On a panel at University of Southern California, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg had some interesting thoughts about the nature of video gaming, stating that video games can’t really have a plot and that players can’t really care about the video game characters.
I respectfully disagree.
Video games can be mindless fun, I know. Pac-Man doesn’t make me shed a tear, and there are tons of games that throw away the plot and simply focus on shooting and mayhem. But video games have evolved and there are some out there that are actually works of art. Some of the best video games are those that tell a great story and have great characters.
There are two games that automatically come to mind when I think of games with great stories: The Walking Dead Game (the TellTale one, not the disappointing new game where you play as Daryl) and Persona 3.
I know there are plenty of others, but these two games really stood out for me. I first got into the Persona series with Persona 3, and The Walking Dead is one of my favorite shows, and the video game doesn’t disappoint.
First off, The Walking Dead Game is based off the comics and follows a group of survivors of the zombie apocalypse. It’s basically an interactive story, where the player has to make quick decisions that affect the other characters and the plot. If you didn’t cry at that ending, I fear you have no heart.
The story is really about Lee, a man on his way to prison when the zombie outbreak begins, and Clementine, a little girl he finds alone shortly after. Clementine is the cutest girl ever and it is your job to play as Lee and protect and teach this little girl to survive.
Spoilers. Seriously, if you haven’t played The Walking Dead Game yet, leave now and go play it! For everyone else, please continue.
At the very end, your character, Lee, dies, and poor little Clementine is left to fend for herself. From the moment Lee gets bitten by the undead, you know it’s over for him, and the parting scene between him and Clementine is one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. By the end you really feel for these characters, if only because of how involved you were in the decision-making.
That was expert story-telling, and that came from a video game. Not only was the story riveting, the characters were well crafted and you could see how the zombie outbreak and the mass destruction that followed affected all the characters. It had an intriguing story line that really focused on the characters, and your involvement with the decision-making made you care.
Another great game that directly contradicts this idea that games don’t have good storytelling or can’t make players care about characters is Persona 3.
I played the PSP version, and let me tell you, by the very end of that game, I was in tears. Full-on sobbing. In the ending I got, the screen simply faded to white and it’s unclear what really happens to the other characters. I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone who hasn’t played it yet, but basically you and your friends fight to save the world. The ending I witnessed was one of the most heartfelt scenes I’d ever seen. I had to take a break from playing games just to deal with the emotions that that game stirred.
Those are only TWO games out of the many out there, so I know there’s more. Looks like Spielberg and Lucas don’t know what they’re talking about, but I know my fellow gamers do.
Video games can be works of art – they can be about the story and the character, they can make players feel true emotion – it’s not just about shooting stuff and having mindless fun, although there’s nothing wrong with that. There are games that make players care, so by saying that video games don’t have good stories or can’t make players feel a connection to a character only shows how little Spielberg and Lucas know about video games.