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Feature: Death And The Failure Of Game Stories

Feature: Death And The Failure Of Game Stories

August 5, 2010 | By Staff

August 5, 2010 | By Staff
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In Gamasutra's latest feature, The Deaths Of Game Narrative, designer and writer Darby McDevitt examines the tension between gameplay and credible story, using examples from Red Dead Redemption and other games.

In RDR, writes McDevitt, "I traveled the western wilds of the United States as a battle-scarred loner fighting to restore his dignity and return to his family... [but] the protagonist -- my avatar -- is a mass murderer.

"My John Marsten had killed 910 people, 74 percent of the way through Red Dead Redemption. This makes Billy the Kid (rumored body count: 21. Actual: approximately 4) look law-abiding by comparison."


As a writer and designer, integrating story into combat-focused games is a complicated and difficult task, and the tension between design and story is strong. McDevitt recalls a game he worked on where levels had to be reordered, which damaged the story irreparably.

Uncharted 2 is an extreme example of story and gameplay integration, but even that has its weaknesses, he writes.

"Perhaps with heavy investment from the team we can push the story forward through complicated 'one-off' interactive set-pieces of the sort Uncharted 2 perfected. But even then, running and gunning with mild navigation puzzles will be the player's primary activities, and I'll have find ways to set them up, over and over again."

McDevitt sees a future where gameplay-generated narrative is the primary form of storytelling in games. Some games, such as Oblivion, which features strong simulation and player agency elements, have already begun down this path.

"Without requiring a word of imposed exposition, dozens of titles have succeeded in allowing players the freedom to wander fantastical worlds at will, picking their own paths across an unknown land, discovering pieces of geography and hidden history at their leisure, creating their own story as they go."

The full feature, The Deaths Of Game Narrative, which examines these and more issues in depth, is live today on Gamasutra.


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