Video games as a story-telling medium

Thoughts on video games as a story-telling medium, having read the article The first great works of digital literature are already being written by Naomi Alderman (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/oct/13/video-games-digital-storytelling-naomi-alderman).

This was a very interesting read, and I have to admit that – not being a “gamer” – I had never really thought about video games in this way. If nothing else, the article has made me want to have a play of at least a handful of the games mentioned.

With the increased capabilities of consoles, PC and video cards, and the graphics becoming more and more realistic, it’s understandable that more “story” has had to be added to the games to make them more “cinematic”; the visuals alone often make these games look more like movies than games. Gaming is a very serious past-time for a lot of people these days, so it would be unacceptable to many people to be presented with nothing more than a basic platform game, with very little to drive them forward to want to complete the next section (chapter?) – as prices of games and capabilities of the technology increase, so too do the consumers’ demands for what they want to see in a game.

A potential advantage to storytelling through the medium of games is that there is the feeling that the player is “writing the story” as they go along. Though the outcomes will have been pre-programmed, in a well-written game, the player will feel as if they themselves are affecting what happens on-screen, so making them feel more a part of the story.

A disadvantage could be that once a gamer has completed the game the first time, they’ve likely hit the main beats in the story – there’s most likely only one proper ending, too, so they know the outcome of the story. The potential for replaying is quite small unless it has been written with a number of routes through the story, with some major changes along the way.

Another disadvantage is that to fulfil the above apparent advantage, the scriptwriter will need to come up with multiple equally satisfactory routes through the story they want to tell. They may have a set “path” in mind that would be the ideal path for the player to go down, so focus primarily on that route, but the alternative routes would need as much care and attention to make them an equally enjoyable playing experience.

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