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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Rock, Paper, Shotgun - Maybe Games Just Arenít For Telling Great Stories?

Default Rock, Paper, Shotgun - Maybe Games Just Arenít For Telling Great Stories?

June 13th, 2013, 08:53
What do people mean, if they talk about "story" here? The plot? The themes, context and subtext of the plot? The pacing and build up of tension to a satisying climax? The actual "writing" as in the written or spoken words? The delivery and acting of those lines by voice actors and virtual actors on screen? All of this together?
What are you expecting when you say "I want to experience a great story" in a game or what do you feel is missing when you feel that games have not delivered great stories?
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June 13th, 2013, 09:47
There is one fundamental difference that great storytellers have from the rest of us, no matter how smart we are, how clearly we can understand things and how creative we are in our own field. A great storyteller is able to envision greatness in a story which is, for the rest of us, inconceivable. A great storyteller is, furthermore, capable of communicating his vision (by words, images or whatever means he considers most appropriate) in a way that after we've experienced it, that which once was inconceivable, makes perfect sense - we may end up wondering how we failed to see something so obvious before it was shown to us.

True greatness of storytelling in gaming is inconceivable for us until we experience it - until the great storytellers come along envision it and communicate it. Then it will become perfectly obvious. Therefore, as long as we can't identify any truly great stories in games ('truly great' not 'great for a game bad for any other medium'), any absolute conclusion on whether they can exist or how, have no merit unless they come -directly or indirectly- from those that are able to envision and communicate them.

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June 13th, 2013, 09:53
I think great storytelling already exists in games - so I don't understand the article.

Games like The Secret World, The Witcher 2, Bioshock Infinite and BioForge all have stories that can match the best of what's out there in any format.

They also use the aspects of interactivity to their advantage - and manage to deliver an experience that's not only entirely different from a book or a movie, but which also surpasses it in many ways.
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June 13th, 2013, 10:01
Originally Posted by JuliusMagnus View Post
If that's the top in storytelling in games than they certainly have a point It's pulp magazine writing at it's best.
It is considering video games and the stories in them isolated from any other stories. The article reads explicitly that the comparison is to be made with other kinds of story coming in books or movies.

The article by the way is too demanding. It is not even about master pieces, great or excellent stories. It is about good stories.

Video games occasionally come with good stories. Which show that players actually do not care about the quality of the story. They demand the game to include a story. Period.

Yes, that's what games are good for; a personal narrative emerging through player choice. It's not storytelling in a traditional sense, and if you compare stories in games with stories in books from a traditional perspective, games will almost always fall short.
It hides a schism.

Games come with a scripted story or they dont.
Most games, especially those with avatars, tell a story as the player advances the avatar through situations that once strung together, shape into a story.

There are games that provide a player with narrative components and let the player write the story, elaborate the narrative and all.

Usually, that is not that type of story that players of video games allude to. The kind of story they want is a pre written story by a writer. The article addresses this kind of story. Making it totally relevant to compare to stories delivered in other media like books or movies.
Is Ulysses by James Joyce a good game?
Quite a surprising statement from someone who considers that bad game mechanics can break a game but good game mechanics never makes a good game.
Ulysses is a master piece story delivered through a book. A book is a mere medium and must not be a game. A book is not a game. The only question is to know whether video games can act as a medium to deliver stories of the quality of Joyce's Ulysses. Just as books do.
Rhetorical question at this point.
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June 13th, 2013, 10:03
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post

Games like The Secret World, The Witcher 2, Bioshock Infinite and BioForge all have stories that can match the best of what's out there in any format.
That for sure. It also means that the novels by the polish writer match the best of what's out there in any format.
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June 13th, 2013, 14:43
Originally Posted by GhanBuriGhan View Post
What do people mean, if they talk about "story" here? The plot? The themes, context and subtext of the plot? The pacing and build up of tension to a satisying climax? The actual "writing" as in the written or spoken words? The delivery and acting of those lines by voice actors and virtual actors on screen? All of this together?
Great question, Ghan. I think the answer is, that for the most part, we don't know what we are talking about.

Seriously, though, the Rock, Paper, Shotgun article compares game stories to literature, a comparison that is highly unfair to games. As I said before, is Ulysses by James Joyce a good game?

Anyway, it seems that people mostly mean plot when they complain about or praise the story element of a game. However, as far as I'm concerned, I want as little plot as possible in a game. I want background lore, interesting characters, well developed themes, a setting with depth and atmosphere. All those qualities can be found in literature as well, the big difference being that while a book always delivers the same story, ideally a game should let players spin their own yarn as much as possible.

Again, I'm looking forward to Sui Generis.
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June 13th, 2013, 15:26
When I talk about storytelling - I'm talking about the telling of a story.

Isn't that strange?

But it will depend on the story. Some stories have very important plots and some have plots that are almost redundant. Most have characters and most have dialogue.

So, I'm not really talking about specific elements but the combined telling of a story.
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June 14th, 2013, 10:51
When I look at dialog options in SWTOR, or in the demo of ME2 I once played, I must see that this isn't transparent at all.

I mean, it's happened several times to me that I took an dialog option which seemed totally normal and okay for me - but I was given a harsh or even "dark" reaction.

What Bioware totally fails, is, giving a hint towards the player what kind of outcome will come to choosing this dialog option.

The only redeeming factor is, that in SWTOR one can turn on in the options how much an dialog option would go into "light" or into "dark".

Maybe in the original English language version, the wording is clear enough, and maybe it just was lost through/via the translation process; however, this still doeas mean for me, that I really CANNOT see, into which direction the story will evolve if I choose a certain dialog option.

ď Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius Ė and a lot of courage Ė to move in the opposite direction.ď (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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June 15th, 2013, 15:51
Gues I should comment on Chien's comments:
Originally Posted by ChienAboyeur View Post
Games come with a scripted story or they dont. Most games, especially those with avatars, tell a story as the player advances the avatar through situations that once strung together, shape into a story.
Exactly. A common model that doesn't work very well. Books and movies are much, much bettar at telling this kind of story. What you get in a game is usually something resembling an incredibly poor "movie" consisting of scripted scenes the player can't control. In between these you have gameplay sections, but the story elements and gameplay elements seldom gels into a cohesive whole. Planescape: Torment and Demon Souls are (whatever else you might think of them) excellent exceptions, where even the inevitable death mechanic is incorporated into the fiction of the setting.

Originally Posted by ChienAboyeur View Post
Quite a surprising statement from someone who considers that bad game mechanics can break a game but good game mechanics never makes a good game.
Ideally, game mechanics and other elements should gel into a cohesive whole, a complete experience of being there, in the game world. If you focus on the game aspect of playing, good mechanics can certainly outweigh other shortcomings, but if the immersion aspect is your priority, not even the best mechanics can make up for otherwise bland an uninteresting content.

Originally Posted by ChienAboyeur View Post
Ulysses is a master piece story delivered through a book. A book is a mere medium and must not be a game. A book is not a game. The only question is to know whether video games can act as a medium to deliver stories of the quality of Joyce's Ulysses. Just as books do.
Rhetorical question at this point.
Of course it's a rhetorical question. The book is not a game. As for your question, the answer is definitely no. Games will never be able to "deliver" or "tell" any predefined story nearly as well as a book or a movie can, because any type of gameplay (yes, I mean any type of gameplay) will necessarily get in the way of the storytelling. But video games don't have to compete with books or movies on their turf. Vide games have other strengths, mainly giving the player the power of choice.
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June 15th, 2013, 16:29
It's interesting that Ulysses has been brought up, which is great literature, but hardly a story at all. So I still wonder if this is truly about story (I think there is a number, if not a large enough one of good stories told on and through games), or if some of us at least really talk about something else, intellectual stimulus, e.g..
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June 15th, 2013, 19:11
It was I who brought up Ulysses, but only as a rhetorical device, my point being that comparing different media is pretty pointless. A game besed upon the book might be interesting, though. Imagine playing as an ordinary bloke during an ordinary day and do ordinary stuff like visiting the bathroom, taking home groceries, preparing a meal etc. What would the game mechanics be? How would you implement the internal monologue? Now, there's a challenge.

Nothing much happens in Ulysses, and it's still a brick of a book and great literature too. Not only do I not want any plot in my games, I think that plot is the least interesting aspect of literature as well. Particularly I don't like plot twists. Even some of my favourite authors, Ian Banks springs to mind, are too fond of that cheap device, the "unexpected" plot twist.

It's damn hard to come up with an unexpected plot twist when everybody expects the plot to twist adn turn unexpectedly. This is particularly annoying in a game with a predetermined story, where it is telegraphed that your character is going to be betrayed by a close ally, but you are unable to do anything about it, because the game is railroading you along. Almost every game does this, come to think of it.

If you must have a plot, please make it a straightforward one.
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