Writing for gamers is an interesting affair.
As games grow in complexity and into the mainstream consciousness, one would think there’s a place for storytelling in the place of games. After all, already games are creating massive imaginative worlds for players to romp around in. Secretive far off worlds for explorers to poke around and discover lost cultures and grand ideas. Yet story always seem to the weakest part in games. (Unless you’re Bioware, Tim Schafer or certain sections of Ubisoft.)
Truthfully, there are plenty of games that do a fantastic job of storytelling in games, providing the sort of narrative fiction that excites, titillates and affects their audience. Sadly, a lot of those stories fall back into the same basic conceit of good guys going out to shoot stuff. Even awesomely entertaining affairs such as 2009’s uncharted 2 and this year’s Mass Effect 2 can be boiled down to a guy with a gun and enemies in his way.
I’m not suggesting that all games should massive theses into the human condition. That wouldn’t be fun to play. I’m all for shooting stuff at the end of a hard day’s work. That isn’t to say that there’s room for more complex decision, or even more complex premises that goes on in games. Stories are actually trying to say something under the spit and graphical polish.
Bioshock for instance is a shooter and a story. Some say a mediocre shooter, but as a story, it details the fall of extreme objectivism. It’s high ideal into detailing a world that you might not otherwise get in a movie, or novel, made accessibly by the player being able to directly explore the result of this failed ideaology, taking his time through the ruins of a fallen philosophy. It’s sublime in exploring philosophical concepts dressed up as a game.
Similarly, Prince or Persia (2008) starts out as a simple adventure game, but the ending aims for something higher, something that makes use of the game mechanics and all the vocabulary at its command to give the player an emotional reaction. It might not work for a huge subsection of gamers, but it’s there and it hints at possibilities in crafting game stories.
Of course, there are times when games should just be ridiculously fun; Godzilla tearing through cities in an affort to harvest them, crazy ninjas flipping out and murdering slew of demons, sexy ladies chain firing pistols atop falling clock towers. There’s a lot of room for a variety of stories and the medium is burgeoning with the possibilities to craft narratives in interesting ways. The caveat is that we should identify the kind of story we want to tell, the audience we’re looking at and craft our stories in that direction.
Gamers are gamers, but we’re not all the same.