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Quote of the Day

"Games are not the right medium to tell stories. Video games are more about story possibilities" -- Sims creator Will Wright.

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21. Re: Quote of the Day Feb 19, 2011, 19:53 Jerykk
 
If it's easier to list games that have good stories than stories that stemmed from gameplay, then I don't know how you could argue that games are better suited for the latter when the former has created a more lasting and memorable experience for more people.

If the story is told through a linear, non-interactive manner, then it has nothing to do with gameplay, the defining element of games. Such stories are better told in linear, non-interactive mediums where the author doesn't have to worry about providing the player with engaging activities or preventing the player from deviating from the intended experience.

KOTOR had a great story, for example. The primary details of the story are fixed, and aren't changeable. The gameplay serves to bring you into that story, make you a part of it, and when it's revealed that you were Darth Revan all along it has impact because your actions throughout the game gave you a personal stake in the story; it's not that the main character was Darth Revan, it's that YOU were. It's a strong story with effective story mechanics and it wouldn't have been possible to get the same effect if it were an open ended experience. I don't remember a damn thing about the gameplay, or what lightsabers did or how I barely won a fight... but I remember when I found out who I was, and I remember my relationship with the other characters long after playing through that game. That's storytelling.

I think you just mistakenly agreed with me. The parts you remember the most are the parts that are borrowed from other mediums. Gameplay is the only thing unique to games and the gameplay in KOTOR wasn't that memorable. It definitely wasn't enough to tell an interesting story, so Bioware relied on more traditional forms of linear storytelling instead. You could have taken the story in KOTOR and put it in a book or made a movie and it probably would have been better for it.

I have to disagree with you on the Revan twist somehow being meaningful. As a player, I had no memories of being Revan and I had no choice in the matter. Revan, as a character, didn't really mean anything to me as a result. The fact that I controlled the protagonist didn't change this. The twist would have been just as effective in a linear, non-interactive medium, perhaps even more so.
 
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20. Re: Quote of the Day Feb 19, 2011, 13:22 ASJD
 
With current tech, I absolutely agree.

When games have AI that can understand human language and interact intelligently, games will be THE story medium.
 
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19. Re: Quote of the Day Feb 19, 2011, 13:16 space captain
 
the problem with all of this is that people actually think they can determine such subjective things as if they were a statement of measurement, rather than just their own tiny little limited perspective that is derived purely from their likes and dislikes - its akin to saying "tomatoes taste like garbage!" and expecting that statement to equal a comprehensive reality that has some sort of effect on tomatoes - rather than just a whiny opinion that only exposes a thought process

when it comes to personal interpretation you cant expect your own private world to match everyone else, and to do so is whats known as "ignorance"

its entirely different from saying "the distance from here to the gas station is 9 miles" because the interpretative units are already universally given and set in stone (in non-metric countries at least)
 
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18. Re: Quote of the Day Feb 19, 2011, 12:51 Tumbler
 
Bioshock is a good example of an awesome story told via a video game. In general though I think Will Wright is correct. It's very difficult to tell a story through a game because there are so many chances for the developer to mess the experience up with poor gameplay choices/level design. And then there is the player making the wrong choices and becoming frustrated and the whole experience is not what they were aiming for.

A movie by comparison allows you to be an observer and see exactly what is intended so the story is always delivered as intended.

I wish games would include a story mode option though, where the AI runs a predetermined path and beats the game with no assistance from the gamer. Would be a useful tool for showing people how to beat a harder area or just a way for gamers to see the rest of a game that isn't particularly fun to play.


 
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17. Re: Quote of the Day Feb 19, 2011, 12:30 PropheT
 
Jerykk wrote on Feb 19, 2011, 08:32:
Agreed. That's what Wright is talking about. Planescape Torment had a great story, yes, but that was because of the writing more than the gameplay. It's easy to list games that had good stories but very hard to list games that had good stories that stemmed from the gameplay rather than the writing. In the end, if you're judging a story based primarily on linear forms like writing, non-interactive mediums are better suited to storytelling. Games are better suited to emergent storytelling where the stories are born from the gameplay experience rather than cinematics or dialogue.

I'm not sure I could disagree with you more. If it's easier to list games that have good stories than stories that stemmed from gameplay, then I don't know how you could argue that games are better suited for the latter when the former has created a more lasting and memorable experience for more people.

KOTOR had a great story, for example. The primary details of the story are fixed, and aren't changeable. The gameplay serves to bring you into that story, make you a part of it, and when it's revealed that you were Darth Revan all along it has impact because your actions throughout the game gave you a personal stake in the story; it's not that the main character was Darth Revan, it's that YOU were. It's a strong story with effective story mechanics and it wouldn't have been possible to get the same effect if it were an open ended experience. I don't remember a damn thing about the gameplay, or what lightsabers did or how I barely won a fight... but I remember when I found out who I was, and I remember my relationship with the other characters long after playing through that game. That's storytelling.

Without a story being told, the gameplay experience has no context. There's no foothold to give the player meaning to their actions. Some people enjoy just playing a game; they don't care why Pac Man eats dots, they don't care that their Sim is faceless and neutral, and they don't care why they're shooting all those things. For me, personally, I need the reason and the context that story gives to the game to want to continue; it's why I prefer RPG's over shooters, and have never really enjoyed a single game that Wright has made.


 
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16. Re: Quote of the Day Feb 19, 2011, 12:21 Jivaro
 
I look at a quote like this one and I laugh at the fact that different people are going to look at it differently when it is taken out of context. Is it a negative limitation, a back-handed compliment, or the words of someone who thinks games can do much more then people expect out of them currently? It doesn't help that this particular person hasn't exactly been known for games with a story of any kind.

This in mind, I can't help but think of a game like "Blade Runner", from WAY back. This was a game that allowed you to make many decisions and had like 7 or more possible endings I believe. The story possiblities were many, and everyone who played the game likely experienced a slightly different version of the story overall. I read his quote and that is what I think he referring to. I don't think he means it as a limitation but instead a strength of the medium.
 
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15. Re: Quote of the Day Feb 19, 2011, 11:11 Nameless Again
 
JohnBirshire wrote on Feb 19, 2011, 01:54:
Books are not the right medium to tell stories. Books are more about story possibilities. You know, like Choose Your Own Adventure books.

CYOA books where the shit! Which Way books too. Nostalgia, gotta love it.
 
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14. Re: Quote of the Day Feb 19, 2011, 08:32 Jerykk
 
That's a personal story that came out of the great emmergent design of the game but wasn't coded into the game itself. Great games are often full of these types of personal stories.

Agreed. That's what Wright is talking about. Planescape Torment had a great story, yes, but that was because of the writing more than the gameplay. It's easy to list games that had good stories but very hard to list games that had good stories that stemmed from the gameplay rather than the writing. In the end, if you're judging a story based primarily on linear forms like writing, non-interactive mediums are better suited to storytelling. Games are better suited to emergent storytelling where the stories are born from the gameplay experience rather than cinematics or dialogue.
 
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13. Re: Quote of the Day Feb 19, 2011, 07:58 Prez
 
I have been thinking of games that had great stories but still gave the player a wonderful sense of freedom to make meaningful choices.

Two that I have come up with are 'Homeworld' (still one of my favorite games EVER!!), and Planescape Torment. Both had brilliant evocative stories and were still massively rewarding to the player. Games with great stories are rare but they are out there.

But I get what Wright is getting at here. A game like X-Com has a simplistic and cliched alien invasion motif from the '50's, but it is a game full of story potential, like
"I was down to my last soldier, he was bleeding out, had no medkit, and I just hail-married a baster-bomb in the direction I thought the remaining Sectoids might be and killed them with blind luck, and I won the mission!!!"

That's a personal story that came out of the great emmergent design of the game but wasn't coded into the game itself. Great games are often full of these types of personal stories.

This comment was edited on Feb 19, 2011, 08:06.
 
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12. Re: Quote of the Day Feb 19, 2011, 07:20 avianflu
 
A 'story' can be a laundry list or The Iliad and anything in between.

Wright is outside of his expert zone when he talks about the "best" way to forge a narrative. Best for him to stick to making more Sims games.

This is part of the problem with folks who make games (and I like games). Their understanding of story-telling is thoroughly stunted, and then they make games with stories in them that are riddled with inconsistencies and deeply obvious character issues. Ugh.

Dead Space 2 I am looking at you.
 
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11. Re: Quote of the Day Feb 19, 2011, 04:47 Jerykk
 
I think the quote is fairly accurate, though the I can see how the wording might offend some. It's not that games aren't the right medium to tell stories. Rather, they aren't the right medium for linear storytelling. Games as a medium are defined by choice. This is what separates them from other mediums. Games can let you choose the protagonist's actions and change the world around him. The downside of this is that the designers have less control over the narrative. In books and especially movies, the author has complete control over every aspect of the narrative. The audience is completely passive and experiences the story vicariously through its characters. This makes it much easier to evoke a broad range of emotions that are difficult to evoke in a game. In a game, your control over the protagonist makes him/her feel less like a person and more like a tool that exists only to facilitate your interaction with the game.

It's also exponentially easier to break the suspension of disbelief in a game. Invincible characters, invisible walls, game overs for disobeying objectives, dying and loading your last save... the player's ability to control the experience makes it that much easier to expose its limitations. Developers simply do not have the time or resources to provide meaningful narrative branches for every action a player could possibly perform, so they take shortcuts instead and either prevent or punish the player for performing them. Non-interactive mediums do not have this problem so in their case, the suspension of disbelief can only be broken by lackluster writing or unconvincing presentation.

An easy way to contrast the narrative strengths of games vs other mediums is to consider the death of the protagonist. In a book or movie, the death of the protagonist is typically a tragic and very emotional affair. Conversely, the death of the protagonist in a game is typically a frustrating or annoying affair, quickly remedied by loading the last save or checkpoint. In a linear medium, you cannot save the protagonist. It doesn't matter how many times you read/watch the story: nothing will ever change. In a game, this is never the case unless it's part of a linear story. Even if a game has permanent death as a gameplay mechanic, you can always just start a new game and try again. Only through the non-interactive portions of games can things like death evoke the appropriate response.

I don't have a problem with games having story. I just think that the story should serve as an open-ended foundation for the player to build upon through his own choices, rather than being forced to sit through a linear narrative that is completely out of his control. If you think about it, how many of the emotions you've felt while playing games were a result of actual gameplay? Anger, excitement and fear are the primary emotions drawn from gameplay. Anger stems from your failure to complete the objective. Excitement comes from the potential for success. Fear comes from the impending risk of failure. The rest of the emotions are typically drawn through the linear and non-interactive portions of the games and these elements are taken from other mediums.

This comment was edited on Feb 19, 2011, 05:14.
 
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10. Re: Quote of the Day Feb 19, 2011, 01:54 JohnBirshire
 
Books are not the right medium to tell stories. Books are more about story possibilities. You know, like Choose Your Own Adventure books.  
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9. Re: Quote of the Day Feb 19, 2011, 01:47 PropheT
 
A story is the message and feelings associated with its telling, not just the things that happen in it. Video games are the perfect medium for telling stories, because the things that happen give the person the story is being told to a personal stake in its outcome rather than just a passive window to someone else's essay on a series of events.

 
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8. Re: Quote of the Day Feb 19, 2011, 01:42 Yifes
 
Bhruic wrote on Feb 19, 2011, 01:13:
Ah, a completely accurate quote. Games can only tell stories if you lock the character into static choices. Give the character freedom, which any decent game does, and you don't have a story any more, you have, as he says, story possibilities.

Some of the best games ever made have told great stories by limiting players to predetermined choices. I'd much rather enjoy a well scripted story than all the nebulous "story possibilities" that something like Spore provides.

Saying that games are not the right medium to tell stories is close minded, and sells the medium short. It is also an insult to all the great storytellers in the videogame industry, who do not subscribe to Wright's philosophy of What a Game Should Be.

This comment was edited on Feb 19, 2011, 01:52.
 
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7. Re: Quote of the Day Feb 19, 2011, 01:24 Prez
 
Bhruic wrote on Feb 19, 2011, 01:13:
Ah, a completely accurate quote. Games can only tell stories if you lock the character into static choices. Give the character freedom, which any decent game does, and you don't have a story any more, you have, as he says, story possibilities.

Hmm - Not sure I agree in total. I definitely see what you are saying, but System Shock 2, for example, gave the player quite a bit of freedom of choice within the tighter context of the story but in the big scheme of things the story played out virtually the same in all cases. Games like GTA 4 do something different by giving you a sandbox world in which you can do what you want concurrently with the story missions that advance the plot.

All in all I'd say both games and many more like them succeed in telling cohesive stories while still granting a lot of freedom to the player.
 
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6. Re: Quote of the Day Feb 19, 2011, 01:13 Bhruic
 
Ah, a completely accurate quote. Games can only tell stories if you lock the character into static choices. Give the character freedom, which any decent game does, and you don't have a story any more, you have, as he says, story possibilities.  
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5. Re: Quote of the Day Feb 18, 2011, 23:48 space captain
 
Will Wright, Founder and Chief Executive of Stupid Fun Club, Creator of Spore and The Sims, will deliver the opening keynote at Engage! Expo® taking place February 16-17, 2010, at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. Engage!®, operated by Engage Digital Media (publisher of this blog), runs concurrently with American International Toy Fair (February 14-17, 2010) and provides companies the critical information they need to engage and monetize kids and youth online.
 
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4. Re: Quote of the Day Feb 18, 2011, 23:41 Dev
 
PHJF wrote on Feb 18, 2011, 22:13:
Spoken by somebody who never made a game with any story at all.
Nice, good point.

Blue, I like this quote of the day thing. You find some good ones, and most of them have interesting conversation started in the comments about them too.
 
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3. Re: Quote of the Day Feb 18, 2011, 23:25 Prez
 
Will Wright is not the person to be asking about stories in videogames. I'd say you'd want to be asking people like Tim Schaefer, Warren Specter, and Ken Levine about story-telling in games, as they all have different means of spinning their yarns, and arguably have had at least moderate success at it.  
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2. Re: Quote of the Day Feb 18, 2011, 23:02 saluk
 
999 and ghost trick say hello. Also, judging by how much effort is put into cutscenes etc for even the most mediocre games, it looks like the market has argued that they like a little story with their game. And the market is always right.  
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