Friday, July 24, 2015

Story telling and the Video Game medium

First I want to preface this by saying I shall be using the word "Story" to encompass a number of literary terms, Story, Plot, Characterization, Character Interaction/Dialogue, character development, character exploration, world building and so on.

Video Games are the only Entertainment medium where story tends to be thought of as less important then the technical aspects.

In movies, cartoons, TV shows, radio dramas, plays, comic books, and of course novels which don't have any other elements really, the technical aspects we expect to also be done well and not lazily, but are ultimately tools in telling a story.

While with Video Games the story is ultimately just a thing that justifies the game-play.  Gamers will enjoy a game with fun game-play but a non existent or crappy story quite often.  While a game with a an interesting story but uninteresting game-play will be something we find ourselves wishing had been a movie instead.

None the less, I as someone who does not consider himself a hardcore gamer really, but still more then just a casual one, care about the story quite a bit.  And clearly so do lots of Gamers for many great games have stories that have proven just as important to their fans as Star Wars or Batman.

Still many game reviews out there won't mention the story at all.  Others will say "it has a cool story" but not say anything about why it's cool.

In some ways this different attitude towards storytelling with Video Games is beneficial for story telling, in my view at least.  In the Video Game medium Remakes are not hated on, a technology based medium understands the value in retelling a story people love with now even better technical capacity to do so.  It's not even thought of as blasphemy to declare a remake the definitive version of a game.  However none of that means we fail to appreciate what the older classic games did, and we often enjoy new games done in a retro style.

In other mediums plenty of remakes have surpassed their originals, but society prefers to not acknowledge this by simply forgetting the earlier version even existed.

Likewise with Sequels, Sequels being thought of as great movies is so rare only like 5 examples are even allowed in the mainstream. And Third installments seem universally reviled whether it makes sense to me or not.  But in Video games serieses the 3rd installment is frequently the most highly revered, SMB3, ALttP, Mario Galaxy was the 3rd fully 3D Mario.  Super Castlevania, Super Metroid, and for America Final Fantasy III on the SNES.

I'm often really interested in even the most paper thin stories.  Like the Mario games which besides the NSMB games always have something more to them then just the Princess being Kidnapped, though the way the games are made fun of would have you thinking otherwise.

For some over emphasizing the story can hurt a Game when it causes the game-play to be more linear then they might prefer.  To many this has been the growing problem with the 3D Zeldas, and even sometimes Final Fantasy.  The way to solve this is by allowing the story to have a variety of ways it can play out.  (It sounds like this may be what Wii U Zelda is going for.)  Or perhaps to have multiple stories going on the player can chose to get involved in in whatever order they like, Majora's Mask was like that to a degree.

And it hurts any ability to truly try and make the player character a stand in for yourself if certain aspects of their personality are defined by the set story. I understand this concern, but I don't truly desire to play as myself, I think I'd make a boring a protagonist so for me it's a none issue.

RPGs tend to be the most story heavy games.  Final Fantasy VI (III on the US SNES release) is the Final Fantasy who's story most interests me.  But I can't handle the Gameplay, besides the general reasons why RPGs can be the hardest for a not so hardcore gamer to play (I have beaten the original FF and Mystic Quest, and a few Mario RPGs, and got pretty far in FF II on Dawn of Souls before I think I screwed myself at the Dreadnought), I can't get used to the more complicated battle system, when I play an RPG I want just simple turn based battling.

Not really much of a point to this post, just wanting to share some thoughts.  Many future posts I make are going to be Video Game themed.  Though PLL and DCCU also remain on my mind.

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