Tell me a tale

How important is story to a game anyway?

I only ask because it seems there are two huge sub-sections of gamers these days. One group is the Call of Duty/Battlefield bunch. If they’re playing those games for some sort of story, then clearly I’ve been horribly, horribly wrong about the “quality” of the content those particular titles offer. I know it’s not something people play for the witty repartee. The other camp, from my experience and recent conversations: story is only worth mentioning if it’s too short or not good enough.

I can understand the concern with gameplay. Good or bad gameplay can make or break a title. That makes sense to me. Since, as the audience, we aren’t passive viewers. Even in games like Heavy Rain or L.A Noire, which are highly cinematic, they still force the player to take an active role. Quick-time events not withstanding, the end-user is a part of the game, part of the story. When thinking about how important gameplay is, it seems like the only time the story has that same effect is when the story is bad or too short.

The title I have in mind, as a good example, is The Order 1886.

Now I can’t go into detail defending the game. I haven’t played it. I want to, and I will, despite the “issues”. That being said, I know the arguments against it:

(She’s hilariously stupid by the way. I couldn’t resist using it once I saw it)

So it’s a five to eight hour campaign. Yes, generally speaking, it’s less than desirable. I like my games to last as long as they can. Getting value for my dollar is very important. However, the statement that duration =/> quality is a far sight from the truth. It’s like the seasons of the BBC Sherlock. I wish they were 20 episodes at an hour a piece, but they’re not. Does that detract from the quality of the story, writing or acting? No, not at all. I think if we all had our way, every piece of media enjoyed would be never ending, because of course, forcing something to stay in the public eye never takes away from the overall quality…

I digress. So it seems like quality and length are directly tied together. With that in mind, though, it seems like even the length camp of fans can’t agree either. It’s a real Goldielocks situation. Some say too short, others complain too long. When the game is just right, no one seems to care. I can’t say I personally have a “perfect” amount of time I want a game to last. I think it is like any story or piece of literature or media. If the ending is satisfying, things are wrapped up into a neat little box – then I’m happy. Even if it isn’t all that tidy, it can still be a good thing.

I definitely know that a game severely lacking story can be a huge issue *cough* Destiny *cough*. Playing that demo and knowing the “story” was going nowhere made it a pass for me. Despite being one of the best mechanical shooters I’ve played. So I can certainly empathize with someone saying the lack of story is a derivation from a quality game.

But what is it that makes people call a good game a good game? I don’t know that there is a single idea, a single specific set of criteria. I know a lot of this stuff is subjective. It’s the appreciation of art, after all. I wish I could point at something and say “Yup, there it is. The secret to a great game”. But we all know that’s not going to happen any time soon. What makes something great usually falls somewhere between the truth and illusion.

Oh, and I know I’m breaking my one pic per post rule again, but I had to throw this one in too.

It’s just so apt, and who doesn’t love this Joker, right?

– The Ego


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