Saturday, May 26, 2007

Story-line VS Game-play

Ladies and gentlemen step on up! Today in the ring we have… on the left, the mighty, the sophisticated, the never-ending… STORY-LINE! And on the right, we have the fearful, the intuitive, the fun-loving and awesome, GAME-PLAY! This is indeed the match of the season, yee haw! Well ok jokes aside, today we’re going to be discussing the importance of Story-line and Game-play in video games. I’ll be going through the following points:

- The importance of Story-line in today's games
- The importance of Game-play in today's games
- Which is more important, Story-line or Game-play?
- Examples of games with good story-lines and game-play
- Summary of story-lines and game-play

The Importance of Story-line in today’s games

Without further a due, let us begin. Firstly, we’ll be talking about the importance of story-lines in games. Have you ever played a large scale video game with absolutely no story before? I doubt it, because such titles rarely exist. Back in the golden days of gaming, story was never really needed. I mean what reason does a yellow ball of funk (named puck man (Pacman)) have to continually gobble up balls of food all over a large vertical map. Why are the strange ghosts always pursuing Pacman, and why does he die when he comes into contact with a ghost? There wasn’t much story in Pacman, but strangely enough it did well for its time. Well, now imagine a great game like Halo without a story. See the great difference? Well, obviously, Halo would not be such a great masterpiece if Master Chief never really had a reason to fight with the covenant.

It is therefore evident, that story is a key in today’s video games. This is especially so in the RPG and adventure genres. In fact, some games, such as the Final Fantasy series, depend strongly on a great story-line. I feel that no matter how intuitive the battle system and character design is in final fantasy, ultimately, if it had a bad story-line I’d get sick of it, rather easily I might add. The game is basically made of random battles and little avatars running around the screens and talking to one another. It is the story that keeps people playing the game, and the interaction between characters. I mean, playing final fantasy would really be a drag if there was no story. All I’d really be doing is leveling up my characters and facing new enemies… without a purpose.

The importance of game-play in today’s games

As much as story is concerned, I believe that game-play is also extremely important. Citing my previous examples of old school games, it is obvious that game-play is very important in the design of games. Back in the early age of video games, game-play was vital for a good game. Street fighter would never have become popular if all the characters had were detailed Biographies of their life. What made the game fun was the various fighting styles and moves each character possessed which in my opinion is the very essence of the game’s game-play.

Games that depend largely on game-play are generally found in the action and first person categories. Multiplayer games like counter-strike depend completely on game-play while other games like rhythm-based games such as DJ Max depend on intuitive design and style. These are all in my opinion elements of good game-play and the games quoted do not have any story-line what so ever.

Which is more important, Story or Game-play?

Now, the important question, which do we prioritize, story or game-play? Surely we must have one that is more important than the other, right? WRONG! In my opinion, both story AND game-play are equally important. I know there are many games out there with either just a great story or great game-play, but think about it… if we added that extra element of either the game-play or story, which was missing; we get a really awesome game as the outcome! Actions speak louder than words of course so I’ll show you examples of great games that have both story and game-play.

Examples of good games with good story-lines and game-play

If you thought games couldn’t have great story-lines and game-play, you are wrong, for nothing is impossible. Take for example, one of the few games to ever receive a perfect score on, The Legend of Zelda – The Ocarina of Time. This is one game that really packs a punch. It is classified as an Action-Adventure RPG, where you play as Link, the hero of time, and gain various skills and items that help you complete tough dungeons and defeat difficult bosses. Apart from a very impressive 3rd person hack and slash game-play, LOZ – OOT also has a deep and rich story-line where link has to face Ganondorf(the game’s antagonist) in a final battle of wits and power. Being one of the greatest games of all time, the LOZ – OOT was a major hit for the Nintendo 64.

Another great game with both an excellent story-line and intuitive game-play would be the First-Person Adventure game, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Being a top-rated game with impressive graphics and audio effects, Oblivion also boasts a unique first person slash and magic casting experience. Set in a medieval world, with many creatures, monsters and sentient beings, Oblivion includes hundreds of side quests, as well as an intriguing main quest. Having about 50 hours of game-play and story this game is one you should definitely check out.


Woah. We finally got to the summary! After the discussion of game-play and story, I have only one conclusion to make. Great games need both game-play and story and to keep up with times, game designers should try and house game-play alongside story and try to blend the two contradictory components. Only then, would the game not just be another video game, but a GREAT video game.

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