Editorial: Story

Story is an incredibly interesting thing to tackle in a video game. I have talked about my definition of story before including discussion of the length of plots in games, but that is not my focus today.

Just reading text.

Good example of an engaging story told in old-school style.

Instead, I find myself increasingly confused at how stories are incorporated into gaming at all. Unless your name is George Lucas, movies do not change after they are completed. They tell the same story in the same way every time they are viewed; usually in one sitting. I find movies incredibly different than video games in this way, despite a common tendency to compare the two mediums.

I find books more similar. They typically take multiple sittings to complete, and they often put the reader inside the character’s head more intimately than a movie would. Still, a book is the same every time, the reader does not affect the outcome, and a reader can go back a few sentences or chapters to catch up.

Games do not have that luxury. Games also rarely have control over the pacing of the story, as players can usually take as much time as they like during interactive sections. That is the point of a game after all. Even games like the ones in the Uncharted series – in which the story pacing is very firmly controlled – sacrifice depth and interaction to accomplish such a controlled story.

From that I begin to think that maybe text and cutscenes are not the answer. Look at a game like Portal. It is a prime example of how to show and not tell (despite GLaDOS still “telling” quite a bit). But that does not seem right either. I am on my tenth or so replay of Final Fantasy IX and I think a large portion of its dialogue and cutscenes hold up today and add a great amount of depth and emotion to the experience.

Not much text at all.

Good example of an engaging story told in new-school style.

Also, no matter the storytelling method used, gaming does not seem to share the same “viewing” luxuries as books and movies. If not in a theatre, movies are usually watched with the lights low and full-attention paid to the screen. Books are read somewhere quiet where the reader will not be disturbed. Because not all games are story-heavy experiences, the same devotion is not always given to concentration.

Also, the developer cannot control when the player will stop or how long he will stay away from the game for. These factors make it nearly impossible for me to come up with what makes for perfect story pacing.

Shorter games like Limbo, Shadow of the Colossus, or Flower have it easy because they can all feasibly be beaten in a single sitting. But I do not believe all games should be short games just because of this one advantage.

I suppose a well-told story will always keep gamers coming back, but I feel like the mysteries of a well-paced story in video games are still unsolved.

What about you, LusiSprites? Do you feel like games are doing fine with their story-telling? Are there trends that you like or dislike? Are there innovations that have yet to be made that you think are obvious? Sound off below!

9 Comments

  1. Lusipurr
    Posted 2012.06.19 at 19:25 | Permalink

    I cannot wait for the Lucas-style LFoPD-HD, in which numerous important scenes are deleted, and many trivial scenes are added. The reason for my conversion of the world will be omitted and replaced with, instead, a short CG sequence of a laughing Oliver rolling around and playing fetch with a dachsund.

  2. Mel
    Posted 2012.06.19 at 23:12 | Permalink

    Lusi, no. The REAL Lucas treatment of LFoPD would be some highly unnecessary prequel(s) that go into great depth about things we never needed (or wanted) explained. Like a whole movie devoted to where the name “lusipurr” came from inter-cut with, I dunno, podracing or something…also stereotypes.

  3. Lusipurr
    Posted 2012.06.20 at 00:06 | Permalink

    We could have some stereotypically Irish people arguing over Cait-Sith, and then a lengthy and thoughtful scene where I devise a way of rendering the meaning of Cait-Sith in English as Lusipurr. Then, there would be a race, set to the theme from Chariots of Fire, between Oliver and Nate, at the end of which Oliver will fall into a vat of mayonnaise.

    Then there will be a lecture of approximately two hours on the reign of Henry IV.

  4. Ethos
    Posted 2012.06.20 at 09:43 | Permalink

    Guys guys! Don’t worry! All these amazing ideas will be in Lusipurr’s Fountain of Perpetual Disappointment HD: Part I-III (in 7 parts): Chariots of Henry IV edition.

  5. Mel
    Posted 2012.06.20 at 13:59 | Permalink

    Part I-III in seven parts, I love it.

  6. Lusipurr
    Posted 2012.06.20 at 18:21 | Permalink

    It will then be remade, several years later, by a different company with a different cast, probably involving Johnny Depp and/or Orlando Bloom, with a soundtrack by Hans Zimmer. It will also be infinitely worse.

  7. Mel
    Posted 2012.06.20 at 19:10 | Permalink

    And it will be called “The Amazing Lusipurr’s Fountain of Perpetual Disappointment”

  8. Lusipurr
    Posted 2012.06.20 at 21:41 | Permalink

    I will be amazed. And I will also be disappointed.

  9. Ethos
    Posted 2012.06.21 at 09:27 | Permalink

    Nono, the reboot needs a flashier title:

    The Zingzing ‘sipurr’s Taint of Perdisap: Revenge of Part VI