As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been playing through Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic lately. Playing through a good RPG is always an interesting experience for me in particular, because the storytelling method is so far removed from that of the strategy games that I’m usually playing. Something like a strategy game is very open-ended and sandboxy; the story comes entirely out of what you are doing. RPGs and other story-driven games, on the other hand, are more limited. There are a set, finite number of stories to be told, even when you’re presented with a multitude of options and endings in classic Bioware style.
But this isn’t a bad thing. Rather, it’s a very interesting narrative device. It’s akin to a movie or book or TV series, but separate from all three.
A movie tends to be just a couple of hours long, for example, whereas the main storyline of a game can easily go on for 30+ hours. So a video game’s storytelling is more in line with the lengthy tales of a book or TV series, but then you have the interactivity and the subsequent bond you develop with it because of that, and the result is a truly fascinating way to tell a story.
It will be interesting to see where games go from here in terms of being a narrative device. While I personally believe that features like interactivity and gameplay are of paramount importance in games– that is why games are games, after all– the idea that a game might be considered a great piece of literature some day is a really fantastic one.