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Why We need to Evolve in Interactive Storytelling & Narrative Gameplay ?

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I’ve been working in Video Games Industry for about 3 years & also have been doing research in Game Design & analyzing games under different frameworks in free time . The topic I’m discussing is debatable & people can have different opinions on it .

Part 1 :

Since there isn’t any formal definition of a ‘ Game ‘ many people perceive its purpose differently . For some it’s a form of an art for some it’s only a set of rules with a goal to achieve . ‘Fun’ is the primary engaging factor of how mainly people sees in them but it’s limited by the set of rules you define in a game to raise challenges . And when fun is not enough to keep the user engaged you need something else to rely video games on & that’s where this topic comes in .

As I’ve grown up my pattern of playing games has changed over years , from hack n slash titles to playing games giving a desired experience . A recent example of it is when I had a choice to invest time in either playing Watch Dogs 2 or Resident Evil 7 . I ended up with Resident Evil 7 & it was one of the best games I’ve ever played . Watch Dogs 2 being a better title when it came to ‘fun’ I picked Resident Evil 7 . The similar choice I had about a years ago between Half Life 2 & Doom 3 & you can probably guess what I chose & why . Despite of Doom 3 more fun & pushing the technological boundaries in real-time CG , it was Half Life 2 that became one of the best FPS shooters of all time .

Narrative Gameplay Experience of First-Person-Shooter title ‘Half Life 2 ‘

Doom 3 Graphics were groundbreaking back in 2004

A general conception in game development & design is that to give player the ‘fun’ or gameplay . I believe that was the case in early days of gaming during the arcade era back in 80s (debatable) . But as the technology has evolved , video games have evolved too giving rise to many new genres & has approached to more diverse audience . The time has come when they are regularly being compared to films which is a totally different medium . Both films & games have different approaches & techniques to keep the audience engaged & there is a reason why a film based on a game or a game based on a film is hard to pull off successfully

Part 2 :

Last week I wrote about what is a general misconception in game development/design these days & why ‘fun’ is not the only solution to keep players engaged with so many new modern genres having different aesthetics to deliver . We humans are easily effected by feelings & love to get attached to the things . Let’s take an example of playing a Football game , at its core it delivers ‘fun’ , has rules & a gameplay to keep players engaged just like any classic video game does . Doesn’t matter how many times you play it , the rules don’t change & then a time comes when the base rules of the game don’t matter to engage yourself . Even if you suck at it & barely involved , you like to come at field everyday . Some just love it & some have a mental relaxation like I mostly have . Everyone creates his/her own experience out of it , everyday can be different .

2015 title ‘ Life is Strange ‘ received a lot of acclaim for its narrative & emotional impact

The problem is not every meaning or feeling can be expressed by a gameplay & a bunch of fun mechanics , one of the reasons why video games need to evolve in certain areas of it such as Narrative Gameplay .

Part 3 :

In my previous post was discussed how an unfun gameplay can sometimes be engaging & one can create an experience out of it . I also talked about how different digital games & movies are from each other when it comes to express certain meanings & feelings . Films do more focus on story & narratives , games more on mechanics & gameplay .

Here I’m not saying to neglect the story & narratives in video games & focus only on fun aspect of it . We are in the time now where storytelling have become an integral part of the Video Games Industry . Projects like Firewatch , Inside , Journey , Gone Home all are examples of it . It is one of the reasons why this medium has attracted a very large audience & has surpassed many industries when it comes to revenues . When it comes to digital games we should be talking about ‘Interactive Storytelling’ & ‘Narrative Gameplay’ rather than just storytelling & gameplay . In short your gameplay & interactivity should be telling a story instead of driving it through non interactive cut-scenes with lengthy dialogues .

Is Journey a game or an interactive art ?

For a long time in Video Game industry gameplay & storytelling were very much isolated from each other ( with the exception of few greatly designed games ) . There was a big gap between storytelling & gameplay & it was divided by non-interactive cut-scenes . Whenever there was a turning point in a story or moments to express feelings & relationships , cut-scenes were mostly used . Then in 1998 Valve came up with their debut product ‘Half Life’ which was among the very first 3D games to combine both the narrative & gameplay . Half Life basically blurred the line between the non-interactable cutscenes & the gameplay . The game was totally seamless without any loading screens & lengthy cut-scenes . You could roam around & interact with the environment & NPCs to feel the theme of the game . It was like playing a movie with controls in your hands & the first 20-30 minutes of the game shows it . The whole Half Life franchise deliver those complex moments in an interactable that were normally being done by cut-scenes in other games .

Since then many games have started to focus on interactive storytelling & narrative mechanics not just because it’s another way to engage audience but it’s a whole new direction to storytelling . The studio ‘Telltale Games’ is doing R&D on this & all of their Game projects are about interactive storytelling & choices . Many people argue that this is not what games are supposed to do , to tell stories but again I’m saying ‘fun with rules’ is one way to perceive this digital medium . That’s the reason why designers believe not every game can be called a ‘game’ by definition , & should be called an interactive experience . This approach is still new & very hard to pull off with so many game design conflicts ( will cover later ) . Still it’s a direction we are heading towards & a direction we should explore , an Interactive Storytelling rather than a Cinematic Storytelling
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  1. JANARIOO's Avatar
    whenever i play those story telling games.. they make me feel empty as if something is missing and that is the Actual GAMEPLAY.

    people who thinks they r games are very wrong these aren't games they are Interactive Novels.
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