13 votes

What are some of your favorite examples of storytelling via gameplay?

Video game's approach to storytelling usually comprise of mixing gameplay mechanics (gunplay, health system, enemy AI...) and storytelling elements (cutscenes, dialogue trees, environment details...). There are also special systems designed to work both as gameplay challenge as well as narrative carriers (quick time events, the nemesis system in Shadow of War...)

However, there's also a third approach, where traditional gameplay elements when put into appropriate context within the game gain additional narrative significance (the way Thomas was Alone's basic platforming mechanics are personified via narration, or Undertale's combat system being integral to how the story develops...)

Have you ever noticed if a gameplay element also doubled as a storytelling device in the games you played before? If so, what was it and what did it "tell" you?

37 comments

  1. [8]
    Douglas
    Link
    Too many games make the character you are playing a blank, voiceless slate under the guise of helping immerse you into the world, but I think over time that decision has ironically un-immersed me...

    Too many games make the character you are playing a blank, voiceless slate under the guise of helping immerse you into the world, but I think over time that decision has ironically un-immersed me as it calls to attention the poor dialogue. Division 2 is the latest example wherein it just feels silly, everyone trusting me to do things for them and become their hero, and I haven't spoken a word. And then there's fantasy games like Skyrim where everyone divulges to me their life story with barely a sentence uttered by me.

    It's refreshing to play games like The Last of Us or SOMA where my character is engaged in conversations and dialogue with others, and it's SOMA that I think is my favorite example of a story that couldn't have been told as powerfully through anything other than a game. It brings in huge hypothetical and ethical questions that are easy to discuss and walk away from in a casual conversation, but put in the moment and the choice in your hands, you recognize what you yourself would do when given the opportunity. The game did an impeccable job of forcing you to make painful, dreadful, and frightening choices that disturbed you as you made them.

    For example, early on in the game there is a moment where a robot-- who is convinced they are a human-- is hurt. The robot talks and interacts with you as though they were human, as though they see themselves in a human situation, seeing human things, that are obviously-- to anyone seeing it-- are not true. Shortly beyond this robot is a door that needs a battery to be opened. The hurt robot is powered by such a battery. Interacting with the battery inflicts pain, suffering, and dread on the robot-- but you are in a dead-end without it.

    13 votes
    1. [3]
      mundane_and_naive
      Link Parent
      Ooh I like SOMA too. The game is chocked full with moments like that. I appreciate that it explores every possible existential scenarios that could arise from the technology of mind-uploading,...

      Ooh I like SOMA too. The game is chocked full with moments like that. I appreciate that it explores every possible existential scenarios that could arise from the technology of mind-uploading, which is by no means a new concept, but the first person aspect really do provide new perspective (like what would it feel like to copy your own mind and see yourself from a new body. It's really weird when you've gotten used to having a certain look for the majority of the game then suddenly see that same body in front of you, but not you anymore).

      I think this game is as close to "hard sci-fi" as we've ever gotten to in video game form yet. It's a shame that it didn't fully commit to being a philosophical exploration and was bogged down by conventional horror game monster chase gimmick.

      7 votes
      1. [2]
        Douglas
        Link Parent
        IIRC their developers had openly expressed wishing to've gone beyond the monster mechanics of that game, and have said they do not like death as a storytelling mechanic because it never fits...

        IIRC their developers had openly expressed wishing to've gone beyond the monster mechanics of that game, and have said they do not like death as a storytelling mechanic because it never fits thematically (though it very well could've with SOMA through enough finesse, but that would've given away the twist). They even released a "story mode" that removed the monsters.

        I've never really liked dying in story-focused games because it really just boils itself down to being a minor hindrance. "Great, now I have to redo this section of the game." But I'm not certain how else to instill fear in a player other than that. I'd settle for just some minor set-back like this monster broke my leg, if I run into three more monsters I'm a goner. Or something to that effect.

        Would you have removed the monsters from that game outright?

        3 votes
        1. mundane_and_naive
          Link Parent
          Yeah that's a tough call. A game where all you do is strolling from one exhibit to the next would be boring, and would also betray the weight of the story. I wouldn't remove the monsters outright...

          Yeah that's a tough call. A game where all you do is strolling from one exhibit to the next would be boring, and would also betray the weight of the story. I wouldn't remove the monsters outright though, since the grotesque imagery is certainly aligned with the theme. Are there any horror games without dying anyway?

          1 vote
    2. [3]
      nacho
      Link Parent
      I can't wait for The Last of Us 2. If it's only a fraction as good as the story in the first one, I'm ready to tuck in and go on a powerful ride.

      I can't wait for The Last of Us 2.

      If it's only a fraction as good as the story in the first one, I'm ready to tuck in and go on a powerful ride.

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        Douglas
        Link Parent
        I'm cautiously optimistic. I think Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley were a great team who kept each other's ideas in check, but now that Bruce has left, and Neil had some kind of less-than-great...

        I'm cautiously optimistic. I think Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley were a great team who kept each other's ideas in check, but now that Bruce has left, and Neil had some kind of less-than-great ideas for TLOU 1, I'm curious to see what he does going unchecked. But it being Naughty Dog, at the very least it will have stellar production value, and you just can't beat their lighting artists.

        I'm also very curious to know what Bruce Straley's next project is, and for the love of god will EA just let Amy Hennig do her thing!?

        ...sorry, a lot of passionate opinions about Naughty Dog's game directors, I guess.

        5 votes
        1. cptcobalt
          Link Parent
          Many many people are with you. I really want to see good work from Hennig too!

          Many many people are with you.

          I really want to see good work from Hennig too!

          1 vote
    3. Akir
      Link Parent

      Too many games make the character you are playing a blank, voiceless slate under the guise of helping immerse you into the world, but I think over time that decision has ironically un-immersed me as it calls to attention the poor dialogue.

  2. [15]
    culturedleftfoot
    (edited )
    Link
    Is it cheating if I mention Bastion's dynamic narration? Braid comes to mind; most specifically, its climactic sequence and how you have to use the main gameplay mechanic to access the extra bits...

    Is it cheating if I mention Bastion's dynamic narration?

    Braid comes to mind; most specifically, its climactic sequence and how you have to use the main gameplay mechanic to access the extra bits of story in the epilogue. Another similar game in that regard is Starseed Pilgrim, a... gardening platformer? You might even dispute if it qualifies, as it doesn't have a narrative per se. A lot is left to interpretation of poetry you find throughout the world. I prefer not to to say too much about it in case anyone is interested in checking it out (which I absolutely recommend), but this video is the best thing I've seen about it on the interwebs.

    Oh, and that moment in Fez. Definitely, Fez.

    7 votes
    1. [4]
      Codo_Sapien
      Link Parent
      I'd say Bastion's dynamic storytelling isn't cheating at all! It was a great way to immerse the player into the story a spoonful at a time. I'd take it over cutscenes or wall 'o' text. Now, if you...

      I'd say Bastion's dynamic storytelling isn't cheating at all! It was a great way to immerse the player into the story a spoonful at a time. I'd take it over cutscenes or wall 'o' text.

      Now, if you want a cheaty answer, you go with The Stanley Parable. It did the same narration style, even if the story was goofy.

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        mundane_and_naive
        Link Parent
        You know, after thinking about it for a bit, The Stanley Parable is technically not cheating either, since it does "storify" a gameplay mechanics, and that's walking. Of course, if we stretch the...

        You know, after thinking about it for a bit, The Stanley Parable is technically not cheating either, since it does "storify" a gameplay mechanics, and that's walking. Of course, if we stretch the boundary this far, any game can be said to tell a story, as long as someone puts narration on top of it, which I think probably wouldn't hurt if there's more of.

        5 votes
        1. Codo_Sapien
          Link Parent
          Fair enough! The Stanley Parable is just an odd one all around, so we can make an exception for it nonetheless :)

          Fair enough! The Stanley Parable is just an odd one all around, so we can make an exception for it nonetheless :)

          2 votes
      2. culturedleftfoot
        Link Parent
        Ahh, good point. I really should get around to finishing that.

        Ahh, good point. I really should get around to finishing that.

        1 vote
    2. [2]
      mundane_and_naive
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      There's another smaller instance in Braid that I thought was also quite neat. You know how at the end of every world, you meet a dinosaurs and he tells you the princess is in another castle, all...

      There's another smaller instance in Braid that I thought was also quite neat. You know how at the end of every world, you meet a dinosaurs and he tells you the princess is in another castle, all pretty standard scripted events. Except for the end of world 4 (the time moves backward when you move backward world), you just run right pass him, leaving him chasing after you.

      What I find so great about it is that it just makes so much sense mechanically. Of course you cannot talk to him because if you stop, time doesn't move, so no conversation can be had. Running away is the only way the game can move forward so it's a logical direction that the story must go as well. And yet, it plays out exactly like a cliche dramatic movie moment (two people have a fight, one person then runs away despite the other calling their name).

      The kind of things that if seen in any other media, we would roll our eyes as for how contrived and heavy-handed it looks, here plays out beautifully and perfectly natural. This is the kind of seamless storytelling that writers in any form of media would strive to accomplish.

      Edit: wait, what moment in Fez?

      2 votes
      1. culturedleftfoot
        Link Parent
        The moment when you realize that you've been walking past a whole lot of the story all along! That epiphany is fantastic, and I include that under gameplay because it really is part of what the...

        The moment when you realize that you've been walking past a whole lot of the story all along! That epiphany is fantastic, and I include that under gameplay because it really is part of what the game is all about: figuring out all these puzzles and meta-puzzles.

        2 votes
    3. [7]
      The_Fad
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      If anyone wants to go into Starseed Pilgrim brand new, please hide this comment as I'll be discussing it freely. My biggest issue with Starseed Pilgrim may be that I'm not "smart" enough for it....

      If anyone wants to go into Starseed Pilgrim brand new, please hide this comment as I'll be discussing it freely.

      My biggest issue with Starseed Pilgrim may be that I'm not "smart" enough for it. It just puts you in, defines literally no rules in any capacity, and expects you to just figure it out. To a degree this is useful and can be good gamecraft, that's not something I dispute. But getting rid of ANY AND ALL indication of wtf you're supposed to be doing, or why you're supposed to be doing it, is some next-level artsy fartsy nonsense that ends up doing far more detriment to the enjoyment of the project than benefit. That, however, is just my opinion. I know there's quite a few people who love it and view it as a singular gaming achievement in its own respect.

      1. [6]
        culturedleftfoot
        Link Parent
        Well, why do you think that's artsy fartsy, as opposed to simply, say, opaque?

        Well, why do you think that's artsy fartsy, as opposed to simply, say, opaque?

        1. [5]
          The_Fad
          Link Parent
          I suppose it's both, to me. In this situation they're one and the same. I see no reason to make a game opaque unless you're either 1) Unknowledgable about game design, or 2) Knowledgable enough to...

          I suppose it's both, to me. In this situation they're one and the same. I see no reason to make a game opaque unless you're either 1) Unknowledgable about game design, or 2) Knowledgable enough to make it a conscious decision based, presumably, on some higher artistic desire. Thus, artsy fartsy.

          1. [4]
            culturedleftfoot
            Link Parent
            So, in essence, you're saying that because you feel like you don't get why the game doesn't give you any instructions, it's either badly designed or up its own ass? I have no issue if you don't...

            So, in essence, you're saying that because you feel like you don't get why the game doesn't give you any instructions, it's either badly designed or up its own ass?

            I have no issue if you don't like it and/or if you criticize it. It plainly may not appeal to everyone. I don't see how useful it is to be so uncharitably dismissive of something simply because you don't understand it, though.

            1 vote
            1. [3]
              The_Fad
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              So, here's how I view media: There are very basic, structural skeletons each different type of media must have in order to function. All media is, at its core, a form of language. It's story...

              So, here's how I view media: There are very basic, structural skeletons each different type of media must have in order to function. All media is, at its core, a form of language. It's story telling. Even things you (the general, not the specific) wouldn't necessarily describe as storytelling are still grounded in it.

              Because of this, as I said, all media must have some sort of structure or the "story" falls apart. Even canvassed art tells a story, albeit a purely emotional one. Human beings have a difficult time understanding stories without this structure, which is what leads to "bad" art. Bad here in quotations because art is purely subjective; what I understand about a work is almost certainly not going to be 100% the same as anyone else because everyone interprets things differently.

              Anyway, if you do away with the structure entirely (which is what Starseed does, for video games) and leave basically nothing but flesh, you've got a big pile of soft pink goop that may or may not look pretty, but you'll never be able to understand what it is because it has no shape or form. You can stand there and guess all day, sure, and you may even get lucky on very rare occasions and glean something useful from the mess, but 9 times out of 10 it's just incomprehensible. That's how I feel about Starseed Pilgrim: A "story"-less exercise in artistic exploration that falls flat because it lacks so much definition it's impossible to tell what it is.

              TL;DR - Brevity and minimalism are excellent tools in a creator's arsenal, but wielded with too heavy a hand they become brutish instruments hacking away at what otherwise could be a very enjoyable work.

              Also forgive me if I sounded like I was saying before that EVERYONE must dislike the game because I dont like it. That's not at all what i intended; my problems with it are my own and other people can obviously tell me to go eat a dick. That's their prerogative as much as mine is saying I dont like the game.

              1 vote
              1. [2]
                culturedleftfoot
                Link Parent
                No worries, I didn't think you were being prescriptive with your opinion. I am trying to get at the root of it though, because it reminds me of how the word pretentious is so readily and widely...

                No worries, I didn't think you were being prescriptive with your opinion. I am trying to get at the root of it though, because it reminds me of how the word pretentious is so readily and widely applied in video games nowadays to anything that could be remotely considered artistic. I actually agree with your first two paragraphs, but I challenge the idea that Starseed Pilgrim removes structure entirely and disagree that it's to its detriment. I now realize that I should have asked you how far you got in the game, because your ultimate level of success with it probably determines your opinion in a major way. I don't think it's a game you can love if you only get through it halfway.

                I had an experience once that was illuminating and I think is relevant here. I watched this performance on SYTYCD with my girlfriend at the time when it first aired. She was (and still is) way more artistically inclined than me. I suggest you watch it before reading the rest of this post. When they were done dancing, I saw everyone getting emotional and gushing over it, and I had absolutely no clue whatsoever why they were getting all weepy. I'd always felt like most art flew over my head; usually I'd shake my head and move on, but since my gf was sniffling right along with them, I told her that I didn't get it and asked what was so great and moving about the dance. She said something along lines of, "The power of their love is so beautiful. She's fighting to win her battle against cancer, and when she thinks she can't go on, he becomes the wind beneath her wings."

                I can only imagine the look of incredulity on my face. Needless to say, I could not see how anything we just saw was related to cancer in the slightest, and told her as much. (We were having that convo while the judges were commenting, so I'd never even heard the last judge's comment confirming the cancer premise until looking this up just now.) She went on to explain to me that the headscarf was a big clue, as women with cancer often wear them when their hair falls out from chemo, and followed that up with a couple other things lost to my hazy memory... maybe something about her top being somewhat willowy like a hospital gown too, I think. In any case, I was gobsmacked, because it simply never occurred to me (read: I assumed) that the performers' choice of clothing in a dance could actually be that significant.

                The point of all that is it made me think about why I never felt like I got art, and helped me realize that, beyond whatever limitation I might just have in general, I never picked up the tools to interpret art. I grew up with some peripheral exposure to art, but no real knowledge and definitely no training. I'd never learned the language, as you mentioned, and that's why I couldn't parse the story in the performance (to my credit, I at least could appreciate the quality and grace of the physical movement). Besides that, I also realized that my own assumptions and expectations about what something could or couldn't mean were major factors in limiting the potential for my interpretation and understanding... which is horribly damning when I eventually considered that I had a lifetime's worth of experience consuming media but a sum total of zero experience creating it. I never knew that creativity was often an iterative process, for example. I assumed great artists just spat out their works fully formed whenever inspiration took them. Despite having always had a kind of suspicious respect for creatives, I'd never really sat down and thought sensibly about just what goes into making an expressive work. I never conceived of an artist editing ideas. I'd always reduced it to the artist either "having it" or not, and accepted me as a luddite not having it. It was comfortable.

                Now, all of this might seem like common sense to you and self-indulgence on my part, but, to bring it back to Starseed Pilgrim, consider that you might have had some expectation, some assumption, of what the game should have been doing, and perhaps that colored your experience. Maybe you assumed that the dev was attempting to do something that he never claimed. Maybe you were looking for an experience that the dev never offered... and maybe that assumption blinded you to what was actually there. I have my own interpretation of the game, and I don't think you necessarily have to be smart in any certain way to enjoy it, but I do think it's probably the best in its class at what it does - discovery, a practically universal human joy. I can't conceive of any possible way how the game would be enhanced by reducing its initial opaqueness.

                3 votes
    4. CrazyOtter
      Link Parent
      Nope that was something I thought of too. It slowly fleshed out the world bit by bit without being overbearing.

      Is it cheating if I mention Bastion's dynamic narration?

      Nope that was something I thought of too. It slowly fleshed out the world bit by bit without being overbearing.

  3. [5]
    moocow1452
    Link
    Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons does a bit at the end where... SPOILERS BELOW, I RECOMMEND THIS GAME The two brothers have a mechanism where one brother is controlled by the stick and buttons for...

    Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons does a bit at the end where...

    SPOILERS BELOW, I RECOMMEND THIS GAME

    The two brothers have a mechanism where one brother is controlled by the stick and buttons for each hand, one brother takes the left side of the controller, one takes the right. One can go into small areas, one can swim across rivers, and both have to work together to advance.

    At the end of the game, the older brother dies and the younger brother has to go back home on his own, and comes across a river, and while you can go into the river as the younger brother, you can't make it all the way across. Not without invoking the older brothers control scheme to help the younger brother swim his way across. It really cements the bond between the two brothers that they can still help each other out even if they are no longer together.

    6 votes
    1. TheJorro
      Link Parent
      That was probably the most impactful method of storytelling through actual input I've ever experienced. I can't think of another game that came anywhere close to it. To tie the brothers to either...

      That was probably the most impactful method of storytelling through actual input I've ever experienced. I can't think of another game that came anywhere close to it. To tie the brothers to either hand... and then remove one hand for the player as an analogue to a brother in the game... what an unbelievably simple but powerful thing to do.

      God of War on PS4 might be the only other game that attempted anything like it, and even then it was a fraction of a fraction of what this game did.

      1 vote
    2. culturedleftfoot
      Link Parent
      That's a great shout. I didn't even play it, only watched it, and I thought it was masterful.

      That's a great shout. I didn't even play it, only watched it, and I thought it was masterful.

      1 vote
    3. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Brothers was what I came here to post. It's the perfect answer to this question because the entire game is a narrative of cooperation that is told by getting your two separate hands to work...

      Brothers was what I came here to post. It's the perfect answer to this question because the entire game is a narrative of cooperation that is told by getting your two separate hands to work together as one--something we do naturally every day without even thinking about it.

      The ending was a perfect, poignant, and altogether brilliant way to thematically close the game. Absolutely one of the best examples of storytelling through mechanics.

      1 vote
    4. Merari
      Link Parent
      I just posted this game as an example of the thread topic, before having read what you wrote. I completely agree. It's such a powerful storytelling mechanic, I think I'll remember that game as a...

      I just posted this game as an example of the thread topic, before having read what you wrote.

      I completely agree. It's such a powerful storytelling mechanic, I think I'll remember that game as a gem for a long time to come.

  4. lepigpen
    Link
    (cracks knuckles) Ah, yet another opportunity to circle jerk about Fallout: New Vegas... Don't mind if I do! The game has a pretty good reputation, so I won't go over the overall theme and style....

    (cracks knuckles) Ah, yet another opportunity to circle jerk about Fallout: New Vegas... Don't mind if I do!

    The game has a pretty good reputation, so I won't go over the overall theme and style. I will just give 2 of my favorite examples. As far as their world building and storytelling through world events goes.

    1. Many people know the low intelligence character is fun to play, but not everyone knows of the vagrant bum in Freeside. To a normal character, he mumbles and sort of drifts in and out of a conscious state, high drunk or both. Approach him with a 1 intelligence character and he speaks eloquent verbiage to you.

    2. Dead Money. SPOILERS. The theme of the expansion/story is "know when to let go". It goes over greed and selfishness and at the very end after you go through probably the most grueling gameplay in the entire video game, you reach a room with dozens of gold bars. Obviously worth a lot of money. Also, obviously heavy. If you choose to leave basically all your other items, weapons, and armor behind, you can probably take 2. 3. Maybe 4 if you built your character to have carry weight. With all your useful armor and weapons you are probably getting 1 or 2 out. Leaving behind dozens of bars... OF COURSE there are numerous exploits/glitches to get all of them out but that's not the point lol. The writers knew exactly what they were doing and to many console players before the exploits were posted all over the internet, it was a frustrating and character revealing part of the story.

    4 votes
  5. [2]
    zptc
    Link
    SWTOR, Imperial Agent storyline. Spoilers. TOR uses Bioware's dialogue wheel, where you're presented with a preview of what your character will say, and then they voice a line accordingly. There's...

    SWTOR, Imperial Agent storyline. Spoilers.

    TOR uses Bioware's dialogue wheel, where you're presented with a preview of what your character will say, and then they voice a line accordingly. There's a section of the IA's story wherein you're acting as a double agent, working for the Republic while actually reporting back to your Imp bosses. Turns out, the pubs have someone on the inside too (iirc) who gave them a codephrase for your mental indoctrination, so you can't tell your Imp bosses anything the pubs don't want you to. In one conversation with your handler, you're presented with dialogue previews that say things like "help, I'm being controlled by the pubs," but your character then voices a line like "everything's going according to plan." It's a small thing but I thought it was great .

    3 votes
    1. mundane_and_naive
      Link Parent
      That's clever. Reminds me of the bit in Portal 2 where Wheatley asked you to say "apple" but when you follow the prompt on screen, Chell just jumped instead. Interactive humor ftw.

      That's clever. Reminds me of the bit in Portal 2 where Wheatley asked you to say "apple" but when you follow the prompt on screen, Chell just jumped instead. Interactive humor ftw.

      2 votes
  6. Anwyl
    Link
    Jack Orlando is a homophobic, racist detective, and the hero of an adventure game. For some reason, when you bring up the action wheel, the cursor starts on a gun. Really makes it seem like Jack's...

    Jack Orlando is a homophobic, racist detective, and the hero of an adventure game. For some reason, when you bring up the action wheel, the cursor starts on a gun. Really makes it seem like Jack's first instinct is to shoot everyone he meets, which fits with the abhorrent character. The game's not worth playing, just a probably unintentional bit of gameplay storytelling.

    3 votes
  7. [2]
    Papaya
    Link
    I'm surprised nobody mentioned Dark Souls/Bloodborne. In those game you just kind of "spawn" in the middle of a world where you don't understand anything. You start killing things thinking...

    I'm surprised nobody mentioned Dark Souls/Bloodborne.
    In those game you just kind of "spawn" in the middle of a world where you don't understand anything. You start killing things thinking everyone around you is a bad guy because that's what you were taught as a gamer. Then you start to learn about the lore, how each enemy has its own purpose in the world and the lines start to blurr between good and bad. Nothing is explained to you directly, you understand it by the way the enemies act or which objects they drop.
    Then you realize the complex geopolitical dynamics that tie the world together. You never know who's right, who's telling the truth and who isn't. All you hear are legends and tales.

    3 votes
    1. fandegw
      Link Parent
      There was this video (in french only sadly) where an analogy is developped between the myth of Sisyphe and the way we interact with the Dark souls world and its lore. The absurdity of continuously...

      There was this video (in french only sadly) where an analogy is developped between the myth of Sisyphe and the way we interact with the Dark souls world and its lore.

      The absurdity of continuously pushing the rock on the side of the mountain and each time rolling back to the begining is very much felt at the smallest level of the gameplay loop of Dark souls: as in trying to go further, trying to beat a boss only to die in route or in the battle, and resurrecting to the last bonfire which feels like the beginning of our latest journey. To the overarching story which is beating the Lord of Cinder only to either replace him or be the new Lord of darkness but only in a never-ending cycle where the next Undead will try to replace us in either of the roles.

      This absurdity is quite felt in all of the game, there is no choice, very little agency, beating gwyn and all necessary bosses is our only fate.
      It isn't even said in the game, it's only us by going over levels, wanting to go further and explore what the world has for us that we finish by going along with our fate without even feeling like its necessary, or that is what we desire.

      1 vote
  8. Codo_Sapien
    Link
    My favorite approach to story-heavy games is the "breadcrumb" approach. Look, I get it, you have a lot you need to tell me to get my head in the game's world. But I promise you, 15-minute long...

    My favorite approach to story-heavy games is the "breadcrumb" approach.
    Look, I get it, you have a lot you need to tell me to get my head in the game's world. But I promise you, 15-minute long cutscenes are prime opportunities to go get snacks. But if you deliver your amazing, awesome story through the gameplay itself, and the story's good, buddy guy, I am hooked.
    Take BioShock as a now-classic example. You get the bare bones of the story through the campaign, but you can pick up tape recorders that will paint the personal details of the power struggles and personal lives of the characters you meet in the game.
    Even better, when it's done right, it gives players the option to pursue the story only if it's important to them. Video games are all about player agency, and breadcrumbing story makes it a choice to actively pursue that story if it's their priority.
    A different implemention - DOOM 2016. Doomguy could not give less of a rip or tear about the game's unfolding events, but the player can experience the story if they want to (even if it's fairly straightforward - c'mon, it's DOOM, heh).

    2 votes
  9. Grzmot
    Link
    Titanfall 2. It's an FPS featuring an actual (albeit a little stereotypical) main character on a quest with their huge murderbot. Connection with your huge murderbot are formed not just through...

    Titanfall 2. It's an FPS featuring an actual (albeit a little stereotypical) main character on a quest with their huge murderbot. Connection with your huge murderbot are formed not just through conversations (a voiced character! In an FPS!) where you can make choices for different dialogue options (they have no real consequences though) but also through gameplay, because every area is clearly divided either into being best traversed on foot by you alone or inside of your huge murderbot. This creates a narrative through the gameplay, where the character you play starts out as a rookie and slowly becomes better as you do together with the robot. The emotional connection between the two is formed very naturally, while acknowledging that the game's premise (a sci-fi future where wars are being waged inside huge murderbots and by ridicolously mobile people) is a tad silly.

    2 votes
  10. Merari
    Link
    In Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons the left side of the controller is used to control one of the brothers, the right side for the other. This creates a gameplay that offers seamless interaction and...

    In Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons the left side of the controller is used to control one of the brothers, the right side for the other.

    This creates a gameplay that offers seamless interaction and co-operation between the two protagonists you control. One brother is big and strong, the other one small and agile. The big one can swing the little one across a ledge, the small one can fit through small holes and open a door for the big one that's locked on his side.

    They speak a simple fantasy language that's not translated, often just cries of surprise or encouraging each other.

    This all works to create an atmosphere where you start to feel for the guys, you want them to work together to succeed.

    The ending then becomes all the more emotionally charged. Suddenly at the finale of the game you are only using one half of the controller. Every move you make going home feels like half of you is missing - and for your character it is.

    Wonderful little game with what it conveys just through gameplay and world building.

    2 votes