Splitting Story and Gameplay

I’ve always found that any game that can get me to care about the story right after I test the gameplay as a fascinating thing. The two big parts of playing a video game are at it’s highest at this point. You have your gameplay which is really the meat of the game, it’s the first thing that you come in direct contact with and you connect with. If a game includes some kind of narrative then you become attached to that as well if it’s enough to catch your attention. Some games focus on the characters and their conflicts, be it an internal conflict or conflict between each other. I find this route to be most common, it just seems easier to get someone to care about a fictional character since they can sometimes relate to them. Rarely does a game get you to care about the world in which the characters live in.

I had this idea to create a game that splits the two monumental reasons why people play video games. Now this is by no means a stroke of genius on my part as it’s been done before, but it seems the easiest way to let the player play the part that they care about versus attempting to force the story and either make the player “listen” and not enjoy it, or just ignore that portion of the game you’ve created. However you could coax someone to enjoy the story even if they aren’t aware that they are. A way I think you can do this is by actually labeling the two parts of the game. I’m not saying to simply give one the description of “story” and the other “gameplay,” but make it known that there are indeed two parts that you are constructing for the player to enjoy.

My example is to have a game that tells a story in segments after the gameplay is done, but in the gameplay the story is also told through the goals that are set by the gameplay. In Umbrella you have what I’ve named “dream sequences” where the main character is dreaming and it’s a foretelling of the “reality sequence” that is coming afterwards. Umbrella is mainly based on the relationship between two characters and how it evolves over time. It metaphorically conveys milestones in the characters relationships through the gameplay, which in a sense is telling the story of these two characters.

It’s hard to not think I’m just looking to closely at my own understanding of how stories in video games are told, I’d like to believe this could be a staple in the games I create. The more I experiment with this and see people’s reactions I can tell what works and what doesn’t work. Story has always been important to me in video games and I would like for story to be more accessible to those who would otherwise overlook it.


Was this interesting? Care to hear more about my thoughts on game design? Feel free to leave comments, questions, and opinions below.

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