Setting realistic expectations
Shooters, historically, have had a tough time telling good and coherent stories. It’s a video game genre in which, no matter what goes into the narrative, the audience expects to continually kill something. That sort of action might make for an entertaining story, but rarely a truly good one.
Going into Gears of War 4, studio head and longtime Gears producer Rod Fergusson readily acknowledges that this game probably won’t win any awards for narrative excellence. In an interview with Game Informer, Fergusson says “I have no aspirations to be like ‘This is the greatest story ever told.'” At least the expectations are realistic.
He continued “[The reason is] it’s part of the medium. When you’re dealing with a game type where the one interaction you have with the world is with what you shoot, it makes it really hard to tell the heartfelt and meaningful story. I think, probably, The Last of Us is the closest to accomplishing that … For us, it’s about creating compelling characters and a compelling world, doing cool shit that you’re going to love going back to again and again.”
Fergusson’s right. Shooters that manage to tell gripping narratives often have to rely on traces of other mediums to do it — whether that be via cutscenes, audio logs, or something of that ilk. The video game parts of these stories usually do the least to contributing to the narrative; they’re just there because that’s what makes a video game a video game, and that’s what’s expected in a video game.
Instead, shooters have a much more reasonable chance to excel when they focus on environmental world-building, and the way the player interacts with and experiences that world. That, in and of itself, can be a story worth telling. And, it seems like that’s something Fergusson is trying to do with Gears of War 4.
The New Direction for Gears of War 4’s Story [Game Informer]