Author Topic: Storytelling in Video Games  (Read 654 times)

Shee

  • Temporal Warrior (+900)
  • *
  • Posts: 942
  • Sheeeeeeit
    • View Profile
Storytelling in Video Games
« on: June 09, 2011, 03:05:40 pm »
I read this earlier this morning and was absolutely intrigued.  It's about the changes, and subsequent struggles, that storytelling in games and quite frankly everything is dealing with.


http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/6625747/la-noire

Licawolf

  • Black Wind Agent (+600)
  • *
  • Posts: 639
  • tempus edax rerum
    • View Profile
    • DA account
Re: Storytelling in Video Games
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2011, 05:10:54 pm »
I don't agree with everything in the article, still very interesting.

Quote
Interactivity sabotages storytelling. There is no longer any use arguing to the contrary.

I beleive that game writers should learn to use interactivity as a tool to support the narrative, instead of seeing it as an enemy, it's not a limitation, it's a strenght. Instead of trying to translate movie-like stories to videogames (as the article calls it "interactive-movies"), writers should write stories for videogames, stories that can only be told properly in an interactive way. Game's rules and masking devices are not neccesarily limitatons, they could be incorporated into the narrative too. It's like saying that being forced to focus in what the camera shows you in a movie is a limitation to storytelling. For me videogames are a different kind of narrative, with different rules and possibilities.

The problem is that there's the fact that for a game to be A GAME, it not only needs to have an interesting story, it needs to be a fun experience, to have an enjoyable gameplay. To think of it as a experience, not only as a story. And sometimes videogames developers seem to forget this.

I don't think that both aspects are mutually exclusive, and that the ideal videogame needs to be excellent in both of them.  :P


« Last Edit: June 09, 2011, 05:16:51 pm by Licawolf »

FaustWolf

  • Guru of Time Emeritus
  • Arbiter (+8000)
  • *
  • Posts: 8974
  • Fan Power Advocate
    • View Profile
Re: Storytelling in Video Games
« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2011, 09:31:09 pm »
Hellz yeah, it's about time we had a thread specifically for this!

Whenever the question comes up and I see the arguments against traditional storytelling in videogames, I always feel a bit beaten back, and that I can't argue against well-made points contrary to my position. And yet, I always come back to what made me a believer in the first place: Masato Kato's early work. There's something about adding story to a game -- or a game to a story -- that makes either one so much more compelling for me. Kato's early work sure is dated, but even now, the entire experience still stands upright if I happen to fire up that NES emulator.

There's definitely a sort of unhelpful schizophrenia to it: am I, the player, actually the character? Well, not really -- my choices are usually constrained by the character's temperament and the writing. But am I not the character? No, because I'm the one in charge of that character's totally ass-kicking exploits. Maybe what I like about games-as-story, in the JRPG sense, is that it represents a fusion of novel-style narrative with the player's interests, bringing the player even deeper into the character's shoes than a reader can sometimes go.

I guess I'm just glad there are concrete examples that prove to me that videogames can be a usefully storytelling art. It's one of those mysterious, numinous things I just can't break down and rationalize. Put a great story and great gameplay mechanics in front of me, and my brain goes: oh yeah, I want a piece of that thang.

(For laughs -- just found this Phoenix Wright parody of the Ninja Gaiden 2 opening. Hilarious!)
« Last Edit: June 09, 2011, 09:37:21 pm by FaustWolf »

utunnels

  • Guru of Reason Emeritus
  • Zurvan Surfer (+2500)
  • *
  • Posts: 2798
    • View Profile
Re: Storytelling in Video Games
« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2011, 09:47:54 pm »
If it can be tell by a cut scene, don't write a paragraph. :P
Personally I don't quite enjoy reading long dialogues in game, unless they are manuals that can be skipped.

Quote from: Licawolf
For me videogames are a different kind of narrative, with different rules and possibilities.
XD Before I played fallout 2, someone told me: hey, the game is so cool because you can do whatever you want instead of following the main storyline like those JPRGs. But after I finished the game I found how ridiculous I thought a game could be fully interactive. Yes you can choose different routes and try different solutions to the events, but it is pretty much like attaching numerous side quests to the main storyline, instead of leading the main storyline to different ways. And it seems the event designers have to isolate the relationships of NPCs between events in order to avoid too many dialogue changes and unexpectable bugs (although there are still many).



Edit*

Another example of expanding the game world and making it less boring is a game called Dwarf Fortress (I recall alfadorredux is/was a fan of that). The game generate random towns, NPCs, quests, dungeons and historical events. Sometimes the random events may sound funny, and sometimes almost amazing to know they are just sentences generate by combining random components. Though, it is far from making a good interactive world, it's just fun to watch at first, when your curiosity runs out, the fun factor also decays.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2011, 10:04:50 pm by utunnels »

Licawolf

  • Black Wind Agent (+600)
  • *
  • Posts: 639
  • tempus edax rerum
    • View Profile
    • DA account
Re: Storytelling in Video Games
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2011, 10:24:36 pm »
True sandbox games get boring after a while (at least for me xD). I used to play Second Life because I enjoyed exploring around. There were so many incredible places to visit, and the world is almost limitless and constantly changing because is created by the users, but without a mission or a purpose to follow I grew bored very soon.

An interesting example of an interactive narrative is Majora's Mask. There's the main quest, the linear storyline, but if you really want to experience the game in 100% you have to take your time and explore the interactive world, meet the NPCs, follow them around, and discover that they all have their own little stories to tell if you take the time to dig deep enough. The storytelling of the game used the time-controlling gameplay as a narrative device, to be able to see all the stories you had to go back in time over and over again. When the game was adapted as a manga, that was lost, there was no way they could tell all the stories in a non-interactive medium.

alfadorredux

  • Entity
  • Mystical Knight (+700)
  • *
  • Posts: 746
  • Just a purple cat
    • View Profile
Re: Storytelling in Video Games
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2011, 09:01:27 am »
Actually, I would say that among the most interesting games to look at in this regard are GearHead and its incomplete-but-playable sequel, which are winnable games with a main plot...strung together out of random incidents created according to templates, which means that you don't get exactly the same plot for any two play-throughs. Things do tend to get repetitious after a while due to the relatively small number of incident-templates, but the fact that it was even possible to create a workable game this way is just...really neat.

(One of the reasons I like roguelikes like Dwarf Fortress and GearHead is that every so often someone will develop one incorporating really neat experimental ideas.)

Syna

  • Squaretable Knight (+400)
  • *
  • Posts: 448
    • View Profile
Re: Storytelling in Video Games
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2011, 01:53:35 pm »
Well this is just about the most depressing thing I've read in about ever. The guy who wrote Extra Lives -- which is a passionate, hopeful paean to games -- wrote this? What am I doing with my life. :(

I actually relate to his frustration, though, because while I'm not willing to concede that interactivity sabotages storytelling, there's no questioning that it is throwing wrenches in the genre's progress. His discussion of masking systems -- scenarios like "what if John Marsten wants to kill x important plot character" -- are spot on. It's important because you never, ever want the player to feel as though they lack control. At the same time, if you allow the player too much control, his choices can become trivial. In the Fallouts, for instance, if you kill one character and that character is staged to have a dramatic moment later, the design solution is often to play musical chairs: that character is replaced by another. That choice means very little.

Part of the solution to this may be to stop babying the player and accept linearity as a viable option. No, goddamnit, you can't kill x important plot character because the story is more important than your infantile desire to run your getaway car into him! Augh! Okay, that may not be the best-received solution by players, but let's take Shadow of the Colossus, a very tightly linear game that nonetheless gives the player the feeling of a lot of freedom. Those moments you spend with your horse, traveling and simply contemplating the quiet world you're in, doing whatever you'd like, are incredibly atmospheric and meditative and serve a narrative purpose by heightening the crazy drama of the theatrical, linear fights with the colossi. So there's one example, at least, of how to do this effectively.

On a separate note, I am interested in Bissell's statement that the interrogations in L.A. Noire are not interested in punishing wrong responses, and want to encourage player expression. That's an idea I find very fascinating and would love to see developers pursue, and it's especially intriguing that someone dared to attempt to make that a part of a AAA game -- even if the execution, in this case, failed.

Quote from: FaustWolf
I guess I'm just glad there are concrete examples that prove to me that videogames can be a usefully storytelling art. It's one of those mysterious, numinous things I just can't break down and rationalize. Put a great story and great gameplay mechanics in front of me, and my brain goes: oh yeah, I want a piece of that thang.


I relate to this, very much, and I wonder if perhaps it isn't a cultural thing (which would put a hopeful spin on this). Tom Bissell is older than me and, I assume, you. Those who grew up with games, particularly RPGs have proven that they, and their art, were profoundly changed by that exposure. Perhaps we have more "buy-in" regarding game stories than our older cohorts, which would allow designers to spend less time trying to prove themselves and more time writing the kinds of stories we're moved by.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2011, 01:55:31 pm by Syna »

redandblack64

  • Earthbound (+15)
  • *
  • Posts: 23
    • View Profile
Re: Storytelling in Video Games
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2011, 04:10:24 pm »
Huh, I was about to start a thread here about this. Here's a thread I started on Smackjeeves on the same subject. I think that gameplay and narrative need to go hand in hand if the game is trying to tell a story, and that cutscenes need to be kept to a minimum, as they tend to play the game for you. That said, certain games that aren't trying to tell a story (like Pacman or Tetris) just need to have good gameplay, as that's what they're all about.

tiny260

  • Porrean (+50)
  • *
  • Posts: 71
    • View Profile
    • Fan Fiction Profile
Re: Storytelling in Video Games
« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2011, 10:59:36 pm »
Interactivity ruins... what? I don't get it. I mean, I have proof that interactivity and storytelling can go hand in hand: Portal. Arguably Half-Life, but I've never played it.

Kara Kazeneko

  • Springtime of Youth
  • Guardian (+100)
  • *
  • Posts: 162
    • View Profile
    • Kara's DeviantArt Page
Re: Storytelling in Video Games
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2011, 02:46:50 am »
One thing about storytelling in games that I think more game designers need to take to heart is being able to do something that isn't horribly cliched (a feat that nowadays seems impossible since a lot of great ideas have already been thought up, etc.). Maybe have the story start out being a usual fantasy or sci-fi tale (or whatever genre the RPG has; clever combinations... whatev), then when the player doesn't expect it, the story starts to veer down a very unique path that's refreshingly unexpected - as a result of the actions they take, items they use or don't use, and other interesting twists. Interactivity useful to the story indeed. Anyone remember the dear old King's Quest games? Those had wonderful stories that played out in fun or cool ways depending on interacting with items, characters, and the environment. I loved that. Made it truly a game, but also have a great story and characters that kept you coming back for more. And when it comes to games of the currents systems, I must mention the one game that has tremendously amazed and wowed me by storyline alone: Eternal Sonata. Not only did it have a creative and bizarrely unique premise, characters you come to care about (or hate/feel sorry for in the case of the villains), a cool theme throughout (names, weapons, and other stuff being music or dance-related), but it also had some thrilling twists that were totally unexpected (the beginning scene being a distressing glimpse of part of the end, a character being restored to partial life merely by willing themselves to stay in the world out of love for another, and the existence of the real world constantly throwing the game's world into doubt with the main guy, causing major conflict on top of the other troubles throughout the course of the story... resulting in the final fight of the game being a massive shocker/depressing). ((On another note, that game seriously made my mouth drop while watching the movie scenes that played out at the end and during the credits; A game that reminds you of all the kinds of darkness in the world, and makes you wish to strive for change? Lots of deeply heavy stuff...))

Eternal Sonata had plenty of interactivity, besides wonderful movie scenes & the like. Proof to me that such a thing is not a hindrance to great storytelling, but merely a guide towards creating some interesting and thought-provoking experiences that stick with the player for a long time.