Video Game Storytelling

Video game storytelling has been an area of much debate. Some say it’s still elementary while others are praising it as revolutionary. Which one is right? I would say neither. Gaming has come a long way but we’re not there yet.

Playing through Gears of War 3, I was reminded how far storytelling has come. Now before I say anything else, I’m not praising Gears for its amazing plot or ultra-deep characterization, I’m simply saying it’s a vast improvement. Remember back in the good-old-days when games were about amazingly deep characters such as a stereotypical Italian plumber saving princesses. This is one reason why video games were regarded with such disregard from most high-brow critics as an “absurd child toy.”

Now, gaming has grown to be so much more than that. Say what you will about Gears, it has an imaginative world and a fairly average, but compelling story. This would be the action movie of the gaming industry, a fun rollercoaster you can just ride and not think too much about. But if you’re like me, and prefer something a little more high-brow, there are games like Braid, Limbo, and Bioshock. These few examples show how unique storytelling in games can be from movies, books, music, and paintings. Although the older generation still don’t realize it, games offer very distinct methods of storytelling, and I know this sounds horrible, but once nature puts these old men to rest, future critics will understand.

Although video game stories has not attain the same prestige as most other arts, I believe it will in due time. It’s currently at a disadvantage because writing, painting, and most other arts has been around for thousands of years while gaming has been around for less than a hundred. Give it more time, it’ll soon have the respect it deserves.

Grog101's picture

video games have the one thing most forms of media don't have, interactive immersion

in a book you read the story, in a movie you watch the story, in a video game you live the story.

tigers4al's picture

"No…where not there yet but it’s getting better."


NightShroud's picture

I think games don't use the fact that they're games in their stories. Something like braid comes to mind but I think going towards movie-like storytelling, it'll be bad for the gaming industry. Though Heavy Rain had some good "game-y" parts where you can stop to hear what they're thinking, which isn't something you can do a lot in movies. 

MrDudeMan's picture

@TheArticle I agree and disagree. Firstly, I don't think its fair to compare old games to new games, there were many limits imposed on the older games which made it so that the story had to be second to the gameplay (mostly the memory issue). Back then stories were usually told throughout the manual (which blatantly outshine the manuals of today). And there were even some gems (FF6/3, Chrono Trigger) that have great stories despite having poor graphics. I do agree that video game designers now present a great amount of tools that they can use to convey a story successfully (for example the upgraded graphics makes it easier for a gamer to get drawn into the world), but I would not say that any game has peaked in terms of story telling ability. I'll get to that in my next point. 

@Grog101 I wouldn't say that a video game allows you to "live" the story more than a book or film. I'd even go as far as to say that out of the three, books are the ones that allow you to live in the story, mostly because it relies on your imagination to create the story, making it unique to you. Interactivity is present in some games, but in most it doesn't really have a place in the story. Most video game stories are linear from start to finish, and even the ones that allow you to take different paths are more of a "choose your own adventure" book. 

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