Why Story is Important in Games
At Fox Tor Games, our mission is to create storydriven games that reward the curious and resourceful. Storytelling is important. It’s how we make sense of the world around us, and - as game designers - it’s how we make interesting worlds and characters for players to explore.
Do you have a favourite game, film or novel? What is it about? Is there a main character? What is their goal? Do they change from the beginning compared with the end?
This transformation is the essence of story.
Now imagine your favourite film without that story. What’s left? Probably not much.
This brings us to…
WHY STORY IS IMPORTANT IN GAMES
The less profound but practical answer is:
MAKING GAMES COSTS MONEY
It takes a team of people (writer, programmer, artist, sound designer, etc.) - or in some cases, a multi talented individual - to put together a game. Your costs might be in contracting people to work for you, or in your own time spent, so it makes sense to aim to do it well from the start. This means making sure the game is engaging - and the story is very important in achieving this.
Given that games take time, skill and dedication to put together, it makes sense to get it right: to create to the best of your ability.
Which brings us to what is important about story, which is the more profound and my prefered answer…
STORY = PURPOSE
Story gives context, it gives a mission, a purpose. It gives what you are creating meaning.
Without a story, what do you have? Some visuals, perhaps. Some characters with no direction…? The characters only make sense in the context of story…
In other words, the story is what makes the game make sense.
Story can be communicated in various ways - it’s not just words… It’s the mission the player is on, the why, the what-for, it is the characters who work with or against the player, it is what the game looks like, what it sounds like and every detail about it.
I don’t want to be dramatic about it, but:
STORY IS EVERYTHING
The journey through the story may not be linear. Games often offer branching options, which can be thought of like forks in the road: go one way you find a castle and dragons, go the other you encounter unicorns and rainbows, and it is the player who chooses their path, but YOU, the story creator, choose the map of possibilities.
Put another way: The player gets to choose what to eat, but the writer or game designer is responsible for choosing the menu.
AND THAT IS WHY STORYTELLING IS SO IMPORTANT IN GAMES
It is the story that will - at one extreme offer a pretty backdrop, and at the other extreme elevate your game to art.
Games with story, or at least games with a good story, offer progression through a world, a situation and offer intrigue - wanting to find out ‘what next?’ keeps the player engaged.
You can find out more about storytelling through games through our other blog posts and by signing up to our online course GAME WRITING: STORYTELLING THROUGH VIDEO GAMES.