Gamplay Gets in the Way of Good Stories

walkingdead2Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead has one of the best stories in video games ever. The things that happen and the choices I made created a unique experience I really haven’t seen in many if not any game before. The first thing I thought was, this is better than the show! Better than the show.

My first reaction wasn’t to compare it to a game. I was so impressed by the story I first looked at it like I would television. I have to believe part of that was the intention by splitting the game up into episodes and having previously and next ons. I thought about how great the music was. How believable the voice actors were. How much I loved the camera angles and settings. But I never really thought about the one thing that separates video games from television or film, and that’s the gameplay.A lot of the game I was just watching cutscenes and pressing up, down and enter. I’m fine with that. I don’t know how my favorite parts of the game could have been executed without cutscenes. 

Thinking about all of my favorite stories in video games, I see they have one thing in common. Cutscenes or “talking” where I’m not really doing anything but listening or watching.  I thought the cutscenes in Metal Gear Solid were excessive but they were good. They kept me interested in what was going on and had me excited to pick up my controller again. But aside from a few battles (Psycho Mantis) what I was doing wasn’t my favorite part of the story. The betrayals, revelations and plot twists are all done while I can’t control “me.”

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Mass Effect is a great game. The gameplay matched up to the cutscenes, which there were plenty of. It’s one of my favorite series, but is that the only way to make a great game with a great story? Max Payne has a cool story that’s a throwback to the movies I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid, but during a lot of it I’m just holding the controller watching. I like the story in Final Fantasy VII but most of the time I’m just reading pressing X. 

It seems that a lot of games have to sacrifice gameplay when it comes to telling a story and that’s a shame because it’s not utilizing the one thing that makes video games and movies different. During the most crucial moments in a game, it doesn’t make sense to only be able to turn your head. There’s been times where things have gotten crazy in the story and there’s an explosion.I’d just watch as my controller vibrates across the coffee table because I haven’t used it in minutes.

What does it mean if you’re enjoying a game that you’re not really playing. I’ve played games where for hours, I fought all of the main antagonist’s forces, got through all of his dungeons and traps, and when I finally get up to him I can’t wait to defeat him. I die a couple of times, but when I finally beat him by trapping him in the corner and shooting him in the head, I lose control and he’s stumbling in the middle of the room with a gunshot wound to his stomach.  That’s when I feel like all I’m doing is killing enemies until I trigger a video.

Often a game relies so much on cutscenes that the story the developers are telling is taking away from me feeling like I am the character in this story. My biggest gripe is when I’m clearing out a room, AK-47 in my hand, blasting away, and a cutscene begins and there’s me… with a pistol.

It doesn’t need to feel like that but it does in so many games like, Resident Evil or Red Dead Redemption. I’m not taking anything away from either of these games, but when will we get to a point where the stories are truly interactive. Sometimes I hear about next gen systems not really being able to do more than the previous ones. Just slightly better graphics, they say. I hope developers are trying to come up with more ways for us to actually be part of the story and not just triggering it.

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Categories: #Opinion

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