Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Narrative is not a dirty word

Give me a good story, well told, and you'll hook me each and every time. Give me all this but add the illusion that I can change the outcome of that story, and I'll show you an excellent videogame experience.

Sure, if I was to raise the debate over whether videogames are just an excercise in button-pushing reactions and can't be classed as narrative, in the classic sense - then I'd be sure to be stirring up a hornet's nest of opinions. I know my view on what videogames could and can be and also what 9 out of 10 times they are, so let's not go there. I also know that gamers want the thrill of action and multiplayer over most other things in a new videogame title release. And that's fine, as there's a place for everything and variety in videogaming is always needed.

My personal hopes are that developers in the future don't neglect the balance of a well crafted story that dances side by side with action and adventure. With any luck, developers will listen to the likes of videogame design consultants like N'Gai Croal.

N'Gai made an insightful reference to the opening sequence to Bioshock 2(see EDGE issue 213 pg 156), wishing that the three minute cutscene was longer but also, that it were interactive. This example of possible gameplay would motivate the player to see out the full extent of a storyline, and their effect on it, rather than rushing on through, to blaze-a-trail onto the next combatic encounter. This was put into practice in Mass Effect 2, with cutscenes that allowed Shepherd to perform an action while an NPC was in dialogue mode. But I would like it to be put into far greater effect by developers and would mean that they wouldn't feel the need to rush a story or time limit a cutscene for fear of player boredom.

I, like N'Gai, maybe in a minority of gamers that want better involving storylines in our videogame titles, rather than a multiplayer element or destructible environments in the next Call of Duty clone. But I hope developers feel that there's much to be rewarded in developing new and better ways to tell and share a story with current and future gamers.

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