Weekend Hot Topic, part 1: Do you care about video game stories?

I’ve been saying it for years, but for most games story comes so low in the order of important attributes that it’s barely worth mentioning.

As soon as someone says something along the lines of ‘I need a good story for my games’, I instantly switch off. Apart from the fact that it means they’re prepared to overlook aspects of games that – for me – are more fundamental to their quality, it also indicates their standards for what makes a ‘good story’ must be about as low as you can get.

People are very quick to draw parallels between gaming and cinema but I’d just as soon demand to know the story behind the meal I’m eating or the crossword I’m completing.

A couple of exceptions that have made me think twice include Mass Effect (the way compelling characters are set up and introduced in the second game is unsurpassed), God Of War for its threat of genuinely interesting character development, and low interactivity games that are clearly made primarily for their stories.

Even then, though, the quality of writing is usually nowhere near that of non-interactive storytelling media which, as I suggest, implies to me that those who care so much about story either don’t know what good writing is or don’t understand what it is about certain games that they’re really enjoying.

I know that’s elitist and condescending but the number of times I’ve seen people write off classic games that purposefully – almost as if to prove a point – have minimal story makes me wonder why they got into games at all instead of sticking to books, theatre, films, and TV – all of which offer more than just the mere potential for literary enrichment.

More to the point, though, I’ve played a ton of story-based games and come up with long lists of suggestions that would make them better while I don’t think I’ve played a game and thought ‘the story needs to be better’. The only exceptions being those games where the creator has decided the story is the primary thing that warrants the game’s existence.

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