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DrButler avatar 3:10 PM on 04.26.2012  (server time)
Why are games' stories important?

You've read this article time and time again, so I'm not going to bore you with a drawn out introductory paragraph, sighting all of the industries progress over the past several decades. Instead I'm going to jump right in immediately, and begin making controversial statements, and hoping for some actual discourse in the comments

More and more, videogames have become less games, and more like bad Sci-Fi original movies. There's an intense, almost laser beam focus on narrative of videogames, as oppossed to gameplay, and overall enjoyment. In fact, I've seen time and time again, games with very weak gameplay get a free pass, using it's story as justification for it's subpar mechanics. Games like BioShock (not bad per-se, but so easy that it quickly grows dull and repetitive), and Skyrim are praised, despite the facts that they are not good, at least not when you are criticizing them as 'games' instead of amateur literature. These same people will then slam Soul Calibur 5 (a competitive game, no less) for only having two hours of cutscenes.

I'm actually going to rag on BioShock - the supposed sacred cow, and the new bastion of the entertainment industry - for a bit. Although frequent subject of praise, BioShock is slow-paced, boring, and altogether too easy. The gameplay just didn't do it for me. It's really a shame, because some of the stuff it had was cool, (bee-hands) and would of been done justice in a more focused product. Now people will come to defend this game stating "But Butler, it's narrative is SOOOO GOOOOOD GAEMS R ART", and to that I ask why is that a valid argument?

At what point did videogames value schlocky made-for-television-movie plots over fine-tuned gameplay?
Having a narrative-based game reduces it's replay value to almost nothing, being a one-trick pony that is quickly finished, and then forgotten. Some games will feature a multiplayer component, and that's great, granted that it's well made, but often they are not, but that's a tangent I'll bitch and whine about later. If you are playing a game, you should not expect them to slack off on the "game" part in lieu of something else. Especially if that something else isn't good.

This argument is not against narratives altogether, granted the gameplay doesn't suffer at the expense of anything, let alone story. I could cite Metal Gear Solid, but I believe everyone already has. Instead, the Uncharted series is an excellent, and fairly recent example of how to correctly incorporate these many elements. Uncharted's story lends itself to the gameplay, and the two work well together. Uncharted's mechanics are top-notch, and everything works pretty perfectly. The difficulty-curve is just perfect, easing newbies in, and offering even more satisfying challenges as you sally-forth. They didn't play the "Hollywood Cutscenes OMG" card, and slack off on the core of the game.

The cutrscenes are of professional quality and the story is actually engaging, and well-written, which makes it easy to get into the narrative, especially since the voice-actors were coached, and treated like actual actors, as oppossed to the reading-off-the-script-in-one-take that so many games tend to use. The "tacked-on" multiplayer was the logical extension of the perfectly-tuned gameplay, and extended the game's lifespan greatly.

The 'art' of games lies in the creation of strong, fundamental mechanics, because that is what sets it apart from other mediums of entertainment. That, to me, is the strongest argument for games as art, and nobody ever seems to discuss it.

Summary: People played Marvel vs Capcom 2 for 12 years. They played BioShock once.

Any thoughts?

(Next I'll get into Linearity, since that's another topic that people like to drone on about.)

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