What helps make a great video game story?

When I talk about ‘stories in gaming’ in this blog, I refer mostly to the narratives told by video games, and the world that builds around them.

In his thesis about video game narratives, Jakub Majewski finds that video games can be a lot of different things. Some have stories, while others have no story at all. The story can be carefully intertwined with gameplay or barely sit on the surface.

I think it’s important to consider what makes one game’s story stand out above another. How one game can strike an emotional chord and inspire a following. Even games which lack a certain depth some seek in narratives can still make people feel and gain massive popularity.

Through this blog, I will tend to focus on what I see as 3 key aspects which affect how a video game’s story comes to be great.

The World

Despite video game escapism typically being seen as negative, we should all remember everyone has an escape and a video game is just a type of escape. Typically, gamer’s see the characters and world-building contribute to this immersive escape, and mastering these elements for the story is very important.

A game can deliver its story, characters and world in a variety of ways. There are so many different forms of games from Role-Playing to Platformer. I’m also sure most of us are familiar with the “age-old” linear vs open-world debate. However, I don’t believe a certain format is ultimately better than another. It all depends on what best suits the particular narrative. 

The Gameplay

Gameplay plays an important role in connecting with the story. It can make the story more interesting or destroy the desire to complete it. While a bad story can be pushed through with fun gameplay, bad gameplay can halt wanting to finish a good story.

Gameplay often changes the feel of the story. A recent example for me is Destroy All Humans (2020), a remake of the 2005 original. In the story you are meant to feel like a powerful unstoppable alien, but only through improvements in the remake do you actually feel like one.

The Makers

One thing that really determines a successful video game story is the team behind the game. While many factors can affect an overall team, it often comes down to key people and their passion and commitment to a vision.

The Halo series is a good example. The first five entries into the series were highly acclaimed and popular from the original developer Bungie. After 2010, developer 343 Industries took over and future releases haven’t garnered the same popularity or love due to a variety of subjective factors.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s