No Right Answer: Gameplay vs. Story

 Pages 1 2 3 NEXT
 

Gameplay vs. Story

This week the boys go for a broad topic. Ha, I said broad. But seriously, folks...games can either have great gameplay or great story. If they have both, they are called Half-life 2. But for all other examples, which one is more important? A game written by poets with a camera mechanic that makes you want to kill a hobo, or an addicting game you can't put down that is just as fulfilling with the mute button on?

Watch Video

Mass Effect 1 has a better overall story than ME2.

But I will never touch ME1 again because the gameplay is just bad.

Story can only carry a game so far, while great gameplay can keep me coming back for more.

A great story makes a game memorable.

Great gameplay keeps me playing, so sure, I've played Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 a hell of a lot more than Mass Effect, but Mass Effect will be the series I remember years from now.

When I think of the games I've logged the most hours in, that I've replayed time and time again, and that, to me, are the most interesting and fun, I think of the games with great stories. Shadows of the Colossus. Bioshock. Mass Effect. Hell, even Assassin's Creed has an interesting narrative, albeit somewhat convoluted by this point. Great gameplay but a weak story creates a game people enjoy for a moment but immediately forget exists when the next wave of new games comes out. A great story with merely passable gameplay is enough to last in the memories of gamers far beyond the time in which they come out.

Gotta agree with Kyle.

The story adds great flavor to the game itself but a game with a great store and shit gameplay makes you loath continuing the game while a game with great gameplay and a shit story is still playable simple because you're having fun.

Story can only carry a game so far. It can be used to elevate a game and make it memorable. But the best story in the world isn't going to matter if people aren't willing to put up with terrible gameplay just to get to that story, especially now in the age where we can just look up the story online. Gameplay is the way we progress through the story. That being said, there is in fact a difference between little story (Mario), a simple story (Final Fantasy 4) and a BAD story (Sonic 06).

Story can make a good game a great game. But gameplay is what makes the game good in the first place.

Thinking about it, I'm pretty sure that I play most games for the story. Even if the gameplay is just a huge headache waiting to happen, I wanna play through it to find out what's gonna happen at the end. Case and point, the first Uncharted. Just played through that recentely, and though I found the gameplay extremely aggrivating and clunkey, I dealt with it, and played through til the end to find out what happens to Nate and his pals!

On the other end of the spectrum though, you have games like God of War 3. The gameplay? Just a pure marvel to watch and play. The story? Absolute garbage.

It's always a matter of personal taste in games, but you can never have gameplay without story, or vice versa. It's like a PB&J. Sometimes, you have one element that over powers another, but when you can get both the peanut butter and jelly equally spread across that bread that is your game, then you're in for one hell of a treat!

It all depends on what you mean by "most important". When it comes right down to it, it's most important for a game not to crash every three minutes (Fallout 3...) But, limiting myself to just gameplay and story, what do you mean by story? Just the plot/dialog? The plot and the characters? The plot, the characters, and the environment? The plot, the characters, the environment, and the overall visual style?

Because when you get right down to it, "the story" isn't the plot. A novel isn't great because it has a great plot, it's great because it tells a great story. So basically everything that isn't gameplay is story.

The argument was raised that Soul Caliber was just a fighting game without any story, but that's incorrect. Each character's design (over-design?) tells a story about that character without a single word of dialog. Each stage's design tells a story about where they are, and why they're fighting. When playing Killer Instinct, my brother was usually Orchid, because the two sentence flavor text for her character said she was a government agent that infiltrated the tournament, and he wanted to play the government agent infiltrating the tournament.

With this in mind, games that have really bad "story" are just as unplayable as games with really bad mechanics. Currently, many people are complaining about all the "brown and gray" shooters, but what they're really complaining about isn't that the shooters are brown and gray, it's that they have bland stories. Serious Sam 3 BFE recently came out, and it is, technically speaking, a brown and gray (and red. So. Much. Red.) shooter, but it has an excellent story. Not an excellent plot, an excellent story.

I can trudge through a bad gameplay for a good story, but for some great gameplay a bad story can be much easier to ignore. Particularly with mutliplayer and co-op stuff these days.

Oh, and HL2 was boring for me. Halo CE had better gameplay and story.

The story in this is?
image

The gameplay in this is?
image

Which would you rather play?

At the end of the day, you can have a pretty good game that has absolutely no story, but if the title in question has absolutely no gameplay it's not a game.

Also, what would you call a game with no gameplay anyway?

Fairly good debate. Not enough Bad Dudes.

C'mon, "The President has been kidnapped by ninjas. Are you a bad enough Dude to rescue the President?" Does the story get better than that?

I usually don't post my opinions in these kinds of debates, but this got me really fired up for some reason.

For me personally, I would choose the story. Think about it this way, which aspect keeps you going? For me, the points + leader boards are really addictive, and I understand why you would choose that; but with great story you're engaged in that world, and when you keep going it's a different feel of WHY you kept going.

I would also bring up Final Fantasy VII. That game is considered by its fans to be the best FF game, but I always thought the gameplay was crap. I thought so back in 1997, I still think so now; so why do people think it's the best? The answer to that question is the story.

P.S If you haven't play Suikoden II before, you're not allowed to argue :D

Imp Emissary:
At the end of the day, you can have a pretty good game that has absolutely no story, but if the title in question has absolutely no gameplay it's not a game.

Also, what would you call a game with no gameplay anyway?

I think they implied it's called Final Fantasy. ;-)

Falcon123:
Great gameplay but a weak story creates a game people enjoy for a moment but immediately forget exists when the next wave of new games comes out.

I beg to differ, and so does Notch. I'm sure people will remember Minecraft for a while.

Shame Chris didn't pull out Planescape: Torment. A game so damn amazing and famous solely because of its story, and shows how truly great a game can be with a story focus.

Or hell, every Bioware game. All of them have had pretty crap gameplay, yet are all lauded for their story.

Planescape: Torment
Almost all Bioware games
Fallout
Pretty much every Obsidian game

On the other end of the spectrum, you have games like
Pretty much every Nintendo franchise
Serious Sam
Painkiller
Soul Calibur
MDK 2 (consequently the only Bioware game I thought was actually fun to play)

All great games, but all do one thing right and kind of suck at the other.

Personally, I don't care what a developer does (though I'd prefer both to be great and in harmony with each other by playing off each other's strengths), so long as they do it great.

When both are in harmony, we get games like
Bastion
Valve games
Deus Ex

Daystar Clarion:
Mass Effect 1 has a better overall story than ME2.

But I will never touch ME1 again because the gameplay is just bad.

Story can only carry a game so far, while great gameplay can keep me coming back for more.

A great story makes a game memorable.

Great gameplay keeps me playing, so sure, I've played Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 a hell of a lot more than Mass Effect, but Mass Effect will be the series I remember years from now.

That's pretty much the same for me except I am to the extent that I did not finish playing Mass Effect for its bad gameplay, nor did I play ME2 for myself having lacked the story I would have known if I finished the first game. I don't like jumping into a sequel without having learned the story from the beginning much like how I wouldn't go see a movie in theatre when I'm an hour late.

Also, when Kyle name dropped King of Kong I knew he was going to win.

Of course Bioshock is immersed. It's surrounded by water! /bad pun.

I am happy to see Gameplay win this one. In a game, the gameplay has to be most important. Story will build emotion. Emotion builds memory and fond recollections. So, you can become emotionally attached to a game more with a good story. But, you can only build that if you are accepting of the gameplay.

I go to my console system when I want to play a game with a great story. The two button controller is simple enough to minimize gameplay and allow me to focus on the story. I think it's a PLAY button and a STOP button. What? You say my console is called a "D-V-D Player?". Oh. I see. I'll write that in Sharpie on the front for future.

I'm gonna say gameplay is more important because it's a lot easier to ignore story then it is gameplay but that isn't to say a game can't sell based on it's story, it really depends on the type of game.

Hitchmeister:

Imp Emissary:
At the end of the day, you can have a pretty good game that has absolutely no story, but if the title in question has absolutely no gameplay it's not a game.

Also, what would you call a game with no gameplay anyway?

I think they implied it's called Final Fantasy. ;-)

Oh, no one saw that joke coming. The fireworks display it was dragging behind it really distracted you....(I understand the temptation though.)

But seriously now what would the name for such a creature be? All I can think of was that digital choose your own adventure game The_root_of_all_evil (number 9) showed in his post.

vxicepickxv:

Falcon123:
Great gameplay but a weak story creates a game people enjoy for a moment but immediately forget exists when the next wave of new games comes out.

I beg to differ, and so does Notch. I'm sure people will remember Minecraft for a while.

You make an interesting point, but I tend to agree with Yahtzee's assertion that Minecraft isn't technically a game as it has none of the structural qualities associated with the medium. I agree Minecraft will last, but I'd consider it more of an incredibly improved version of Legos than a video game.

Despite that possible point on which we might disagree, I think it's safe to assume that Minecraft would be, if it is to be considered a video game, an outstanding exception to the rule, and that games following a traditional structure with great gameplay but a weak story are rarely if ever remembered as classics

Story is important of course, but if the gameplay isn't all that fun then it's not my type of game. The reason why Dead Space 2 is one of my favorite games is because despite that the story is really cool (and well done), the gameplay itself being able to shoot these necromorphs limbs off and trying to survive in a horror space game is what really sells for me. It's just the story binds me to like it more, like a big bonus.

Same thing can be said for Skyrim- the story is okay.. mostly every quest or plot of a mission is good (or average) but the gameplay.. oh man, the choices you have, how you can fight or sneak about, even using shouts to cast your enemies a few feet away with just your voice.. the gameplay is what makes Skyrim pretty much the funniest game around. So yeah story's important, but it's not much of a game unless you get to play it and have fun doing so.

The conclusion reminds me of why I like Valve.

You can argue one way or the other, but the BEST games, the games that exemplify the medium, are the ones that synthesize gameplay and story into one. Case in point: Portal.

this is simple enough

game without gameplay = movie

game without story/narrative/setting = still a game.

im sorry, i love my narratives and settings, and they ELEVATE games to a whole new level, but thats just it. they ELEVATE. they dont CREATE a game. a game is gameplay. first n foremost, and forever.

its like asking whats most important in a movie, the sound or the video. the video of course, otherwise it would be one of those recorded stories you play in your car radio.

attention that story is still a greatly important asset, and its what makes the best games in the medium.

The_root_of_all_evil:
The story in this is?
image

The gameplay in this is?
image

Which would you rather play?

Apparently, many modern developers seem to think people would prefer Dragon's Lair. After all, what it a quick time event other than a copy of Dragon's Lair's gameplay? When was the last time you saw a Pac Man maze incorporated into a modern game?

The problem is the definition of "important." In one ideology, a "game" must have "gameplay" for it to be a "game." A "game" does not need a story to be a "game." Therefore, gameplay is the more innate and important part.

On a different ideology, one can think which element is more influential, which is likely more the point. I really cannot say for certainty myself. As was stated, crappy gameplay can thrive on a good story and crappy (or lack of) story can thrive on good gameplay. It's hard to put one before the other. I might lean towards story, but that's just personal preference, can't think of much solid reasoning.

As to repeating gameplay with continuing stories...(incoming anime reference)... .hack. I could not stop playing .hack and watching the anime series' even with repeating gameplay in the certain sets. Yay, story.

As for me, I feel it ultimately boils down to story.

As been said before, if I had to choose between okay or good gameplay or story, I'd rather have a game with good gameplay and a okay story (eg: angry birds, most iOS games).
However, given the choice between good or great gameplay or story, I would always pick games with great stories and good gameplay.

A great story can do things to a player great gameplay mechanics cannot: they are able to inspire, to teach and to enlighten the player. Games like FF9 and Bioshock and Baldur's Gate are able to pull you into a whole new world, but still teach you relatable truths. In comparison, games like pac-man, TF2 and DotA just makes you feel empty after awhile. They're great to blow of steam and have a good time in stressful period, but the formerly mentioned games have the ability to touch and transform a player which I feel is what media (like games) should strive for in the end.

In my opinion gameplay is more important than story. I can play a game with a non-existent story if I'm having a blast playing it. But if it's a great story and crap gameplay I will never know that the story is great since I would probably stop playing early in the game. A story might be able to keep me playing, but most likely I'm just going to stop if the gameplay makes me frustrated or just bores me.

I'd like to see Games vs Movies, that would be great. Or games vs any other medium.

I have an idea for an episode. I really want to see an argument about which Mog is best.

Mog, a fictional hybrid of half man and half dog, as demonstrated by John Candy's character, Barf, in Spaceballs.

or

Mog, the moogle things from Final Fantasy.

I'm voting for Mog.

It's a bit of a weird case with me. I find the most important factor for me liking a game to be the story, but I can acknowledge that gameplay is more important.

I can live with a game that has an excellent story, but bad gameplay (Planescape, Kotor 2, Alpha Protocol), but I have difficulties loving a game that has excellent gameplay, but an awful story (Bayonetta).
On the other hand, while gameplay can work perfectly with the absence of a story, the opposite is not true. The gameplay needs to flow effectively into the story section or otherwise it would just be harming the story. It has to fit into the narrative, make sure that you keep being immersed in the story so that gameplay sections don't become annoying parts in between the good stuff (MGS4).

There is a reason why Skyrim is loved, but Kotor 2 is generally disliked. The former has incredible gameplay by having an open world, tons of customization options and whatnot and this is what justifies the awful plot, characters et cetera. Kotor 2, even though it has a brilliant story and incredible characters, is not popular due to the gameplay being awful and buggy.

So in the end, it's kind of hard to say which one is best. A great game needs both in order to be a great game, but while a bad story doesn't harm great gameplay, bad gameplay harms a great story.

So gameplay is just a tiny bit more important than story.

Perhaps the most important debate you guys have had in a while.
If I could, I would buy you all a sandwich.

The_root_of_all_evil:
The story in this is?
image

The gameplay in this is?
image

Which would you rather play?

Well that's not a fair comparison. I can pull up a no-story game that was awful, and a story-heavy game that was great and say "which would you rather play?".

For me, if the choice would have to be binary (as in story or gameplay), my answer would be story. I base this solely on personal preference, and the fact that I'm most likely enjoy a game with ok gameplay and a great story (like Mass Effect 2 and Alpha Protocol) than a game with ok story and great gameplay (like God of War 2 and 3). The gameplay can ruin a game with a good story for me, sure, but I'm more likely to stop playing the game if I don't enjoy the story rather than gameplay.

However, I'd debate that it shouldn't be a binary choice. There are games out there that tie the gameplay to the narrative, like Half Life 2 or Bastion. That's what games should aim for, not necessarily focusing on prioritizing story over gameplay or vice versa, but rather trying to make them as close to a singular element as possible.

I love story in games, I truly do, Elder Scrolls Fable KOTOR all have great story, and I love them for it.

That said, game-play wins the argument with two points:

1 Mario, the story is Bowser kidnaps Peach Mario goes to save her, with very very few exceptions that is the Mario story. BUT we all still play the games.

2. Minecraft........ Quite possibly the most popular game of 2010-2011 ( even though it was released in 2011 :)) and yet there is quite literally no story, other than random dude finds himself in a world of breakable stack-able stuff infested with skeletons zombies and spiders, and must find a way to survive. GO!

I'd say overall, yes, gameplay does win out. Without gameplay, you don't have a game. If the gameplay is crappy, controls are terrible or whatever, I'm going to get too annoyed to keep going through to the end, no matter how good the story is.

HOWEVER! Without the story to give context to the game, or a bad story, the game suffers. Heck, doesn't even have to be a bad story. For example, I've never really enjoyed GTA games; never particularly felt invested in their world. But I adore Red Dead Redemption, what many people will argue is almost exactly like a GTA game. Why? The context of it changes it. Being a modern day gangster? Not that appealing to me. Being a badass gunslinger? That sounds awesome.

 Pages 1 2 3 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Registered for a free account here