28 May, 2007
I just had an interesting discussion with a friend of mine about storytelling in games. He’s looking to become a screenwriter, but he’s an avid gamer as well. He pointed out that there were only a few things necessary to really improve the quality of stories in games. I agree with him, and figured it would be good to tap into the collective brainpower of my readers to think a bit more about story.
A summary of our conversation and my thoughts after the jump.
This is related to a previous challenge I had, but this has a slightly different focus.
My friend said that there are two things that games really need to do in order to improve upon story. The first is good characterization, and the second is that every scene needs a character-based conflict.
We talked about how cutscenes are used in games, and I pointed out that cutscenes were really just game developers trying to copy techniques from linear media. The biggest problem with stories in games is the interactivity: if you can’t control things like the pacing or even what the characters are doing, it’s harder to tell a story. Cutscenes remedy this in one way: by taking away control and allowing the game developer to tell a traditional, linear story.
The other big issue I brought up is that story doesn’t really sell games. A game might be appreciated for it’s story, but that’s part of a larger whole. If you were to improve the story of a game like Gears of War, would it really sell more units? Is the cost increase justified? For most publishers, the answer is “no”.
So, why don’t we see better stories in games? Do stories improve the games? What are your thoughts?