No Right Answer: Gameplay vs. Story

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Would I rather play
Borderlands or Bioshock
Minecraft or Braid
Saints Row 2 or Grand Theft Auto IV
Metro 2033 or Battlefield 3
Doom or Valkyria Chronicles
Frozen Synapse or Metal Gear Solid
World of Warcraft or The Old Republic
It's a damn good thing I don't have to choose.
Occasionally, you get the perfect mix like Portal or Half Life. Most of the time, the game isn't perfect. I didn't get Skyrim because I wanted to save Skyrim. I played Skyrim because I wanted to duel wield fireballs and swords, and I wanted to go hunt dragons.
KOTOR runs like crap on my computer. The framerate chugs, the character models are showing age, and sometimes it decides that it just doesn't want to recognize my keyboard input during a fight. I love that game for the story.
Yet, Gears of War is hindered by its story. I don't want to listen to Dom's motivations, I want to kill Locusts with a friend. Here, the gameplay is what brings me to the game.
Ultimately, what is a game without gameplay? What's a book without a story? Gameplay is what makes this medium special. But why can't I have a decent story that I can understand (Oh hi Bayonneta, didn't see you there) with my fun game? Hopefully as video game developers realize the importance of a good writer WHO KNOWS HOW TO WRITE FOR AN INTERACTIVE MEDIUM, the writing will improve. I agree with Kyle here, but as they said, they are both important.

To me, gameplay is steak and story is salt. I can have a game with no story and it'll be fine, if I have a story and no good gameplay, I feel like an idiot. If I get both, I'm in heaven,

I can't think of a single of my favourite games that isn't my favourite game because of its story. I'm not interested as a game as a game and even with Rock Band, well actually it wasn't the gameplay but the story of you being a frickin' rock star that sold it. Its gameplay consists off hitting buttons at screen prompts. No-one likes that, in a game without Rock Band story we call that a quicktime event and we hate it.

Even with the Sims, the sell is the story, just you make the story yourself. It's gameplay is watching bars fill up and empty

But, despite, Deus Ex: HR, Uncharted 1, Uncharted 2, Max Payne 2, FFX, KotoR2, Metal Gear Solid 4, Metal Gear Solid 3, Heavy Rain, Valkyria Chronicles etc...

Gameplay wins. You can have a game that relies solely on gameplay, but not a game that relies entirely on story. Even Heavy Rain relied on the brilliantly integrated gameplay

Oh I just remembered, Rome:Total War, Motorstorm: Pacific Rift. Two games I liked in terms of gameplay. But just to show you how story focussed I am, I played Devil May Cry 3 for the cutscenes

Wuggy:

The_root_of_all_evil:

Which would you rather play?

Well that's not a fair comparison.

As fair as I can get it. Dragon's Lair has a great story, but QTE gameplay. Pacman has zero story, but great gameplay. Both are arcade classics.

Myst or Zork then?

Remember, story and gameplay work together, but if one's missing...how do you choose?

Bad Story includes Space Invaders, Duke Nukem, House of the Dead.
Bad Gameplay includes ET, Superman64...

You don't NEED a story beyond Get X back from Y, but you NEED gameplay.

For me, it depends on the genre.
RPG's? Story.
Fighters? Gameplay.
Adventure? Ideally, a mix of both.

If I had to choose, I would say story. The games I remember are the ones that had an excellent story and made me feel invested in the characters and plot line. Mass Effect, Final Fantasy (Pre-Square Enix), Bioshock, these are some games that I'll remember for years, because of the story.

Gameplay, however, is still very important to me, if not as much as story. Legend of Zelda, Elder Scrolls, Fallout, these games (to me) had mediocre stories, but had excellent gameplay.

Chris's last point should've been a minus point, seriously how is that a good thing?

I honestly agree with Chris about how story is more important. But he started off using Final Fantasy as his example and he lost it for me. Terrible example if you are going into this on the story side of the argument.

Great episode. Winner this week is... Dan. It's always Dan.

You only scraped the surface of this great discussion, but did it very well. I think neither is more important, what's important is that they are in harmony with each other.

Chris made a veeeeeeeeeery good point about Call of Duty, but I still think that gameplay is stronger moreover because without gameplay it isn't really a game. I mean, even if you hate JRPGs there is some strategy to them despite how story focused they are, unless it's FF8 where the olny strategy is GF GF GF

id say story, espicially ones that tou can change thte endings to. but i cant touch them if the game play is too crappy.

games in this category:
Dragon Age: Origins
Heavy Rain

I'm always prefer story to gameplay. If game don't have at lest decent story i don't bother to play it, and if game have good story but game play i don't like, i play it and enjoy it.
For example i absolutely hate platform-puzzle games but i LOVED Catherine, all because of story and characters, just had to soldier trough all puzzle stuff, and precisely that's why i don't play indy games that only have game play and no story, i just don't see point in gameplay without story and characters.

Gameplay is the most important part of a game and is what defines this genre of entertainment and separates it from books, movies and television. Story is simply a device that paces the gameplay in the matter that levels, stages, waves, worlds and tracks do for other games. Story, as the other pacing devices, in games simply gives variety or different contexts to what can happen, what will happen and why it's happening at all. In Beetle Racing Adventure, one might never ask nor care as to why one could be racing through the desert one minute and through Jurassic Park the next minute, but one does recognize the point of dividing the tracks between levels instead of making them one long running course.

Take the debate concerning what makes an Rpg. It's the gameplay that defines Rpgs, be they action or turn-based. The mechanics decide accuracy(turn/phase-based rpgs, cut that out Morrowind and the first Witcher), health, spell and weapon damage as well as all the other stats and actions determined or ruled by dice rolls (or whatever type of number generator an rpg may use) to some extent. Story, besides its obvious element of setting, in Rpgs simply metes out the amount of time one spends in combat, the areas and options one can access and usually decides the end point of games. As far as how story in this genre allots action and rest, one can make three divisions(and divisions within those divisions): Webbed, the game has many paths from start to finish; Branched, actions at node points cut off portions of the game; Linear, the end is set despite what deviations may exist.

Webbed
Games Examples: Mount&Blade, the Elder Scrolls, Metal Max and the SaGa series.
Story in these games is more important for the options it gives than the place it leads the player.

In Mount&Blade, one can mercenary themselves, join up with a kingdom or help a throne claimant to retake their lands; none of these options are forced.
In the Elder Scrolls series one can go anywhere one desires, but one must engage certain groups in order to gain access to certain things such as spell creation.
The other two series have a definite end point that only occurs when one decides to pursue it.

Branched
Game Examples: Tactics Ogre:Let Us Cling Together, Might&Magic: Dark Messiah, Chrono Cross, Alpha Protocol.

In all of these, except Dark Messiah, decisions that one makes decides what areas one can access, who will be the player's enemies or allies as well as the type of ending one receives. In Dark Messiah, one's choices determines the ending as well as the acquisition of special equipment.

Linear
Game Examples: Tales of series, Dead Island, Borderlands, Golden Sun

No matter the amount of quests these games have or options to say anything contrary to the direction of the story, the end point is always the same.

Regardless of how tight or loose the story is, the mechanics of each of the games defines what makes them. If one were to remove the gameplay and make a movie out of the background of any of those games, one would have a non-interactive creation defined by the acting, atmosphere, light, ect. The only interaction of concern from the audience, is whether or not they'll pay money for the DVD or sequel.

Just as it has been stated before, remove the story and one has the same evident gameplay; it will just be an unfettered and ceaseless experience, with no points of interest. Also, games being defined by their gameplay also applies to dramatic changes to a series. People were upset over the X-com shooter, due to the developers creating a game defined by different mechanics with the original game's name plastered on it (and no, a game called X-COM: Enforcer never existed. Insisting such will result in pain. Well, playing it will result in painful headaches anyway). The one being developed by Firaxis which is said and shown to an extent to be more faithful to the original three, is more welcomed due to it appearing to be an attempt to improve upon, and not utterly abandon, the original gameplay.

People are likely more willing to accept spin-offs of a franchise, than changes to the core gameplay of the original. Main sequence Final Fantasy is still turn-based despite its constantly changing gameplay. Take the class system in Final Fantasy, sometimes it's in and other times it's not. The core gameplay doesn't change, but the flow and outcomes gain greater variability. Final Fantasy XII is still turn-based despite its attempt to introduce a battle system that is more organic with the environment.

Ultimately it must be recognized that story is a device of gameplay pacing in the same vein as levels in shooters, platformers and such. One must also consider gameplay's constancy when judging a story's importance, as context alone doesn't equal a game. It's to be acknowledged also that story enjoyment has nothing to do with pacing, but that doesn't make it inherently bad. Deadly Premonition as a game with an entertaining story, but horrible gameplay has a story with an interesting plot, setting and characters. However, the game suffers from a poor x-axis control when aiming, enemies that are more a chore than a challenge on difficulties higher than easy, a slow door opening animation that frustrates those that don't know they can get through the doors faster by running into them, an unnecessarily long quick time event near the end and other things that would make the game a poor experience were one to play it without story.

I think they are both right and both should have won. Great Gameplay can keep me playing, but so can a good story. Put them both together, and I will love your game. Let me chop up ogres or giant robots, or dragons in a fun way, but give me a good reason to do that, and things work out well. I've played games with great stories, but less than great gameplay and games with great gameplay, but stupid or nonexistent stories.

Felipe Nurwandi:
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

The best of the Suikoden series? Are you kidding? I have played that game from start to finish like 5 times. There were times I started playing it just to play it without ever finishing it. I even bought the original Suikoden years later (back when Suikoden 3 was out) for $50, because I had finally found it and wanted to play it AND get the hero from it in Suikoden 2. Great game all around. I don't know why they felt they needed to mess with the battle system in the later games.

In my opinion, story is generally far more important than gameplay. But if I could only have one I would choose gameplay because I would rather read a book or watch a movie than deal with a horrific cesspool of gameplay.

I would also like to point out that if a game is essentially unplayable due to the terrible gameplay, then it doesn't matter how good the story is because you won't be able to see it.

Story. Proof? Silent Hill 2 sucked as a game, and yet it is sheer perfection in its story, which leads to almost everyone who plays it loving it.

The Random One:
Great episode. Winner this week is... Dan. It's always Dan.

You only scraped the surface of this great discussion, but did it very well. I think neither is more important, what's important is that they are in harmony with each other.

Are you coming on to me (Dan)? Cause I think I'm OK with that.

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.

Eh, I found the gameplay in 1 better than 2. Less monotonous, and with the ability to alpha strike rather than just use one ability over and over and over. 2 went way too far down the corridor shooter path to be entertaining, and its weak story left a lot to be desired of it. Each to their own I guess.

OT: Both need to be good for me to enjoy a game. I cannot enjoy a game that has a lot of gameplay, but absolutely balls context. Nor can I enjoy a game with a great story, but balls gameplay.

Why was the point not brought up that a game with no story is something like Pacman, Tetris, Wii Sports, but a story with no game is any Movie ever

It doesn't matter that a game needs both gameplay and story; the show's called 'No Right Answer' after all.
I don't think I'll try to give a preference, but I will say that I find the way that gameplay can affect the storytelling interesting. Even QTEs can be used to resolve a situation which should have an entirely arbitrary winner. (see chainsaw duels in Gears of War)

Tough choice. On the one hand, games have survived and thrived without or with very poor stories for the life of the medium. On the other, ask any gamer about memorable moments and you'll probably get story parts of Mass Effect or Final Fantasy rather than another round of space invaders. Some game stories have taken on a life of their own. Metal Gear, Mortal Kombat, and Residient Evil thrive more on their continuing naritive than on the game play, while I hear very little talk of the gameplay to Mass Effect 3 over what characters will be there and what romance options are open. Others have their story shuffled to the side like Halo and Soul Calibur. No one cares if Mario can rescue the princess or Link can gather the Triforce, the games are just fun to play.

For myself, I've been gaming 30 years (our of 33) so at this point, story is very important to me as it is what keeps me from realizing much much of a new game I've player before in past ones. Without it, I go back to the days where I realized there was little difference between streets of rage and fianl Fight.

You know I really want to throw my hat in for Story because I can think of a thousand examples of Good story + Shit gameplay = Great game but I can't even drudge up one example of Shit story + Good gameplay = Shit game. I have a metric fuck ton of examples of games with bad stories but every single one of them has shit gameplay to go along with it. So I have to grudgingly agree with Kyle on this one.

Also I'm sick of people not knowing (Or acknowledging that they know) the difference between story and script Bioware does not tell good stories, they write good scripts.
Here's every single Bioware story. Ancient evil force threatens existence, everyman hero inevitably saves the day with a slew of loveable support characters. All the interesting stuff happens in dialog

I was hoping Kyle would go a bit more into the experience of playing a good game and Chris to go into some examples of good game stories via description. As it stands, the argument seemed a little devoid of examples.

Example! Mario Bros.: stupid story, but you turn on your Nintendo, blink, turn it off and ten hours have passed without you noticing.

On the other hand: Planescape: Torment. I maintain that I hate this game, but it has garnered a ridiculously rabid fan following even though its gameplay is sub-standard even for its time largely due to its experimental storytelling.

More examples like this would have helped round out the debate quite a bit.

The_root_of_all_evil:
The story in this is?
image

Beating this guy:
image
Is the story. Which is actually impossible since he has a perfect score in that game.

Did a Story vs Gameplay episode just happen without mentioning Bastion?

Bastion is touted by many as one of the greats, is it because the gameplay is great? It's decent enough. But the story (and narration that doesn't become old nor repetitive) was what pushed it into toplists and into people hearts and minds.

But, as has been stated, a game with bad gameplay is doing it wrong. Even the best story needs gameplay that is tolerable at the very least.
A game can have little-to-no story (Mario, Minecraft, Pretty much every arcade game ever, etc) and still be great, in fact, a lot of games would probably be WORSE with any kind of story (Minecraft again).

You can't just go "Ok we have a great game here, lets tack on a god story and we'll have a classic". For a good story to work you have to build the gameplay to suit it, and vice-versa.

TL:DR? Gameplay wins by a tiny bit, but mainly because if you only want Story, you'd be better off watching a movie or reading a book, games have to have game in them.
And a game can have no story, and be fine, but a game can't have no gameplay... it doesn't count as a game at that point.

Krion_Vark:

Beating this guy:
image
Is the story. Which is actually impossible since he has a perfect score in that game.

Good call, but bending the rules somewhat ;)

Extra Credits will find out where you live, summon Cuthulu and ask him what nightmares HE has for inspiration.

Mm, I'm as big an advocate of strong story-driven games as any, but even I have to admit that strong gameplay can stand by itself, whereas a strong story without gameplay simply is not a videogame.

Still, as was pointed out, a strong story can save basic, flawed or mediocre gameplay.

Harking back to my earlier post, you guys should do Guitar Hero vs Heavy Rain just for the wtf value. Um Best Quicktime Event based game?

Despite it all they're basically the same game, except Heavy Rain is a series of cleverly designed series of QTE's that make you think you're a detective (and a sexually vunerable lady?) whereas Guitar Hero is a cleverly designed series of QTE's that make you think you're a guitar.

I think Heavy Rain should win because they've got more complicated and involving button presses, with stick wiggling and holding the shoulder buttons, whereas you could essentially fit Guitar Hero onto the D-Pad. But then they went to the effort of actually making their controller look like a guitar... but Heavy Rain included a paper origami. Hmmm

Incredibly, I was swayed. I now believe story is just as vital as gameplay in games. When they were talking about Soul Calibur's obvious lack of story I cast my memory back to one of my childhood favourite games, Evil Zone. This is a fighting game like no other. Each of the 12 characters' stories are presented in the way of a TV show of different genres: there's a superhero show, a bounty hunter show, a medieval fantasy show and obviously the required highschool magical girl show. Each fight is preceded by a preview advert and a dramatic conversation between the characters about to fight. You win the battle and opponent mutters some last words or admits defeat according to the story. Finally, the battle ends with a To Be Continued and a In The Next Episode of "xxx".

That story may have been cheesy and unoriginal at times but it made the game unique entertaining and increased it's replay-value tenfold. I hope they make a remake one day.

This is surely pretty fucking easy.

If the story is unwatchable but the gameplay is fun or even average then I'll give it a go as long as I can skip the cutscenes. Which remindes me: FUCK YOU FFVII!

But if the story is amazing and the game is unplayable then fuck that shit.

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I will give a game with bad but not unplayable mechanics a lot of leeway IF the story is good. Hence Witcher 2 (Which I think is amazing, a testimony to it's story.) and Planscape: Torment (Should have been a point and click adventure.)

But then I think Campcom games are fun and their stories are fucking stupid.

A game sammich sounds amazing. That should have been the quote of the week.

"Without gameplay there is no game" uugh. Fucking semantics. Anyway, who cares? Personally, I'd rather read a book or watch a movie than play a game without a story. I mean, sure, Tetris is fun, for maybe twenty minutes or so, and then I lose interest. Compare that to Persona 4, a game with a great story and a large cast of loveable characters, which I happily played for days on end, even though gameplay is pretty much "Press X to further story".

I guess this is a really subjective discussion, but for me, I need a story to keep me engaged. Preferably a good one.

Nitpicking on whether a story-based game with minimal gameplay is still a "true game", is pointless. It sounds like you don't eveen really care about entertanment and art products being enjoyable, but just being a "gamer" for the sake of being a "gamer", out of principle, to "be faithful to our roots".

He even got points for the Call of Duty argument? Sorry, but those sequels don't sell for the short campaigns, but for the multiplayer.
COD is instead an example of gameplay over story. Most shooters are.

He could have called Planescape instead, which is the only good example of a decent story carrying poor gameplay.

I nearly choked to death on a mini egg when Chris said 'I'm gonna win!'

but narrowly avoided death aside I personally think that gameplay wins this. I can play a schmup like Beat Hazard for ages with no story in sight or even Space Invaders. Final Fantasy 13 however...:|

Yeah gameplay wins it for me all the way.

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