"No amount of great animation will save a bad story.
John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer at Pixar
As a '90s kid, growing up with the Nintendo 64 encompassed a fountain of endless fun and impeccable classics. Super Mario 64, Legend of Zelda, Super Smash Brothers and much more! However, as time progressed, the video game industry changed its focus to immersive storytelling. This paradigm shift begs the question: Do video games make the story or does the story make the video game?
Let's look at Naughty Dog, the lucrative company that prides itself on character-driven narrative with the Uncharted series and The Last of Us. Their studio philosophy and award winning titles redefined the emotional connection gamers have with their characters, while aiming to set the narrative gold standard. "I want studios that make story-based games to start taking their stories more seriously...[with] an in-house writer that sits next to the designer, helping them make their levels," Neil Druckmann beckons. While this meticulous standpoint cemented Naughty Dog's legacy in the industry, other companies etched their name in a different way.
Arguably, Nintendo is the root of the video game tree. Its mega influence stretches worldwide and at the forefront of that triumph is the Mario franchise. Despite its earth-shattering sales, it’s unlikely that the average gamer recognizes the Mario series based on its storytelling. Getting entangled with the enthralling Super Mario 64 levels overshadowed the basic goal of rescuing Peach, who happened to make a delicious cake and left it at the castle. I highly doubt gamers mouths’ watered as they heroically strived to obtain that cake with every collected star, ability cap and crushed Goomba. In this case, Nintendo laser focused on memorable gameplay, not memorable storytelling. "Video games are meant to be just one thing. Fun. Fun for everyone," Satoru Iwata proclaimed. Even though you weren't hanging on the edge of your seat anticipating the flavour of the cake, Super Mario 64 embodied the fun factor.
So, is storytelling necessary for video games? It depends on how you view gaming in general. If you're someone who casually pops in a disk or cartridge to have a good time, then gameplay would probably take precedence instead of storytelling. However, if you look at gaming as an immersive, cinematic experience, then scout out story-driven games.
Play the story or let the story play you.
About the Author
As a local GTA resident, Mohammed Maxwel Hasan enjoys the treasure trove of effective storytelling in a variety of contexts. Starting with the N64, he found gems within the video game world and looks forward to what the future brings. For storytelling in video games, feedback on this article, or just want to connect, you can directly email him firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website https://maxwel92.wixsite.com/mohammedmaxwelhasan.