I’ve seen a lot of people touching this topic lately, what is more important, gameplay or story ? I wonder why nobody ever said gameplay and story. You can’t have one without another.
In the shallowest level, gameplay wins. Gameplay is the only thing video games have an advantage against any other medium. The story or the narrative is the thing that gives it all sense and purpose.
Consider every asset and every set-piece that has a narrative element behind it. A reason why it is looked a certain way. Seeing a mecha in a pirate game will seem inconsistent, seeing a steam punk mecha just may be okay. Now you feel that this pirate game should all be “upgraded” with some steam punk, in your mind it looks different from other pirate stories. It gains flavor, you can start imagining part of the game’s lore and even the mechanics.
So the story dictates the mechanics. I can’t imagine Soul Caliber with guns if they fight with swords. But you can think of it the other way around, the sword fighting gamed led to the story to be about getting that powerful sword.
While the latter seems more natural, it does not mean the developers thought this way. This only shows that it is a chicken and egg situation. It really doesn’t matter what come first, you’re going to have them both (meaning a chicken omelet, of fun!).
Next time if someone says they focus or ignore one of these elements, they are dead wrong. With gameplay comes the story and with story comes gameplay. The real question should be how you convey the story: voice-overs, cinematics, dialogue, etc.
The real pickle always seems to be the story, but it shouldn’t be. As a game focuses on certain mechanics, it is clear which way to go with it. If you decide on which way to go, it is clear what the main interactions in the game are.
To sum it up, from the examples and arguments I presented, it’s not a “vs.” question because they are on the same team. You strengthen one, and the other is strengthened as well. It is ludology karma.
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Filed Under: Editorials
About the Author: Asaph Wanger is long time gamer, working as an independent tabletop games writer and developer.