Narratives in Gaming

At least every week I hear people argue, “Narratives in gaming are not needed”. They sit and argue that narratives are completely pointless, irrelevant and actually want the narrative side of a game to be omitted from reviews. I am not here to argue the other way, well not completely. See personally this mindset is totally one sided, they don’t even acknowledge the fact that games such as Spec Ops: The Line, Heavy Rains and The Uncharted series have such an amazing narrative that it actually enhances the overall gaming experience. They would rather 100% want narrative gone…Never to be seen. I am here to say they are wrong…To an extent.

I love narrative in my games, narratives help me to connect with the characters in the story and really feel like I am involved with the world I am playing within. Mass Effect has one of the greatest stories I have ever played and without the story the game would be a total incoherent mess. Story plays a big part in games, Spec Ops would not hit home as well as it did without the amazing story that unfolded, the game would have totally been disregarded.

Thing is, the argument for either of these sides is pointless. Nobody should be arguing 100% for either, why can’t we have a happy medium? Thing is some games do not need an epic narrative or a game story that makes any sense.

Example

Exhibit A: Angry Birds

Premise being evil pigs have stole birds, you need to save them by knocking them out of structures made of all kinds of weird objects. Does this sound epic? Actually maybe it does, but the story does not matter the game relies on addictive gameplay and has become a huge franchise because of this and its cute nature.

Exhibit B: Pac-Man

Ghosts are trying to eat a yellow block of cheese, while said cheese eats pellets and strawberries so he can eat them? That makes no sense but Pac-Man is an awesome game and has become synonymous with gaming culture.

I can totally see where both arguments are coming from, narratives are NOT needed to make an awesome game hell even a good narrative won’t save a terrible game. But let’s be honest here, both sides are wrong. We can have games with epic narratives and we can have games such as Captain Cat for iOS, some cat getting fish? That is not a 5 star movie narrative by any means. But why can’t we have games like that and games like The Last of Us? Why is this even an argument?

As gamers we should be open to variety and embrace it, our medium is still a child when it comes to others such as movies, TV and books.Yet we will whinge about such meaningless details as this, hell we will actually get so passionate and “Hulk-Like” about it, I have seen it! The fact is gaming is so amazing because there is something for everyone, sure gaming is not a movie and we should never try and make that comparison.

I personally have said this game is like a movie, but never would I say we are getting to the point where we can tell amazing narratives and put them on the same level as cinema. We will always have a silly fetch quest or a section where we die constantly to break away from the idea we are playing a movie. But who cares, let both mediums exist and cater for various tastes.

He has a point.

I believe people arguing for either side completely, “Games do not need narrative, get rid of it” or “All games should have narrative, who wants to play a game for no story?”. Gaming is fun, story or not, just sit back and enjoy the fun, if it is a bad game, hell go and find another because there will always be plenty.

Jamie Briggs looks after Analog Addiction, follow his daily life on Twitter @Jamierock50, his videos on YouTube and his published reviews on WeekendNotes.com.

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