Losing the Plot

A few weeks ago I sat down with a blog in mind, all ready to write. It was about stories in games and how, to be frank, they don’t do it for me. I realised I was probably in the minority with this view. I have no idea what was going on in Halo ODST or Gears of War in any great detail and neither did I care, I just wanted to shoot stuff, to game. The same for the Grand Theft Auto series. I understand why people enjoy the story and I appreciate that effort goes into creating it but I sit there resisting the urge to hit A through cut scenes and am just itching to get on with the next mission. It may be blasphemy but for me a cut scene is often a good chance to grab a drink or reply to a text while I listen half-heartedly. I was going to blog about how if I want a story I’ll put on a DVD and if I want to game then I’ll load up a game; for me, the two are separate interests.

Occasionally a game is so wacky that the storyline holds my attention. Take Beautiful Katamari in which the King of All Cosmos was playing tennis one day when he accidentally tore a hole in the universe with his serve. Naturally it created a black hole sucking everything but Earth into oblivion. Playing as the Prince you have to roll up everyday items to create new planets before blocking the black hole. I’m still awaiting the game to movie franchise for that one. Or how about Peggle with its on the edge of your seat narrative. Why are there pegs? What do they do? Who put them there? What have the orange pegs done to deserve obliteration?

King of All Cosmos
The more mental end of the storyline spectrum

I digress. So there I was, furiously typing out my heinous views, preparing myself to be shot down in flames when Modern Warfare 2 arrived. There may have been a lot of hype and excitement surrounding its release but all I wanted to do was shoot my friends in multiplayer, the campaign would be played eventually when I got around to it. How wrong was I? After just a couple of days of slowly working through, it was completed. Not only was it completed but I had enjoyed every minute. I was genuinely touched at some of the twists and sat slack-jawed when two characters met their demise. The ending may not have done it for some but I was immersed enough to have a moment of stunned silence after it had finished. Very swiftly followed by me wailing “Nooo! More!… Mooore!”.

Soap and Harley

With hindsight Batman: Arkham Asylum managed to do exactly the same thing. It evoked emotion, in the same way as a film or novel might, a great example being the Scarecrow sections. I adored that game and despite it appearing very different to MW2, to me, the game played out in a very similar way. The story unravelled around me in the dialogue and my characters’ actions without the use of excessive cut scenes which made the ones that were there all the more enjoyable. So I’ve had to reassess my previous views. I’m still not a big fan of long cut scenes but a storyline can be a huge part of a game for me, so long as I feel a part of that story. Now I realise there are games I play purely for indulgent fun and there are games I can play to experience.







7 responses to “Losing the Plot”

  1. Markatansky avatar

    ODST had a poor storyline. It might have been important to the Halo storyline overall, but in all honesty who really would have went out of their way to play a game where you play as one of several space soldiers who were split up and you have to go find them and help them rescue a balloon stuck in a subway. To make matters worse, that female character looked more manly with her square jaw than any of the male characters did.

  2. The Rook avatar
    The Rook

    Not interested in the story…. you crazy. 😀

  3. Tony avatar

    I know it’s not a popular sentiment, but I actually only bothered playing Bioshock to the end because I wanted to see where the story went. I was very bored of the gameplay by the end. I love a good story – and a game’s story has to be absolutely urine poor for me to skip even a single cutscene.

  4. MarkuzR avatar

    That’s so strange…. I wandered into the lounge two nights ago and Lorna was watching a cut scene in Assassins Creed II when I asked her where her mug was so I could make her a cup of tea. Her hand slowly motioned to her mouth as she kept her gaze on the TV and held her mouth slightly ajar as though she was about to speak… but decided to hold back. I blurted out a shorter version of my original question “mug… where is it?” and she started waving her right hand up and down, then pointed at the TV whilst remaining transfixed on the TV.

    I wandered off, then came back a minute or so later to be greeted by the following (paraphrased) conversation….

    “Oh my god… that was a cut scene!!”


    “It’s IMPORTANT!!”

    “It’s so not. Where’s your mug?”

    “It SO is!! That tells you about the story and what you’re supposed to be doing. You need to watch them, they’re part of the whole story… it’s important!”


    “Oh my GOD!!”

    “What? I flick through all that shit and skip all the conversations, then just look in my journal to get the summary. Much quicker that way”

    “But… [disbelief] you don’t get as immersed in the game that way, you don’t know the back story and what’s happening around you!! Oh my god!”

    “Yeah yeah, click the button, shows me a summary… go here, go there, do stuff. Saves all that time watching the cut scenes”

    “I can’t believe you’re saying that! Oh my god!”

    Apparently, it wasn’t really the right thing to say 🙂 The stories just don’t bother me, they’re not important to me. Played almost 200 hours each of Oblivion and Two Worlds, and have notched up 40+ hours on Risen so far and haven’t really paid any attention to the storylines.. but still managed to complete everything in Oblivion and Two Worlds.

    Fallout 3 was different… the story was there for you to find, to piece together from clues around the wasteland. No cut scenes, no spoon fed diatribe telling you how this happened and that happened and that’s why things are like they are… it was down to tiny little journal entries on computers. You made the history in your imagination. That worked for me 🙂

    Too long, didn’t read?? :p

  5. Dan Forever avatar
    Dan Forever

    For me a bad story (or bad acting/storytelling) can put me off an otherwise good game. I love stories in games, and I’m currently loving the advancements in tech we’re currently seeing that give us lifelike animation that does not suffer from the Uncanny Valley:

    For example, I would say that the way the characters move in something in GTA4 feels real, and the facial expressions of the characters in Half life 2 (which, whilst it’s now 5 years old, is still the benchmark I feel) as they communicate to you go a long way to giving you the same kind of storytelling you would see in a good bit of acting in a film, whereas in days past you would have had a flat head with a face textured on that is unable to change expression.

    I would say there is story in everything, even music. It’s down to how well it’s told, and how much it resonates with you as to whether you notice it and give it the time it deserves. 🙂

  6. MrCuddleswick avatar

    Interesting debate has been stirred 🙂

    Tony – Bioshock; I’m with you to an extent. The story in that game was so much more gripping than the gameplay. I didn’t have to force myself to finish it (I liked the gameplay enough to never find it too much of a chore) though.

    Generally, I watch all the cutscenes in games I buy. I’ve chatted to a few people on this, and I think there is a prevailing consensus that there are games that blend story and gameplay so expertly that one drags you after the other through the whole length.

    Arkham Asylum and Modern Warfare 2 are arguably great examples. Ass Creed II too, and I think Metal Gear Solid and its sequels are the primest of prime examples.

  7. Lorna avatar

    The story will always be important to me, it helps make the game that much more real and immersive…makes me love or loathe the characters and helps the journey become more vibrant. Fantastic blog, Kat.

Leave a Reply