A couple weeks ago, back at the end of April, the Atlantic published a provocative article by Ian Bogost titled “Videogames are better without stories.” In the piece, Mr. Bogost tells us the audience that gaming’s obsession with stories is misguided, undercutting what the medium does best which is often gameplay.
His critique is blunt in a way that rubbed alot of people, including myself the wrong way, but I found myself nodding with some of his points but overall disagreeing with the article. The problem is that it doesn’t matter, but videogames need stories to work and frankly they have no choice.
Bogost is saying that videogames aren’t capable of producing stories, but that gaming is flawed at telling certain stories which isn’t wrong because I’ve played games that the stories were out of reach and very stupid. Again, I’m inclined to agree but then I remember games like “BioShock, The Last of Us, Uncharted, and Battlefield 1.” and more then I disagree completely. The problem is that videogames have become the defacto medium for an entire generation, he argues that games are irrationally looking to create relevance from chasing Hollywood which is true but not all stories are like that, that sentence might be true for games like Call of Duty, Battlefield, and other games that have bombast action it isn’t really true for every single game out there that want to push a good and honest story. The medium has become a choice for many, and there’s little to no evidence suggesting that this will change, videogames as a whole are faced with the task of integrating a story and tell it in the way they want to. Some of the best stories have come out of videogames in the past 10 years like Battlefield 1’s War Stories or The Last of Us.
Yes, while we hear and discuss more on how videogames are now progressing into the realm of cinema with games like Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Uncharted for an example that have bombast action and they seem like a good action movie. Movies went forward and we followed suit with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare back in 2007, and I went digging around and I found myself agreeing with Charles Pratt who said this.
“Is anyone disagreeing with his main point: we solved the problem of stories in games by giving up on making them truly interactive?” said Pratt. “The best stories in games are basically radio plays right now, and that’s fine. Music is also an inefficient way of delivering narrative, but I still like opera.”
I haven’t played What Remains of Edith Finch, neither do I really want to play it but let’s be honest here: That game wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Gone Home and Gone Home proved that there was an audience for those sort of games. As for me, as a person and has a gamer, I love a good story but even better I love a fantastic story.
People love good stories, people love good videogames, and people love to be brought in and be engaged in a good story. The whole point of a story is to bring you in and get lost in that world, stories are what makes things go round. Everybody loves a good story so why should videogames stop now? Think about this, how will games like Prey and Dishonored 2 be like if games like BioShock, System Shock, and Thief didn’t have any story to them? What are videogames if there aren’t any stories? What are we as humans if we don’t have stories to tell? Videogames have no other option but to tell stories that push the medium forward, there’s no other way out.