Thursday, February 28, 2008

Noooo. It is about the story.

At GDC 2008 Ken Levin made the provocative comment that "Nobody cares about your stupid story".

A subsequent post on Gamers with Jobs has many respondents most of whom assert that gameplay is far more important than story.

In fairness to Mr. Levine he did elaborate and he does recognise that immersion is vital. He is really talking about the tacked on story lines that come with many games. I am worried though that this theme taken together with the well publicised success of casual games from companies like PopCap will interpreted to mean that game play is everything and immersion can be abandoned. I am worried that immersive games will disappear to be replaced with a million versions of Peggle.

Therefore I feel obliged to offer a rebuttal:

It is about the story. It is all about the story.

Mind you, I am not talking about the shoddily scripted, confusing excuse for a plot that you choose to tack onto your game. No I mean it is about my story. They story I create for myself as I immerse my self in the world of your game. It is about the great adventures I have, the risks I take and the challenges I overcome.

Sure gameplay is important but it is not everything. I don't even think it is the most important thing. Superb gameplay without immersion will keep me divereted for an hour or so when I am supposed to be working but you won't capture my soul with it. I sure as hell amn't going to pay €50 to play Tetris, never mind €15 a month.

Why is the Guitar Hero franchise so phenomenally successful. Not because of the gameplay (push coloured buttons in response to a pattern of coloured lights). No, Guitar Hero is successful because of the story. The many stories in fact. Each player invents their own intoxicating vision of rock stardom filling a million imaginary stadia with electric noise.

When I want somebody else's story I read a book or watch a film. When I play games I want to create my own adventure, my own story. I need you the game developer to make that possible.


Khan said...

Well said! The same reasons why you can't play Gandalf (or any major character) in LotRO are the reasons why I like it. I want my character to have his own story, not one pre-supplied by someone else. The game provides an excellent backdrop of stories and plotlines but my character's reasons for participation are his own.

mbp said...

Hi Khan

The point that is important to me and that I am afraid will get overlooked in the rush towards casual gaming is this: Even though I don't need developers to provide a step by step storyline for my character I do need them to provide an ambience and backdrop for me to immerse myself in and live my own story. Flashing light puzzle games just don't do that for me.