The Importance of Story in Video Games

Kaylyn HaslundBY KAYLYN HASLUND
For the UAS Whalesong

Video games have a lot of value in media. They are interactive and capture a wide audience. However, games without intense, immersive, and surrounding storylines really don’t have a lot of appeal to me. A storyline that doesn’t have a fully immersive plotline gives me no reason to care, personally. If a story does capture me though, boy, does it capture me.

Story is just that important. Some companies release a game for only the multiplayer aspect of it. Typically, these are first person shooters. Destiny is one of those games. In its original release it had virtually no plotline and, when it got one, you had to buy essentially a whole new game for a poorly executed story. This isn’t to say you can’t enjoy it or that all shooter games are like that, but it’s clearly not enjoyment from any form of plot. This seems, to me, to be a growing problem in today’s video games. Good, well-written, immersive storylines are getting fewer and further in between.

For instance, last summer, I did nothing but play the Dragon Age games. This was because the games made me legitimately care about the characters and their individual plotlines. This is something important to think about, because of how the character’s individual storylines play into the full plot and how it affects the players. The writing made me care about the mage plight and how Anders played into it. If the writing instead had been lazy or just generally uncreative, I wouldn’t have had a reason to care that all these events were leading up to some big reveal. This probably also applies to the importance of creating a relatable character. If I don’t see a piece of myself in the character or vice versa then I don’t think the characters are really worth anyone’s time. I want to see relatable well written characters.

If you take fanfiction into account, you can see how important stories are for people. You can see how, if something isn’t explored enough, the fans will take it to the next level. Take Uncharted for example, where fans have taken what little backstory we have on Nathan Drake and what may have happened to him as a child and have written extended stories and studies on these small things. It’s amazing what a storyline can do for some people and how they can take it to an entirely new level. If the media doesn’t make me want to write extensive head-canons or fanfiction, then I don’t really care about it. I want to be affected by it and find inspiration from things. So, if you think about it, story is much more important than you think. Especially to your audience.

What’s even worse is that some companies will spend time building up this plotline only for it to fail horribly because they didn’t execute the build up very well. You can’t expect people to care without giving your audience a reason to care in the first place. Some companies gave them a base for a game without giving them any worthwhile content that will be remembered.

Sometimes a lack of story can be good. If it’s in the right place, which is where fandom comes in. If you give people just enough to work with, they will interpret, write, and draw what they can based on the small amount of information given. But that doesn’t mean writers can be lazy about that either. You have to make these things still clear and well written if you want any sort of reaction from people.

It doesn’t have to be just for video games and I think it’s important to apply story to everything creative. Thing is, video games aren’t consumed the same way as other forms of media. At least not in frequent repetition. I don’t know a lot of people willing to consume the same storyline just because it has a branching dialogue choice. So, it’s important to look at your story and see if you’re really showing the extent of it, utilize your own work, show that you care about the story you wrote. If you care then so will your consumers.

I’m not saying that writers should scrap their work, but they should make sure they’ve worked enough to really made the audience believe in the world before they put it out there. You want your audience to care, especially when you’ve worked and spent so much time on your story. The story doesn’t have to be deep or groundbreaking, it should just be open and approachable to the audience. Think of the form you’re using for your work and use it to the best you can.

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