Are Narratives Important in Video Games?


"Whether looking for the next action-packed shooter or the next RPG that demands hours of their time, the average gamer keenly understands the importance of narrative. And while there have been a few beautifully written games released by well-known developers over the past year or two, the indie market continues to deliver in ways that the mainstream seems to fall short of.

Enter Torchlight II and To the Moon.

One serves primarily as an interactive visual novel that evokes many different kinds of emotions; the other is a monster-slaying, dungeon-crawling adventure to save the world from destruction. To the Moon keeps the narrative focus on a single man whose dying wish is to visit the moon, while Torchlight II takes the player through strange and distant lands in pursuit of the corrupted Alchemist. While the player engages with the world of Torchlight II, it is not on the same scale of intimacy as can be found in To the Moon. But if the story writers had truly sought to bring that level of personal attachment to the world of Torchlight II, players might have become disinterested. The quest of the world-saver touches many lives and effects many things; therefore the scope of both gameplay and interaction with the world needs to remain somewhat broad."

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Kevlar0092833d ago (Edited 2833d ago )

If you want a game to transcend mere entertainment value, yes

Imagine Bioshock without Andrew Ryan, or the story of Rapture. Sure the gameplay would've been fun, but it is the dynamic the characters and backstory which brings Bioshock on a deeper and more sophisticated level than just a Shooter with pretty visuals

Even though it had no vocal dialogue, I believe the atmosphere and value of Metroid Prime was enhanced through the use of Logs. Yes the graphics and sound were amazing, and the gameplay revolutionary, but you gained a greater sense of the travesty of the situation by hearing how the world came to be, and the sad fate of it's peaceful inhabitants.

My belief is narrative brings you closer to the world than gameplay or graphics could ever do. I'm not saying every game needs extensive narrative to be valid (Super Meat Boy constantly reminded you of how zany the world is meant to be), but games can live and die on the question of "do you believe the world you are in". Take away the back-stories, the lore, the characterization and you would most surely find a shell of what the game once was. Look at the greatest games of our time and imagine if the heart was no longer present

Qrphe2833d ago (Edited 2833d ago )

My favorite games ever had what I consider the narratives I've enjoyed the most in videogames, so to me, yes.

Hicken2833d ago

I hate questions like this. Inevitably, you'll get someone that says, "I played X game, at it had no narrative whatsoever, and I still enjoyed it." And, elsewhere, someone just will not care, or will say that the narrative in certain games are done so poorly that they do not see the point.

YES, narratives are important. In SOME games, because not all games need them. And how that narrative is delivered should vary depending on the needs of the game.

It's not a black and white question that's definitively YES or NO. Rather than asking IF the narrative is important, it's better to discuss WHEN and HOW they can be important, and correctly implemented.

May as well ask "Are Seatbelts Important?" and disregard how pointless they would be on motorcycles and horses.

OmniSlashPT2833d ago

Yes. Some games are pure entertainment (like mobile games, arcade games and games like sports, racing and such), but deep down most games have a narrative. Even Super Mario has a narrative, as simple and straight forward as it is, it's still a narrative, you have a purpose and a goal.

Let's take a look at Journey for example. It has no dialogue, no text whatsoever. It's going from here to there. But why is it so good and memorable? Because you're able to interact, to create an unique experience. Journey communicates through its art and unique MP co-op, not through choices or thousands of lines of text. Take for example open world games, they're so memorable because of their immersive world, sometimes its not even about the characters or the gameplay, but because of how the world was created. Like Skyrim or Liberty City for example.

Games are a very diverse media, and its getting more diverse every year with new ideas and hardware.