The stories told in video games often don't match with the content of the game itself, making players annoyed when they should be moved by the tales being told. So writes Masahiro Sakurai, creator of games like Kid Icarus: Uprising and the Super Smash Bros. series, in this week's Famitsu magazine.
"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," he wrote. "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."
"For example," he continued, "let's talk about how, in RPGs and things, a character that you spent the game raising dies or leaves your party for the sake of the story. From a gamer standpoint, that's dreadful; it's 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. As gameplay, it's lacking."
Sakurai took pains to note that he realizes it's sometimes necessary for a game to put story-oriented obstacles in a player's way. He argued, however, that balance is key. And it is something even he struggled to maintain with Kid Icarus: Uprising, to the point where he wound up writing the entire story script himself.
"I did it so I could write a story that jibed with the game, one that took advantage of the game's advantages," he explained. "Every character, including the bosses, had their personalities shaped by their roles in the game, or the structure of the game itself. That let me develop the dialogue to firmly match the developments you encounter 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, 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."
To Sakurai, stories in games could seriously benefit from designers taking the time to think about how the story relates to the game, and vice versa. "A game's story absolutely needs to match the content and the gameplay," he concluded. "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."