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Do Gamers Even Want Better Stories?

So many developers and journalists - including yours truly - have been calling for better storylines, better developed characters, and more emotion in the interactive entertainment industry.

For the most part, I believe we're making good strides in that direction, although it still seems painfully obvious that the mainstream audience hasn't much interest in quality stories or memorable characters. The first question on the lips of most gamers isn't, "So, does it have a good story?" And I don't see this changing any time soon.

Not necessarily because we'll never reach another level of interactive storytelling. I believe we have enough visionaries and talented writers in this industry, who will continue to push for deeper and more intelligent scripts (Hideo Kojima, Ken Levine, David Cage, etc.). But will they ever produce games that smash sales records and dominate the charts? They'll be popular, no doubt, but they might not be able to compare to the likes of Call of Duty or blockbusters of that nature.

I think that gamers are just so used to a certain form of entertainment, one that often uses the story as a back-up, a Plan B, a side attraction. This is quite valid, in fact, as we're talking about interactive entertainment and storytelling is traditionally passive. While we're getting used to the concepts of choice and freedom these days, we're still a long way from top-notch literary works in video games. But do gamers even want that? Based on what I've seen, I'm not sure they do. The interesting part is that I think those better stories are coming...I'm just not sure how they'll be received.

Tags: video games, game stories, gamers, gaming culture

12/18/2012 9:56:47 PM Ben Dutka

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Comments (32 posts)

matt99
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 10:34:47 PM
Reply

Story is one of the most important parts of a game for me, I'll even play through a game with average or sub-par gameplay if it has a compelling story butI know a lot of my friends don't care about the stories at all. In fact I remember my friend coming in when I was playing ACIII and it happened to be during a cut scene and he actually laughed and said "you actually pay attention to the story?". I've had similar reactions with other friends as well.

I think the problem is that for a lot of people video games are just a fun way to kill an hour or two and to really enjoy a story in a game it takes much longer than that. A movie is about two hours, whereas there can be many many hours of cutscenes in a game on top of gameplay. (I think MGS4 had around 8 hours of cutscenes and Uncharted is like one big 10 hour movie).

Also most people go to TV or movies for their storytelling fixes, after all it hasn't been that long that video games have been able to tell a serious emotional story. So when people think of video games they associate mario and pac man, where there is obviously little to no story at all.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 11:45:42 PM

I'm sorry but I want to punch your friend in the face.

Agree with this comment 11 up, 3 down Disagree with this comment

pillz81
Thursday, December 20, 2012 @ 1:23:40 PM

Yeah, I wanna punch your friend in the face too.

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matt99
Thursday, December 20, 2012 @ 5:22:05 PM

Yeah I had a similar reaction, but in fairness to him he's never really played a game with a good story. He only knows sports games and mindless shooters.

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firesoul453
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 10:35:21 PM
Reply

There are plenty of games with great stories and well developed characters, but there is alway room for improvement; and I defiently find games that I feel are laking. Since stories are the main reason I play games (well most games), I wouldn't mind even better stories, characters that feel even more developed.

Another thing though, often stories get better when there is multiple games in a series; but I don't want them to ever abandon new IPs. Starting fresh might mean the game doesn't have the background and already developed character that sequels do, but it can be worth it.

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xenris
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 10:59:06 PM
Reply

Story is one of the most important thing but it doesn't have to be in your face. For example the "story" in Journey was very personal and different for each person. The story in Dark Souls was very hidden and mostly on the items in the game.

I think atmosphere needs to be there for the story to matter now. I mean psx games had good stories but less atmosphere, the atmosphere and emotion was conveyed more with the music which worked great.

I do miss some of the great stories of the old Final Fantasy games and definitely would play a new turn based final fantasy that had a great story even if it was cliched or had been done before.

I mean a game about a knight saving a princess from a dragon can be made awesome if they develop the characters right and flesh everything out.

So yes I want better stories in my games :)

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 11:48:06 PM

That's the key, it doesn't have to be something groundbreaking. There IS nothing new to say, all that matters is how you tell the story.

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shadowscorpio
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 12:20:14 AM

I agree .

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BTNwarrior
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 11:07:12 PM
Reply

Why do you think Think The Walking Dead won game of the year?

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 11:48:57 PM

Maybe it forced story haters to pay attention to one and then they realized a game could have a good story for the first time in their lives.

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___________
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 7:19:48 AM

story had nothing to do with it, TWD won GOTY because it shocked everyone because it was something we really had never seen before.
it did not shy away from anything, and some of the things your forced to do are quite sickening!
the story itself is actually quite underwhelming and predictable.

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Knightzane
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 11:26:06 PM
Reply

Stories to me, are the most important thing in a game. Dragon's Dogma was so meh to me but as soon as you reached that dragon, and you found out the truth, and after the epic battle pending on your choice... Then you find out what the Arisen really are. Man, i was so blown away by the story that it immediately became one of my favorite games this gen.

Heavy Rain had even my xbox friends playing it non-stop. They'd come over everyday just to play it some more. My girlfriend loves it too. Its clearly heavily influenced by nothing but story and i haven't heard much bad rep.

The story in FF6 has surprised me too. Who knew a pixel clown could be so diabolical and evil? Sephi is just a lil beach compaired to the awesomeness that is kefka. anyway, story is the most important thing to me. Oh and music. Gotta have awesome music to help set the mood. Heavy Rains soundtrack is on my ipod. That's how good the soundtrack is to me, and im a heavy metal/hard rock fan.

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Kaizokuman
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 11:30:55 PM
Reply

A really well developed story works when the game calls for it. If a games doesn't need one and focuses on game play that's fine too. For the medium to develop the right games need moving influential stories to impact gamers as a whole.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 @ 11:52:31 PM
Reply

It's often pretty important to me, but I think in general now that gaming is mainstream and big we have more gamers that couldn't give two sh*ts. The CoD players I know don't even play the campaign.

The good news is as long as gaming is popular there will always be folks like Koji and Levine and Cage to try to reach the intelligent members of gaming society that appreciate a well made story and characters.

In the mean time we just have to suffer as our once-beloved franchises abandon their character development so they can show more action.

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Axe99
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 12:12:44 AM
Reply

Story's always been huge to me - not in all games (although a BIRDS OF STEEL with a deep story would have me raving about it even more :)), but most of my fave games have some kind of story. Story gives context to the gameplay, without which we're just pressing buttons in time with visual prompts.

Even in CoD online, there is a 'story' per se - sure, it's an unbalanced story of personal stats and what-have-you, but the addition of a personal story to CoD's online was one of the things that made CoD 4 stand out (I remember at that time people were talking about it turning shooters into RPGs, misunderstanding that there's more to RPGs than just statting up).

And I would _love_ better stories. Mass Effect 3's ending is my most disappointing moment this year - nothing to do with the gameplay, just what I thought was a poor storytelling decision at the end (which I don't expect or want them to change - it's their right to have whatever they want as an ending, just as it's my right to consider it the biggest storytelling choke since Peter Jackson had Farimir take Frodo and Sam to Osgiliath).

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BikerSaint
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 12:16:15 AM
Reply

The game's story & atmosphere go hand in hand as #1 for me

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YashaZz
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 12:43:27 AM

Indeed.

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dmiitrie
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 12:25:12 AM
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Stories are important to me, but they're always secondary to gameplay. Ideally, like in MGS, AC, and certain FFs, you get both and the games are absolutely amazing. But if my choice is between something with good gameplay and a mediocre story or vice versa, I'll take gameplay every single time.

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___________
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 3:17:20 AM
Reply

WHAT!?
of course gamers want better stories!
theres a reason why ME, AC, MP, GOW, halo, 99.999999999% of really popular games are games that have fantastic stories!
coincidence?

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Lawless SXE
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 3:30:52 AM
Reply

I think that I'll always hold a game with a good story above one with a bad story, regardless of how much better the gameplay is in the latter. For me, it is an absolutely vital part of the play experience as it gives it context and allows you to emote with the characters on a far more personal level. But story doesn't necessarily mean narrative. There are some games, like Bioshock, ICO, SotC and RDR where the setting is so utterly engrossing that it makes for the shortcomings of the directed tale.

Still, nothing touches Heavy Rain, Valkyria Chronicles, Uncharted 2 and MGS4 for me simply because they are so well crafted with memorable characters and all that jazz.

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xenris
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 9:48:52 AM

I remember playing through some rpgs on the ps2 that I didn't really like the gameplay for but I stuck it out for the story.

I want more of those games...only with not terrible gameplay :D

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Beamboom
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 3:38:44 AM
Reply

Good stories will start to bloom the day the gaming industry has become mature enough - or maybe confident enough - to not all be hell-bent on taking that top seller spot.

There is a reason why the movie industry can house movies like Transformers as well as Moon (one of my favourite movies recent years). Moon had never been made if all the director and distributor wanted was to beat Transformers.

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Vivi_Gamer
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 10:15:42 AM
Reply

For me a good story is vital to the gameplay experience - however it really does depend on what genre here. Platformers for example are not a genre to give excessive amount of time to delivering a story. As long as you set up a motive at the beginning and then give a decent conclusion if the rest of the game is through the gameplay I can be content with that - it's the difference between Sonic 2 to Sonic '06. No body cared for the characters and awful monologues.

But that leads me in to what I believe to be even more important than story - characters. Tekken 1 - 3 is a perfect example of characters with a presence. I urge you to look at the beautiful intro to Tekken 2 once more to see what I mean. But to follow a story you have to have characters you can engage with, if you do not like the lead character you fail to connect to them and their motives which the story is usually tied around. This is why I cannot enjoy games like Skyrim, which has a lovely setting and probably a good story - The character is transparent. The idea is that you're meant to step into the shoes of the hero, but I just cannot do that and look at a flat boring avatar.

While games like Final Fantasy have hugely compelling characters. Squall from Final Fantasy VIII takes up a huge focus of the games story. Normally I would find that off putting as it makes the other characters less developed - which is true in the case of FFVIII, but Squall's story is so good I can overlook that and it is why it remains one of my favorite games of all time.

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ethird1
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 10:59:25 AM
Reply

Here is what I want in a game. Boobs. EXPLOSIONS! More boobs. Shooting up stuffs. EXPLOOOSIONS! Even more boobs. Shooting up more stuffs. EXPLOOOOOOSIONS!

And a nice story line. Muahahaha I can't believe I typed that.

EXPLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSIONS!!!!!!

And boobs.

End of Line.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 11:18:03 AM
Reply

One thing I think most of you are forgetting: You're all in the minority now. You're avid, ardent, hardcore. I figured most of that group would want better stories. I'm referring to the mainstream, which is the vast majority of gaming now. Will THEY care?

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 12:10:58 PM

That isn't lost on me.

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Comic Shaman
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 2:45:16 PM

Even the hardcore isn't really fringe anymore. Certainly it's a big enough demographic to support AAA franchises.

I mean, I think the picture you chose gives us a good answer to your question. No matter how you felt about the Mass Effect 3 ending debacle, it does prove that a lot of gamers care about the story of a game.

I think the larger casual "Angry Birds" crowd probably doesn't care too much about story... yet. Give 'em time, though. After the novelty of having a time-burner on your phone wears off, many will start seeking a deeper experience.

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xenris
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 3:31:34 PM

I think the mainstream does care. The trick is making a story that has depth, good characters and dialogue that fits the gameplay.

Most people now couldn't play FF9 for the story because not enough explosions are going on in between the dialogue and the dialogue might be too spread out for them.

I think mainstream gamers care, but not as much as most people who comment on your articles.

The interesting thing would be to see if a developer could make a great story with casual appealing gameplay and have it sell a lot. I think Assassins Creed story is pretty good, but I wonder if the majority of gamers buy that game to find out the ending of the story, or simply to become a bad ass assassin? I would like to see the stats on that :)

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homura
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 11:20:48 AM
Reply

ethird1,

Tomb Raider! Muahahaha. ;)

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ethird1
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 3:55:19 PM

Tomb Raider eh? Let's see.

Guns? Check.
Boobs? Check.
EXPLOOOOOOSIONS!?!? Check.

We have a winner!!!!!

EXPLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSIONS!!!!!

End of Line.

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slugga_status
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 @ 11:25:23 AM
Reply

A solid story is a must. I really can't imagine of playing God of War series, Devil May Cry series, Metal Gear, Onimusha, Heavy Rain, etc. without a solid story. I don't see how anybody could play a single player game and NOT care for the story

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DeathOfChaos
Friday, December 21, 2012 @ 1:04:20 AM
Reply

the same thing goes with movies. There are a few REALLY good releases, but there's a lot more crap than there isn't.

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