“The Rise of Storytelling in Video Games”

Graphically, video games have been evolving since the late 1980s. The Nintendo Entertainment System evolved into the prettier Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The Sega Genesis evolved into the Sega Saturn and then the Dreamcast, before Sega stopped releasing consoles in general due to the competition of Nintendo, and then Sony with the Playstation One. The Nintendo 64 added 3D environments just as the Playstation did. The focus on creating realistic-looking graphics became increasingly important to stay ahead of the competition and to meet customer desire. But are graphics really what matters in video games? Some say yes, others say no. Gameplay, in general seems to be the focal point. A fun experience is created by engaging gameplay.

However, an experience that will remain with a player, long after the credits roll is, in my opinion, the effectiveness of the story. Truly great games stick with you because of memorable story elements that made you laugh, smile, cry or even to the extent of changing your perception on gaming in general.

With the next generation consoles, the Xbox One and Playstation 4 boasting highly realistic graphics, it would seem that visuals are more important in the industry than the conception of an original and unforgettable story.

There are franchises that have told great stories for decades: Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda to name the heavy hitters.

But more recently, because of technological advances allowing smaller game companies, even just regular people, story has become more prominent, albeit still in the background to groundbreaking visuals.

Indie Games are at an all time high right now, which flourished largely because of the success of Braid. Then came Fez, Super Meat Boy, The Stanley Parable, Thomas Was Alone, Gone Home and Device 6. The last two were nominated by many critics for game of the year, and they were both story driven games.

Tell Tale Games has created a phenomenon with their iteration of Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead franchise, along with The Wolf Amongst Us. Both of which are episodic stories designed to leave players begging for the next part of the story, not the next part of the game.

Ken Levine, the creator and main writer behind Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite created stories that rival great novels and movies. The developers at Naughty Dog released The Last of Us, last year. Alongside Infinite, The Last of Us were considered two of the greatest games of last year, winning many awards. They won those awards because of the art and pacing of storytelling implemented within their own worlds. These are big-name titles, with high production values, and incredibly detailed and elaborate stories.

Graphics are at the forefront of video games, but an increasing amount of developers, small and large, realize that the market for delivering story based games with little to no graphical pop or even “fun” gameplay is growing.

After all, the things that stick with us, are the ones that affect us emotionally. The medium of video games is not exempt to that natural law of humanity.

*reprinted with permission from author

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Steven Petite

About Steven Petite

Steven Petite received his Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Cleveland State University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Publishing Studies at Southeastern Louisiana University. His journalism has appeared in Playboy, Huffington Post, Crixeo, Ranker, New York Game Critics Circle, and others. His fiction has appeared in Cigale Literary Magazine. He can be reached at stevenpetite@gmail.com.