Videogames and Stories: They’re not Problems, They’re Solutions

Uncharted_TheLostLegacy_01-2
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, 2017, PS4.

 

For Bogost, games have a problem: They keep trying and failing ( Not true, by the way.) to tell good and engaging stories.  If games are going to ascend to their full form, they need to abandon the dream of a narrative media and focus solely on gameplay and configure the world around us in a new and surprising way.

The other day, I explained why Videogames need to keep telling stories because they have no other choice but to tell stories, stories can be relevant, personal, and can make players feel emotions. I’m not going to repeat what I said yesterday, instead I want to focus on what Mr. Bogost said, and ask the question, “What problems does a story in the game solve?”

Let me put in this way if you didn’t understand it: Imagine a world where videogames doesn’t have stories attached to them, like characters and lore that bring that world alive. What might those videogames look like, and what does all of that mean to us, developers, and ultimately the publishers? What does Lincoln Clay do for Charles Webb? What inclusion has Marcus Fenix and the entire Gears character do for Microsoft? What inclusion has Master Chief and Cortana done for Microsoft?

Every story do for different things for different people. That’s always been the case, themes, characters, and stories do different things for different people. For example, storming Omah Beach in the middle of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault made me feel something that hasn’t been felt since the game released way back in 2002, I haven’t felt or experienced anything like that in the years since it’s release or the twist in the original BioShock left me surprised and shocked, a feeling that hasn’t been felt since 2007.

In BioShock, for example, Jack has crashed in the middle of the Atlantic and must make his way to a lighthouse and somehow, he finds himself in a city deep beneath the waves and no contact with the outside world. This is a fundamental part of the game, the whole game would be awful if none of that existed in the game and ended up like the concept vision of the game where you have to explore a Nazi underground base and shooting everything in sight. By setting the game in Rapture, a unique and beautiful city at the bottom of the sea, the game itself becomes something much more and frankly becomes better than just a generic game.

In this way, I believe the story in BioShock comes to life. There’s a chance that I would love to play that version of the game that was shown at E3 2006, that build looks interesting but the final game is so much more interesting and more believable because of the world building, the lore, the characters like Sander Cohen or Andrew Ryan that have a presence and you feel that presence or the Ayn Rand themes and motifs that are the overall structure of the game, all of this makes BioShock, BioShock. Imagine if all of that wouldn’t exist in the game, then it might have been something not that great or mediocre.

In Mafia III, Charles Webb says that he wanted players to feel a visceral sense of rejection. He isn’t saying that in a vacuum, he says it because he grew up in the American South in the time of Civil Rights and Nigger was just a noun. For Charles Webb and many other writers-able to tell their stories is in fact the entire point. I don’t play a videogame just to play it, I play a videogame for the story and to live a story that someone has wrote for me and for others like me.

I really want to know how Mr. Bogost envisions a game like Mafia III?  How do you see a game like Mafia III not telling that story of revenge set in Louisiana in 1968? How do you envision a game like that without telling the story of racism and oppression in the South? How do you envision that?

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Mafia II, 2010.

 

We make stories out of everything: From our trip to Florida, to Walmart or any grocery store, and turn our co-workers and friends into characters or tell stories of what we read today in the news or articles to our parents and partners. We tell stories, sowhy  should we stop now when it comes to videogames?

Whatever comes next, we need to continue to tell stories in videogames because as someone who speaks from experience, we cannot shut the fuck up and we’re better for it because it’s just we do. Stories in videogames aren’t problems, they’re solutions.

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