Ask me about my anti-idiot agenda.
Interactive Storytelling – The Unfulfilled Rise
N. „Guden“ Burg
BioShock. Metal Gear Solid. Half-Life. Portal. WarCraft. Majora’s Mask. Grand Theft Auto. Red Dead Redemption. Batman: Arkham trilogy.That’s it. What do all these franchises in common. They represent the rare occasion, where good storytelling did not contradict good gameplay. There is this consensus among gamers that say: Gameplay is king. Gameplay is key. It is all about the gameplay. The tendency to say this, is inherently wrong. I know, I know. Video games are all about interaction; it is an interactive medium. Sure. Yes, it is. But why do people repel good storytelling? Why do people kind of reject the idea, of experiencing an emotional, funny, exciting, agitating, intriguing, deep or vast story? There are many key factors which play into this. Let’s begin.
The first point is the following: Okay: Who is responsible for the writing? Looking at our example, we had dedicated storytellers and writers at hand. BioShock was written by Ken Levine, MGS by Hideo Kojima, Half-Life and Portal by a few Valve Writers, WarCraft by and Majora’s Mask simply had terrific writers I don’t know of. This brings me straight to my point: Dedicated writers. People who know how a story is built, how to relate to characters, how to evoke emotional depth and characters we care and like. Because most of the time, story is an afterthought. Most stories are written by the studios themselves. Explaining why 99% of is total and utter shit. If we want to embrace storytelling in games – the writer – or writers – need to be a usual and common part by when developing a game.
A dedicated writer, be it a background with novels, comics, screenplays or maybe even playwrights, could lead to a crucial and absolutely needed development (No pun intended.) If we hired such people, let’s call them Narrative Consultant or simply the Campaign Writer, we could deal with it like Hollywood does. Hire. Write. Pay. Of course, of course, a game develops and including a script can be pretty damn hard. What if a characters gets cut? Or levels change? What if a cut scene is being excluded? Sure, its involvement is hard. Then we simply hire and employ writers like level designers or sound engineers. The distribution is not the point. The point is to elevate the medium and make it better. I don’t want games to be crap and only light entertainment. Things like L.A. Noire or Deus Ex showed how complex and exciting a story in a video game can get.
Why is that so important? Because the medium video games is shallow, a shadow, of what it can be. It has an unfulfilled potential. I want it to be taken seriously. I want to fight back corporate video game making like EA or Ubisoft. Somehow, smart business men saw the huge potential, ie market power, and hijacked the whole industry. There is Assassins Creed and FIFA now. The run down the Guitar Hero franchise and I am still baffled of how Call of Duty is still a thing. It is all about the maximization of profit. There is little to zero effort in developing groundbreaking and exceptional concepts or ideas. We either have indies, okay, or some studio who was indie and is now owned by a corporation.
But storytelling. Storytelling elevates even the smallest developer into a huge behemoth of power with a great story. It can be the groundbreaking discipline to lift gaming into new heights. Well, we already talked about how to achieve that. And then. What. Good stories? And good gameplay? Why should we even care? Because people have no idea of what could be. They only what is. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the campaign for Halo 3. Yeah, Finish the Fight. I loved the hype for Halo: Reach. Then we had Halo 4, Halo: Guardians and now Halo: Infinite. What’s the deal? It perfectly exemplifies how repeating the same shit over and over again, is being sold to you as something new. I played a few Halo games. And know of those I did not play. Same enemies. Same weapons. Same levels. All the frigging same across almost 6 installments over the course of almost twenty years. This must stop.
Because I wish people would feel how I feel; see as I see. The potential – immense. The devotion – zero. Only because people will always brag about: gameplay first! Gameplay! Gameplay! It only distracts you from the truth of good storytelling. But I am on the verge to repeat myself over and over again. Let’s break it down. Video games do not have good stories. It is an afterthought. It has the potential to elevate the medium and simply … make it better. We should demand good stories, we should find talented writers across all mediums to let them develop new ways of stories, storytelling and stories overall. Gaming was my lifelong passion. I am not a gamer anymore. I gave up on it. I gave up on corporate game making, micro transactions, pay-to-win, mobile gaming and other novelties. Gaming must go back to its roots. Back to immersion and soaking up someone into a truly creative and astonishing worlds. Have showed us how its done.