A problem that many developers seem to run into is telling a good story. The most praised tales in video games are usually nothing more than books or movies inserted into a game. Yes, a story is a story, but just as books and movies have found their own ways to tell them, the video game industry needs to find one. Usually we rely on cut scenes, narrators, or text screens (such as those found in Intelligent Systems' Fire Emblem), but today I'd like to point out a series that does it quite well: Nintendo's Metroid Prime trilogy.
Being one of the few adventure/shooter games that doesn’t have a conventional narrative, Metroid Prime does a remarkable job at telling a story, better than most. This is largely due to the fact that while the story is linear (unlike games such as Fable), the gameplay and the way it all unfolds is not.
To truly understand what’s happening the player must scan enemies and other objects. Doing so exposes the weaknesses and abilities of enemies, and it also displays a paragraph of data that one of the planet’s inhabitants may have recorded in a log. This way the history and mythology of Tallon IV is revealed at a pace that you choose; you’re never bombarded with more information than you can handle. The result is a much more organic feel. The story is never too slow or too fast because the majority of it isn’t triggered by unavoidable events (e.g. boss battles, entering new areas, etc.). Pacing is often one of the biggest factors in the generally story-driven adventure genre, but Prime neatly sidesteps this issue.
But if the sells charts are any indication, the general public doesn't care too much for stories, so giving players the option to interact with it is probably the most ingenious way to implement one. After all, video games are an interactive medium. This way players who are truly interested in the story must actually do something, just as they must with the rest of the game. Why should the story be revealed in movie fashion? If I wanted passive entertainment I would have read a book or watched TV.
As seen through the mixed reviews of Metroid: Other M, a lot of people don't want to sit back and watch a video for upwards of five minutes. For those who are interested in the story to the point of completely pursuing it (i.e. achieving 100%), they're rewarded with a cinematic at the end of the game, or more accurately, the end of the interactive experience. Don't get me wrong: I thought the way that Team Ninja had Samus speak was a step forward for the Metroid series, but why does the gameplay have to stop?
Instead of giving us forced cut scenes they could have perhaps made Samus have a video/audio log, with new parts made accessible as you progressed. That would have effectively cut the videos in half, and it could have curbed the assault from players that otherwise wouldn't have searched for the story. The writer of Killing Samus, Audrey Drake, made several statements based off of misinformation. Anyone who had been concerned with the true story, not just his/her own interpretation, wouldn't have made such mistakes.
Such a method runs less risk of ruining the interpretations of players like miss Drake, but it offers something more for those looking for a worthwhile tale. Cut scenes have their place. As I stated, players are rewarded for their diligence by a hidden cinematic at the end of the game. Well instead of having a bunch of scattered vidoes, why not insert an unlockable thirty minute movie detailing more of the story as a reward? Players love other media based off of their favorite series (e.g. graphic novels, anime, movies), so there's no reason for it to be unsuccessful.
Games that require you to actually work for the story beyond getting from point A to point B are more in line with the idea behind gaming (struggle/reward), and thus perhaps gamers are more likely to embrace such games. Several of the high scoring games of the past decade have used similar systems BioShock and Batman: Arkham Asylum both tell you the general story, but to hear the background you have to do some digging.
Personally, I'd love to see more games utilize such a story-telling mechanic. Thoughts?