About a year and a half ago, I started writing a series of posts on here about “myths of videogame storytelling.” The idea was to take some claim I’d found on the internet about the role of stories in games, and explain why it was hopelessly, incontrovertibly wrong. Here they are, in chronological order for your convenience and protection:
- Is there anybody going to listen to my story?
My justification for writing about the topic in the first place.
- You’ve unlocked… Rosebud!
Stop rationalizing the failures of videogames as a medium with “games are still young.” Also, stop assuming that games have nothing to learn from movies.
- Pro Choice
Player control of the narrative isn’t as important as player agency.
- Ready… Be fought against!
“Activity” in storytelling games is more than just pressing buttons, it’s becoming actively engaged in the storytelling.
- The Old Man and the Realistically Rendered Water Volume
(A diversion to make fun of a guy I don’t know). If you want to improve the state of videogame writing, stop setting such miserably low expectations of it from the onset.
- There’s no second chance to make a first impression
No matter how open-ended and non-linear you try make your game, the player is going to experience it in a line from start to finish.
- The Calls Are Coming From Within the Ice Level!
How horror movies often do a better job of interacting with the audience than ostensibly “interactive entertainment.”
- Who’s in control here?
Player narrative and developer narrative are equally important.
- I’m thinking of a number between 1 and You’re Dumb
A defense of adventure games, and why action games haven’t yet rendered them obsolete.
- Back off, man. I’m a scientist.
Good storytelling in games requires a collaboration between the developer and the player.
A brief recap of everything I’d written up to that point.
- Resident Evil, But They’re in Space!
(Another diversion). Why Dead Space was a fine game, but games like it will drag down the entire medium until we start demanding more from the storytelling.
- Feedback’s a bitch
We can make games demand more of the player without frustrating the player, as long as we treat the game as an ongoing communication instead of a static presentation.
- Feedback loop
More about treating games as ongoing communication, this time in regards to scaling difficulty.
- On Brevity
Videogames need to remain aware of how discrete pieces of writing will fit together in the final context of the game. Rhythm and flow are more important than length.
And that’s the last of them. They’re generally too dense to encourage any long-term discussion, even if I had time to keep up with the comments. Plus, I’ve now said everything I could possibly say about Portal, BioShock, and Half-Life 2 (at least until Episode 3 comes out).
Most significantly: they take too long to write, and any time spent writing about videogames would be better spent making videogames. These days, there are just too many tools available and too much great inspiration from the independent game developers for anyone to be content just writing hypothetically about how games should work. There’s no excuse not to put the theories into practice.