuck how good the story is. I want to play a video game first and foremost.

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#20 Edited by Video_Game_King (36564 posts) -

OK, so nobody's gonna vote for the story? At all?

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#21 Posted by wjb (1899 posts) -

Me at 21: Story. Video games are important. They are art and people need to take them more seriously.

Me at 31: I just wanna have fun, man.

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#22 Posted by ninnanuam (527 posts) -

I think my favourite thing is the personal narratives that occur naturally in games. As a basic example there was one time in GTA online where I was driving along with a buddy in a different car then an asshole grabbed him in a chopper and I gave chase and I followed him as best as I could for like 3 minutes, it was fucking bad ass.

the gameplay wasn't the best and no-one wrote it but a kick ass story appeared out of the game anyway...

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#23 Posted by s10129107 (1437 posts) -

A great game to me has a memorable and (possibly or) enjoyable experience. Doesn't matter to me what ingredients it throws into the pot to achieve that goal.

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#24 Posted by Oldirtybearon (5626 posts) -

Depends on the game. If it's BioShock I'm going to say the story is ultimately what's drawing me to the game while in something like Dark Souls it's almost purely do to the gameplay.

The funny thing I've noticed is that in a game with excellent play mechanics (to quote Jaffe) I find myself caring about the story a lot more than in games like The Last of Us where story is all there is. Dark Souls is probably the biggest example of this along with stuff like Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid. All three of those are games (or franchises) that are built on a strong foundation in gameplay and I find myself drawn to their stories as a result of my investment in the gameplay. Weird.

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#25 Edited by mina_mina752 (123 posts) -

the gameplay...most of these day's stories are "cheesy" and does not offer any thing new exciting except few games like elder scrolls and fallout

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#26 Edited by Darji (5412 posts) -

@video_game_king said:

OK, so nobody's gonna vote for the story? At all?

I do. I play full retail games only if i like the setting character or the story premise. But that said it does not need to be good but rather entertaining. I do not need something new or non chliche characters. I just want to have a fun time.

Whem I buy indy games it is more about the gameplay bu I have much higher standards with retail games.

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#27 Posted by crimsinf (157 posts) -

For me it's a matter of whether either of them are deficient and, if so, whether the other one makes up for that deficiency. A popular example in this argument seems to be Telltale's Walking Dead series. Is the gameplay something that you'd invest your time and money with were it absent from the story? I sure wouldn't. From a purely mechanical standpoint and divorced completely from the narrative, the gameplay is just not very interesting. The story, however, is compelling enough for a whole bunch of people to push on to the ending almost in spite of the gameplay. The same type of argument could be made in reverse for games that have great gameplay but stories that are poor or even just simple premises. So I guess to make a long story short, it depends on the game and what the designers' goals were.

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#28 Posted by jacksukeru (6544 posts) -

I mean, I certainly play games that put their focus on either of those things from time to time, but generally I come to something for the gameplay and settle for something familiar, or something with certain themes I enjoy, in the story department.

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#29 Edited by Danteveli (1405 posts) -

Depends on the game. If I would care about story too much I wouldn't be able to play 99% of games since they have terrible stories.

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#30 Posted by JZ (2343 posts) -

Well both have to be good. If I don't care what going on in the game, I'm going to lose interest and not play it anymore. If I don't like playing the game I'm not going to play it anymore.

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#31 Edited by TheManWithNoPlan (6900 posts) -

A mix of both. I'll also say that if a game has a great gameplay over narrative I'll usually be more enticed to revisit it.

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#32 Posted by FancySoapsMan (5917 posts) -

Usually a little bit of both but I find that I'm more likely to finish game with good stories.

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#33 Posted by GnaTSoL (873 posts) -

gameplay draws me in. Story keeps me there.

With that said, I honestly need both equally to play a retail/AAA game.

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#34 Edited by Sergio (3515 posts) -

I'm greedy, and both are important to me. I'm more tolerant of bad gameplay if the story is good up to a point.

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#35 Posted by McLargepants (441 posts) -

Definitely depends on the game. In a perfect world the gameplay is good and supports a good story, but that's not always feasible or even necessary. I really enjoy games for their stories because they can be more engaging than any other medium, but there's only so much bad gameplay I can put up with. So I voted for depends on the game, but I'm definitely leaning towards gameplay. A good game is built from solid mechanics.

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#36 Posted by zombiepenguin9 (580 posts) -

Different focuses for different games are cool with me. I suppose mechanics are currently more important to me, though. Games are usually the longest way of delivering a narrative, so unless it's really good, mechanics are an important component in keeping a game moving along. The Mass Effect games are all 25-30 hours each, and they tell a story that's similar in scope to the original Star Wars trilogy, which is about 6-7 hours total. That's not a bad thing, necessarily, but if it wasn't for solid gameplay, I doubt the story's sheer length would hold up over 80-90 hours.

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#37 Edited by ZolRoyce (1596 posts) -

Sometimes atmosphere is more important to me then story, I think the story in Fallout 3 is pretty bad, but it has a great atmosphere and tone to the world. I think over all though it's a mix, I'll finish a game that has bad or tedious gameplay if I think the story is worth it, but I'll also finish a game that has a bad and mind numbing story if it scratches that gameplay itch. So not really one over the other.

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#38 Posted by FlaminB (35 posts) -

Gameplay. A good story makes it more enjoyable, but without good gameplay, I don't want to play it. I was going to say it depends on the game, but I can't think of a good story-based game with bad gameplay that I honestly enjoyed playing.

The Walking Dead is only good because of the story, but playing it isn't very fun, IMO. I would rather watch it than play it. Same with Catherine. As a game, it's not fun to play. The story (and choices) are the only reasons to tolerate games like that. That doesn't make them good games. Just games with good stories. If I can get the same enjoyment (or in some case more enjoyment) from a Let's Play video, how is that considered a good game?

Meanwhile, I can name plenty of games with TERRIBLE stories, or without any story whatsoever that I have sunk hundreds of hours into, because they are fun to play.

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#39 Edited by deactivated-57d3a53d23027 (1460 posts) -

Both need to be good in games.

If gameplay is annoying I will stop playing. I just ripped my playstation from the plugs on the back, while raging over some bullshit mission in Assassin's Creed where you have to eavesdrop on someone.

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#40 Posted by AntPatCan (30 posts) -

The reason why I voted for gameplay here is because I want to focus on the controls and beating all the levels/missions.

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#41 Edited by plaintomato (616 posts) -

I voted "both", even though the correct answer is gameplay.

You can have a good game with a crap story, and it's still a good game. If you have good story with crap gameplay, it might as well be a movie or a book.

But I voted both in equal measure anyway, because those rare home-runs that make up the greatest games in the world ever have both. TLOU is one of them, I thought the action/survival horror mix was perfect and really added emphasis to the struggle portrayed by the story. The original Bioshock is another example. Dark Souls. Half-Life & Portal 2 even, though for those it's more in the way the story is told than the story itself.

The best of the best have both.

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#42 Posted by pweidman (2587 posts) -

Gameplay for me predominately, but I tend to really fall in love with a game that has a good story, hence my choice of depends on the game. Maybe it's because really good storytelling is too rare in video games in general. On the flip side a good story doesn't make up for poor to middling gameplay either, which was my main problem w/The Walking Dead for instance.

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#43 Posted by Justin258 (14212 posts) -

I play video games primarily for their interactivity, so definitely gameplay. Story is a good plus, but I think that focusing on good stories and not on advancing gameplay does games a disservice.

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#44 Edited by ADAMWD (713 posts) -

I think that the term 'video games' is quickly becoming outdated as these things evolve and more people begin to create them. For the sake of categorization, I consider any interactive experience to be a video game. It is entirely dependent on the designer(s) objective. In Super Meat Boy, obviously gameplay is essential, but conversely a game like Bioshock Infinite or The Last of Us would be better without any gameplay. (Ken Levine please make a game in the style of Gone Home)


I also think that games focused on story and exploration of a carefully crafted world are going to really blow up, especially with the rise of Oculus and VR in general.

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#45 Posted by HatKing (7266 posts) -

They're not mutually exclusive. And I don't think story is as constrained as people like to make it out to be. I think there is a perceived experience, a narrative, that we are delivered while playing a game. What is it that a developer is trying to do here? What are they trying to say? How does the gameplay compliment that?

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#46 Posted by HatKing (7266 posts) -

I think my favourite thing is the personal narratives that occur naturally in games. As a basic example there was one time in GTA online where I was driving along with a buddy in a different car then an asshole grabbed him in a chopper and I gave chase and I followed him as best as I could for like 3 minutes, it was fucking bad ass.

the gameplay wasn't the best and no-one wrote it but a kick ass story appeared out of the game anyway...

I love this.

I wrote a piece a while back about the conceived story vs the perceived story. How video games aren't limited to a basic narrative that players are told, but rather can deliver a narrative through a created system that allows players to experience something unique. One, the story that a creative imagines and writes, the conceived story. And two, the story that happens to the player in a world that was created to sanction it, the perceived story. Both can be just as effective in delivering the vision the creator wants to create.

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#47 Posted by Christoffer (2323 posts) -

Definitely gameplay. If I don't care about the gameplay I don't care about the story. Even if it's the greatest story ever told in a video game, if it's broken up by hours upon hours of tedious chores, I don't care about it.

This goes for all works of fiction in any medium though. I wouldn't finish a book that made me watch paint dry for 2 hours in between chapters.

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#48 Edited by Steadying (1888 posts) -

Kinda both. Far Cry 3 was a game that had terrific gameplay and a fucking awful story with an ending that almost ruined the entire experience for me. Nier was a game with a great story with just completely bland gameplay that kinda made it hard to enjoy.

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#49 Posted by roboculus92 (562 posts) -

It definitely depends for me since I feel that there has to be a balance. I'm ok with a game having lousy gameplay if the story is good enough to compensate and vice versa I'm ok with a game with a lousy story if the gameplay is good enough. Of course if we're talking about video games in general, gameplay is definitely the most important part since that's the defining attribute of this medium and it's likely what you'll spend most of your time doing in a game. However, I'm a sucker for a good story, regardless of the medium, so I'm probably a little more forgiving of lousy gameplay than I am of a lousy story, especially since I don't find most game stories to be that good so the good ones I happen to encounter stick out that much more.

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#50 Posted by Fredchuckdave (10022 posts) -

Gameplay in general but if a storyline is transcendent I don't mind.