Are games really a good storytelling medium?

Picture a cave. It's dark outside, but the smooth rock surrounding you provides comfort from the elements. A fire crackles before you, and the flickering, warm glow illuminates shadowy figures seated in a circle around it. Someone clears their throat, the storyteller begins to weave a tale, and as the threads of the story grip your imagination, reality fades away. Thus it has been since the dawn of time…

All terribly epic isn't it? But the fact is that mankind has told stories for thousands of years. Gaming is just the latest evolution of the narrative method, but is it more Spot the Dog and Jackass: The Movie than War & Peace and Schindler's List?

This article discusses the different types of narratives and storytelling in gaming and compares and contrasts this to stories in films and books.
It explores the potential of stories in gaming and looks at the limitations that prevent gaming from reaching this full potential.

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Shadow Flare3829d ago

Final Fantasy
Metal Gear Solid
That is all.

solidt123829d ago

Yep, and if you have played MGS4 you would know that games are probably the best story telling Medium. MGS4 Story shines.

Deadgood3829d ago

I'll assume you didn't actually read the article...
It doesnt conclude that games are bad at telling stories, just that the stories that most games tell are not much different from those of films or books, but that gaming has so much more potential than this.

ape0073829d ago

with mgs4


Deadgood3829d ago

MGS4 really isnt the best example as it practically IS a movie. The story itself is not interactive, the player can have no effect on the narrative.

Not saying its not a great story, but sitting watching a cut-scene takes away gaming's unique property of INTERACTIVITY!

LastDance3829d ago

I understand where your coming from....but all the games that ive played where you predict the story were utterly dull and boring and the story immersion was virtually non existant...

Mgs4 has better fight scenes than any movie ive ever seen and a better storyline then most. ....they would have had to taken away a sh!t load of the goodness to give the storyline variables.

Superfragilistic3829d ago (Edited 3829d ago )


Nail on the head mate. Bubbles! :)

I loved MGS4 and some of the Final Fantasy series, but they merely imitate other mediums story telling devices (most particularly film and anime), they do not innovate storytelling using the unique interactive tool set of gaming.

I'm not saying one form or the other is better, merely that gaming has the opportunity to tell its stories differently through its unique interactive element.

If I were to hold up examples of the unique abilities of gaming to tell stories I would point to more recent examples such as Portal, Bioshock and those seminal bits of interactive story telling in COD4 such as the opening credits & presidential execution, and the death of the player in a nuclear explosions aftermath. Such examples fully utilise the unique interactive elements of games that see story and gameplay become one.

GTAIV and Mass Effect even attempted to embrace this with variable success by allowing minor player freedoms in narrative changes, dialogue, moral choice and endings.

It will be interesting to see how the very ambitious and open ended Fallout 3 with its hundreds of endings allows players to create and interact with their own stories.

mepsipax3829d ago (Edited 3829d ago )

Although I agree for the most part, COD4 and Bioshock gave me no motivation for doing anything, while the story sequences were nice Bioshock pissed me off because I did not see one living creature that wasn't a danger to me for almost the entire game, and COD4 while having very stunning and well put together plot sequences the gameplay became a grinding halt, because a game can either be story driven like Deus Ex or gameplay driven like Bioshock. The key is not to tell a story but to let the player write the story like in Deus Ex. You felt attachment to characters because it was up to you to keep them alive or else they're dead for good. While COD4 had no attachment because your squadmates are invincible until the very end (ooh spoiler) so you don't give a rats ass about them because its not your actions that affect them. In Deus Ex you had to unravel the plot and dig for clues yourself while in COD4 they spoon fed you the story, it went story/action/story/action/stor y/action, instead of Deus Ex which blended the lines between the two. Really sorry for the rant on Deus Ex but I keep getting cynical towards the games industry these days.
edit: Oh and what the hell was with the moral choice in Bioshock let the girl live or die I mean what the hell, If you let here live you get a better reward. the choice should be if you kill them then you get a better reward now thats a moral decision.

Deadgood3829d ago

I do agree with you that Deus Ex is a much better example of what gaming can be. Its a game that lets you choose who you want to be.

Linear and spoon-fed stories can still be fantastic, but gaming can do so much more...

Superfragilistic3829d ago

I agree mate. Deus Ex is still way ahead of its time. I also agree with the Bioshock criticisms. I was not focusing on choice so much as interactivity and the concept of telling story through gameplay rather than exposition, text, dialogue or cutscenes. All I was trying to illustrate with the games that I mentioned such as COD4 was that a plot point or event was fully interactive which is something that no other medium can do. The fact that the gameplay was the story in the kidnap, execution and nuclear death scenes highlighted the unique way in which stories can be told through the game medium. I think it also illustrated that even if a game is linear such as COD4, it can still utilise interactivity as opposed to exposition to tell a story (or at least plot points).

I understand your cynicism but Deus Ex and the increase sophistication of storytelling in the titles I've mentioned leaves plenty of room for hope in the future... or at least Deus Ex 3. :)

Bubbles for intelligent discussion!

mepsipax3829d ago (Edited 3829d ago )

linear and spoon fed story can be great, just look at hl2+ep1,2 when that certain character dies at the end in hl2:ep2 (no spoilers) and you can do nothing to help, I still got pissed at the combine. It's just that a games story must be done in a totally different way than a movie or novels story.
edit: @superfrag, I wasn't debunking your statement but adding my opinion but thanks for the positive input, I still am positive for DE:3 and SS3 but I mean I still think interactive storytelling reached it's peak in Deus Ex, I mean honestly I would rather have DE:3 just a remake of the first with better graphics, and better combat and stealth mechanics, because gameplay wise Deus Ex is nowhere near perfect.

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Deadgood3829d ago

I'd rather that the future of gaming be 'emergent narrative' rather than interactive movies personally.

Not that there isnt room in the gaming industry for both..

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