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Story in Video Games

Should video games be telling stories? Video games already provide fun gameplay to players, but they should also be taking advantage of their unique ability to tell stories with the player actively taking part in the story. This is something movies and books are, for the most part, unable to do. Not everybody believes that video games are capable of storytelling, however. My own brother has argued that video games and stories are unable to mix, and a developer for the game Just Cause 2 said that story-based video games make no business sense. However, story in video games is something that works incredibly well, but only as long as it is done properly.

Video games are able to tell stories unlike any other storytelling medium. Everything that happens directly relates to the player, because they are taking the role of the protagonist, and are directly affected by these events. Not only do these events have an effect on the player, but often times the player can have an influence on the events of the story, an idea that games such as the Mass Effect series focus on. My brother has a good amount of experience playing video games, including some story-based games. As I was discussing this topic with him, he brought up the argument that story directly conflicts with games, because one has spectators, while the other has players actively participating in events. While this is true in some cases where games have heavily scripted events, some games avoid this entirely. Many games by the company known as Valve are extremely well known for having good story elements while managing to keep the player in the first person perspective and rarely ever take control away from them, as demonstrated in the games Portal and Half Life. Other games often take control away from the player’s character, while giving them control of events that happen in the story, such as The Walking Dead. Video games can have some incredible storytelling, given that it is done properly.

Many of these story-based games are extremely successful, including all of the ones I’ve previously mentioned. The majority of games that are story-based that don’t do well are either lacking in their story or sacrifice fun gameplay for their story. Often times, a developer will start a project, and realize midway through that they need a writer. At that point, they hire a writer that has to work within the boundaries of what the developer has already created, which doesn’t usually work out well. Sometimes no writer is ever hired, and the developer attempts to write a story for their game themselves, which is usually worse for games than having a writer hired midway through a project. However, Just Cause 2 developer Christofer Sundberg says that story-based games do not make business sense because good story-based games don’t always sell well. He also stated that only 18% of players completed the story missions in Just Cause 2, however, given that the game give players a lot of other things to do. Unfortunately, at the moment, He isn’t entirely wrong in saying story-based games don’t make business sense. A game called Psychonauts, a fairly story-based game that managed to do an overall good job of combining story and gameplay, was loved by critics. However, the game didn’t sell especially well. There are many examples of good, story-based games succeeding and failing to do very well, but if a game is good, it usually ends up being profitable.

Story is becoming a permanent and important part of video games, as it deserves to be. Stories in video games will fail and succeed as developers try to figure out how to combine these two elements in the best way possible. The best thing anybody who likes the idea of story-based video games is to buy these games, and show the developers that they can be profitable; otherwise story may fail to take a permanent place in video games.



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