Stories are powerful tools no matter the medium they are found in. Many modern video games utilize stories to convey themes in increasingly unique ways.
Picture from Playstation.com
The level of interactivity found within single-player gaming experiences is particularly good for telling stories that impact the player. It leaves them considering the messages contained within and helps immerse them within the gameplay.
Story, Experience, Ratchet and Clank
Talking about stories and the personal experiences they have evoked has taken a backseat to in-depth discussions of gameplay mechanics, graphics, and performance on different platforms. Gamers still experience the story within the video games that have it and they can still leave an impact.
I have been playing a handful of video games that have made me think about how important narratives are to individuals. I recently purchased a PlayStation Plus Premium membership and found that almost every PlayStation 3 Ratchet & Clank game is in the library to stream. I played through A Crack in Time, Into the Nexus and the most recent title Rift Apart.
All three games were a joy to play and experience for the first time, but as I was playing Rift Apart, I was drawn to the narrative of the game and the core theme it was trying to convey through its exploration of both Ratchet and Rivet’s story arcs.
Picture from Wikipedia.com
The main theme of Rift Apart is self-doubt, and I found myself relating to the struggles Ratchet and his friends were facing about their doubts. In the game, Ratchet felt that he was washed up and unfit to be a hero while Rivet, the secondary protagonist, doubted her ability to be a part of a team.
When the game concluded with a triumphant resolution and answer to the characters’ self-doubt, I came out of it glad to know that I’m not alone in the struggle of self-doubt. The themes of the story left a great impact on me.
I finished a gripping narrative feeling victorious and happy, but my experience with that game, or with any game, is not universal. Gaming narratives affect gamers differently; no two people will finish a story and feel the same about it.
Gabriel Osburn, a sophomore electrical engineering major at OU, is one person who feels that gaming narratives are important to a game’s overall experience.
“It’s very important to help with gameplay if the story of a game is engaging,” said Osburn. “If a game is just combat-based it can be rather flat and uninteresting to play, for example.”
Picture from store.steampowered.com
Stories in video games are a balancing act; a healthy mix of gameplay and story content keeps a player engaged with their experience. It helps when the story is trying to communicate themes and ideas as well.
“Story is definitely important to conveying a theme in a video game,” Osburn said. “One that comes to mind is a game called Thief. The story is very important because the main character is on the run and it needs to convey that tone and context.”
Whether someone is playing a more lighthearted game like Ratchet & Clank or a bleak tale like Thief, the story is important. Most modern single-player games are built around pillars of gameplay and story, and if one of them is weak, the entire experience suffers.
Amariah Alabi, a sophomore biochemistry major at OU, is an avid gamer who pays close attention to the story of a video game. She mostly plays single-player games that focus on narrative.
“I’m very interested in the story aspect of a game,” said Alabi. “I feel like some games just get boring and repetitive if they don’t have a story to go along with it. It also makes the gameplay more exciting and immersive.”
Games can send messages just as well as movies and television, if not better. Different views will be formed about those messages, but the most important thing is that an impact was made on the player.