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I was bumbling around the internet and found a (dated) argument about video games being bad for storytelling that articulated my thoughts far better than I ever could. For those who want the tl;dr version:

>The primary goal of a game is to present a challenge that the player is to overcome. Many games disregard storytelling and still manage to be engaging towards players.

>Despite being interactive, technology isn't at the point where a story in a game is actually affected by what the player does outside of a few story branches. Story in games can be split into two parts, one of which the player is allowed control and the other of which cutscenes occur that forward the plot. The former is only as meaningful as it gets the player to the next cutscene.
>There's no tension or meaningful connection between player and character in a story when video games allow players to have as many chances as they want and no one wants to play a game where you only get one shot at it.



whatabout rpgs?


What about them?


Narrow views on the purpose of games as well as narrative and you'll end up with that yeah. Doubt it's written by someone that actually cares about video games.


>Narrow views on the purpose of games as well as narrative


babby's first ludonarrative dissonance


>There's no tension or meaningful connection between player and character in a story when video games allow players to have as many chances as they want and no one wants to play a game where you only get one shot at it.

He underestimates autism, and I love games where there's ridiculously high stakes and death or fuck ups really dick you over.


What he's talking about isn't "ludonarrative dissonance" and contradictory tone and theme isn't something exclusive to video games.


Not that anon, but vidya can be incredibly diverse in what it wants to be or tries to achieve. They can be scripted or procedurally generated, they can involve a single player or multiple players, they can be approached like some form of sport or be approached like a story that the player takes part in and possibly even have some control over.

A similar thing can be said about narrative, there's no hard rule for how a narrative should be told and therefore no reason not to try something different for those interested in something different.

Essentially it's telling two mediums of creativity to not be creative, which is retarded.


>there's no hard rule for how a narrative should be told and therefore no reason not to try something different for those interested in something different.

Except he said nothing about something being bad because it's different and not following rules. He's saying video games don't lend themselves well to telling stories and explained why (I suggest you read beyond the OP's summation if you haven't, the essay is about interactive media not being the future of storytelling, not "video games shouldn't tell stories").


Games are fundamentally about choice and consequences.
In Super Mario Bros, I have the choice between jumping over the first goomba and staying still. Jumping gets me further ahead, while staying still has the consequence of the game ending for me.
Paradoxically, most "story-driven" games have very few choices. Creating a compelling story takes time, and game devs don't like wasting hundreds of hours on something only 1/5 of players experience.
Story decisions in games usually boil down to "Save X/ Save Y", with the other either dying or becoming an irrelevant background character shortly afterwards. The Walking Dead and Life Is Strange demonstrate this perfectly - no matter what you do, you experience the same ending as everyone else.
Gameplay decisions don't suffer from that disadvantage, as gameplay is much more fluid and reusable than story events. In Skyrim, I have the choice between exploring like a hundred different dungeons right at the start, and that is mostly because most of them are not connected by a grand storyline - they are either isolated mini-experiences or have no story at all.
In contrast to that, JRPGs like DQXI offer no choices at all. I played the game for a while, but stopped after realizing that it's just a movie where my decisions only influence how fast I progress.


>it's just a movie where my decisions only influence how fast I progress.
>it's just a movie
I felt this playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Wolfenstein New Order/The New Colossus.
They are fun games, but they rely for the majority of the interaction with the game through movies. Written content too in Deus Ex.
I think what people expect from games is challenge and board games will always be able to have more interesting game mechanics and don't need a story, while video games need a story because the game mechanics are so weak.
Even harder games like Dark Souls where challenge and planning are an important part of the game are difficult because the game forces you to compute what to do faster. Players even make up whole essays about the lore, when the game has a bunch of loosely interconnected flavor texts and art instead of a specific story outside of when you meet an NPC who explains a slice of what's going on.


I completely disagree. Yes, you will probably never get the Pen&Paper-level of freedom in a videogame unless you're playing something like NWN online with a real gamemaster but that doesn't mean shit. While linear games won't provide much in the way of choices, even small bits of interactivity can make something linear far more powerful than any book or movie could ever be. Shadow Tactics has a great, yet extremely simple example of this. It spoils a big part of the game so I'll put it in tags for people who care. At one point near the end of the game Mugen, a samurai who lives his entire life by a very strict code of honor fails his master. After getting rescued by his friends he decides to commit suicide to wash away the shame of dishonor, a very sad moment because the character was extremely likeable and his party doesn't want him to die, after all they just rescued him. Here's the thing though - the cutscene hangs right before he plunges the sword into his gut, and only when you click he actually does it. It's such a small thing, but it hit me really hard and is a good example of a tiny bit of interaction having a big impact. Immediately you start thinking - wait, could I have saved him somehow? Was it technically me who killed him? It makes an emotional moment even more emotional. Again, simple but extremely effective.
And that's what linear games should probably focus on - enhancing the experience through meaningful interaction, not Telltale-tier illusion of choice. In sandbox, freeroam type of stuff you can get some absolutely incredible stories emerging from the gameplay alone. STALKER is a perfect example of this - some of the shit people saw in their games was insane, like that story of legendary Dimuha Ninja, a regular bandit who chased and murdered a pseudogiant (2nd strongest enemy in the franchise, basically) with a shitty shotgun. Grand strategy games from Paradox are another good example, but there's many many more. >>43314 is completely right, ironically the more story your game has, less interactive it can be. I play gamebooks from Choice of Games sometimes, and you know how many words you need for a 4-5 hour book to have some actual meaningful interaction and choices that have real impact? About 500k at the minimum. And that's just a book, imagine how much work has to go into a videogame to have this type of branching AND have a reasonable length to it. It gets progressively more and more laborious with every branch you add, meanwhile freeform sandbox games can provide countless amount of unique emergent stories and I think that's what videogames should focus on, because nothing else can provide anything quite like it. It's fine - and good - to have little meaningful choices in a quest or two here or there, but building your game around "choice" will never work, at least not until AI can write videogames autonomously.


It's fine - and enjoyable*


Because he has a narrow view on what makes a story. That's what I meant. If he didn't I don't know how you could write something like games being no good for it.


>the essay is about interactive media not being the future of storytelling, not "video games shouldn't tell stories"


Off topic, I hate how all the ways video games can tell good stories people always go with "YOU BECOME THE CHARACTER!" No you don't. You control a puppet and do things without regards to whether they'd do them or not.


Biggest offender is Spec Ops The Line. I'm not sure if people are trolling or are genuinely dumb enough to pretend Walker is them and the game offends them.


You complain about this shit like one a month.
This time it ain't even related to the thread.


I'm not much of a gamer, but for the most part I agree with OP: I think video games are first and foremost "puzzles", no matter how you try to dress them up.

That being said, I also think that games can be used to tell a decent story. I think story should not be the primary concer of most games, but story-focused games could be considered a sub-genre of video games in general.

For example, take Metal Gear Solid 4. Personally I didn't like the gameplay too much; it was fun but not exactly my all-time favorite. But it managed to deliver an interesting story. It wasn't an "interactive" story; as other people in this thread pointed out, truly interactive stories are basically impossible to pull off with present-day technology. It was nonetheless a story that worked well in video game format. I don't think I would have enjoyed Metal Gear Solid as much as I did if it were a movie or a book. Metal Gear Solid managed to use the video game format in order to deliver an interesting non-interactive story. There is even some irony in it, since in the first Metal Gear Solid you are basically a pawn in the hands of Liquid Snake: he WANTED you to infiltrate the base because he needed you in order to fulfill his plans. The game basically pokes fun at the concept of free will and thus it also pokes fun at the idea of the player being in control in a video game. Metal Gear Solid 2 also pokes fun at the player: that game is often interpreted as making fun of people who identifies with video game characters, with Raiden being a Solid Snake's fanboy.


>Second Chances Prevent Empathy

If you really like a character, you don't really want to see him/her getting killed over and over again. If anything second chances can enhance my empathy: I want to help my character escape from a living hell of continual death.

The guy who wrote that article doesn't have a very good understanding of autistic children who play video games.


>"These spatial and kinetic insights will not reveal anything profound about the human condition."

But everyhting we do in real life is a spatial, kinetic experience. Does he think Tetris has nothing to say about the human condition? We are intelligent beings capable of spatial reasoning and we make up challenges for ourselves because the world is meaningless and we easily get bored. Tetris explained the human condition better than any philosopher ever could. Tetris is a meaningless game that keeps getting more difficult until you finally lose: how is that any different from real life?


Calling your argument dated is an understatement, OP. For the sake of argument I'll tackle this as if it weren't written almost two decades ago when ragdoll physics were the penultimate achievement of game hardware.

You're looking only at games with prewritten narrative, and therefore fundamentally limiting yourself to only games with static choices and input available to the player. What about Dwarf Fortress, RimWorld, Kenshi or SS13? What about grand strategy as an entire genre? All of these have constant fluid interactions and inputs made by the player that can steer towards victory or disaster, with opposing input by other entities. The smallest decision can have the grandest impact upon your entire experience. Everything comes together to weave your own narrative deeper than even the most convulted RPG.

I will cede that in 2003 when this was written you would have been correct; any story in a game would have been better told in any other medium. It's not 2003. Also, it's funny how he handwaves permadeath despite it being extremely popular today. If you had shown this guy a modern game his head would have exploded.


>You're looking only at games with prewritten narrative
Yes, that's what people generally refer to when they talk about story in things. I'm not sure why people keep pointing this out

>narrative deeper than even the most convulted RPG.

As someone who's put many hours in Dwarf Fortress and Rimworld, I'm really curious as to what makes you say that. And I would rather play those two over most RPGs anyday. They're interesting games, but when it comes to telling a story you won't get the same satisfaction as something already written and structured in where the story goes and what happens when, especially once you reach the point in those games you see how formulaic things get.

>he handwaves permadeath

In the context of permadeath being used for something like an rpg where you die 60 hours in and have to restart. Not a 30 minute to 1 hour long dungeon crawler.


It will be personal. Something no other medium can quite do. Reading someone elses story can't be compared to experiencing your own even if reading theirs was more exciting because it hit all the right notes at the right time because we know how to do those things.


>There's no tension or meaningful connection between player and character in a story when video games allow players to have as many chances as they want and no one wants to play a game where you only get one shot at it.

This video echoes that idea. Except it's in the personal context that games are scary for him because of that.


*aren't scary


rogue likes are literally 1 shot deals. You never find the same dungeon twice, you have one shot at that game and then it disappears forever.


Most roguelikes aren't story driven though.


rewatching this video it really does arguing what op is minus the "video games are bad at telling stories" aspect


>Storytelling is not something this format is really suited to. You can’t really govern authored storytelling across emergent possibility space.
>Storytelling is basically saying, “This happened.”
>The more you say, “This happened” and the more you try to say it about things related to the player, or events that have occurred while the game is running, the more you either run into contradictions, or the actions the player is allowed to take need to be constricted. You can try to get around that by coming up with a group of “This happened” explanations for different things the player does, but rarely can you predict everything unless the possibility space is extremely constricted.
>So some games get really antsy about making sure that what happens fits the stories they imagine, and you don’t end up getting to do a lot, which is lame. I mean, wide possibility spaces are necessary to ultimately create depth.
>Like, why shouldn’t games focus on the unique groundbreaking thing they’re good at (gameplay) instead of being shoehorned into doing something (stories) we’ve done across at least 3 other mediums that games’ nature as a medium makes difficult to pull off successfully? Why are we so interested in doing the same thing again instead of exploring this new territory that’s open to us? Games don’t have new undiscovered means of telling stories that previous mediums don’t and we hurt stories and games by trying to make them work together most of the time. You gotta be restrictive on one or the other to get a good hybrid.


I think this is why e-sports in general are too hard to beat in the story department. So many videos on youtube of team fortress 2, that pubg 100 player battle royale game and it's clones, LoL, WoW, etc.
All of them are closer to sports than games. You get all the elements of regular sports, all the character focus and you get changes to the rule dynamics(game updates) to keep the game fresh. Sports like football did this with TV and the color commentators, even these days there's still lots of 'football' radio that's popular.
Thinking about it, this is also Let's Plays as well. It's the player, usually a small avatar of their face in the corner with them interacting with the game. It's not the game itself that provides the story, it's the person interacting with the game that builds the interest.
I think the ultimate problem is that you need dynamic human elements to tell a story. You can write good characters like Baldur's Gate or Planescape Torment type which are more like animated fantasy novels than strictly games, or you can go to the other side and restrict language entirely and leave interpretation of the story entirely from the art you present visually. Some puzzle game I played did that, no text, only pictures and you had to figure everything out from that.

I think what we really need are games that can do what regular sports can't do. Provide lots more randomness and potential for interesting conflicts of interest like EVE online or Minecraft. Ultimately I think that games like pubg types and LoL will be more popular in the short term because the rules are easier to grasp.
Single player games I guess, either turn into movies or books when they try to tell a story. That seems to be their unfortunate fate.


every day i keep seeing posts here about how badly videogames suit storytelling

what's the endgame? improve storytelling in videogames, or focus on gameplay? i don't see why they can't add a bit of story. even a minimum amount can help immerse you, it doesn't have to be a novel

i don't think you can compare the storytelling used in videogames to different mediums, and even between modern and older videogames, they are different experiences


It's just pseuds smelling their own farts.


what do you mean by endgame? This is an imageboard. People just want to talk about things, there's no greater meaning behind it.


whatever they wish to eventually happen, whatever change they desire in the future, an overall shift in whatever they want, etc

they can talk, sure, but they are talking about it because they would like it to be somethng different. i just can't tell what that is


No endgame, I just believe gameplay is far more important than story when it comes to games.
Whether or not games are good for telling stories I don't care.
If the gameplay isn't good then it's not worth playing to me.


similar to >>43818 except i'm really sick of people going on about how video games are this untapped potential for storytelling and i'm tired of games trying to be like movies


"And here's another game I just watched" seems to be a sentence I constanly utter to myself nowadays. Persona 5 was one recent such case. I'm done with those types of games for a good while. Movies aren't suppose to be a 100 hours long.


Persona is more of a bloated visual novel than a movie


Games aren't stories, they're not about a narrative. They're about gameplay. Video games are games, like chess, go, sports, etc, not books or movies. Judging games for their story is like judging chess for its story, it doesn't make sense.


Story does enhance the gameplay, though


Games I spent hundreds of hours on are all either online multiplayer games or indie games, the run and gun, shoot em up type; in both cases plots are either irrelevant and secondary or are so trivial they might as well not have been put into the game at all.


[laughs in undertale]


Articles like these always feel like they come kind of short. Games are good for telling certain types of stories in a certain way, the problem lies with misguided people who insist that storytelling techniques from other medium like film and literature should apply to video games as well and that they should be evaluated through that same lens. It's trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.


By being interactive, games have a potential for immersion that no other medium can provide. Having a large amount of choices and complex gameplay isn't the point. The point is to draw the audience in through the illusion of agency and participation, and the gameplay is there to bond the audience with the characters. Even very basic game technology is enough for this. Even a very primitive point-and-click game, or a visual novel, can be very impactful for storytelling.

Storytelling in games is often bad because the story is only put there as flavor for the gameplay. If you put story first, a game is no worse, and in many ways better and more full of potential, than a non-interactive medium.


There are hard rules about how narratives should be told because they're what work. If you don't follow them your story is a mess.

Games are by their nature a theme park. Theme parks aren't good at telling stories because that isn't where they excel. They excel at short term interesting experiences. Which is all games ultimately are. Games are better at exploring a world rather than telling a story in it.

>If you put story first then it's no worse than a non-interactive medium.

Incorrect on many friends

>I can spin around on the spot for 3 days while still interacting, the story stagnates and goes no where

But a movie I cannot watch and fail to progress.

>Story is locked behind a boss fight

Didn't level up enough? No story for you. Can't figure out how to beat a boss? No story for you. Can't even find the right town the boss encounters in? No story for you. Can't solve a puzzle? No story for you.

>Aeris does to a melee strike while previously she survived being run over by a bulldozed, gang raped by tentacle dogs and shot by a nuke.

Immediately devalues any character in the game where single small damage items kill someone but in combat they survive much worse. It's a disconnect only games can suffer from but it's a large one.

>Can't be gameplay and story at the same time

If I'm playing it's hard to tell me a story without blue balling me. Half life does this, but so do games like Last of us. If you put story over gameplay I could miss it because I'm busy fighting something or I could lose a fight as the dialog conflicts with sound design so I miss a sound cue and get hit.
They tried to fix that with quick time events where they made non interactive parts be interactive and it sucked dick. This is the core problem with story telling in games. You can't tell a story and play a game, they require completely different scenarios and suffer when they cross over.

The problem with story telling in games is that good story telling requires control. The director and writer must have control over what is going on. As a player you must have control to be playing the game. All 3 people cannot have control so you end up with a bad situation. The only argument you have is "I can make my own story in these open world games" but ultimately that same argument applies to marbles. I can tell my own story with just a pile of marbles but that doesn't make it a good medium to do so.


You need to look at the subject from a broader angle. A game doesn't need to meet any particular gameplay challenge standards. If you choose to put story first, you design gameplay that serves the story, not competes with it. The gameplay is there for interactivity first and challenge second. That doesn't mean the gameplay has to be easy. For example, it could include making the gameplay more abstract (Cultist Simulator, Fallen London).

Some designs do include making the gameplay easier and less obtrusive. On the other hand, some games are osensibly gameplay-oriented, but they would completely lose their appeal without their stories (Deus Ex, VtM: Bloodlines). It can also work the other way. I didn't play Planescape: Torment for the gameplay, yet the story wouldn't be nearly as engaging if the gameplay wasn't there along with it.

Some games are close to being interactive movies (Longest Journey, Life is strange). The gameplay elements aren't as much there to challenge the players as to make them feel immersed in the world. Adventure games in general are excellent storytelling mediums.

I don't disagree that trying to squeeze a fancy story into a classic FPS or hack-and-slash is often not a good idea, but that's a matter of bad design choices and not an issue with games as a medium.

>The problem with story telling in games is that good story telling requires control.

Good story-driven game design gives the player the illusion of control but doesn't hand over control of the story essentials. This is hard to balance, hence why many designers fail, but it's by no means impossible.


Gameplay and story will always clash. They're opposite ends of the spectrum and once you go heavily towards story it stops being a game.

VtM is played far more for the atmosphere than the story. Everyone says the story dies about a third of the way in and people still play through it.

Every game is the illusion of control but that doesn't change the base problem. You cannot create art by letting someone else hold the paint brush.

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