Video Games – An Evolution of Storytelling

 

There’s never a moment when I’m not rambling about how immersive and distracting Mass Effect is. Yes, you can groan and roll your eyes… I know my blog has centered itself around Mass Effect recently, but that’s because no other video game has affected me in such a dramatic way. Dragon Age is a close second, but even it hasn’t been able to reach the depth and promise that Mass Effect has delivered.

There’s a change that’s developed in video games, and that’s the method of storytelling. Not exactly in the writing, but the way it’s delivered. Gone (mostly) are the puzzle-filled games complete with a universal hero that saves the damsel in distress (excluding Zelda’s continued impact). Things have transformed toward the way of interactive movies, stories that not only immerse the gamer, but allow them to forge their own games.

Voice acting, interactive cut scenes, realistic consequences… all of these things have escalated into a method of storytelling that everyone seems to expect now. And now we’re becoming involved with characters that evoke real emotion, something I’ve only encountered in books. To be able to pave a character’s fate just by making a decision is an extremely powerful concept, and to be able to relate and follow along with these characters as a companion, an enemy, or even a love interest makes a game seem more meaningful.

It becomes less about winning a level and more about the story, something that I’m desperately grasping for as a writer and as someone that enjoys something more out of a game.

Mass Effect has developed an entire universe that lives and breathes. There are species and cultures that ignite curiosity. I’ve never wanted to help a character just by learning their backstory.

For example, the quarian.

Tali is a character that pulls me in different directions. There’s a strength that she exhumes that seems to overpower every other species in the ME galaxy–being a part of what’s considered the largest fleet, fighting to regain her home world, learning to live beneath a shield that isolates her from the rest of the world. But there’s also a vulnerability that gives me the urge to protect her. I want to see Tali outside of her bio-suit. I want to see her free and healthy and happy on Rannoch. Uniting the quarian and geth was something massive, but I want to see the effects of my actions. I want to see the “smaller” things.

I want my Shepard to live after the war with the Reapers has ended. I want to see her reunited with Liara, because it’s heartbreaking to think that their companionship would end so tragically, and that Liara would have to remember Shepard’s death for the second time. I want to see the galaxy rebuild itself as a single, united body.

Hell, at least give me a “romance” DLC and offer some closure with Shepard’s love interest. I’d totally buy something like that!

Is this evolved type of interactive storytelling something that will continue to expand and become more complex? If it’s something that you enjoy, what else would you like to see happen that would give a game even more depth?

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10 thoughts on “Video Games – An Evolution of Storytelling

  1. Nice post, couldn’t agree more. Without getting into the controversial topic of the ME3 ending, as any good writer/author would tell you, It’s always about the journey and not the end.

      • Any controversial ending or subject matter is always met with rage/tears, but every medium was never taken serious until it pushed the boundaries, film/art/literature etc etc. So personally it’s exciting to see some developers brave enough to do it. I hope it continues because it makes for an awesome story.

      • Any controversial ending or subject matter is always met with rage/tears, but every medium was never taken serious until it pushed the boundaries, film/art/literature etc etc. So personally it’s exciting to see some developers brave enough to do it. I hope it continues because it makes for an awesome story.

  2. Never been a huge fan of the Mass Effect series, but the one thing I do is respect the story it conveyed. Being able to care for the characters plights is an important aspect of gaming. That connectivity enables you to empathise with the situations you both experiance, and adds a sense of determination to succeed. I get the same feeling from Uncharted, so I know exactly how you feel.

    • You’re not a huge fan of Mass Effect?! Blasphemy! 😛
      I agree with you, though. Feeling connected with characters that are involved with the consequences of your choices makes losing seem like true loss. Doing something wrong transforms from a simple “game over” to the potential death of a character you’ve grown to love/connect with.

  3. Great article! I love the Mass Effect series as well. I recently wrote Bioware a kind e-mail thanking them for making 3 absolutely amazing games, and made sure to include that in my 20+ years of gaming I have yet to play a game other than ME3 that has made me cry. These games have fantastically written stories, I’m so glad to have played them.

    • Thank you! As of right now, Mass Effect is my favorite series. Hands down. I’m not ashamed to admit that this series has made me cry multiple times haha. There are some truly talented people behind those games!

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