Video Games: The Interactive Medium

Video games are often compared to Movies in terms of cinematic quality and story telling, and other factors. Often developers will aspire to make their games more movie-like, which in some cases can lead to some interesting games like L.A. Noire. It can however lead to some less than satisfying products (I'll leave examples up to you lot).

I think one thing we can all agree on is that video games can be a very different medium to movies and can do a lot of things that movies can't (and vice versa).

I'm a bit of a self confessed Valve fanboy, and my favourite structure of story-telling in video games has come from Valve's games, mainly Half-Life and Portal. The way the world around you, from easter eggs, to dialogue, all while maintaining full control of your character is a great example.

tl;dr - The question isn't so much what's your favourite video game plot, but more, what's your favourite example of a well delivered game storyline? and why?

Much like you already said, Valve does a great job telling their stories in Half-life and Portal. I like when a story is fleshed out seamlessly as you are playing the game. The game might not throw every answer in your face, instead you might have to think about what the answers are.

I like the way Bioshock told its story. You had to find and collect audio tapes and through those audio tapes you learn about the characters & the world around you. There were also many easter eggs hidden around the city that might not make sense until the second time you play.

Another great example is Dear Esther. The way it narrates its story while you explore this beautiful world. Dozens of subtle hints are hidden around the island that link together with the narration. Not to mention the story gives you very little answers, you have to piece everything together and come up with your own conclusions and theories. The story can be interpreted in many different ways, by many different people.

Another interesting storytelling in a game is Shadow of the Colussus. I would almost say that game tells its story using the soundtrack and the emotion that the main character is feeling, using very little dialogue.

On a side note, I know this might not be a popular example, but I also liked the way Metal Gear Solid: Sons of Liberty used the Codec to tell the story. How it also used this gimmick to mess with you towards the ending was amazing for me.

I think one thing we can all agree on is that video games can be a very different medium to movies and can do a lot of things that movies can't (and vice versa).

As for more examples - Spec Ops: the Line

And I personally really like the way older RTSes did thing. Well, probably because I booted up MechCommander 2 yesterday (Hell yeah!) but I really love the videos with real actors there. Same thing was in Red Alert 2. It does feel like you're some guy and you're getting video feeds from your superiors. OK, maybe a little more can be expected, but I appreciate what the game does.

I agree, video games have an almost unmatched potential to cause an emotional response, since it puts you in direct control of the action, rather than just a bystander. A well crafted story can take this ability and use it to their advantage. Trouble is, a lot of games have a huge separation between gameplay and story cutscene, rather than trying to weave them together.

A couple games do the opposite, and do it extremely well. The Valve example is first and foremost. As well as games such as Bastion, where all the story details and background of the world come out through gameplay and your interactions with the world.

And then Spec Ops: The Line. If you haven't played that yet, do it, right now.

I actually prefer games without story, or games where the story is unimportant.

In games with storytelling I prefer those kinds that are non-linear. Games like Alpha Centauri, Pirates!, X-Com, certain old MMOs and RPGs. There is something about traditional storytelling methods that don't work well with a game, it's bound to feel predetermined and working against interactivity.

My favorite example of a well delivered storyline is Grim Fandango, but I feel that adventure games don't count. They are really a type of interactive media on their own, separate from games.

Mentioning SpecOps: The Line is of course obligatory for a thread such as this, but I seem to have been beaten to the punch on that.

One approach I feel has some merit (though I don't think any single approach is invariably the correct solution) is the one used in Dark Souls. The world has a huge amount of backstory, but the game never shoves it in your face for an exposition dump. If you want to know what it is, you have to figure it out from all the little clues. So if you don't particularly care about story in your games, it won't bother you with one, but if you want it, it's there.


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