February 22, 2010

Games as a means of storytelling

Video games have gone through a strange evolution. From the early days of two simple paddles bouncing a ball back and forth in Pong, to the modern day of . . . well, hitting an invisible ball back and forth with two Wii remotes in Wii PingPong. However, a video game has pretty much always been just that, a game. Sure, you may say that there are good story lines in games, but the game is still just a game with a story. You play 45 minutes of game and you are rewarded with a 5-10 minute cut scene that tells more of the story, then you simply rinse and repeat until the epic conclusion. Some modern games are trying to change that dynamic. How can you make a good story that just happens to be a game as well? What if the story was played out the entire time you played the game and not just after a battle? Not a moment is wasted. The games of the future will have this dynamic. One already does. Heavy Rain is a unique game that you cannot fail. There is no moment in this game that does not tell the story. If your character dies, the story moves on without him and the ending changes. Your choices can give the characters a happy ending or end the story in tragedy. You will get emotionally attached to the people in this game in the same way you might with those in a good novel. In this way, games have joined the ranks of books and movies as being a legitimate method of storytelling.

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