Storybook Gaming

Chris Ammerman tweeted about an article last night titled Saving Zelda by Tevis Thompson. I recommend that you read it because it is a good expression of one person’s take on what is wrong with the Zelda franchise since The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I don’t think I will ever comment directly on the essay.

Tevis and I come from two completely different angles as far as what we look for in a video game and probably where we derive our enjoyment from. I can’t speak for him entirely, I can only speak for myself … and that’s what I am going to do.

I love storybook gaming. If you look at The “Short List” 2011, you’ll find it completely overridden with games that are heavy with story. Most of them are some sort of RPG and even games like Ocarina of Time and Starcraft I tend to play for the story. After I get through the story, then I’m pretty much done with it unless it has a compelling multiplayer component (like the original Starcraft). Otherwise, I’m playing the game for the story because … I like stories.

I think that is why I can play a game like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and find it amazing. It is probably also why I can’t get into games like Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto. I WANT the structure that a story provides and I’m really not bothered by a game that is as prescriptive as Twilight Princess if I find myself engrossed in the story.

I want to be engrossed. I want to care about the characters who I am working with/for (Midna is a great example), and I want the gameplay to get out of the way! I’m not a huge fan of open worlds because I have enough choices to make in my life, I don’t need to be making too many other choices when I’m playing a game.

Mass Effect 1 and 2 were interesting because choices you made could have lasting effects  on the next games and who knows what will happen with Mass Effect 3. I still remember choosing to let Kaidan sacrifice himself in Mass Effect 1. I made darn sure I had all of the upgrades for my ship and make sane squad choices in Mass Effect 2.

Those were the worst parts of those games. They’re still great games, but I want to get back into the action and into the story, not sit by and make choices … to me, that isn’t fun.

Maybe that makes me boring, and I’m okay with that. I’m never going to have time in my life to work on a speed run or replay too many games multiple times to see what nooks and crannies are available for me to explore … that’s just not in the cards for me.

I think we’re talking about differences in how people derive enjoyment and the worst thing that a company can do at that point is try and please everyone. It’s a good thing there is something for everyone.

3 replies on “Storybook Gaming”

Good read. Would recommend.

The funny thing about his God of War example is that without the prior story, you wouldn’t even know what he was fighting or know why it should have any impact. I think you are going to always have a level of friction between the gameplay and the story, and I’m not sure it is going to be “sufficient” for people until we get holodecks and can actually act out things ourselves. Otherwise we will always be just playing through a script, even a loosely-defined one.

Maybe we’re hitting up against the limits of what we can model with the binary input that a CPU can actually handle until we come up with another level of computing in order to more closely model the inherent complexity of the actually, living world.

We’re wishing, hoping for the virtual realms to be able to replace our actual lives. Maybe one day they will, to an extent, but right now there might be more to praise in embracing the constraints of binary logic and in trying to elevate that form of gaming before we wish too much for a world within the world.

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