Buy Resonance

Story Wars Episode II: Danc Attacks

July 25th, 2006 @ 8:26 am
by Vince Twelve

In his latest pretentious Lost Garden posting, love ‘im or hate ‘im, Danc (I love ‘im!) talks about this group of Story Snobs that demand good stories in every game or else!

My ears perked up because I love games with stories and I love making games with stories. So I thought I was in for an overly verbose reaming. But then I realized that Danc was really just about to attack an imaginary group of people and spend a lot of words analyzing the rudimentary and arguing the elementary.

Basically, he says that there’s this group of people that he terms “Story Snobs” who just look at games as another way of telling stories and implies that they don’t see games for the unique gameplay offerings that they… err… offer. He makes it seem at first that if you like stories in games that you’re an ass hole, which pisses you off, and then he defines what exactly these “story snobs” think and you realize that he’s not talking about you, or in fact, anyone:

1. I like games with stories!

2. There aren’t as many great games with stories as there are books and movies with great stories.

3. It is therefore the fault of [the developer, publisher, etc] because they are not filling my needs.

4. As an advocate, I must passionately protect and promote any game with a story as the ideal.

5. Anyone who suggests games without stories are reasonable should be crushed. After all, it is a zero sum game here. Any resources spent on promoting non-game stories are resources that could have been spent on 10 more dialog trees.

Ok. Let’s go through these.

1. I’d wager that number one is true for the vast majority of gamers.

2. A fact.

3. This one is interesting. The developers are free to develop whatever game they want because they’re the ones at financial risk, no one is forcing you to buy their game. So, if they make a game sans story, you can’t really blame them. But on the other hand, a developer that makes a story-driven game with a story that plays out like it was written by a sixth grader can absolutely be blamed for telling a shitty story. If they didn’t put in the effort to deliver the exciting tale that is promised by the bullet point on the back of the box, they failed as developers. Great stories can make games fun, but shitty ones can ruin a game experience. You can’t overlook a game with a bad story by saying “Oh well, Danc says stories aren’t important anyways…”

4. Now we’re getting wacky. I have to passionately advocate any game with a story? Even “Secret Agent Barbie: Royal Jewels Mission?” I’m starting to believe that I may not be one of these snobs that he’s putting down…

5. Wow! Now we’re really out in left field. I do believe that Danc has just reduced the number of people that he’s rallying against to zero. So, nice job there.

Later in Danc’s post, he makes the stunning suggestion that stories are not necessary to make a great game. He takes six paragraphs to back this up. I can do it in one word: “Tetris.” Or for something more current: “Guitar Hero.” Or… shit that last one was two words. You get the idea. Redundant.

He uses lots of big words and analyzes things way too much, but basically, he concludes that stories are good for some types of games but not for others and all the game designers out there need to consider long and hard whether or not a story is appropriate for the game they’re creating. And something about wine making good lobster.

5 Responses to “Story Wars Episode II: Danc Attacks”

  1. Eric Says:

    I agree with his whole premise that a good game doesn’t need a good story. I really like Tetris. Even though he claims that he is just saying that stories are just one wrench in your toolbox, most of what he writes seems to suggest that story centric games are inferior. Can your game be story centric and also have other good gameplay elements?

    He demonizes games like Final Fantasy because he personally doesn’t enjoy that style of game. Isn’t this the same kind of arrogant “fanboy” attitude he is projecting on his straw man?

    I think that his perspective is summed up by this quote:
    “that makes a lot of sense if you’ve ever experienced the joy of tweaking a surprisingly interesting interactive system versus the slog of polishing a series of plot points.” Which makes a lot of sense… um if you’re not into story telling. I’m sure a novelist wouldn’t find the intricacies of OpenGL particularly exciting either, but that doesn’t mean his story can’t best be told in an interactive way.

  2. Eric Says:

    by the way, I think you need to fix the link to the original article

  3. Vince Twelve Says:

    oops, thanks! fixed

  4. Danc Says:

    *grin* The story snob is admittedly bit of a strawman.

    Good critique of an admittedly overly long essay.

  5. gnome Says:

    And an essay that doen’t really do much than state the rather obvious thing, that video games (as a medium) don’t always have to have a story.

    (Another brilliant post)