July 9th, 2010
This week, the following discussion was posted on a popular gaming forum: Video games with acclaimed stories that actually have TERRIBLE stories. We laugh because it is funny. We laugh because it is true.
I’m not exactly sure when it started, but select video game developers have increasingly billed themselves as storytellers in recent years. Even worse, some gamers pretend they actually care about backdrop stories (as if we’d really sit through a non-playable version of Star Wars: The Knights of the Old Republic or [insert any other favorite game hear]).
Admittedly, I’ve finished video games just to “see what happens in the end.” But only because the gameplay was by some measure rewarding. At worst tolerable. You know, in a Pavlov’s Dog sort of way.
No, if a game fails to tug on my problem-solving strings, provide a wide canvas, or present an exciting dexterity challenge for my hands, I’m out. Within the first hour even. I don’t care if it was written by Mark Twain, Jane Austen, Dan Brown or John Grisham.
Games are meant to be played. That’s why stuffy people in suits call them “interactive entertainment.”
Find me someone who says they play games for love, irony, cultural preservation, or to instill moral values, and I’ll show you a liar. Yes, games a capable of touching on said subjects (and great games often do). But we play games for the experience, first and foremost. We play them for a reaction. We play them much like we did in a sandboxes as children.
In other words, to explore. To tinker. To see what happens when we do this or that. To escape the real backyard for a much more incredible one. One that we can dictate as opposed to passively being told about. One that we star in as opposed to dreaming of being the star.
So enough with the Hollywood inferiority complex, video games. Your strength is in your interactivity, not your storytelling. Embrace it. It’s nothing to be ashamed about. It’s what got you where you are today.
You were meant to be played. Not watched, read, or listened to.
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