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Games that tell stories

Sajidur Rahman | Thursday, 22 July 2021


A rich platform for storytelling is video gaming where the boundaries are limitless. The impact a story or even a single character from any sort of digital platform can have on us is unfathomable. Due to all the advancements in technology that we have seen over the years, conveying impactful stories through video games is not an impossible task.

However, despite gaming being at its peak amid the pandemic, the popularity of narrative-driven games is slowly being outweighed by all the multiplayer giants that are available on the market.

While it is quite understandable that many people just want to jump into a game of ‘Rainbow Six Siege’ or ‘Warzone’ while simultaneously talking with their friends, many of them just refuse to give single-player games a chance. Nevertheless, both categories are equally enjoyable in their own way.

An online game gives you the chance to be socially interactive while playing it and are even becoming a source of income for many professionals. The esports tournament called ‘The International,’ held in Shanghai in 2019 featuring DOTA 2, had a total prize pool of USD 34.33 million alone. Does this make the idea of a narrative-driven game, where there are only CPU-controlled levels, sound dull and tedious?

We can start with Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption 2. The world which the protagonist Arthur Morgan knew was coming to an end. It has a setting where different ideologies collide. "Revenge is a fool's game" is one of the many themes this beautiful yet violent game tries to represent. "The unending cycle of revenge will bring nothing but sorrow" has been brilliantly portrayed in the Red Dead series.

The story is so beautifully laid out to the players that they will be able to take away something from this world of immoral gunslingers which is nothing less than enjoying a match of Warzone with friends. Another fantastic story that Rockstar has given to millions of gamers around the world is that of Niko Bellic in Grand Theft Auto IV. War had taken away the morality and innocence of a man and given him wounds from which he might never recover.

A game development company that has truly showcased the potential of plot-driven games in recent times is Naughty Dog. From the action-adventure stories of everyone's favourite treasure hunter Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series to the dark and gritty tale of Joel and Ellie in ‘The Last of Us’ series, gamers around the world could not get enough of these gems.

The Last of Us 1 and 2 gave us valuable lessons about empathy, revenge, and seeing humanity even in the worst of enemies. The hauntingly beautiful score from Academy Award-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla rounds up the whole experience. These stories should be explored by PlayStation gamers and they will surely take away something from the life of these interesting characters.

From exploring the Rook Islands controlled by Vaas and Hoyt in ‘Far Cry 3’ to singing sea shanties in the Caribbean with the crew of Edward Kenway in ‘Assassin's Creed Black Flag,’ Ubisoft as a game developer continues to push boundaries when it comes to narrative-driven open-world games. With notable historical figures such as Mary Read and Ed Teach Blackbeard, gamers dove into the golden age of pirates in Black Flag. Far Cry 3 with its ludonarrative harmony encapsulates the era when developers were trying hard to push the boundaries in terms of story in single-player games.

A very distinct genre of single-player games which has been introduced to the world by developer From Software is the souls borne series. From exploring the haunting land of Boletaria in Demon's Souls, to the mystical land of Anor Londo in Dark Souls, these games put forward some brutally difficult challenges to overcome. It is so magical how an action RPG was able to have a big impact on so many people's lives, so much so that it ended up stopping people from taking their own life. A truly brilliant example of how a simple CPU-controlled world can have a huge influence on a person's life.

A team of only 45 people worked on ‘A Plague Tale: Innocence’ which had the production quality of a big-budget AAA company. This shows the passion with which many developers are trying hard to tell stories through the narrative-driven art form.

These few examples are just a tiny droplet in the ocean of many breathtaking single-player art forms that are available on the market. A video game is an escape from reality for the gamers. Sometimes a simple leap of faith from the comfort zone can end up teaching us so many things about the journey called life.

The writer has recently graduated from Sunnydale School.

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