Should Video Games Have Stories?

Recently, David Jaffe, the man behind the “God of War” games and “Twisted Metal”, weighed in on telling stories in video games: namely, he’s against it.

Which raises an interesting question: should video games have stories?

There are arguments for and against. Valve is a good argument for: Valve goes out of its way to find talented writers who love video games, and sinks a lot of money and time into the stories those writers put out. But then again, Valve tends to pair those stories with unique mechanics; “Portal” became an instant hit because of its unique gameplay, but “Portal 2” became a classic because the gameplay and the story were closely meshed. A recent non-Valve example would be “Deus Ex: Human Revolution”, which lets you piece together side stories (and get important information to advance in the game) from reading other people’s emails.

In the “against” column, you have games like “Shadow of the Colossus”, which has a story so simple you literally don’t know if the colossi are actually bad or dangerous, or games where the story actively gets in the way, like “Skyrim” or “Kingdoms of Amalur”.

In the end, we feel that it’s bad stories and bad characters that wreck video games, as well as a failure to closely mesh story and gameplay. Part of the problem is that games have never stopped patterning themselves on a handful of movies: “Aliens”, “Blade Runner”, John Woo’s Hong Kong work, and whatever’s been a huge hit recently: “300” has a lot to answer for, and “Lord of the Rings” has inspired its share of atrocities. We rag on story a lot in here, but honestly, it’s because a bad story is distracting.

What do you think? Is Jaffe right? Do stories get in the way? Or is just the industry needs better writing?

image courtesy Shutterstock