Storylines…loveable, debateable, necessary? Oh, and lets chuck some mutes in there too.
In may opinion, a game needs a good storyline to keep me interested. I mean, my favourite games of all time, the fantastic Jak and Daxter trilogy, (yes I know I go on about them too much) have an amazing storyline that links all three games together. There are twists and turns in the plot, two-faced characters and villainous enemies, it kept me in suspense.
But then in all fairness some of my other favourite games such as Left 4 Dead, Guitar Hero 3 and Super Smash Bros have no storyline to speak of what-so-ever. However these games are only fun when played with friends. When I play Super Smash Bros by myself I lose interest very quickly (but then I tend to also with friends, but that’s only because I get beaten a lot and I really don’t like to lose), which brings me back to why storylines are good.
A good storyline adds another level to the gaming experience. Not only are you carrying out the physical game-play but you’re motivated to do so by the story.
A great narrative allows the player to identify with the playable character more. By understanding the history and motives of your character you become more emotionally involved and interact with the game on both a physical and mental level.
However, for me personally there is always one aspect that truly separates you from a character…the dialogue. No matter how much you know about the playable character, their dialogue always creates a barrier that prevents you from fully getting involved as it constantly reminds you that you are not them. However does this apply if you’re character is mute?
The most famous and successful example I can think of would be Gordon Freeman from Half-life but there are many others such as the playable character in GTA III. You never really find out much about that character, but I have the feeling that becoming emotionally attached to a homicidal maniac that enjoys running over prostitutes is not a good idea. There is also Jak from the first Jak and Daxter games but he magically regains his voice in the 2nd game after being horribly tortured but more about that later.
Right back to the Half-life games. A very popular series of games due to an exceptional storyline that successfully incorporates puzzles, combat and a narrative. However I don’t think it would have been as popular if Gordon wasn’t a mute. Not only does the first person perspective make you feel like you Gordon himself but you don’t have the dialogue barrier. Gordon doesn’t answer for you and therefore you don’t detach yourself from the character, resulting in a much more involved game-play.
However to pull off having a mute character, you have to have a pretty exceptional storyline, otherwise the player will feel uninvolved and bored.
In my opinion, I feel that muted characters are more successful at involving a player, as characters with dialogue is like watching a film. Yes you feel like your there in the moment sometimes but you’re always aware that you are watching a film and can never quite fully appreciate the game.
Hmmmm i seem to have gone off on a tangent...watch this space...
Oh! I forgot about Zelda, another hugely successful game series in which the main character, Link, never talks.