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May 1, 2013

Today on the 5: Recently the creator of Minecraft made some interesting comments about game narratives. Does a game with no story really sound that good?

All Meshed Up (William)
almost six years ago

I can think of one game without narrative: Tetris.
I'm a big fan of Notch, but his wording can often be a little narrow-minded. Gamers who just skip through narrative and play the game, like he admitted to doing, are the people who blaze to the end of Mass Effect 3 and then tells everybody it sucked. That's a game where you need to appreciate the narrative from start to bitter end.
I think Notch did have a grander point, and that is narrative only exists to those who care to see it. What really matters is for the game to play well. Some games are only about the gameplay, others are not fun and therefore the story takes a backseat, and still others strike that perfect balance. His games fall in to the first category, and that's where the largest audience is.
People like us, who require some sort of purpose to the action do not fit in to Notch's intended audience. People who play games in a more casual way don't need, and often don't care for, narrative and can play Minecraft, or Tetris, or any of the infinite puzzlers and time-killers like Fruit Ninja for hours with the same level of enjoyment as you watching the final end sequence of Metal Gear Solid 4.
Take Skyrim for example. A game which many people grow very tired of quickly due to a seeming lack of narrative and substance. But to me, nearly every second of that game is a vast story being told mostly on the fly in an almost episodic fashion. Some of my favorite experiences in Skyrim (in gaming for that matter) would have been lost on the average player who typically doesn't expand their perception of events beyond the bounds of the game engine and what it's video output shows. The reason I could never get in to Minecraft is because I had too much difficulty drawing those narrative elements and felt like I was only wasting my time - fun as it was.

"Does a game with no story really sound that good?" To me? No. To many others, all games have no story because to them it doesn't factor in to their enjoyment.