The older I get the more I realize that I have very clear wants and likes when it comes to choosing games. An almost universal requirement for me has been the story of a game where it applies. Do I care about some kind of tacked on narrative in my Madden? No. But in just about anything else, absolutely.
Like the past five Januarys I am currently on a paid six week vacation. I typically use this time to catch on the gaming that I miss throughout the year when I'm killing myself working 70 hour, 6 day weeks.
The first game I bought to catch up on was Max Payne 3. I never had played any of the previous entries but I know how Rockstar has done some mighty fine stories in the past (Red Dead Redemption) so I thought it would be a good entry point before I completed gave myself over to another game. Bottom line: YAWN.
Don't get me wrong, the story was great. Voice acting, animation and camera effects all lead to a nice coherent story that had it been a movie I would have totally finished it. As a game? No dice.
Why did I not care? It's the world the story occupied. The world of modern corrupt Brazil just didn't do it for me. Maybe it wasn't enough escapism. Without really being able to put my finger on it that's about as specific as I can get.
Now, contrast this with two games that I have really gotten into in the past month.
Star Wars: The Old Republic went free to play not to long ago and while its definitely not as polished as WoW and its completely robbing their f2p community (that's for another blog) I've found myself completely engrossed to the point where I even subscribed to the game.
Ask me the story of The Old Republic... couldn't tell you aside from the specifics of each class story I don't know what the overarching narrative of the game is. Now, what's the world that story is set it? Star Wars! I grew up in the Star Wars generation (born 1979) so I'll overlook a lot of things in a game if it lets me occupy the Star Wars universe.
So, once I grew tired of Max Payne 3 I went off to Gamestop and traded it in for Far Cry 3.
Far Cry 3, like Skyrim (from my last vacation) is this vast open world with a story that I get. Far Cry 3, you're on some kind of grownup spring break, your friends get kidnapped by drag traffickers/ pirates and you have to save them. There's your story. On top of that story, it takes place is this magnificant world of two tropical islands.
You can do as much or as little of the other stuff the game offers if you so choose. The tropical islands are your oyster. Want to go boar hunting? Knock yourself out. Find ancient treasure? Yes, indeed. Kill bad guys? Of course.
The story is quite straight forward and almost simplistic compared to Max Payne 3's intrigue and betrayal but I'm much more entertained by it.
The next two games on my list are also there because of the world they offer and without much knowledge of the story: Dishonored (with its dystopian future) and Sleeping Dogs (Asian crime underworld). I can't wait.
Hopefully more games can not only create a great story for their games but a future component of that story has to be setting it in a living, thriving world. Alas, there seems to be hope with the future launches of GTA V and Bioshock:Infinite which seem to have these amazing worlds waiting for us, the gamers to conquer.
In the meantime, I hope everyone is enjoying what you're playing. Also let me know what you think. Do you think that big world a game occupies is as important as its story? Is it more important? Should it matter?