Last month I scribbled down a few thoughts I had about Gone Home and other storyline based games. They were not good thoughts. But it got me thinking, are there any games out there that successfully manage to balance gameplay and storyline? I mean, I enjoy visual novels and FPS’s as much as the next guy, but they’re hardly what I’d call a happy medium. One is milk, the other is cream. Where’s the half-and-half?
|10/10, GOTY – IGN, (1996)|
So yeah, The Walking Dead blew my mind like a shotgun shell to a zombie’s face. I’m serious. Everything about it was just so good. The storyline kept me (and my boyfriend) on tenterhooks the entire time we were playing. Every time the internet cut out (frequently) we’d leap up and run for the router like a tank was after us. Sorry, crossing my zombie game wires there. Anyway. Tenterhooks. What else?
|Uh… the other Bioshock.|
Secondly, gameplay doesn’t have to mean shooting up the set, or scrolling through page upon page of character stats. It can be as simple as having the player solve a puzzle, or make a decision. Y’know, meaningful decisions. Not just choosing one of two ways to wind up at the same ending… Mass Effect. I’m talking about decisions that actually impact game play, and change it irrevocably. The kind of thing that makes you wish you had a save state to frantically reset to. Telltale Games does this brilliantly – my boyfriend and I found ourselves cowering slightly whenever the game told us ‘They will remember that.’
|He’s like an elephant. If elephants were assholes.|
And when the gameplay affects not only the game, but the story itself, we’re in a whole different ballpark. We’re in the goddamn Yankee Stadium (my sources assure me that it is pretty good). Interactivity makes a player feel involved, sure, but making meaningful choices makes the player feel responsible. When I found Clem in that treehouse? I felt genuinely concerned for her wellbeing. When Doug got eaten by zombies I felt like it was my fault. I wasn’t sorry, but on some level I felt like I had actively caused things to happen. Who cares if 75% of people made the exact same choice? The point is, they had a choice to make. That’s the happy medium, and that’s why I’ll keep playing these games for as long as devs keep making them.