What Makes a Video Game Story Great?

It may seem trivial but the success of a video game story can be broken down into a variety of factors. The focus and quality of these factors is what we gamers truly love about our favourite stories. You may wonder why I’ve dedicated one of the first GameYarn articles to this topic. Quite simply it’s a great way to explain how I’ll be rating games.

Lately the gaming industry has had increasing success when experimenting in narrative types. Typically the gaming industry had two kinds of stories, those that focused on characters and those that had plot-driven stories. These two types can be found in series like Sonic the Hedgehog and Final Fantasy respectively. Nowadays you have games like Limbo taking the idea of atmosphere and thematic style to a whole new level.

Metal Gear Solid 4

Metal Gear Solid plays out much like you`d expect an anime to. It introduces a protagonist that the game revolves around an insane story filed with plot twists, and characters crazy enough to give dragonball a run for its money. Despite all this, the game wholeheartedly embraces this level of insanity and it makes for an emotional and entertaining ride.

Having many great characters is great as it lets the player connect with a favourite. That being said, if a game can really nail one character perfectly, quantity won’t matter. Portal proved this with GlaDOS, one of the most beloved video game characters to grace our screens in ages. Quantity helps, but quality reigns supreme.

Portal

Bastion took the idea of a silent protagonist and used every trick in the book to create a fantastic story-driven game. By giving voice to the narrator, it kept players engaged even during the action-moments. The music was moving, the visual style unique, and the narrative enthralling.

A key part of a memorable story is emotion. If a game can make the player literally feel for characters or events, then it has won them over. The game To The Moon did just that last year, providing one of the years best stories. It made you actually feel for the characters and turned a decent story into a fantastic one.

To The Moon

Much like with Bastion, the music in a game can make all the difference. Whenever you look back fondly on some of your favourite story moments in games, you will undoubtedly remember the music that went with it. Music is the easiest and strongest way to evoke emotion. Whenever I hear certain songs from games I’ve played, I’m brought back to that key plot moment that made me sad, happy, or anything in between.

If you’ve been keeping track, that makes Atmosphere, Characters, Plot, Emotion, and Music. Visual style has also recently become quite important to a players immersion into an experience, though it is not universally true. While there are different elements to each of these factors, these stand out as the main characteristics that make up a fabulous storytelling experience.

tales of symphonia

That is why if you ever see a review on the site, we will be grading it according to these 6 factors:

Plot: (Thought-provoking/coherent)

Music: (Fitting/memorable)

Characters: (Likeable/memorable)

Emotional Attachment:

Visuals: (Atmosphere/Style)

Overall:

As I have always stated, a story can be incredible even if it lacks one or most of these factors. It is sometimes enough only to absolutely nail the atmosphere, in order to have players completely enthralled in the experience.

So the next time you make, or more likely play, a game, remember what it takes to make a great story.

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