When you look at the first video games we ever had (Spacewar! and Pong for example) there wasn’t much to work with, the technology was not far enough to create what we’re used to today. Even in the present, it can be difficult to convey everything you can imagine into the final project. I’m a creative writer at heart, but when I’m participating in a 24 or 48-hour Game Jam, some things just have to take the back-seat (though I still try).
(Spacewar! was created by Steve Russel in 1962 at MIT.)
But as the technology got better, more memory and better graphics processors, we were able to create more vibrant stories. Using this new advantage, developers could expand what they did from mere text boxes on the bottom of the screen:
(Legend of Zelda created by Nintendo in 1986)
To lavish affairs that strain even the most advanced graphics systems:
(Battlefield 3 created by EA Digital Illusions CE in 2011.)
Of course, there is no hard-and-fast rules stating that better graphics make a better story. There are games that look lifelike that offer nothing to a player hoping to sink their teeth into a storyline. Likewise, games with early-2000s level graphics can have engrossing plots.
Of course, there is also a fine line to how much ‘story’ one adds to the game. If you have too much, it becomes clunky exposition after clunky exposition, forcing info down the player’s throat. Too little and there’s no plot to cling too.
Games like Half-Life let the player experience everything through first-person cutscenes, a prime tool in the current age of video games. This avenue allowed you to never be plucked away from the action, and keep your immersion intact. And immersion in any form of media is key, as it keeps the player/reader/watcher motivated to continue.
On the flip-side, games like Metal Gear Solid feature cutscenes heavily, almost infamously. There is a fine line between heavy-handed use and genius cinematography that is still up for debate.
Both are fantastic game series with deep stories as things progress, but the way they explore said story are different and set them both apart.
(Half-Life created by Valve Corporation in 1998.)
(Metal Gear Solid created by KCEJ and Published by Konami in 1998.)
As future tech like the Oculus Rift give developers better tools to craft stories with. I have been able to experience the Rift, and being truly inside a game opens up all sorts of doors on how we’ll be able to tell stories in the future. Hopefully we can use the technology prowess we’ve created to create amazing interactive masterpieces that will put cinema to shame!
(Sub Story created by myself and Andrew Delorenzo, and won the 2012 SNHU Fall Game Jam.)