Game Design

Plot Ignored + Unfinished Games = Useless Effort?

Each time I logged into Twitter this week, I’m reminded that I’m not at GDC.

Thanks go to each of you who post about what’s happening. I live vicariously through you.

As for what’s happening, a colleague forwarded this article that covered the talk “Death to the Three Act-Structure” which mentions research by Microsoft that claims players can’t remember the plots of games.

Combine this information with the statistics that show most gamers don’t finish the games they play, and you can imagine how futile it feels to be a game developer trying to create a very intricate interactive story.

Of course, there has been a number of people pointing out that making games is not the same as making movies or books. The more you try to make your game like those other media, the less you rely on the strengths of games.

Games are less about specific details of plot and narrative and more about the experience the player has. You can guide it, you can influence it, but you can’t author it.

It’s 2014, and it sounds like people are finally figuring out that writing for games isn’t the same as writing a novel.

What was your takeaway from the talk?

3 replies on “Plot Ignored + Unfinished Games = Useless Effort?”

(Commenting from a computer now.)

I’m fearful that the take-away for many developers will be to not attempt much of a story now. If people can’t remember their favorite game’s story, would go the logic, there’s not much of a reason to try at all.

Of course, I would argue that the problem is not that any particular game’s story is memorable or not, but more that, in general, they aren’t very good. Some are, sure, but way too many AAA games have very little story. There are some good story-based indie games out there, but, you know, being indie, they don’t get as much attention anyway.

Thanks for commenting, Dan!

I think there are opposing forces between the nature of games and the nature of fully-authored stories. One is about giving the player agency and generating experiences through meaningful play, the other is about taking away that agency in favor of a specific experience.

The more a game tries to be the latter, the less of a game it can be.

I have more to say about it, so stay tuned for more thoughts in a blog post coming soon.

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