On Playing Video Games

minecraft screenshot

A few weeks ago Joe wrote a post about storytelling in video games. And while I agree with him that the story is extremely important, I came to the realisation that I really don’t pay attention to the story when I’m playing a game. In fact I have never played a game just for the story line and there is a few reasons for this.

First, some of the games I play don’t have or even need a story line. Games like Theme Hospital or Rollercoaster Tycoon. I mean you can’t exactly turn managing a hospital or building a rollercoaster into a game.

Then you have games like Minecraft which literally has no story line. You’re dropped into a world and you’re given the decision of what you want to do next. Some people play the game and finish it (kill the ender dragon), some people go off and explore and some people (like myself) just enjoy building giant castles. The story is literally whatever you want to be.

And then you have games which are so much fun I simply don’t pay attention to the story. Why try and kill dragons in Skyrim when you could pretend to be Katniss Everdeen shooting innocent bunny rabbits. Halo 3 is one of the best games I’ve played but I have no idea what actually happens in that game. Its one of the only games when I’ve played the multi-player because I enjoyed the multiplayer so much. In fact one of my favourite gaming memories – racing my best friend through the last level – happened in this game. I have no idea why we were racing through the level while the world went to shit around us, but it was damn good fun.

This is just something I’ve always done. When I was a kid I loved the Tomb Raider games, I bought the walkthroughs and everything (anyone remember a time when you had to buy a walkthrough?), but I have never actually finished a single Tomb Raider game. Admittedly that’s because a large part of those games scared the shit out of me. But mostly because I enjoyed the game play so much that I wasn’t bothered about actually finishing it. In fact my cousin and I made our own little game which involved finding the most creative way to kill Lara Croft. This usually meant finding the tallest thing for her to jump off of. But I still love those games.

I agree with Joe that you need a fantastic story to make the game good. But that game also needs to be fun to play.

39 thoughts on “On Playing Video Games

  1. Absolutely agree. I’ve spent god knows how much time wandering about in games doing sometimes silly, sometimes mundane but, to me, completely engrossing and entertaining things having nothing to do with the actual storyline.

  2. I think you’re right that there are definitely much more important things to a game than the storyline. I also never finished a Tomb Raider game (until the new one, that is), but I knew I loved them (although part of that was definitely because I kept being killed by the wolves)

      1. The recent reboot is actually surprisingly good and the graphics are very impressive. The newest one – Rise of the Tomb Raider looks really exciting too and is supposed to be more similar to the original ones with lots of exploring tombs.

  3. you make your own story. i have >100 games, but for some reason I go back to the games that i can make my own story with like dayz and rust. still haven’t finished skyrim either. to me i rather play on a sandbox with other people than my very own sandbox

  4. We’ve just been playing Lego Batman and S gets so mad at me because he’s trying to play according to storyline and I just want to jump around kicking stuff and find weird things hidden in boxes! And I’ve never finished a Tomb Raider either. Think I’m still exploring somewhere in Venice 🙂

      1. Not sure which one it is… After she’s fallen off things a few times and grunted provocatively whilst climbing, it all melds into one!!

  5. I’d be in agreement with you there but me personally, I love a good story. Like take Silent Hill 2 for example, the story was so powerful and emotive you really can’t ignore it and even though I’ve cleared it dozens of times, I still watch the cutscenes. I’m also of the mind that developers sank all that money into a game, you should at least watch the cutscenes once. Except the Metal Gear Solid games, there’s at least two hours of cutscene before you get into the action again!

  6. Speaking of Rollercoaster Tycoon… did you know Rollercoaster Tycoon World is coming out soon? I remember the days of “Theme Park.” It didn’t have much story (make money or the little guy jumps out the window) but it sure was fun.

  7. I love playing games, but they absolutely have to have a storyline for me to play them. It could be because I’m much older than you, but to me the story is everything! I do have a ton of fun playing, though.

  8. When I was younger I didn’t care about story but now I do and I see my kids skip through all the cut scenes and I’m like What are you doing noooo! Haha

  9. I think video games are not any different than other media, e.g. movies. Some you play for a gripping story, some you play simply to have fun. Some you even can play different ways. The Mass Effect Trilogy is definitely a game series that lives mostly from its superb story. Games like Red Dead Redemption, Fallout or Skyrim I usually play the first time for the story, on later play-throughs I often ignore the story and simply explore the world. And similar to you one of my most enjoyable moments with games was doing Borderlands split-screen co-op with my daughter. Story doesn’t matter there at all (by the way, she usually tanks and I snipe :-). Not that the Borderlands games ever had strong stories for that matter, but that is not even their attempted strength anyway. They are over-the-top action and that’s what makes them fun to play. And finally games like Minecraft are the games, where you make up your own stories, big or small, just like when being a little kid sitting on the floor and building something with your Lego bricks.
    There is a time, and fortunately a game, for every kind of play.

  10. I never finished any of the Tomb Raider games either and I can’t quite remember why. I always had a lot of fun with them…I just never made it to the end.

  11. hello bluechickenninja its dennis the vizsla dog hay dada sez this is why final fantasy vii is the graytest viddyo game of all time!!! altho i am not shoor hoo put him in chardj of the list!!! ha ha ok bye

  12. Interesting read. I am currently playing the Witcher 3 which has a great deal of dialogue! I sometimes find myself wanting to zzzzzzzz. Generally I like a good story in a game though.

  13. Absolutely agree. From last few years I developed this habit of picking up any Taletale Games or other indie point-n-click adventure whenever my “story in game” itch became unbearable in between my long sandbox and RPG runs. And it’s working great. Also I found out that this indie projects have much more story stuffed up in the short play. In RPGs , by the time I reach to climax, I never remember what I really fought for :). Never finished Skyrim after almost exploring 90% of the map.

  14. Agreed – The Metal Gear games are a miss on that for me. I loveeee the story, but they’ve got a terrible set of mechanics for me as a gamer (not terrible overall, just for me – I’m terrible with stealth games) so I hate playing. You’ve gotta have a good mix of both!

    1. Yup! I love stealth games. Its fun playing Skyrim that way. Though I’m not very good at it. I start out being all stealthy then end up basing people over the head with my bow!

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