State of the Game Address: Videogame Storytelling




People play video games for tons of reasons. Escape from reality, the need to compete and collect things, or the stress reliever from a long day of a stupid job. Since I was old enough to hold a controller and yell at a screen, the reason I have played was the story. Mario had to save a princess, Zelda also had to but had to collect a few things first, and in Contra you had to run to the right and blow up stuff because that’s what awesome 80’s shirtless action heroes did.

Throughout all the ages of gaming though, storytelling has always been what has wrapped me in and kept me playing. In just the span of most of our reader’s lives we have seen stories in games evolve from a few paragraphs after a title screen to hours of movie quality cut scenes (oh yeah, I’m looking at you Metal Gear Solid) that can truly draw a connection with gamers and hold us long after the game is turned off.

In our current generation of gaming goodness, I am seeing two dominant types of game storytelling that are flooding markets and geeky basements everywhere. Stories are either shoved at the player via long winded cut scenes and “put-down-the-controller” moments like in Metal Gear Solid of Final Fantasy, or the player is allowed to view the story while he or she  is playing in explosive set pieces and dialogue choices like in Gears Of War, Call of Duty, or Mass Effect. Both types allow the player to take in a large of amount of content and see some truly massive events, but sometimes I fear that they shove the player farther from the actual game play experience and treat them like movie-goers at a theater.

The fact is, I pay a lot more for games than I do movie tickets (even with the popcorn, jellybeans, Reece’s pieces, ice cream, hotdog, and sour worms I normally get) so I want get something in games that I can’t get in movies. I want actual INVOLVEMENT in my games. This explains why some of my favorite games in the past several years have been games like Fallout 3 and New Vegas, Dark Souls, and Bioshock. These games didn’t treat me like a bystander, they treated me as the hero of my own real world adventure. The story unfolds itself as much or as little as the player decides. Those that plunder the depths of bombed out buildings in The Wasteland of Fallout 3 will find valuable treasure of coarse, but they may also find data terminals and notes that help to build the grand story of the game.

Bioshock drops the player in a crumbling undersea Hell with little to no explanation of the surroundings or what all conspired to bring it to the current state. The player must find out at his or her own pace what exactly happened through very limited cut scenes and recordings left behind by those that may already be consumed by the environment. Games like this can do such a better job at building a believable world for the game to exist in, and to also give the player a sense of discovery that I think is missing in most games today.

What I really want to hear is all from you guys, what is your favorite game (story wise) of all time and why do you feel that way? What game had such an impact on your life that it stayed with you and sticks in your brain like a tumor made of awesomeness. Leave in the comment section below, and stay tuned soon for stories from us here at Just Us Geeks for our own favorite game stories of all time.

About author


Collector of retro video games, blogger of blogs, and caster of pods. I'm a resident of Northeast Mississippi where I live with my wife and hold court as the Chief Video Game consultant for the Just us Geeks empire.