My last article was focused games that I didn’t like so much, or at least the way that the game was executed. This article is, well, the opposite. These are some games that I thought conveyed a story in an excellent way, and a who’s stories are are uniquely conveyed through the medium of video games.
Certainly one of my favorite platformers, Limbo made excellent usage of the minimalistic approach to story telling, using almost no words in text or speech what-so-ever. Everything about this game screamed minimalism, and it worked really well. While this game is open to lots of interpretation, the basic gist of the story seems to be a boy trapped in Limbo, searching for his girlfriend/sister. This isn’t the most original or thrilling of plots, but it served it’s purpose in setting up the universe, and the execution was just shy of perfect. Limbo demonstrated how pictures are worth a thousand words, and the atmosphere and emotional impact of the game was full and interesting. The only other form of media that could contain Limbo for me would either be a progression of pictures in an art gallery, or a completely silent film, and even then I don’t think the loneliness and solitude of the game would translate well.
Dear Esther was quite a controversial topic this year. I don’t expect people to agree with me about this… thing, being a game, much less the wonderful game I believe it to be, but I do think Dear Esther was one of the best games to come out this year. For me everything worked perfectly; the slow paced walking, the atmosphere, the soundtrack, the narration, the scenery, everything worked together excellently. It could be argued that this game (or what ever you want to call it) could easily have been made into a movie, and in fact was a movie in it’s present state, but I disagree. What really made this game for me was the non-linear progression of the story, and the differences between each path. Each time you play the game you can move through the world through different paths, and the story will changed based on the path you choose. Sure, there exist non-linear and branching stories in other media, but as I stated in my Living Story articles I do not believe that that device works as well in other forms of media. This is another game that is open to all sorts of interpretation because of the highly symbolic and surreal style of the story, at least towards the end.
Red Dead Redemption
Oh gosh this game. This was the first time that I really felt like a game managed to immerse me into a story fully. I really felt the emotions and pain that John Marsten felt, and the game offered an expansive and life-like world that took full advantage of the resources available to it to create a world that didn’t feel plastic and fake. While the game certainly has it’s flaws, it managed to relate a powerful story that captured my interest and brought me to tears. I’ve harped on controls being the main destroyer of immersion for me, or the reason I felt so immersed in the games I’ve listed, but Red Dead Redemption is a little different. I didn’t exactly enjoy the controls, mostly because I don’t like console controllers, but also because I don’t care for third person views to often, unless they are RTS/top-down style. All in all, though, the games powerful story and excellent creation of atmosphere and a believable world completely over-powered my dislike of controllers and Third-Person views. This is one of the few AAA games I’ve played on console in the past few years that I’ve enjoyed, much less loved. It makes me curious as to what Rockstar could do if they were to put some serious effort into a PC exclusive.
I really can’t say anything about Myst that hasn’t already been said. The game contains an excellent world with tons of atmosphere, and truly one of the few games that doesn’t sacrifice gameplay for story. From the moment I found myself on the island of Myst, to the conclusion of the game, whether you get the “good” ending or one of the many “bad” endings, there wasn’t a moment were I didn’t once feel out of place of like the game had broken it’s atmosphere. Each Age felt unique and complete, and each puzzle was an interesting challenge that required both observation and logic, and not one or the other. Even if the gameplay wasn’t overly complex, it worked, and was efficient, and I can’t imagine anything besides touch screen controls working for the game.
These games should really serve as examples of how to execute a video game well (maybe a little iffy on Dear Esther based on your tastes). There are surely countless others that I could name, Bastion, the Portal series, the Silent Hill series, the Half Life series, the Deus Ex series (all two of them), just to name a few, but these games were the ones that I’m most familiar with.