Can a Game With Poor Gameplay be Saved by a Good Story?

Video games are a pretty unique medium when it comes to story telling. They can provide an experience that other mediums cannot ever hope to imitate. Immersion in a movie is one thing and is often very difficult to achieve but with a video game one can often find themselves lost within a game’s universe or enthralled by the story being told. 

Then there’s the level of choice and with it, consequence that video games provide, the only other medium that does this at any level is a choose your own adventure book. These books are limited in that they can only make so many choices converge and split away before the required pages to tell one complete story rivals that of Wikipedia.

Of course a video game’s primary objective isn’t story telling, it is to provide a challenge through interactivity. The level of the challenge and the amount of interactivity is adjustable but the general idea remains concrete.
Many writers have become inspired by video game’s unique way of conveying a story and bringing a user into a world and allowing them to become intimate with it. However there have been quite a few cases where they put little thought into the gameplay and try to copy another game’s system, only to create a bastardisation that no one should bother touching.

This mistake may not always be on purpose, frequently the developer really does want to create a solid game experience and the only redeeming quality that comes out of the whole ordeal is the story. This is unfortunate. But there are those who chose to focus entirely on story to the point of disregarding gameplay. This is unforgivable.

Ever since the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) there have been adventure games, or visual novels which are almost entirely story driven with the occasional puzzle (sometimes they’re the other way round). These genres exists entirely to fulfil the aspiring writers yet it is ignored too often. If the creators of either Nier or Planescape: Torment had used a less gameplay driven genre they would have almost certainly done better, or at least got better reviews.

Coming back to the topic at hand, a video game is not just a vessel for telling a story. A game’s story cannot redeem poor gameplay, in the same way that a brilliant story cannot redeem an illegible font in a book. If the player has to suffer through the gameplay of a game to get a well written story they would be very tempted to give up and look at a walkthrough on youtube, or read the script online.



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