31/31 Day 1: The Problem With Loving Story The Most - Will Sora Layton Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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31/31 Day 1: The Problem With Loving Story The Most

Haha, didn't expect this, did you? I was thinking, and I decided, "what the Heck, let's do this", like I did with my previous 31/31 (I originally planned that for March, but then did it in February). So yes, I'll be doing a 31/31 this month, though it will be quite difficult considering I have zero time on some days to write. So, this'll be interesting...whatever, let's just be optimistic, and just have fun. Something of note though: This is blog # 97. Tomorrow, 98, July 3rd, 99. On July 4th, it will be blog number 100. I have something special in mind for then-and no, it's not patriotic, not at all. It will become clear tomorrow, if you know something certain about counting numbers.

WHY MUST YOU BE SO AMAZING!?

If you need to know one thing about me and video games, it's this: I value story very much. While I value gameplay very much also, I find that the story of a game is what sticks with me the most, and is what I think about more often in most cases. The story ties together everything-the characters, the emotional weight the game carries, and even the gameplay. Think about it-the story makes sense of it all. How would we know about Cole's powers in inFAMOUS if we didn't know anything of the story? How would we sort through the motivations of Liquid Ocelot? How would we ever feel sad about X character dying? The answer is simply, that we wouldn't. However, this creates a problem.

When a story of a video game does all these things well, it enhances a hopefully already wonderful story, it makes something wonderful. Take a look at some of my favorite games: Zero Escape, The World Ends with You, Phoenix Wright, and Alan Wake. They all have wonderful, enriching stories, and all their stories pull together everything in their universes. The gameplay of Zero Escape is about solving puzzles in confined areas because you are trapped in a facility-that is the story. In the Ace Attorney series, you control an attorney who solves cases. The story of Ace Attorney explains why Phoenix Wright is a lawyer, and why the cases are happening. The gameplay in the these series, and many more, would be fun without the story, but the story, again, ties it together, enriches it, makes it just, beautiful. And that's where the aforementioned problem lies.

When a person like me loves the stories in a video game, it makes it hard for me to communicate my love for some game that much harder to others. Let's first look at my favorite game of all time: Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward. Why is it my favorite game? Because the story within the game is so wonderfully crafted, that it ties together everything in the game, and the universe, and the characters. If the story wasn't there for that game, it would just be a mess of characters pouring different kinds of liquor together and moving ice cubes through a maze for some unfathomable reason. However, this wonderful story, has so many complex twists, things to explain, and small nicks that make it possible-how am I suppose to explain how much I love it this way? I can say "wow, this story is awesome, the characters were developed well because of it, and I cried at the end". Those are just buzz words-they don't really say anything. Saying a story is great comes from a person's OWN view. Some people didn't like BioShock Infinite's story. Some people did like Other M's story. There isn't a real way to convey how great a story is, without fully explaining it.

"ALL THIS AWESOME STUFF HAPPENS!" "Why? What happens, it doesn't make sense." "BUT..."

Like I just mentioned, Zero Escape has a complex story. That's the best and worst thing about it. The fact that I understand and was able to experience such a complex story makes it so wonderful, but it also means I can't completely explain it. Even if someone did want me to explain it, it would be hard, and even if I explained everything I could, that person still wouldn't have the full glory of what I had experienced, because of the pacing. I soaked that in over about forty hours; a person I explain it to won't get that. And they won't get every piece of dialogue and description the story has. There is simply no way for them to fully get the story without playing the game. And not everyone has the time to play the game-it's simply impossible.

There's another problem entirely with story being the most important thing: spoilers. We all avoid them as much as we can, usually. What if, say, a person has a huge backlog, and is waiting to play BioShock Infinite till later this year, because they've been playing games that released before it. I can't talk about the game with this person, and gush about it, because I'd want to talk about the story, and everything it did for me. Sure, I don't need to talk to this person, it's not a necessity or anything of the sort-it's just a problem, that's all. It's just a barrier to me communicating about the games I play. And since story is, again, the most important thing to me, that just means it's harder for me to sell a game to someone, to just, talk about them in general. I have to talk about over-the-top moments, or small moments that don't ruin a game, or the gameplay, or the characters, or anything but the story. With everything else, I can speak freely, but with the story-I can only use buzz words. Those buzz words just, don't even mean anything to anyone else-they really only mean something to you. You can say Mass Effect 2 has an amazing story-from what I've played, it's not as good as Mass Effect 1's.

Those, I believe, are problems specific to video games' stories. You're forced to only talk generically, for fear of spoilers, using these buzz words, and when you do talk specifics, you don't convey what you've actually felt, what you've actually experienced: it's almost like using buzz words in a different fashion. Sure, you can say that "you can't talk about how good a game's gameplay is without playing it", and that then saying it's good has no effect. However, there are a couple things wrong with this: one, you can experience how a game feels through a demo, trial version, or simply trying ti at a friend's house. You can get a taste of that experience elsewhere. You can also watch videos showing the gameplay, to see how the game plays. It may not be much, but it's better than nothing. With story though, you need to do the whole thing first before you can completely judge. Stories can go one way or the other.

Tell me how I can explain how wonderful this is without using the word "amazing" and not spoiling. Answer: you can't. You need the full weight and emotional impact it brings.

If you have any experiences where you were hindered from explaining a game's story, or if you feel the same way about video game stories that I do, sound off below. Also, be sure to check out Saturday Morning Replay's and Tim Gruver's own 31/31's, as they are also doing them this month, and were originally under the impression that they were the only ones doing so. Not so, guys, I feel like getting it on the fun (plus, it's summer-I'm bored here). That's all for today.

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