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Re: A video game without a story is completely worthless.

#1DooziclePosted 5/16/2013 11:24:13 AM
I'm writing this in hopes that this reaches out to mtjormitch... But I'm also posting this publicly because the stuff mtjormitch brought up in his post (http://www.gamefaqs.com/boards/927749-xbox-360/66196138) is really fascinating and perfectly reflects one side of an ongoing debate among gamers. I have a question for him at the end of this that I'm hoping he can answer... so let's do this!

If you're not in the mood to read a dissertation on why story is more important than gameplay, I'll try to sum up his case in the best way possible. (I'm assuming mtjormitch is a "he" because "mitch" is in the name; board handles only provide so much information.) Basically story in gaming has become more and more complex and important, to the point that it overshadows other storytelling mediums (books, movies, letters to Playboy) and has made gameplay secondary to story. In fact, we're getting to a place where gameplay isn't even a requirement in games since stories are so good. mtjormitch sites the success of (primarily adult-themed) virtual novels as an example of this, but this seems more like throwing the baby out with the bathwater to me.

I'm not saying that he's necessarily wrong about this, but mtjormitch is approaching this topic in a strange way and opening himself up for trolling. (I'm assuming that's the reason why he closed the topic.) His reasoning is extremely circular - story is more important than gameplay because gameplay is less important than story. He ends his argument with six points to explain why story matters more than gameplay, which I'll provide my opinion about, in hopes that he'll explain his case further:
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Number 1. They will always be remembered.

I totally agree, but I remember gameplay as well. Part of this is muscle memory. I know how to get from world 1-1 in Super Mario Bros. to 8-4 without a scratch because my hands remember how to time every jump. And my brain remembers every hidden block and warp pipe location. Time can pass between game sessions - a year, five years, doesn't matter - and I'll still remember every jump, every hidden block, every warp pipe. Our memory is our memory, and it doesn't go away, unless you kicked back a few too many at the local pub or your mom's basement.

Number 2. What do people talk about more? Story or gameplay?

I don't know. I've never seen a poll settle this once and for all. There seem to be a lot of posts on these boards addressing NPC's (I suppose people talk about what these characters DO, so it does apply to story) but there are a lot of FAQs that explain game mechanics, so this looks like a wash to me. People talk about both.

Number 3. Virtual Novels even [exist] and [are doing] well across the world.

The games he mentions that I recognize (well, just Phoenix Wright) have gameplay elements, even though they are of the choose-your-own-adventure kind, right? press the right button and hope for the best. There's still strategy involved, so it's still a game. I don't know what AO virtual novels he's mentioning, but I'm picturing a cross between trashy romance novels and porn. Gross. Let's just move on.

Number 4, you don't need gameplay to make a great video game.

This is more of a conclusion to his argument, so I'll address this at the end of my post.

Continued--
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Doozy - Blog coming soon
#2Doozicle(Topic Creator)Posted 5/16/2013 11:24:37 AM
Number 5. You can make a horrible game and have it saved by incredible story.

Deadly Premonition and Drakengard are two games I've never played, and mtjormitch doesn't say why these are horrible games. He does say that Drakengard is like Dynasty Warriors, which doesn't sound horrible to me. I like those games. Maybe what he means to say is a game can be derivative but can be saved by a satisfying story. That makes sense, because I'd never sit through a broken game just to see the mind-altering ending.

I feel like the opposite makes more sense, that great gameplay forgives derivative story. Metal Gear Solid is the poster child for this argument. The premise is that you have to infiltrate an island compound to stop renegade special forces from launching a deadly weapon of mass destruction. This happens to be the same plot to the 1996 Michael Bay movie The Rock. The difference is, it's YOU who does the sneaking around, stealing weapons, and taking out the bad guys. (Also FOXDIE, the whole genome soldier thing and Solid Snake's weird, why-is-this-happening-now existential discussion with Naomi Campbell at the end to the game. That's different. That's what happens when you have the Japanese reinterpret a macho American film, I guess.) You get the point.

Number 6 … Story based video games have legitimized this medium to being art far more than any gameplay.

I see all of his other points, but this is where I highly disagree with mtjormitch, although he might just be confusing two valid points. Story has certainly changed the public perception of video games from a childish pastime to a legitimate medium, taking its place among established media like television, books and movies (at least, that's what I tell my fiancee so she won't tell me to turn off that stupid game). And video games have certainly been seen as works of art, but this has less to do with story OR gameplay. This has everything to do with GRAPHICS and how games have become more stylized thanks to the advancement of gaming hardware. The Katamari games are considered works of art even though the gameplay is simplistic and the story (i.e. the premise of the game) is nonsensical. The same goes for LittleBigPlanet, Journey, Braid, Yoshi's Island, etc. If we're talking art, it's the graphics, plain and simple. And as the graphics get better, so will the perception of games as an art form.
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So let's go back to point number 4, that you don't need gameplay to make a great video game. This is the most intriguing point, because this says more about mtjormitch than it does about video games. It's hard for me to imagine a world where video games are of pure story. And this is what I wanted to ask… What is mtjormitch's version of a game devoid of gameplay? How does the story progress? Is it like a Jim Thompson book, full of intrigue and secrets and you have no idea who to root for? Is it removed from the "go from point A to point B, where you'll find out more of the story" and more like a John Grisham novel where the facts are all laid out and you follow a few people who are trying to interpret the facts? Can a story about an ongoing extramarital tryst be less like Catherine and more like The Great Gatsby and still be considered a video game?

Basically what I'm asking mtjormitch is--and what I'm not getting from either his or my his long spiel--what does story mean to YOU, in terms of games, and story in general?

Get at me.
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Doozy - Blog coming soon
#3Arucard05Posted 5/16/2013 11:26:55 AM
Well said, but you put way more thought into this than it deserved.
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#4Killah PriestPosted 5/16/2013 11:29:14 AM
Mitch just copies and pastes the same posts about "story" every other month or so.
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#5DoukouPosted 5/16/2013 11:30:04 AM
A story without a videogame is worthless
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#6HighOnPhazonPosted 5/16/2013 11:37:00 AM
Why bring this up again? There is nothing fascinating about his opinion.
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#7Doozicle(Topic Creator)Posted 5/16/2013 11:43:28 AM
Arucard05 posted...
Well said, but you put way more thought into this than it deserved.


Geez, you're not kidding--I just took a 2 hour diversion from screenwriting to sign up for the GameFAQs message boards just to make a really long point. I need to reevaluate my life.

I'm responding to Mitch, of course, but I'm curious what other like-minded people think too. Basically, what do you get out of a story in a video game that you don't get out of other media? Is Aeris' death more tragic than Rose's in Titanic? Is it more tragic than Gandalf the Grey's death in Fellowship? Do we play video games for the story or do we love the story because it happens to be in a game?

Oh boy. I just responded to a response. I need to reevaluate my reevaluation.
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Doozy - Blog coming soon
#8AkaimizuPosted 5/16/2013 11:57:37 AM(edited)
For me, it's more of the idea of Story being nice if it is decent AND is in a videogame more than the Story being super awesome. I have completely different expectations for a story in a Book or a Movie than I do in a videogame. Every once in a serious blue moon does a videogame story approach the level of depth and detail as a book may have. (Planescape: Torment being one of the few and only ones to reach that far).

There have been cases where the story was engaging (maybe not super deep, just engaging) enough to pull me through gameplay that otherwise isn't too stellar. However, most of my games that I enjoy the most, don't come with a developed narrative at all. My favorite games and gaming-genres are gameplay over story. Sometimes to the element that it leaves the story-making completely up to the user. I'm imaginative like that, so I always love the stories that form based on experience, the most.

Heck, some of us who play Rogue-likes could probably write entire fantasy novels just based on a recorded long playthrough of the game. What makes it better than anything else is because the stories are completely our own. It practically wrote itself, completely with no idea it was going to develop that way, and with no idea of it happening that way, from the developers. In a nutshell, because absolutely nothing was *shoehorned in* or *forced*, the stories end up having more continuity, with a more believe-able character using intelligent thought, than most of the stories we see in games. We understand why things happened that way and why the character either let or didn't let certain things happen. No loopholes. If there's some half intelligent characters or dialogues that play off your own decisions and choices, well-done ones can feed off of it. Still, in order to achieve this best, the best ones don't develop the story too far themselves. They leave it open for you to help create it.

I read book and watch movies to get a story. I play games to have fun with the possibility of making it better if I have a hand in the narrative. My concept of games being interactive, in the first place, is that the narrative comes from me. My input, and the outcome of my interaction is a prime directive.

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#9SunDevil77Posted 5/16/2013 11:56:58 AM
Christ man, you let Mitch trick you into typing all of that?
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#10WinterstarPosted 5/16/2013 12:03:02 PM
Doozicle posted...
Do we play video games for the story or do we love the story because it happens to be in a game?


Some games I play for the story: Walking Dead (Telltale), Alpha Protocol, Dragon Age:Origins

Some games I play for the gameplay: SHMUPs, Sports games, Catan, Pinball FX.

Some games are a mixture of both: Mass Effect, Dragon Age II, Star Ocean:The Last Hope, Bioshock, Bioshock:Infinite, etc.

It depends on the game, which is why Mitch's premise is extremely flawed. To paraphrase Freud: sometimes a game is just a game.