Gameplay Vs. Story


Dylan Berkowitz, Staff Writer

Video games are a relatively new medium of entertainment to the world. With this infancy comes a lot of gaming aspects that have not been completely set in stone. The game play of a video game is obviously as old as the medium itself and developers are always innovating on how people play games.

At the time of the Atari 2600 and the NES, for example, the only thing that games had were gameplay. No one really cared why something was happening. Sometimes there would be a small description, but that would be it.

Later on, however, developers started to realize that they can tell stories with the games they were making. Ever since this realization, there has been some disagreement on which aspect of a game is the most important.

Gameplay for video games is always changing from game to game; even two games in the same genre can be completely different. A great example of this are the original Mario and Sonic games.

While the two game series are 2D platformers at their core, when you take a look at them more closely, Mario is a much slower game with more precise jumps that have to be made.

Sonic, on the other hand, is fast paced and leaves the player on their toes for what they should do next. While the two of these games take different approaches to the genre with their own innovations being made, they both have very basic stories; bad guy does thing and now a hero needs to stop it.

For games like Mario and Sonic, the gameplay is much more important than a story because frankly, I don’t think anyone cares.

The story, however, is a very different beast than the gameplay. While it may end up being a cheap “this happened so do this” like in Mario, there are games that have their story as the selling point. Games like Life is Strange and Until Dawn have their stories at the forefront.

Life is Strange has a lot of loveable (and hateable) characters as well as an engaging story that made me personally want to know what will come next, and Until Dawn, while it has less focus on all the characters (they’re pretty much generic horror movie tropes), there is a twist that is pretty crazy. Go play it and see for yourself!

While these games keep players interested through their characters and stories, the gameplay is pretty boring. Other than a few good ideas here and there (I love the time travel mechanics in Life is Strange a lot), all the player does is walk around and press a button every now and then.

Then there are games that have a focus on both gameplay and story. One such example of this balance is the Metal Gear Solid series. The series is a stealth game with mechanics that make the games stand out among other games that make it unlike the others while the stories in the games are so well done that they can be on their own and still be amazing. The series can live without one of the two factors and still stand out.

In the end, determining whether gameplay or story is more important in modern video games is a hard decision. On one hand, if the gameplay isn’t engaging, the player might get bored and walk away, but if the story isn’t interesting, the player may still get bored and walk away.

In my opinion, if a game can’t do either one of them that well, finding a middle ground to keep players on their toes and to get them into a narrative that will keep them coming back until the game is completed.

To complicate matters, the importance of both storyline and gameplay changes from player to player and developer to developer. What matters to gamers ultimately is having a good time. What that means can change at any time.