(Originally posted on KitGuru Gaming.)
Before we had iPods, cds, cassettes, 8-tracks, records, TV’s, Blu-ray players, DVD players, VHS tapes, etc…we had stories. Storytelling was the earliest form of entertainment, and while a select percentage of the world still engages in traditional storytelling around the campfire, storytelling still drives the world.
Storytelling propels ads on TV, emotionally-wrought individuals on the radio…storytelling resides at the very core of our society, regardless of the culture to which we belong. Although the pioneers of the video game industry consider today’s games to be an atrocity – a Satanic-plague upon the world – one can’t argue the fact that storytelling is deeply embedded into many of the best games currently on the market. In fact, one can argue that more often, it is the story that stands out in the hearts of gamers more than graphics.
Think of the most heart-wrenching moment in your lives as gamers. Now think of the most graphically-intensive games. Which made the greatest impression?
Don’t get me wrong, gorgeous graphics are an incredible aspect to the gaming experience, but graphics aren’t what make a game. Many of the great games of this decade have amazing graphics and gameplay, but which of these also integrate a memorable story and characters to which you can relate?
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a RPG-lover who doesn’t speak wistfully of PS1 games and the intense emotion they felt when first experiencing classic masterpieces. Granted, PS1 games don’t have very impressive graphics but, what many of them do have, is story…fantastic stories and tales that compel gamers years later to long for games comparable to the emotionally-driven content of games from the prior decade.
It doesn’t matter how vivid these new graphics are. I maintain that one of my favorite game series has gone downhill as the graphics have improved. Although I continue to play the series, I feel jipped out a powerful and engaging storytelling experience. Gameplay is important, yes, but gameplay merely takes a strong engine, a bit of creativity, and a set of programmers to operate. What can’t be replaced is story – a compelling plot that draws the player in and makes him/her fall in love with one character at the very least.
The magic of a powerfully written story overshadows all else within a game. Why should even highly pixilated characters and generic, block-ish scenery make a difference when the core of a game is driven by the story?
Although it is difficult to create a truly original story, what is of critical importance is the construction of complex characters to which gamers can relate. Some game developers have caught onto the incredible importance of storytelling and hired fantasy authors to weave tales for new RPG’s, but this is a phenomenon that needs to take greater hold within the world of gaming. Engaging gameplay makes for a fantastic game certainly, but the future of video games resides not only within game engines: it dwells within the very heart of humanity.
The answer to the future is what propelled societies from the very beginning. At our core, we are an emotionally-driven creature, paying more credence to our own sentiments than to logic…and that, my fellow gamers, is the most important aspect of this technologically-powered medium.
So bring on the Xbox 720 and the PlayStation 4. If future games don’t nail story, gamers will continue to lament for the simplicity and ingenuity of games long past.