October 2006, the editors of Gamasutra asked its readership of
game industry professionals to chime in and vote for which game
brought storytelling forward in
the biggest way, from any genre (text adventure
through action title to RPG or sim and beyond), and from
the early days of video gaming right through to the present day.
We were looking for any game which in some way moved, astounded,
or engrossed the player through its plot and the way the game evolves
through it - and has specifically advanced game storytelling in
the largest way. Specifically, we asked:
"Which video game has made the biggest 'quantum leap'
in terms of storytelling, and why?"
On the following pages, we'll first present the "honorable
mentions" - games that, while certainly innovative and important,
did not receive enough votes to make it into the top echelon.
Following this, we'll present the top five best storytellers
voted for by our readers, in reverse order, ending with the overall
recipient of Gamasutra's third Quantum Leap Award, which received
the largest amount of votes from game professionals.
Honorable Mention: The Sims
No other game before The Sims had taken as many options
and choices and made it so friendly to all all ages, sexes, and
social groups in order for them to create their own families, lives,
and neighborhoods in which to tell their own stories. User-centric
storytelling is the most powerful form that we have long after
the initial narrative dies away. People always love telling fellow
game players what they did here or what they accomplished differently
over there. Pure narrative and plot only goes so far, but The
Sims took the extra step and delivered the story-making
tools to the players.
Ben Wari, Hot Thoth Productions
Honorable Mention: System Shock (series)
Forcing the user to build the story piecemeal through
personal logs and snippets of information throughout the game
created a varied experience for each user. This drove
the player to fill the holes in the story with the next log and
their own assumptions and imagination. I remember playing System
Shock 2 years after playing it for the first time and had a markedly
different reaction due to changes in my own perspective. Phenomenal.
Matt Knowles, EA Chicago