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Growing up in a video gaming family, we were all drawn to a certain type of video game, and we were probably biased because my sister and I just played whatever my Dad bought or rented. But we knew we had a type. We loved the games with a story, but back then the storytelling was different than it is today. Today, storytelling in video gaming is so incredibly important to the success of the game.
Back in the late 90's and early 00's, my family was playing games like Silent Hill, Parasite Eve and Resident Evil. We loved the gore, the combat and most of all, the stories that the games told. But they told their stories differently. Players didn't really have control over the outcome of the story, rather, you kicked ass as best as you could and were dealt an ending. Some games even had multiple endings like Silent Hill, where if you beat the game a certain number of times or did something like find a certain item, it would unlock a special ending. But these games didn't give the players a choice. At the time, there was nothing wrong with that. But today, video game storytelling has reached a whole new level with a far more intelligent and interactive approach to creating the narrative experience for players.
Take a game like Life Is Strange, for example. Life Is Strange released last Spring one episode at a time and the entirety of gameplay was based on the player's choices. While the middle of the game was affected by the player's choices, the ending was limited to only two choices no matter what the rest of the game included.
But that wasn't the case for Quantic Dream's Beyond: Two Souls. Beyond: Two Souls had as many as eight endings and was at one time rumored to have 24 different endings. This was because the gameplay choices the player made affected the ending of the game. And now, Quantic Dream is working on its next decision-based title, called Detroit: Become Human.
Player choice is quickly becoming a fad in video gaming, even more than it has been in the past. And these games that have decision-based gameplay have to have an exquisite narrative experience for the game to make sense or make an impact. And because of that, I feel like a lot of today's games know they are competing against these massive narrative projects, so they know they need to have a strong story as well, which perpetuates the storytelling fad.
I feel like strong storytelling in gaming is something that has really caught on recently, maybe not for every single popular game, but there's a definite emphasis on story in newer games than there has been in the past. I mean just look at the new God Of War game coming out. The reveal demo at E3 this year showed us Kratos teaching his kid how to hunt and in those few minutes of gameplay, we could feel the emotions of the characters, the relationship between them, and those kinds of details are elements of a strong developing story. It's honestly something I wasn't expecting from a God Of War game, but now I might actually play it.
Another example of a narrative focus in today's games is the upcoming 20 Year Celebration Edition of Rise Of The Tomb Raider on PS4. For those who will have PlayStation VR, there is an extra chapter that comes with the edition that will be strictly narrative-focused and combat free and in first-person. Tomb Raider has previously always been in third-person, putting that barrier between the player and the game and it seems that many games have turned their games into first-person to focus on the story. Another example of a classic third-person game doing this is Resident Evil. While these games have always had strong stories even with a third-person perspective, they're quickly realizing that strong storytelling puts the player right in the game in first-person, and I feel like this is just a branch of the storytelling trend sweeping through video games right now.
So why is story so important in video games? Maybe I'm biased when I say this, but I feel like having a strong story in a video game makes the gaming experience that much more unforgettable, and it helps me lose myself in the game. Kind of like when you lose yourself reading a good book. It's a tranquil kind of oasis where I can imagine for a moment I am the character in the game and I can get swept away in their drama or story. I've always felt this way about video games, I'm just glad that we are falling into a trend where games are starting to put more emphasis on their stories.
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