Why is it so hard for games to tell good stories?

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Posted 10:59am on Wed 14 March 2012
VG_Staff
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Why is it so hard for games to tell good stories?
The makers of Alan Wake, Spec Ops: The Line and Reservoir Dogs talk us through the challenges.

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Posted 10:59am on Wed 14 March 2012
CheekyLee
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The makers of Alan Wake, Spec Ops: The Line and Reservoir Dogs talk us through the challenges.

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An interesting piece, and I wish to give my own take on the concept of story in games. I speak mainly as one who rates story as less important.

The most important thing, I feel, is that people tend to classify writing as "story" and end it right there, when it in fact also engenders a lot more aspects. A game may have a really solid story, but suffer from atrocious characterisation and ham dialogue. To a large extent, it is understandable that the generic archetypes apply, but not everybody wants to constantly be playing as an angry young man who just doesn't give a *****.

For me, it is all about minimising the exposition, and increasing the incidental background storytelling. Left 4 Dead does this quite brilliantly, not only by clever design of the levels themselves, but also by having snippets of dialogue between the characters during pauses in the action. (Also, non-standard characters, like the whiny Louis.) Some may find it a risk, that the player may miss out on this by not wresting control from them, but the over-riding feature should always be that this is a GAME, and the player needs to be interacting as often as possible. Remember that incredible sequence in Modern Warfare, climbing out of the helicopter? That Infinity Ward were brave enough to give control to the player and not just put it into a cut-scene paid dividends, in my opinion. In the end, crawling to my own death was much more powerful than seeing somebody else do it.

Finding the right balance between story and gameplay is the real trick. Phoenix Wright is a series that has absolutely minimal game, yet never feels too much like it is drowning in story. As long as expectations are managed early on, the player will not complain. It is only when we are expecting to go in all guns blazing but are held back because the director feels it is more important that we witness a moment of drama that we get bothered by it. And it is ALWAYS preferable to at least give us the illusion of control, for in those moments where we are trying to stop something that we are unable to we actually feel more connected than we do when we may as well put the pad down for the next 10 minutes.
Posted 11:01am on Wed 14 March 2012
pblive
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The makers of Alan Wake, Spec Ops: The Line and Reservoir Dogs talk us through the challenges.

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» Go to VG_Staff's original post
One word:

Journey.
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