Storytelling in Video Games

Video Games allow a player to transport themselves to a different world and do things they wouldn’t be able to do themselves.  Unlike a movie, the player becomes part of the story, watching it play out and directly impacting the game world.  Technology is finally reaching a point where sometimes you can’t tell the difference between a game and a movie and when we reach that point, that will be the pinnacle of storytelling.

I like to make the analogy of the “choose your own path” books from back in the 90s.  You would start a story and then the page would give you options.  If you wanted to go down one path, go to page 9, otherwise, go to page 10.  Essentially, that is what you get in a video game.  Early games and even some games today have a very linear story.  What that means is, you are acting in a story and it is already predetermined and the things you do won’t change the overall story or the ending.  A popular storytelling method now is to go toward an open world or dynamic storytelling.  This allows for the player to dictate the story and to make up their own way through a game.

A great example of dynamic storytelling is Quantum Break.  On top of allowing the player to make choices that directly affect and change the game, they tied in a live action TV show into the game.  The game bounces you back and forth from in-game playing to watching like a TV show.  Another good example is the Game of Thrones Game from Telltale Games.  Again, the game allows you to make critical decisions (just like they have to make in the TV Show) that will have long lasting effects on the characters and the story.  

All of that being said, there is still a place for a Linear Story, as long as that story is done well.  Battlefield 1 is one of those.  The campaign in Battlefield 1 is very linear but it unfolds in a way that gets you invested in the characters and situations.  If you watch the Campaign Trailer for the game, if I didn’t already know it was a video game, I might think this trailer is for a movie.

As we continue into the future we’re going to be seeing more and more games that are like traditional forms of entertainment, movies and TV.  I for one cannot wait.