Story Matters

Posted: May 16, 2011 in Games
Tags: , , ,

So I was reading this post at Shamus Young’s blog,, which is about some problems he had with the story in Mass Effect 2. I can’t really comment, not having played Mass Effect 2, but I will share some thoughts and observations regarding story in video games.

You can criticize pretty much any aspect of a game. Obviously if the gameplay is substandard and you don’t enjoy it, that’s a good reason to criticize a game. Of course graphics are an area heavily criticized. Bad voice acting is another area that will be heavily criticized if done poorly. But if anyone even thinks of criticizing story in a game, there is an endless refrain of, “Games are just supposed to be fun, they don’t need a good story,” or, “If you want a good story read a book.”

First of all, if you play games just for fun, and don’t worry about whether the story is any good, I’ve got good news, you have literally hundreds of games to choose from. I have very few games to choose from, when I want a good story. Often times I will play games with poorly written stories, just to have fun, but occasionally I want something more. Some decently written story to accompany my gameplay doesn’t seem so unreasonable.

People often perceive critics of video game stories as pretentious pricks, sitting on top of the ivory tower of gaming, sneering at the regular guys who just want to have fun. I’d say it would be more accurate to characterize us as hobos on a street corner, begging developers to make some effort in the stories they put in games(although I can’t speak for anyone but myself).

Of course there’s still the, “if you want a good story read a book,” argument. Books are fine, and games with crappy storylines but good gameplay are also fine, but wouldn’t it be better to have both at the same time. I’ll demonstrate with a mathematical formula.

E = Enjoyment, S = Story, G = Gameplay

E = S+G

As you know a book will always have 0 for gameplay which means the maximum potential enjoyment of a book will be less than a game, the problem is games will rarely be better than books because they ignore the S part of the equation. Story and gameplay together make a make enjoyable whole than either one individually. That’s why I’m proud to criticize stories in games if it encourages developers to work on an aspect that is often not considered important.

Go ahead and criticize my formula, I dare you!

Edit: If you people agree or disagree please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

  1. maxff says:

    This is the worst post on the worst blog I’ve ever read. You should stop.

  2. Fang says:

    First off I don’t know why the voices won’t stop. Maybe you left the radio on.
    Second off do you have a mathematics degree? For that formula you put up is spot on.

    • maxff says:

      I don’t have a mathematics degree, but I am in college for software engineering, and there’s a little math involved.

      Based on the number of comments you’re leaving you probably qualify as my biggest fan. Or at least my number one reader. If you know anyone who might be interested in this please spread the word.

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