Masahiro Sakurai: Stories in Video Games Can be "Irksome"
Posted by Andy Green
"I just want the game to let me play"
With the rise of technology over the years video games have established themselves as one of the biggest storytelling mediums out there. Stories used to be as basic as climbing a tower to save a damsel in distress, but as time has worn on they've become full cinematic experiences - even if we are still rescuing princesses from the clutches of giant apes and lizards.
As a player, as someone who's been playing games for a long time, the stories that get told in video games are honestly irksome to me pretty often.
For example, games that take forever to get through the intro and won't let you start playing, or games that go through the trouble of being fully voiced and wind up having their tempo all messed up as a result. I just want to enjoy the game and I think I'm just intolerant of aspects that block that enjoyment. I can enjoy a story in any other form of media; I just want the game to let me play it already.
Sakurai cited RPGs, which often feature an in depth story in today's era, saying that from a gamer's standpoint, when a character that you spent the game raising dies or leaves your party for the sake of the story, it's "dreadful" and "totally unreasonable".
In games where you're fighting against enemies, you're playing from the perspective of the hero, and you're being asked to basically win every time. If players wind up in a predicament because of what the story calls for, that's like penalizing them even though they made no mistake.
The irked designer says it leads to a game that's lacking in actual gameplay. He admitted that it is sometimes necessary for games to put story-oriented obstacles in a player's way, but he says that striking a balance is key to creating a good gaming experience. Creating a balance is something he struggled with himself in the making of Kid Icarus: Uprising, where he ended up writing the whole script himself.
He revealed that he developed the story to take advantage of the game itself, with all characters having their own personalities shaped by their individual roles in the title. This allowed him to make the dialogue match the developments encountered in the game.
If I had had someone else write the story, I'd either have to keep explaining things to the writer whenever anything changed in-game, or I'd have to partition it away from the game and lose on that consistency. Especially with a game like Kid Icarus [Uprising], which features air battles where the gameplay, dialogue, and music needed to fully mesh with each other, it was vital that the story and game were one and the same and could easily be fine-tuned.
Sakurai clearly feels stories in games could benefit from designers thinking about how the story actually relates to the game, and vice versa. He finished off by saying:
A game's story absolutely needs to match the content and the gameplay. In an ideal world, we could take advantage of this to provide new story developments that you'll never be able to see in other media.
Do you agree with Masahiro Sakurai? What are your thoughts on stories in video games? Let us know in the comments below.