The art of storytelling in video games
We read stories to entertain ourselves, travel to strange or magical places, be scared, find out whodunnit, laugh, cry, think, feel, and be so engrossed that for a while we forget where we are.
We consume stories in many ways like by reading books or watching movies. But there's another form of storytelling that's amassing adoration – video games.
The usual structure of storytelling in popular media has always been something like this – we witness an incident taking place, sometimes through the eyes of a character, and sometimes from the words of a narrator. It's a tried and tested method, and an engaging one too, allowing us to care about the characters and the story.
However, we can only do this as observers. It's restricted to always being a passive experience.
Video games have the unique ability to give people the first-hand experience of what's happening to a character. Players aren't restricted to only being bystanders. They become the hero, villain, or just a father running from a nine-feet-tall vampire lady to save his daughter.
Moreover, games like God of War (2018) let you experience one of the most beautiful, personal, and larger than life stories of all time about a God and his son. The game is wittily embedded with Norse mythology with alterations to give the game a chance to tell its version of the myths.
Some video games, like The Last of Us Part II, make you play as multiple characters, forcing you to empathise with the points of view of different characters with different or even opposing ideals and goals. This makes the story non-binary, and feel realistically complex, something other mediums rarely possess.
Another great example would be Detroit: Become Human, an interactive choose-your-own-adventure game. The story puts the player in front of a familiar dichotomy – should sentient robots have the same rights as humans? Players have to make decisions both as characters who would agree and those who wouldn't when playing the game.
Video games have long been regarded as hollow pieces of media to be consumed for mindless recreation, whereas books and films are appreciated as mediums of impactful stories. Castlevania is a perfect example of how false that sentiment can be.
The show, adapted from a popular game series titled the same, has the premise of vampires, vampire hunters, mages, magical beasts and so on. But even in between all the action-packed fights, we get to see politics, parental issues, religious discourse, real and flawed characters, as well as good vampires and terrible human beings.
These aspects about such adaptations speak for how video game stories can be as powerful and impactful, if not more, than our contemporary storytelling methods. Thus, it's time we start appreciating video games, not just as another means of entertainment, but also as sources of articulated storytelling.
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