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‘Videogames Are Terrible For Telling Stories’ Says Jonathan Blow

Play: "We speak to the minds behind Braid, The Witness, Transistor, Bastion, Dying Light and Call of Juarez: Gunslinger about the state of videogame storytelling."

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Nyxus926d ago

Couldn't disagree more.

Hellsvacancy926d ago (Edited 926d ago )

Just when I kinda start liking J-Blow he blows it by saying something dumb

Some games don't even have words and still tell a good story

Kingthrash360926d ago (Edited 926d ago )

Oh my.
Great story list... Slimmed down to my top 5...
Bioshock.... 'Would you kindly' lol
The last of us
Uncharted 2
Final fantasy 7,8,10
And as confusing as it can be at times metal gear series.
Watching sniper wolf die when I was a kid really turned me into a all around gamer.
Honorable mentions...
Persona 4...awesomeness
Wild arms
Grim fandango
I can literally go on when it comes to RPGs ....this guy is an idiot for that comment.
Games when done correctly put in the story... Some depending on your actions, have you making story changing decisions unlike book or movies you play out the action and make the hard decisions...smh gaming can be the best way to tell a story imo.

aquaticDonut926d ago (Edited 926d ago )

So clearly you didn't even bother reading the article. His problem isn't that games have stories, it's that they are doing it through cutscenes instead of telling it through gameplay like it should and, thus, failing to make use of what makes video games so unique and powerful as a medium for telling stories. He's completely correct.

Kingthrash360926d ago (Edited 926d ago )

the last of us did that bro uncharted too what would those games be like without the back and forth banter while climbing or exploring the game. Joel and Ellie's back and forth banter made that game the most respected in gaming history....you felt like you knew them after the game was over...you cared for them. During gameplay tlou told us not only a story but the personalities of the characters in the game as a whole... you want a story told through gameplay right... So movies and books don't tell good stories? They don't have gameplay. They are just nitpicking games at this point. A story can be told in numerous ways. I admit story during gameplay is rare but it's also not needed for a story to be told. Movies do it perfectly fine and its just a giant cutscene.
All in all most telltale games tell a story through gameplay....smh wow...

freshslicepizza925d ago

what games have a great story without 'ANY' cutscenes? this is what he is talking about.

Kingthrash360925d ago

None. But how can a story be told without them? Smh impossible thing to do. Like asking someone to make an entire movie in one cut while jogging. Or write an entire book while bunji jumping.

gatormatt80925d ago

Half Life 2, as well as the episodes, didn't have cutscenes if I remember correctly and they told a pretty dang good story all from first person perspective.

UltraNova925d ago (Edited 925d ago )

@ above

95% of said story telling in HL2 was you in a room you couldn't leave while listening to other NPCs laying out the story which in my book its the same darn thing as sitting through a cutscene (which I prefer when done right, see MGS or Uncharted games)

That being said,I believe we need a good balance between cutscenes and live story telling ala Half life and The last of us.

As for what this guy said, I cant believe that after games like tLoU, there's a man from this very industry that believes games suck at telling a story because cutscenes break gameplay immersion...

Well I've got a question for this dude: how is more'immersive' experiencing story telling while sitting on your a** watching 2 hrs worth of cutscene aka a MOVIE???

At least in games you get to control, experience and in cases alter the course of said story by making choices. The next level of storytelling if you like.

To wrap this up, I believe games, in capable hands, are the greatest storytelling medium that exists today.

+ Show (4) more repliesLast reply 925d ago
helterskelter926d ago (Edited 926d ago )

I respect the guy for putting so much effort into making such a great game. Yet that alone does not mean his opinions deserves respect on every matter outside his own little niche!
There are too many Molyneuxs, Blows and Cliffy Bees that think they are shaping the industry with their narrow minded input! Stick to what ye know best, making the games! Let the gamers make their own minds up on their quality!

CertifiedGamer925d ago (Edited 925d ago )

Your really comparing Cliffy B, and Molyneuxs to Jonathan Blow. Thats like comparing english to calculus. Braid is the type of game that you wish other games were like but unless but you passed then you wouldn't understand. Jonathan Blow isn't like any other developer.

ravinash926d ago

The only limit to the story which you can tell in a game is your imagination.

solidboss926d ago

Best comment I've seen all day. I agree with you 100%. Bubbles for you

hay926d ago

Planescape: Torment was written like a book, but was a game which worked really, really well. Journey was written like picture collection, was a game, and worked really, really well. GTA was written like a movie drama, was a game, and worked really, really well.

Gaming is finding it's place as a storytelling medium, there's just no golden solution for it currently. But saying games are terrible at telling stories is a bit "premature elaboration".

spacedelete926d ago

what BS. Shadow of the collossal has a magnificent story and not a single word is said in game. obviously western devs just know how to make explosions and advertisements instead of good stories.

BiggerBoss926d ago

Theres words spoken in SOTC. Literally right at the start of the game.

Ghost_of_Tsushima926d ago

Blow and Cage wouldn't get along at all at all.

ThunderPulse926d ago

The guy is an idiot who can't make games with good stories so he thinks games can't have good stories.

oasdada926d ago

Among other games, Gone home proves he's wrong and very wrong

aquaticDonut926d ago

What?? Gone Home and it's incredible critical acclaim prove exactly how right he is.

comebackkid9891925d ago

Gone Home sucked, but games have surpassed film in recent years in terms of storytelling.

3-4-5926d ago

Video Games are THE best medium to tell a story on.

* You get Music, Sound fx, Art Style, Story, Interactive video Gameplay, cut scenes, Much Longer....

Video Games are by far the most efficient way to properly tell a really long or detailed story.

* Movies are like 2-3 hours.

You get 20-100+ hours in games to tell your story.

* Even without voice acting, games are awesome for telling stories.

* J.Blow giving Video Game story writers a nice slap in the face isn't going to help his sales either.

peowpeow925d ago

I think TV series are #1 followed by games. Shows like The Wire and GoT are just so enthralling. Games definitely > movies imo

asadachi926d ago

Yes, this article is full of fail. Do all popular articles on N4G just automatically suck now? I think there's a severe lack of journalistic education and everyone opts for sensationalism to market their clickbait articles in order to get hits. No need for integrity, just as long as people hit the page.

nitus10925d ago

There is nothing wrong with telling a story, films, stage and books do this all the time however in nearly all cases you are the passive spectator. Games on the other hand require input from the player.

There is no denying that some games that have a story behind them are very linear or are "on-rails" and cut scenes are just fillers to advance the story which is not that much more different than what film does now although unlike a film the player has to interact with the game.

There are other games that do have very good stories but it is left to the player to piece it together and sometime it may be possible to get an entirely different story depending on the choices you make in the game. IMHO it is these games which truly shine over passive story telling.

Please note I am really referring to adventure games with action and/or RPG elements although it is possible to get other types of games that have a story.

Spotie926d ago

Couldn't agree with you more.

My favorite part of games are the stories I get involved in.

Maybe he just means he sucks at using video games to tell stories.

rainslacker926d ago

"Johnathan Blow is terrible at using video games to tell a story"

Fixed his comment for him.

Video games can be great mediums to tell a story. Sometimes they come up short, but that isn't the mediums fault.

Azzanation925d ago

On average, games aren't the best way to tell stories however some of the best games iv played have stories far beyond any movie iv seen. Games like Final Fantasy, Halo, MGS, StarCraft etc. I think that gaming shouldn't be movies as I am no fan on sitting though cut scenes and QTE scenes but gaming Lore is why I game.

+ Show (10) more repliesLast reply 925d ago
BigBosss926d ago (Edited 926d ago )

Explain The Last of Us story then

Fro_xoxo926d ago

that was more of a movie than a game.

PixelGateUk926d ago

aye, i remember the constant cut scenes and never having any gameplay, apart from the time i was playing the game

helterskelter926d ago

The greatest interactive movie ever made then! They obviously succeed in their vision to have TLOU mistaken as a movie!

kayoss926d ago

People who say TLOU was a cinematic movie clearly never played this game. If you said the Order 1886 was a interactive movie, then i would agree.

Summons75926d ago

Yeah there was no gameplay what so ever /s

Army_of_Darkness926d ago

@thefro.... That was very dumb.

ThunderPulse926d ago

You must've never played it then.

Germany7926d ago

That's because you never played.

kraenk12926d ago

That game was much more than a movie could ever be!

rainslacker926d ago

A good portion of character development took place during game play. Things that were often put into cut scenes were integrated into random talks that the characters would have while exploring the environment. All those little moments outside the big scenes were what helped sell the character, and it was no different than how a book will have little dialogues in huge parts of exposition. To me, it was probably the best presentation of a story in any game ever made because of how well integrated it was.

Ezz2013925d ago

TLOU offer more gameplay and more open than pretty much every single liner game on the market
there is a reason why it won more GOTY awards than any game in history
20+ hours game with only 2 hours cutscenes is a movie now ?!

i have no respect for fanboys like you

+ Show (8) more repliesLast reply 925d ago
Outthink_The_Room926d ago (Edited 926d ago )

The writing itself is average.

But the performances....that's different.

The problem is, for ND to achieve those performances, they needed to pre-render the cutscenes and give the animators more power than what was available on the PS3 to achieve the believability in the characters faces and body language.

Not to mention, if they didn't pre-render the cinematics, then there would have been quite a bit of loading between areas/missions since the cutscenes and little linear pathway segements were used to mask this. The entire flow and structure of the game would not be paced well at all.

Don't get me wrong, Troy Bakers performance is one of the best we've seen in gaming. But it also comes at a cost in regards to gameplay. Many times control is taken away because they NEED to load more stuff behind the scenes. Forcing me to walk down a certain path because they can't load all the assets in time before I get there.

And again, if it wasn't for the performances themselves, that story falls flat. They NEEDED to have that detail in the body and face to convey the story they were telling. Without it, the game falls apart.

rainslacker926d ago

So what you're saying is that games can be used to tell a story? Who cares if the cinematic were pre-rendered or not? What exactly does that change in terms of story-telling? Whether it's in-engine or pre-rendered is a moot point, because either way, the story is still being told the same way.

The game play worked. It was solid game play. The game play was plentiful. It's a TPS game with some exploration elements, and it was well balanced between all those things. Cut-scenes were well paced, and despite some insinuations to the contrary, were no where near as common as the game play sections.

More often than not, the cut scenes were short to move from one game play section to the next and set up the next part of the story, and yes, it did prevent level load, but what's wrong with that? Would you rather watch a loading screen or have some story or character development presented to you?

Ezz2013925d ago (Edited 925d ago )

@rainslacker

You pretty much said what i was going to say
Well said+

Also the problem with his comment is that he think the story was only told through videos
even though the meat of the story was told through the gameplay which why that game was a masterpiece

ginsunuva925d ago

He didn't say all games have bad stories.

He said it's difficult to tell stories through games. Just because ND are crackshots and do it often doesn't mean the average developer can.

bunt-custardly926d ago

Well that blows. Back to reading books then it is.

Maybay926d ago (Edited 926d ago )

A lot of people may disagree with me, though I thought the recently remade Tomb Raider had a pretty decent story. There are better examples of course, though I thought Crystal Dynamics created a movie type of experience (which I enjoy).

Immorals926d ago

I got a similar vibe from it as I Did when watching Lost.

Seeing as Lost is my favourite TV show, I loved the story!

Sonyslave3926d ago

Japanese developers are kings imo when it comes to story telling in games from role playing to visual novels games.

ChronoJoe926d ago (Edited 926d ago )

I would argue the exact opposite. Japanese devs integrate story into their games in the most barebones manner, ignoring the benefits afforded by the medium. Japanese devs tell storys heavy on text and lacking in interaction and player involvement.

They could learn a lot from games like the Witcher, or Dear Esther, which allow a dynamic narrative to unfold as a result of the players variable interaction with his or her environment.

Japanese games often tell a good story in the same sense a book or manga tells a good story. They plan the narrative and its told in its simplest and most obvious form, through scripted dialogue that the player is unable to influence. It is however developers that harness the dynamic capacities of player influenced virtual environments that are the true masters of story telling in our medium.

In my opinion, of course, and naturally, there are exceptions. Persona, Danganronpa and Virtues Last reward come to mind.