Thinking Thursday: Who Needs This Story Thing Anyway?


By: Stephen Crane

In the grand scheme of games, there are some that are made by their incredible storyline that just leaves your mind boggled. I know a few people were very emotionally tied to the Final Fantasy VII story. On the complete other end of the spectrum are the games where plot is merely a small device that just moves from level to level. Dino D-Day doesn't exactly need a strong plot or a long story to it. The Nazis cloned dinosaurs and mounted guns on them. What else do you need to know? Drop in and start shooting yourself some raptors. Those clever girls… (Photo: Courtesy Flickr user puuikibeach)

So just how important is a good plot to a game? I suppose that really depends on what you're looking for. If this is a game with any amount of gravity to it, you're going to not want to consider a plot that could be found as a SyFy Original Movie. If you want something that people are just going to play for its pure absurdity or if it's a single purposed game like Duke Nukem, the plot isn't really much more than an excuse to enjoy the gaming medium.

Truthfully, a plot can sometimes get in the way of a game. Final Fantasy XIII was a game that suffered because of its plot. With a cut scene every two seconds and hours and hours of dialog that no one really cared about, not to mention some of the most annoying characters ever, the game just dragged along with mechanics that were generally pretty familiar to veterans of the franchise.

You also have games that suffer because of a complete lack of plot. I may perhaps have been one of the few people who played the single-player campaign of Call of Duty: Black Ops before I tried out the multi-player, and let me tell you: the plot was as silly as it was predictable. The single player felt like it wasn't nearly as immersive or exciting as the multi-player simply because the story and the scripting felt very much like a standard Tom Clancy novel. It was absolutely forgettable. When Call of Duty was set in WWII, it was pretty simple without the necessity for a plot. There are Nazis out there. Run in this direction and kill them. Black Ops tried to get into some mind control espionage pseudo deep plot that killed the experience.

On the flip side, the mini-game involving zombies was incredibly simple in its plot and was amazing because of it. You are an important figurehead of the McCarthy era at the height of the cold war. Zombies are attacking. Enjoy.

So I guess really when it comes down to how much a plot is needed, the answer really is "Only as much as is actually good". If you have a fun combat system and something original to show, don't try to dazzle me with a complex story. Dazzle me with the complex puzzles and situations instead. On the other hand, if it's gameplay I have seen executed well before, by all means include some great story in with it. Just don't include characters like Hope unless you include an option to shove them off a ledge. Seriously. There is no excuse for including a character that annoying in a Final Fantasy game.

About Stephen Crane

Stephen was hooked by the NES at a very young age and never looked back. He games on a daily basis and is currently trying to climb his way up the ranked ladder on League of Legends! Outside of the video game world he actually likes running and owns a rapidly growing collection of toed shoes. Stephen Crane is the owner of Armed Gamer.

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