Recently I’ve been thinking about the stories that are told in gaming and sometimes you just have to give credit where its due to the industry for improving story telling in such a generally short amount of time. Where for me the story can take the front seat over the gameplay and this is getting more and more frequent as the story and the mechanics of telling the story improves all the time.
Although having said that, there is still a niche for cheesy clichéd writing as a sort of nostalgia trip if you will, usually parodies of some sort, look at duke nukem forever although with that I don’t think they were intentionally trying to be funny as that game sucked on every level, they tried to turn the humour on hard with that as maybe they thought that was the only way to save that train wreck (it didn’t). However i don’t bear any real hatred for its writing….well, not a huge amount, because they didn’t try to pretend that it was anything other than a train wreck of references to other better games, old 90’s clichés that just don’t work anymore and throw in a huge dose of misogyny at the same time, i mean hey you can dislike it for being terrible but at least they were honest about what they were trying to do (it just didn’t work….again).
The games that really get my goat are the ones that have pretensions of having a serious and memorable story. The chief offender in my opinion is the gears of war series, now I’ll be honest that i too got swept up in the hype when the games came out and I thought they were awesome, but after stepping away from gears 3 and letting all the hype die down it’s really only then that you realise that the story telling as actually terrible, the worst one for me being gears of war 3 where I’m still convinced to this day that if you hadn’t read the gears books up to the point of where the game started you would have been all at see and you would have had only a vague idea of what was going on or the justification for it.
One of the examples I can give is that at the start of the game you see a cut scene where former chairman Prescott returns to where the last human survivors are (an old naval warship), well the first question would be how the fuck did they end up there? Or perhaps the next question that immediately springs into mind is why did Prescott leave? Or When even? And it never really gets explained or at least not that I can recall. Now maybe it’s just me and im wrong about this? But i always thought regardless of where a series might be at regarding the story you need to be able to succinctly state whats been happening up until that point. As surely new comers might get lost, it doesn’t have to be something incredibly wordy, just something that could be woven into the gameplay to make it all the more immersive.
That’s just a quick example really as you expect them to get better with the story telling as time passed but instead they got worse. Although saying that the story was never great anyway as told by the games, it was the books where it gained any sort of credibility and a bit more of a grown up theme than big hulking brick shit houses shooting and blowing stuff up. I’ve read the first 3 books and they were a good read but admittedly I started to lose touch with it as they all eventually got quite samey and uninspiring which is a shame as i think the author can write good books, I guess there’s only so many ways you can spin military and world at war themes until they start to look similar.
Speaking of books I do like that the increasing trend of big franchises to release novels that complement the story of the games I am a fan of that especially if done well. An example of a bad one was a book in the halo series where it was a novel of the first game, and it was so bad it was unbelievable, I think it was called the flood? The author barely wrote anything original and seemed to just go through the first halo and describe what you do action for action. Which suffice to say was incredibly fucking boring, if you ever see it in the shops do not buy it! Although that one seems to be just an aberration as the rest of the books are actually very good although you’ll definitely get more out of the book if you were a halo fan to begin with.
The point im unintentionally stretching out! Is that I care a lot about books, stories, how there told etc as that’s the one of the best things I get out of games that different type of story telling and the different ways you can present that story is amazing. And when that gets abused, I can’t help but detach from the game because on the basic level if you can’t believe in what is being told how can you feel any sense of immersion when you get down to the nitty-gritty of the gameplay? There has to be justification for what you do in-game and if there isn’t, well i can only speak for myself but i stop playing on the occasions that happens.
That’s my take it on anyway 🙂 ,
Thanks for reading chaps and chappettes
P.S. I forgot to say which ones i actually like story was, well to give a few examples:
Portal 2, Max Payne 3 (i loved it), Space Marine (Really fun game and also it was my starting off point to the warhammer 40k universe and it did an excellent job informing the newcomer to the universe while at the same time not treating the person like idiots for not knowing any of the previous lore). Those are but a few but i thought i’d at least add some that i liked for there story too among other things 🙂