It seems like everywhere I turn, people are talking about the importance of story and emotion in video games. I know that I get sucked into that, too, partially because some of the most meaningful games that I’ve played have had some stellar stories. Games like The Walking Dead, Uncharted 2, a number of Final Fantasies and more have stuck with me longer than most.
The other day, Anthony, Jeff and I were talking about stories in games, and how it’s funny that gamers will excuse even the most absurd stories in favor of excellent gameplay. Far Cry 3, for instance, had a ridiculous premise and a story which made little sense, but I never really cared because the setting and the game itself were so much fun. Likewise, I can’t say I’ve ever been completely invested in the stories of games like Gears of War or even most of the Halo titles. Even Ni No Kuni, a game that I adore at the moment, has a pretty so-so story.
So what’s the reason that I can get past Ni No Kuni’s awkward, sometimes bumbling and cliche tale? Because the world itself is so rich, imaginative and fun to be in. You see, itt’s not just great gameplay that does the trick. When I think about the games that stick with me the longest, it actually happens to be games that combine great gameplay with a great setting that really worm their way into my brain and won’t let go.
Think about some of the games you loved to play, and why. It’s not just the mechanics. It’s the mechanics combined with a certain visual, a set piece, a level. All parts that make up a game’s setting. While jumping and wall-bouncing in Super Mario 64 is a blast, it wouldn’t have been memorable at all without the game’s superb level design. Likewise, I wouldn’t itch for Uncharted 2 just because I like swinging from ledges, but because I like swinging from the ledges in the Himalayas, or hopping down rooftops while a helicopter chases me.
It’s interesting to me that we spend so much time talking about video game stories (I include myself on this), when it seems like we’re totally fine ignoring them in favor of a marriage of mechanics and setting. As good as stories are in games like Bioshock or Arkham City, do you want to replay them more to see every twist and turn, or more because you want to inhabit the worlds of Rapture and Gotham City?
What do you guys think about the idea of the importance of video game stories? Are they important? Does setting trump story? What are some of your favorite video game stories and settings? Go!