Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Importance of Story

Stories are not required to make video games good; many games have no story at all (mostly arcade games) and others have only simple stories, showing their faces only at the beginning and end of the game. Obviously stories are not crucial to a games success, but there is no substitute for a good story.

The story not only helps to create the right environment, a good story will also make the player feel like the have an obligation to complete their quest and rescue the planet Polychron from the evil dictator. It brings the player in, makes him feel like he's needed, like he's a part of the action.

However, stories suffer from one major illness; for the most part, they are extremely linear. The player often has no choice as to what course of action he will take. The story doesn't say he can tail the limo with the bad dude in it, it says he will tail the limo containing the bad dude. What if he wants to shoot up the limo instead, or make a deal and join forces with the bad dude, only turning on him at the last minute? Too bad. Gotta stick to the story line.

This removes a major element of interactivity from the game. Obviously it is impossible to know what all the possible decisions are that the player could make at any one time, but even with only a few options available, the game takes on a whole new light every time it is played. Some major games, such as True Crime: Streets of LA and Star Wars Battlefronts 2 have incorporated obvious decision-affected shifts in storyline. Even some arcade games (meaning games featured in arcades), such as Behind Enemy Lines, use decision making processes that make the game new and different every time you play.

Sadly, the vast majority of video games do not include any sort of multiple-ending story systems, and therefore they lack the interactivity of the few titles that do allow the player to affect the story. When more game designers begin to make their stories non-linear and incorporate storylines that can change as a result of player actions, the face of video gaming will change forever.


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