Some time ago, in the real world, I was embroiled in an impassioned debate about building a story within a video game (or games). It became a semantic issue and I agreed with the interpretation that a player of a game can interpret the story of a game, unveiling hidden meanings, connecting relationships in new ways, and repairing holes in the continuum. The Japanese enable this kind of engagement with their "white space" approach to "creative endeavours" - I'm still not convinced that games are art, yet. Nowhere is this better represented than with Team Ico's creations, 'Ico' and 'Shadow of the Colossus'.
I still hold the belief that I am not building a story and am instead a passive recipient of it.
Thus I am going to make a bold, somewhat trollish, sensationalistic prediction.
Linear, plot-based, developer scripted stories in games will no longer be the dominant form of delivery of stories in games within the next five years. My phrasing is shit. I've re-written this several times and can't express properly my meaning. I am saying that the fundamental means in which games are written, in which characters are justified and in which tasks are framed will change completely within the next five years.
Part of the reason for this claim can be found in the demographic shift initiated by Nintendo. Part of the reason for this claim is well represented by Shamus Young's comic Stolen Pixels at The Escapist. Part of the reason for this claim is argued well, if not completely, by David Cage of Quantic Dream - if you love games for their "stories" this is a must read! Part of the reason for this claim is my own experiences - playing Oblivion I learned that I could ignore the plotted stories and create my own. It lacked the tools to properly support the generation of a real story, one that I could share with others, but it was a creative exploration of my imagination and a creative exploration of the tools the game gave me, that were limited but far more flexible than every other game of this generation that I have played. I don't believe the claims of the developers that this is 'hard' because the "choose your own adventure" series of books do a better job of interactive storybuilding than games do. Part of the reason for this claim is the games themselves are evolving, even Metal Gear Solid 4's cut scenes had many interactive elements, however rudimentary. The scent of change is in the air when an industry stalwart such as Kojima and his MGS series tries (and fails) to change its fundamental nature. Many appear to be seeking a new language, new verbs, new nouns, new phrases and a new grammar for story telling through and in games. Part of the reason for this claim is what is already happening in gaming, modified versions of Oblivion tell new stories, create new worlds, the 'modding' community are passionate, creative (though not necessarily critically arty) and are demanding change. They want to tell their own stories.
I am, as of this moment, fundamentally opposed to the developer centred, plot based, scripted story for games. I challenge developers and publishers to look for gaming concepts that empower the player - games that gives players the means to create stories of their own - and discover that by releasing their control to the great unwashed then magic is possible.
Little Big Planet has me excited, it could help me realise this vision if it is successful - thereby signalling to developers that players want to be able to play with the rules of the game, not just the rules within the game. I wish that it had more support for story creation than it appears that it does. Still it is not released yet, so it might surprise me!
Is the day of the plot based story game numbered?