On the surface, it would appear that game story writing includes a wide variety of genres. A good video game story can find its expression in many styles. But that observation is somewhat superficial. If you dig deeper, you will find that many widely popular types of books or TV fiction are rarely featured as a story in a game. While conceiving a game, designers usually look for game writers only if the game genre demands it. It is quite right that action and adventure themes are extensively explored while one writes for video games. In contrast, other types of popular books and TV fiction like coming of age stories, romance, and sitcoms rarely serve as a great video game story.
Featured Image Courtesy: Unmechanical- Talawa Games and Teotl
Why are specific genres ignored while one writes a video game?
According to some experts, this is due to the player demographics. They opine that average players will not appreciate it if you write a good game in such genres. But it is my belief that the very nature of video games is the reason behind this observation.
The essential nature of games
The question we need to ask ourselves is, what are games exactly? Well, they are games. It might not be obvious, but when you think about it deeply, the truth comes out. What is the one common thing behind all games from video games to board games like Monopoly? The single word gameplay is enough to answer the question. Games must let the player actively participate in something entertaining. In the case of the game format of entertainment, the players are more than casual viewers.
Game players don’t merely watch the story unfold but are an active part of the process. This is the reason why the focus of game story writing is on action and adventure. They lend themselves to things like strategy, puzzle solving, fighting, and exploration. Most games rely on such mechanics primarily or use any combination of them.
External Vs. Internal Conflict in game story writing
External conflicts as borne out by the mechanics of fighting and their like are more natural to be represented in games. But entertainment genres like romance and sitcoms depend a lot on internal conflicts for their effect. This makes it necessary that good game story writing should ideally feature lots of external conflicts.
Single or few playable characters
Another thing that makes games more engaging and immersive is making the choice of playable characters to one or a few. This limitation in choice makes the whole job of making the game easier. This choice lets the narrative designer smugly fit into the shoes of his profession and spend less attention on game design and writing down the game stories. It causes less designing and story writing work and makes it easy for the player to get habituated to a particular set of shoes, so to speak!
There is indeed a workaround for this. One can always make all the players play the same. But that dents the authenticity of the game as all characters act like seasoned war veterans. This is not realistic at all. It is possible to have games that have lots of character swapping going on. But the designers need to craft such a game with utmost care to achieve this.
To Sum Things Up
We can conclude this piece by stating this sticking to adventures and action themes for games makes a lot of sense. These fiction genres are more comfortable to represent through conventional game mechanics. The gameplay just fits in, and you need not depend on some ingenious invention. Just think of it this way, a space-faring world soldier is more at home fighting aliens than a mom in a family comedy mom doing death-defying stunts. It comes naturally!
For moregame writing insights and tips:
Subscribe to our Email Newsletter