Posted Wed, Jun 26, 2013 by Martuk
Several industry personalities took part in a panel discussion at Rezzed 2013 last week to discuss the evolution of story in video games. The panel was made of up industy personalities like Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey creator Ragnar Tørnquist, DayZ creator Dean “Rocket” Hall, Splash Damage Writer Ed Stern, Obsidian Entertainment’s Chris Avellone, and writer Will Porter.
Games have gotten much better at telling stories over the years, something that Tørnquist spoke about during his time on the panel while discussing some of the games that he feels has advanced storytelling in gaming and how the medium has improved and gotten more emotional. Tørnquist took some time to speak about comments made by legendary filmmakers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg at USC School of Cinematic Arts. The two believe that video games have yet to deliver the emotional impact or investment that movies do. “Games have not been able to create the same empathy with onscreen characters that narrative forms have. Though gamers might empathize with characters in the cut scenes between game play," Spielberg said. “The second you get the controller something turns off in the heart, and it becomes a sport.” Lucas followed up stating, “The game industry can and will create empathetic characters, but it hasn’t so far because it’s been driven by hard-core gamers who enjoy onscreen violence.”
While one can't deny that the gaming market is suffering from an excessive oversaturation of the mindless military shooter genre, they have long since accomplished what these two legendary filmmakers seem to believe hasn't happened yet. One need only look at some of the best story and character-driven games from this generation of gaming. Games like the Mass Effect trilogy, TellTale’s The Walking Dead, and The Last of Us, which have all delivered strong story narratives and excellent characters in what some might argue is an even bigger cinematic experience than some movies but with the added bonus of putting the player into the story.
The Last of Us, a game that I had the chance to play over the weekend, manages to get you invested more into the story and characters in the first 15 minutes in ways not often seen in games nor movies by delivering an engaging story, chaotic events, emotional turmoil, and a massive punch to the gut all at the exact same time, something Tørnquist even eluded to during his time on stage without delving into spoiler territory as he discussed how gaming is pushing the boundaries of storytelling. Tørnquist recollected how the comments angered him, citing the start of The Last of Us as an example of why that thinking was wrong.
There are plenty of other games that are a shining example of both story and characterization being done right in such a way that the player gets invested in where the story is going and what the ultimate fate of the characters involved in it will be. Say what you will about the ending of Mass Effect 3 and the noticeable changes in the third game of the trilogy, but you can't deny that BioWare crafted a story that struck a nerve with players. And the massive backlash/reaction to that whole unfortunate ending is a testament to the work that BioWare poured into the series.
If you’re a fan of some of story-driven games the video offers some discussion points that you may want to check out. Give it a look below and tell us what you think.