Your typical movie-goer tends to walk into the theater hoping for a spectacle of explosions, gunfire, and maybe a few lines of dialogue for the sake of those sick one-liners that would probably make its way into a ten minute compilation of similar sayings. If this is what people expect from cinema, how high can their expectations be for video games?
Looking at your mainstream flow of gaming, they usually consist of your typical, run-of-the-mill shooter-fests in which you find a good spot to take aim, mow down some baddies, and move on to the next area where you repeat the process. Of course, I don“t mean to generalize; most gamers have higher expectations and want to see variety when it comes to the basic formula, whether it is a shooter, RPG, or platformer title.
Still, many other great titles such as Splinter Cell, Resident Evil, and Final Fantasy have fallen into this pattern in which developers feel as though they are compelled to put more action into their titles. Games that are known for their original qualities such as horror, strategy, or stealth have been reduced into keeping half of their original concept, with the other half being straight-up action. While it works in some cases, some fans feel as though these games lose its main purpose. That being said, it can be fair to say that the â€œInteractive Storyâ€ genre of gaming wouldn“t seem like a popular, or more importantly - profitable - proposal at a publisher“s next meeting.
However, in the past years, the interactive story has been making its return in the primetime spotlight of gaming, and depending on the crowd, it can deliver some of the most exciting moments and provoke the deepest emotions.
A Storybook With Choices
In point-and-click games like this, the player usually has to find clues and items in order to continue with the story
The closest thing I can compare an interactive story to are the point-and-click games that were made popular back in the 90s. Their idea was simple: the player moved a cursor around the screen and by clicking on items or places in the environment the player can move the main avatar or make him/her perform specific actions. The great thing about these games and what separated them from other games during their time was that they made you truly think about what to do. Most of the time you can“t blast through the door or jump over that broken ledge, but instead you“ll be forced to find and combine items, talk to people, or solve puzzles. This is basically what interactive stories are made of.
Thanks to advances in technology, the player now usually has the ability to move the character freely around a set environment, and from there the player will have to find items, talk to people, or, you guessed it, solve puzzles. While it doesn“t sound all too enthralling, within the right hands, the interactive story can keep you intrigued and even have your heart racing, depending on the situation.
Pieces Of A Plot
Trust me, while it may seem like nothing more than a romantic gesture, this decision in Heavy Rain will impact the story's conclusion
One of the most basic features of an interactive story is that it“s a story that you should have some degree of control over. Take Heavy Rain, for example. Depending on your choices, some characters may be affected by the impending circumstances or even die, which then affects other parts of the story later on in the game. Or perhaps handling a situation one way or another affects how the plot plays out by the end.
Heavy Rain can potentially have dozens of different endings. While the game ends in the same place, the variables involved can be completely different from one player“s file to the next. This is what helps create the intrigue in an interactive story, in that the player can essentially try to create the best outcome, see what happens when things go bad, or choose what they want to see happen. Interactive stories have no mandatory goals other than tell the player a tale of their own.
Dealing With Dialogue
Be mindful of who you take sides with in The Walking Dead
Coming from a writer, one of the aspects I appreciate most from a good video game is good writing. That“s why I usually applaud games like Uncharted or Red Dead Redemption or Mass Effect; not because of its gameplay (which is superb) but because of the writing in its characters. Dialogue is taken to a next level with interactive stories. Most of the time, the player can choose what their controlled character says.
In The Walking Dead video game adaptation, the player controls Lee and half the time you have to pick what he says to other characters along his journey. This added depth to interaction really allows the player to get to know this character that he/she essentially gets to form, and also get to know the world around the character. The Walking Dead is a particularly good example of this because when the game starts, you aren“t given any information about Lee other than the fact that he is being driven in a police car. You wonder why he“s being arrested when the game prompts you to say something to the police officer driving the car, and because of the fact that Telltale Games doesn“t give you any background information, Lee is essentially your own character.
The choices given to you during the game, which are usually four choices performed with one of the face buttons on your controller, are fairly distinct. There“s even a choice to be silent, something that I hadn“t remembered seeing as a consistent choice in a game like this. This also adds replay value if you“re interested as to what would happen if you said something different.
From Start To Finish
You'll need quick fingers to survive your encounters with the dinos in Jurassic Park: The Game
Some people doubt the entertainment value of interactive stories because of how the player is limited to movement, solving puzzles, and maybe picking dialogue. Some people don“t even consider interactive stories in gaming as video games, and that sparks arguments as to what a game actually is.
The general definition for â€œvideo gameâ€ is a game played by electronically manipulating images produced by a computer program on a television screen or display. That sounds about right. If Call Of Duty is considered â€œmanipulating images,â€ then interactive stories have a right to be considered video games, too. And exactly how fun can they be? Well, let“s bring up Call Of Duty again.
You can take bullets, sprint for miles, and come out of an exploding building without a scratch besides some mysterious red gel on your eyes. In interactive stories, you don“t get to do that. When stuck in a dangerous life-or-death situation, all you can rely on is quick reflexes and timed button presses. Now it may not seem difficult or exciting, but when your character“s life, a character that you“ve been building and following for several hours, relies on a few careful button presses, you“ll be on the edge of your seat making sure you don“t miss. And interactive stories aren“t limited to Heavy Rain or games of a similar caliber. Mass Effect and InFamous are just a few examples of games that take elements of interactive stories by allowing you to pick dialogue or change the course of the game through major decisions which add to the already rich experience.
The best part about interactive stories comes around the end, as the plot comes to a resolution and the main characters achieve (or don“t achieve) their goal. It is the moment when the culmination of your choices over the course of several hours comes together into a hopefully satisfying conclusion. The things you said, the people you saved, and the actions you performed flourish into a final result, and you realize that it was all because of your decisions. Even better, you can go back and do it again, continue making new stories, and you just might figure out why interactive stories can be some of the best experiences in gaming.