If you still don’t believe video games are the future of great storytelling, you’ve got to get with the times.
One of the earliest movies was called L’arrivée du train en gare de La Ciotat, or The Arrival of a Train, which was a clip featuring a train, well, arriving at a station. There was no story. People were more interested in the technology of filmmaking than what they were actually watching. Movies soon evolved, though, after filmmakers began to realize these clips could be used to tell a story.
Gaming has transformed in a similar fashion.
Whether you believe they were introduced to the world in the late 1950s with Tennis for Two or the early 1970s with Pong, or maybe some other point in time, there should be no doubt that video games today are totally different from before. In those times, it was all about the technology, the fact that you could manipulate objects on a screen. Nowadays, however, gaming is about much more.
What video games do, and what other mediums — movies, comics, books, etc. — can’t, is they turn you into a constantly active participant. Instead of just watching events occur, gamers have control over how it unfolds.
Take developer Telltale Games for example. In the past few years this studio has played an instrumental role in changing the way players view storytelling in video games, with critically acclaimed story-oriented titles like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us under its belt. Telltale endows a small sum of power to the individual player, allowing them to cast their own decisions, thus rendering multiple paths for a story that’s unique to him or her.
Think about a movie you enjoyed but wasn’t too keen on a certain part because your favorite character died or something. The next time you watch that movie you’ll expect what’s coming, although some part of you might hope for things to be different. Telltale — and it’s in no way the only developer doing so — actually lets you alter the narrative track, possibly giving you the opportunity to rescue that character.
Let’s take a more recent example: Life is Strange, the new episodic series from developer DONTNOD Entertainment. Life is Strange follows an 18-year-old high school photographer who discovers she has the ability to rewind time. The game dives right into teenage-girl cliches ranging from the crush on the hot teacher to the popular rich girl being the class bully.
To be blunt, if Life is Strange was any other form of entertainment, it would suck — though, to be fair, only the first episode is out, so there’s a large possibility the story will get better.
But, in fact, this game is awesome. Much like Telltale Games’ style, Life is Strange isn’t an action-packed experience. Players spend most of their time choosing dialogue options or reading into other characters and exploring the school grounds for objects to take photos of. But everything you do in the game has a weight to it and taking even the simplest of pictures can severely alter the story. The decisions you make have a consequence, and this adds a weight to gamers’ shoulders and pushes the levels of immersion to its limits. Cliches they may be, but you’ll be utterly invested in them.
More and more games are tackling this approach, and these numbers will surely continue to increase.
Many still believe the common misconception that gaming is for kids; however, according to Entertainment Software Association statistics released in 2014, the average gamer is 31 years old. Think about that for a second. Gaming began to really kick-off with the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, which is about 30 years ago.
Just as the games themselves have grown, so have the gamers.
Jumping on turtles and blasting space rocks will always be a good time (for all ages), and games like that will never fade. But video games have matured, and people are finally beginning to see just how much. The future of video games is not in the next best story, but the next best story is surely in the future of video games.