Monday, 21 April 2014

Game Story and Narrative - Personal Inquiry Draft

For my personal enquiry I have decided to write delve into how game story and narrative have developed over the ages and the innovations in this area in modern games, this is an area that I have always been interested in since researching it in college and hopefully I can shed a bit more light on the topic here.

To gather some material for this research I started to play some story-heavy games including Heavy Rain, Metal Gear Solid and The Last Of Us as well as games like Journey and Shadow Of The Colossus which don't rely as much on dialogue but still have an interesting narrative. All of these games I never played before so it was a fun and interesting experience in learning all of the interesting narrative mechanics in each.

I also did some research into how story is actually constructed in games and come across some very interesting reads. One point that emerges is that game story and narrative has become less linear as video games has developed, this attributes more to the rise of open world games and stories that results in alternate endings or plotlines. Also games have become less focused on a rigid plotline as game designers have realised that players remember the characters more rather than the individual plot elements, this allows for more immersion in the game and leaves things up for interpretation more, something which allows for a different kind of story telling compared to movies or television.

Here I compare two games I played (ahem* researched) Metal Gear Solid and The Last Of Us, both are regarded as having some of the best game story of their respective time. Metal Gear's story is very rigid in nature, not allowing for a lot of deviation in the plot more akin to a movie, there is also a heavy focus on advancing the story through long cutscenes which can take the player out of the experience.

The Last Of Us still has the occasional cutscene but the bulk of the narrative is done through in game characterization rather than driven purely through cutscenes. There is also a difference in story structure between the two games as Metal Gear is more based upon a three-act narrative structure typically found in movies, however The Last Of Us is more serialized where the overall arc is separated into smaller individual stories like television series. The serialized approach allows characterization to shine through more as the in game objectives become more focused on more short term goals.

Points to include in researched text and other potential topics

  • Development from text based games
  • Original 3 act story in game – Donkey Kong
  • Linear vs Open world narrative – cite mass effect alternate endings, GTA and games like Final Fantasy which have a more fixed and linear narrative quality
  • Implied narrative and meanings - Journey and Shadow Of The Colossus
  • Backstory - World building, background, portrayal of narrative through game art


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