Am I playing in a parallel universe? I read or talk about video games every day, but I never hear anyone recognize what I constantly think: the stories of video games suck.
It is true that the part of the real game of video games is more important than the story, and that part is still as fun as ever. But stories are often combined with the finesse of a college student writing an essay the night before.
Take a recent example, Assassin & # 39; s Creed: Origins. I shudder when I think about the hours it must have taken to create the beautiful world of the game, but I gave up about seven hours more. I feel guilty for not liking myself, but by being fully realized as ancient Egypt was, I had no reason to worry.
You play as the Egyptian warrior Bayek, whose son was killed by nefarious guys who manipulate the politics of the day: standard fare for a game of Assassin's Creed. In a typical story of "tough guy with a heart of gold against the evils of the world", you are looking for revenge and stop the intrigues of the bad guys. But everyone in history feels recycled. Nobody offers anything that we have not seen before in dozens of movies and games.
I played about seven hours of that, so it's possible that the remaining 23 were Vonnegut. But how good is a story if it takes eight hours to invest?
I'm not choosing Assassin's Creed, because this is a problem in the middle. It is a painful point for me. I was a nerd dedicated to the game since I can remember, until approximately 2007. That's when I went from playing two or three titles a month to playing two or three a year. Like many people, I often try to recover the glorious years of my youth, but now the stories in the games are an obstacle.
I contacted three AAA developers, Ubisoft, Guerrilla Games and Naughty Dog, about the state of video game storytelling, but none of them answered me.
AAA games or B movies?
The video game industry has grown enormously in recent years, and is expected to generate more than $ 100 billion this year, according to Newzoo. But the quality of the narrations told throughout the game has not flowered in the same way.
Games, now with budgets that rival those of Hollywood productions, often try too hard to feel like best-selling movies. In the world of video games, we call those games "AAA".
Take the Sony Indiana Jones-esque Uncharted games. The developer Naughty Dog really planned the Uncharted 3 action and then created a story around it, creative director Amy Hennig told CNN about the launch of the game in 2011. This makes it an exciting game experience, like when Shoot down enemies in buildings that fall in Uncharted 2 in 2009, but at a cost. The story here is an excuse for the game, rather than a game story.
The peripheral quality of storytelling in video games is also shown in the lack of originality. Most of the AAA games I play look like confluences of B movie tropes, with Uncharted as a kind of poster here. It is a master class of technical creativity, but apparently devoid of much reflection in regard to the plot.
The series has the distant protagonist, the mentor of "I'm too old for this shit" and the brave love interest of the enemy turned into a friend, but he's not alone. Titles like Horizon Zero Dawn post-apocalyptic and Assassin's Creed: Origins feel just like the formulations of clichés of the B-series of mixing and combining.
Okay, there's more to video games than to their story. The spectacularwas a pleasure to play, and its history, of a world in which robots have almost extinguished humans, was fascinating. However, he was disappointed by the empty characters and a boring main plot. Meanwhile, I played and dug Uncharted 2 and 3, although that good was left without chips by Uncharted 4. That is another game in which I gave up about seven hours, the perfect score would be condemned. In all these cases, the story felt like a cement that weighed on an otherwise stellar experience.
Video games have tools that help them tell stories. Final Fantasy RPGs, for example, use combat mechanisms to reflect the personality or narrative role of each character, and most action games have a skill arc that runs simultaneously with the character arc. But there are specific characteristics of the game that hurt the storytelling.
Too many options
What bothers me most is the storytelling of your own choice, in which the plot changes according to the choices you make at all times. Many AAA games now have this, although it is most famously associated with the Mass Effect and Witcher franchises. Generally, nice restaurants do not allow you to make substitutions because they will affect the taste profile, and it has the same meaning that the creators of games should tell a specific story, not one generated by the player, so as not to dilute the theme, the characters or plot.
The antithesis of this is a game like Bioshock Infinite, a linear experience in which almost everything works at the service of history. Man, I love Bioshock Infinite.
Many players, of course, do not have as much confidence in the need for an exciting story as I do. How can I know? Nintendo. The games of Mario, Zelda and Pokémon retell the same story, but they are considered highly due to the design of games ahead of their time. The tacit agreement: the fun is in the mechanics, not in the plot. Super Mario Odyssey, launched last month, sold 2 million units in just three days. It's not my cup of tea, but I understand.
Are you a hardcore or casual player? I guess the importance of the stories of the game depends on your answer to that question. If you are a dedicated player, it is easy to spend 20 hours playing just for fun, like appreciating a novel for writing rather than telling it.
But if you're a casual player, for whom TV, movies, books and more are of equal interest, emotional investment is the key. Unfortunately I am now in this category. My adolescent self would be ashamed.
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