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Games are a storytelling medium and people are primarily consumers of stories.

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Master-Frog, Dec 4, 2015.

  1. Teila

    Teila

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    I think there are a number of reasons for this.

    First of all, some people are not storytellers, whether it is lack of imagination or just that they are very left brained, who knows.

    Some developers don't want to include stories in their games. This could be a design feature or it could be that they don't know how to tell stories and or don't want to take the time to do so.

    Or it could simply be because some games do not have stories, like Tetris or solitaire.

    I will be honest though, I make up stories for solitaire, the Sims, and Sim City, and just about any game. Settlers of Catan is not safe from me, or even a Farm Sim game. lol I make up stories to help me fall asleep at night. My daughters do the same, oddly enough.

    People who don't get this probably won't see the stories in games, in all sorts of games, even Chess. They see the strategy, the competition, the release of stress, all that stuff. To me, that is sad. I am not criticizing anyone else's experience, I just love the ones I have so much that I want to share. :)

    That is probably why I am making a game which encourages people to tell or create stories.
     
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  2. Master-Frog

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    That is only half the argument.

    My argument, though not really an argument as much as it is a statement of a fact, is that games can tell stories and that many people are already playing games for this reason.

    How the games tell the stories is not relevant to this discussion.
     
  3. Master-Frog

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    They do see the competition, but I believe they do experience the joy of being a deadly assassin or a brilliant war general (even if it is a secret). Gamer culture is probably just too macho to admit that it wants to throw on a cape and laugh maniacally, vanquishing foes and all of that. That's my take on it.
     
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  4. Deleted User

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    It's a little ironic you mention RPG's and say you're not interested in stories, y'know what most RPG's are without a story / plot? Another generic set of boring mechanics done a million times, I've played hundreds of them over my life span and I've not seen much in the way of difference.

    I will mention I love fun mechanics as well, I think the Batman games were awesome. It had a cool story sure, but you played it to be a kick ass super hero and the mechanics complemented it completely which made the game for me..

    What would Skyrim be without the context of side quests? In a lot of cases, tons of walking. The weird Daedra stuff and Dark Brotherhood couldn't be the same without story / plot.

    I think a lot of people just say "they don't like story" without actually understanding what they don't like about it, even as an RPG nut I've played games where too many cutscene's and forced story put me off the game. It's about balance and integration, if it's too intrusive there's an issue..
     
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  5. Master-Frog

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    How much storytelling is there vs. pure gameplay? How well are the two fused so they don't cause friction in the experience?

    ICO is an ezample of a game that was, in my view, a seemless blend of storytelling and gameplay.
     
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  6. RockoDyne

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    Is this really the case though? A story is a series of related events. Can we agree that that is a functional definition of story?
    If so, then yes, a book can physically contain information not related to depicting a series of events, but can a game? How can a game not contain a series of events if the player has any degree of control? Those events might only relate because the player witnessed them (which is a great issue to point out since lacking relation means it's just vapid filler), but I can't see how anything is a game if it doesn't contain events.

    And I am hoping this is true even of something so thin it doesn't have a conflict. The instant you have a conflict, you absolutely have a story because the whole point of the three act structure is to introduce a conflict, struggle against it, and see it resolved.
     
  7. Teila

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    I think a game can be without story. Is Chinese checkers a story for the majority of people? How about football or soccer. Those are games, and sometimes they are video games.

    Maybe...but an instruction booklet for the new dvd player is also a series of related events and I don't think of that as a story. :)

    I guess we could discuss what makes a story and what does not, but I doubt any of us would agree. It would be a fine waste of words though. lol
     
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  8. Master-Frog

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    There is a multimillion dollar industry that exists around nothing but telling sports stories.
     
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  9. Master-Frog

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    It becomes a story if an older person tries to set it up after a few holiday beverages.
     
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  10. Teila

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    Yeah, but is it the game or is it the stories told about the game?
     
  11. RockoDyne

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    Well it probably contains the story of how you set the timer because you're too old to know how to do it without the instructions... Ooooooooooh snap... I know, I'm just being mean.

    The problem is what actually is a story and where people think stories come from are at odds with one another.
     
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  12. Teila

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    Not sure the manual contains the story. lol More like you telling the story afterwards...or maybe not because that would just be embarrassing. :)

    I think, and this is only my opinion, that a game can contain a story and it can also inspire stories. But there is a difference. Playing a game that has a story or you creating the story as you play the game is different than telling the story about how you killed the level 50 dragon after the story.

    It is like the difference between reading a novel or reading about a novel. Both might still relate events and they might even be creative, but one is inspired by the other.

    If your game only inspires stories, that is okay. But if your game tells a story within, through the in-game experience, that is also okay. Fan fiction is stories inspired by game play, building upon the stories already told in the game.

    Game lore are stories that were created for the game and they hopefully inspire some players to create stories for themselves within the game.

    There are so many layers. :) Overall, games can do both, inspire and tell. They can also do neither. What makes a better game is all in the eye of the player. So...one should think about the kind of player they want and what influence the game should have on their audience. Will they tell tales afterwards of exploits within the game? Will they talk about the stories they created in the game? Or will they write fan fiction that expands on the story the game told.

    All are valid creative expressions. Very cool discussion, btw. :)
     
  13. Master-Frog

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    There are radio broadcasts, television shows, magazines, non fiction books, and more that exists just to talk about things that have happened in different sports games, as well as things that take place off the field. Athletes, recruiters, commentators and coaches are the characters. It is bizarre. But it is real.

    Playing the game is not the same as reading a story, though. It's a physical competition. Each player is doing a real job.

    I think you are confusing playing a knight in a game and killing goblins within the fictional world... with actually being a knight and actually fighting real goblins. You're not actually doing the things in the game. That is a fantasy context.

    You're pressing buttons on a keyboard and clicking a mouse. Again, too close to games to really grasp what is going on here.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2015
  14. Teila

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    And there in lies the differences between how we play games. ;) When I play a game, my character, who at the moment is the who I as the actor, is a knight and is fighting goblins. I am emotionally invested in the outcome. I am part of the novel, part of the story...it is interactive.

    I am far, far, from the game.

    You, however, are pushing buttons and clicking a mouse, very close to the game.
     
  15. RockoDyne

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    I think I see the disconnect. For you, story is something that has to be told. Story is the thing that is carefully crafted and expressly packaged with a bow and clearly labeled "story". What story actually is is the thing being experienced, regardless of whether it's first or second hand, fact or fiction. The car wreck was a story even if it was never told (not a very complete one in my case since I have no memory from it, but still). The trench run that blew up the death star was a story. The assassination of the pope was... not a story, certainly not a story, can't possibly be anything more than delusion.

    If nothing else, how you analyze and critique story carries over entirely into game design mechanically.
     
  16. Teila

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    Absolutely not. I am a role player. A story is seldom carefully crafted and packaged with a bow.

    I would instead argue that the news stories are carefully packaged and tied up with a bow. An event that is out of our control happens to us, we don't make it happen. We relate the events, and yes, it is a story.

    It is a story that is inspired by real life events. The story in the game, the one that is improvised by the actor/role player is also a story, but created by the improviser. The story the developer tells in the game..yeah, that is packaged, but still a story.

    There is no either or. Both are stories and I thought I said that above pretty well when I stated....a game can contain a story and it can inspire a store. Both are stories...and both are valid.
     
  17. Jimmy-P

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    Open world RPGs, they let me do what I want. The quests provide something to do, but I'd be just as happy killing monsters or whatever without the context of a quest or story. Whether the mechanics are generic or boring depends entirely on the game, don't you think? What I like about RPGs is character development and finding the best strategies and tactics. I've played through Baldur's Gate 2 a bunch of times, because I like building a combat-effective party. I reluctantly sit through the forced story parts because I enjoy the other aspects.
     
  18. Teila

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    That is a player preference and unless the game requires a story to work, and some do, then if the developer wants to only attract people with this preference, then no reason to include stories in an RPG game.

    Personally, I think it is a mistake. While I think most folks who don't care for stories, like Jimmy, would just get through it, most people who like stories, would probably avoid the game. Maybe there is a large enough audience out there like Jimmy, but from my reading, I read many more who complain about the games no longer including stories or lore than I do the other way. I don't think I have met one person who would not play an open world rpg because there was a storyline/questline. However, I have met people who have told me to avoid Game A or B because it has no story or lore whatsoever.

    So..once again, the answer I always give, know your audience and choose what they would play. Do your research.
     
  19. Ryiah

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    I believe that's the entire point of this thread. He's trying to make the statement that a player is creating their own story as they play any and every game.
     
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  20. Deleted User

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    Nope, the fundamentals or RPG mechanic's don't change.. I can't remember the last time I saw something new and original in one, not to say that I don't enjoy the experience but mechanics in those sorta games are just slight variations of the same things over and over.

    An RPG is a "role playing game", it's supposed to put you in the situation and events of a character, your preference description is more akin to a HNS like Diablo. Sure D1 had a pretty cool story, but it's core premise was to grind / find loot and become as combat efficient as possible. It was even more apparent in D3 and similar games like Torchlight.

    Now here's my personal preference, I can't stand grinding for long periods of time. It's just dull, if I wanted to do repetitive mediocre work I'd go back to stacking shelves. But some people really like it...
     
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  21. Teila

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    I agree.

    I also don't care about strategy and tactics or numbers. My favorite game would be one where I am randomly assigned stats and don't even know what they are. I would have to develop the character based on his "natural" strengths and weaknesses. Too bad I am probably the only one in the world who would like that and therefore, no one will make that game. lol
     
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  22. Master-Frog

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    That is only part of what I am saying.

    Games can be used to tell a story. You may be playing, but you're still experiencing storytelling. You are either imagining all or part of a story, or the story is being told all or in part by cutscenes and/or dialogue, or the story is told before the game and after you complete the game and through materials outside the game, like instruction manuals. Or the story is told as you play the game, where events occur that progress the plot and progressing in the game necessarily advances the story. Story can be told with or without words.

    Games can tell stories in many ways. They are a medium for telling stories.

    You can just make a game without a story, if you want. But you can also make a game that tells a story.

    It is obviously not an easy concept to communicate, as it seems.
     
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  23. Ryiah

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    Or it's simply obvious and everyone felt you were trying to state something more. :p
     
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  24. Master-Frog

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    Possibly, except so many people have flat out disagreed.

    Something I have said is challenging something.
     
  25. Teila

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    I have agreed with you all along, just said it differently. :)
     
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  26. Teila

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    Maybe some folks just don't want to spend the time making stories for their games. Therefore, they find justifications.
     
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  27. Master-Frog

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    There's been about a 70/30 ratio of people who flatly and enthusiastically disagree to people who seem to generally agree.
     
  28. RockoDyne

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    Welcome to my world.
     
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  29. Master-Frog

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    Oooohhhh.....

    Or maybe don't know how to go about telling a story, so rationalize that it can't be that important since they can think of games without stories.
     
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  30. hopeful

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    My view is that while there can be one or more stories told in a game, the playing of the game itself - as an experience - becomes a story in the mind of the player. "This happened, and I did this, and then this, and then this ..."

    So, in this sense, games become story-like experiences as the player figures out how to play through trial and error, encountering challenges and resolving them.
     
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  31. Master-Frog

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    Don't forget things like "I used to be scared of these enemies, but now they are easy" and "I saved up my money to buy the best thing in the store", etc.

    There is a game where you have to commit a ruthless act to proceed, which comes in later when you discover that your character ("you") are actually evil, and you have secretly been evil all along.

    It's like a story told not from first-person POV, but from inside your head POV. You don't need to imagine what the character went through, you know.
     
  32. hopeful

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    Right. And even more abstract games, like pinball, become a story in the mind of the player as they are experienced.

    A typical gamer's story is, "I tried and tried and tried, and finally managed to succeed, and went on to the next big challenge."

    Likewise, in a game where there are written or shown stories, a player may prefer to ignore them, simply not reading the text and pressing an abort key when the cutscene comes up, and not caring about that, just wanting to move forward to the next button-pushing, reflex-challenging scenario. The story of the game is formed in the mind of the player by their experiences and how they interpret them.
     
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  33. Teila

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    I agree that it is very good for a game to inspire stories that people tell, either from their own experiences or extensions of the game play.

    But...what does the developer really have to do with this experience? Two people can fall in love in a game and tell the story about how they met..but that is not the game, that is the interaction between the players. The game is just the "bar" where they met.

    Tales told outside the game belong at least as much or more to the player than to the game. I can have similar experiences in one game as I do another, especially if I play with my same friends, and I play a similar type of character. Running around killing stuff and then regaling everyone on the forums gets old....you feel like you are a broken record. Killed this, got this, leveled this...built a super duper city, killed off all my little sims, etc.

    If you don't want to write stories, or can't write stories, and don't want to pay people to do it for you, then fine. But don't try to substitute them with "gamer tales" told by people after they play your game. That seems kind of cheap to me. LOL

    Of course, I started as a writer in the game industry. I put a premium on good stories and lore. Every game I have enjoyed had a deep purpose, a story, a goal, something that drove me to finish the game. All those lifeless open world games where you just run away from the bad guys or kill them if you can...if there isn't a story, an apocalyptic war that left everyone alone with nothing, a plague that wiped out civilization, a reason to keep going, then the game is boring to me.

    The rest of you, don't put stories in, but don't forget that video games have a long history of story telling. And some of the most revered games today are those with very good stories.

    Sorry to be a downer..but I sense a bit of hopes and wishes here.

    Now...since I may be the lone writer in the group, I will go to bed while you all attack me. lol
     
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  34. Ryiah

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    Or alternatively their target audience doesn't care about a story.
     
  35. RockoDyne

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    When you've got people who adamantly think mechanics>story, they get a little entrenched in that notion. Saying mechanics=story is tantamount to saying Jesus wasn't a real person, when technically you just said he might not have walked on water.

    The other case is it's subtle. It sounds obvious, but if you don't let the deeper implications take root, it doesn't have any meaning. Then there is the issue of it seeming obvious, so there shouldn't be any need to talk about it, and that's just stifling true genius.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2015
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  36. FeedorFeed

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    I think we're missing each others point here. I'm not trying to argue that games don't tell stories nor that players can't create stories nor that they are experiencing stories. I am however trying to argue that not all people play games for that story nor do all people experience a "story" in a game. When playing super smash brothers with my friends, I'm not thinking "omg mario just slid underneath links boomerang and delivered the final blow to once and all banish link from this battlefield". I'm thinking gotta hit him hard so I win.

    To me, that's less a story and more a series of events and to me, they are not the same thing. If we take the definition from google. (Not that you can really have 1 definition for story, it means different things to different people)

    story : an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.

    The difference is I'm not retelling these events to anyone for entertainment, and to be honest retelling someone those events usually isn't that entertaining for the person listening. It's the actions that are fun, not the story. Not everyone plays games for the same reason.
     
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  37. Kiwasi

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    It's your attitude that's challenging and confronting. Take a read of this bit again. That's just asking someone to call you out. Your tone is the same throughout this thread.

    I'm still somewhat puzzled by the point of this thread, and what you are actually trying to say. Is it:

    • All games are stories
    • Games with more stories sell more
    • The only reason people play games is for the story
    • Telling stories is the best/only way to approach game design
    • Or something else?
     
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  38. Master-Frog

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    I dunno, what's your opinion on what this is all about.
     
  39. RockoDyne

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    You keep using inspire and it confuses the hell out of me because it's not really related.

    So, this isn't actually about players telling stories. In fact, the player doesn't matter in this at all. The real value is in realizing that game design isn't a brand new field that has never been explored before, but inherits directly and entirely from several millennia worth of storytelling tradition and story analysis.
     
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  40. AcidArrow

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    It's about wasting time, that's for sure. Some people agree some disagree and we're stuck arguinng semantics.

    There is nothing to be gained from this thread.
     
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  41. Master-Frog

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    Amen.
     
  42. AcidArrow

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    Nah it's fine I won't post again. I'm going to play a g... I mean experience the story of Backgammon.
     
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  43. Batman_831

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    Games are story-telling medium? Maybe... I thought that games serve as an entertainment source. Didn't knew I opened hearthstone for hearing a story. Since stories are also a source of entertainment maybe games are story-telling medium, who knows...

    Games are for telling people stories? don't we have books for that? Games have potential to immerse player into the world unknown to this world, to awaken his imagination from developer's imagination, to enlighten him from the creator's wisdom, not to tell a story but to let him create a story himself in his brain. I don't know if games are story-telling medium, but story-creators, source of inspiration for sure.
     
  44. Master-Frog

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    It's worth thinking about, at least.
     
  45. Batman_831

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    I thought I would rather wait for other's opinion but a thought just popped up in my mind.

    Games are NOT for telling stories ONLY. Games tell stories but they are not meant to tell stories, they are meant to entertain people, whether it would be a story or anything else as per the taste of your audience. So -
    Is valid but partially. That's my opinion.
     
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  46. Teila

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    So this is the point? LOL Yeah, so not everyone plays for stories or needs a story. What does this mean? There are games with stories and games without. Players will choose what they want to play. If they choose one with a story, and they don't play for the story, then they won't experience the story. Why does that matter?

    I was thinking of this as a discussion of why we should or should not have stories in our games for marketing purposes, as in attracting players. That seems relevant to game developers.


    If self-evident, then why have a discussion at all? Where are the facts? lol

    While I loved discussing stories, the very first post, Anselmo, was too vague and created a jumbled mess that didn't go together. I think you and I could have a great discussion about this, but we are not the only people here.

    @RockoDyne

    Sorry I confused you. I was confusing myself. lol I have come to the conclusion that I just think differently from 70% of you, not because I am a woman, but just because. :)

    Good way to put it. Games stretch far beyond video games and not all games require stories, obviously. :) Video games are just another form of media that can be used to create/illustrate/portray a story, just like books, movies, audiobooks, plays, etc.

    Personally, I see no need to fight about it. A lot of it is personal preferences. We talk too much about our own personal preferences, myself include, and too little about the preferences of the people we are trying to get to buy/play our games.
     
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  47. Master-Frog

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    That's how I see everything.

    I could have just as easily not made this thread, and it would have made just as much of a difference in the world.

    My thought was to start a discussion and see what people say, because I am curious.

    It is self-evident, just look at how many people offered supporting statements or thought it was pretty much obvious.

    The facts are... games tell stories. People like stories. People play games. People must like games if they play them. Since games are increasingly telling more stories and people are very happy with these games, they must like getting stories in game form.

    You can argue that I am wrong.

    You can also argue that the moon landing was fake.

    Or that Jesus never existed.

    So excuse me if I just don't bother with arguments at this point. Good points, everyone who participated so far.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2015
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  48. RockoDyne

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    So stories aren't meant to entertain people? In case you haven't read much of the thread, stories wrote the book on how to entertain. The hard science of entertainment all comes from storytelling, and this applies directly to the mechanics of games. If you want to understand why a segment of gameplay is boring, you break it down into it's story elements and chances are the problem is noticeable. Breaking down aspects like conflict explains the forces actively weighing (spelling?) on the player's mind, and in the case of it being boring, it's usually a lack thereof.
     
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  49. Master-Frog

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    The challenge for us is using some serious abstract thinking to tell a story without using a bunch of words.

    There's another storytelling medium that is pretty popular and not a book... is anyone ready to argue that movies aren't a storytelling medium?
     
  50. RockoDyne

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    There is a reason "show, don't tell" is the mantra of film making.
     
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