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Story excuse for Gameplay? OR vice-versa?

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Is Story an excuse for gameplay? I've got an interesting question, and a decent observation that goes with it. In games with a story, Does the story exist to provide an excuse to play the game / puzzles / combat. Or does the game / puzzles / combat exist to help tell the story? If you want an example of this, one review of Beyond Good and Evil says that
The plot of many games simply serves as a backdrop for the gameplay. The story in Beyond Good and Evil is so good that it feels like the game was created in order to tell it.
Whereas the official Playstation mag, says that BG &Es plot is an excuse to indulge in all the different game sections and mini-games. This probably comes down to a matter of the player's focus. ie. are they interested in characters and 'story' or just in solving problems / a bit of shoot 'em up action? -------------------------------- The observation that I'd make is that does the nature of Gameplay and the main theme in the narrative combine well? Ie. It is all very well making a game where the gameplay doesn't help to illustrate the theme. Ie. If the game is linear do the narrative and main themes of the game take this into account? Ah an example comes to mind, if a game is about struggling to prevent a nuclear missile being launched (in order to prevent a human catastrophy). But the gameplay consists of shooting down thousands of soldiers, then maybe the plot and characters ought to reflect on this. Ie. Balancing up the loss of life vs. the millions that would have died if it had been launched? What I'm trying to say is that the gameplay should probably reflect in the plot and the plot reflect in the gameplay. [Edited by - Ketchaval on May 20, 2005 11:47:01 AM]

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I think the answer will depend on how much meaning your activities in game have. Story is a means to an end. It creates anticipation, the possible directions a story can turn provides mystery, and if the story is good it provides meaning. The last is most important, I think, because it colors even hackneyed gameplay with a different light, making it seem different.

On the other hand, there are a wide variety of game activities that are so self-consistent they provide all of this on their own. An old school shoot-em up, for instance, might surprise you with new enemies and situations, which creates anticipation and mystery (what's next?). Meaning will be harder to come by, the more simple the game, but "save the world" has sustained at least early generations of video game players for quite some time.

Everything, of course, depends on the player's personal standards for freedom, meaning / significance, drama, replayability, challenge, etc.

When story is no longer a means to an end, but the point of loading up and using the product, I think you'll have a different animal that will deserve its own name and own conventions.

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