A couple of interesting posts on the blogosphere, one from Nils and one from Tobold, have both raised an interesting issue: the use of story in video games. In Tobolds case he talks about the Star Wars MMO and how the team at Bioware are putting a lot of their socks into the story-telling basket, and he ponders if this is such a good idea. Nils has been playing, and hating, Dragon Age 2. Apparently there are lots of cut scenes, and the gameplay boils down to setting your party up and sitting back and watch it all unfold.
This urge to tell a story on the part of game designers is interesting, as in watching a train wreck is interesting. What seems to have been forgotten is the fact that when you are playing a game, and in particular a role playing game, then the player needs to be the driving force behind the story. Sure you can set up some form of broad outline for the player to habit within, but it is the experiences of each individual player and the choices that they make which give a game depth and long life. Witness the almost total unreplayability of the new zones in Cataclysm. Running subsequent characters through those new levels takes repetition and boredom to startling new heights. And the primary reason for this is the fact that the railroading and tight scripting leave the player with only one road to take. Do it once and you’ve done it. Which is extraordinary bad game design for a game needing to hold players for a long period of time.
Games are not movies where the viewer watches in a passive state. A game is something that gives players interesting choices, and more importantly, the consequence of choice. By playing the game you can also learn something. Unfortunately, with a great many of todays games, the only thing that you learn is that once is enough.