Story telling

Gone are the days of narrative video games

Some game titles are anchored in our nostalgia as reminiscences of our “good old days”. It was a time when having a computer without a GPU or with 256 MB of RAM was not an obstacle to enjoying a game.

To this day, when someone mentions names like “Max Payne 2”, “Half Life” or “Bioshock Inifinite”, we turn around because we are suddenly hit with an unexpected but welcome splash of memories.

So what made these games so good? Those games didn’t have the visuals that today’s games have, or the kind of PR team that works across 10 social media outlets to promote titles around the world.

Yet, after more than a decade or two, they are as popular among their fans as they were when they were released. It seems that popular old titles did one thing well, and that was to have incredible, relatable, personal, and impactful stories.

The developers didn’t have the game engines that made the ground crust so real that it became hard to tell if it was animated or not, instead they had to focus on the story and its progression to make the attractive games.

The developers of Max Payne 2 had so little budget that they couldn’t even incorporate animated cutscenes between gameplays, and the storybook-like stills progression became legend immediately upon release.

The fact that we still chant the name Tommy Vercetti from Grand Theft Auto, and still get goosebumps remembering the tower scene from Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 tells us that good stories are key. to make games memorable.

Now this all may sound like a rant from an adult who can’t forget the past, but if we look at the games that have hit the top lists in the last 4-5 years, it’s visible that the game is changing rapidly in its preferences and dynamics.

Multiplayer games have exploded into the arena, a report by popular website “GamingGorilla” showed that the top 20 most played games in the world are mostly session-based multiplayer games.

Titles like Pokemon Legends: Arceus*, Forza Horizon, Gran Turismo, and Fifa have dominated the platform lately, and it looks like the trend will continue.

Over the past 5 years, consumer gaming hardware has seen unprecedented improvements. Therefore, game developers are constantly releasing titles that are more graphically and space intensive.

Still, the biggest irony is that the growth in budget and visuals hasn’t necessarily translated into game titles that have incredible, memorable storylines.

Although the 2018 release of Red Dead Redemption 2 and God Of War Remastered, the two most popular games with incredible storylines in recent times, indicated that good stories might be making a comeback, the following years saw the multiplayer or franchise-based games dominate the lists.

Yes, games like Halo Infinite or Elden Ring are still coming out, but the overall trend is unequivocally showing a decline in story-based games. And that makes perfect business sense; nugget developers invest their money in games that guarantee safe returns.

A comment in a discussion on the escapist magazine forums sums up the scenario precisely – “Big publishers don’t want creativity, they want a guarantee on their money.” So what ends up happening is you don’t get great games in America, you get iterative games. Battlefields, Call of Duty, sports games, it’s the same game with a different coat of paint. But that’s because these games sell out and are very low-risk investments for publishers.

Perhaps our declining attention span is prompting us to opt for session-based multiplayer games for that quick outing. We seem to lose the vigor of sitting for long hours waiting for the protagonist’s story to truly unfold in a grand way.

We just don’t have the patience to wait for the time every good story takes to reach the buildups that made story-based games so good in the first place.

The agony we felt with Max Payne, or the suspense we experienced with Dr. Gordon Freeman, still feels real to this day, and as humans, at the end of the day – among all the rises of Adrenaline rushes of modern times, we all crave a good story that brings us closure.

[email protected]