Play for the Story, Not the Game

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Monday everyone!

The narrative and storytelling techniques in video games are generally a big factor in whether or not I enjoy said video games. In fact, there are definitely some games where I enjoy the story more than the gameplay itself. 

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I am a writer. Not just of blog posts, but also of stories, short ones and novels alike. As such, I’m always interested in the narratives of video games I play. I love to devour a game’s story just as much as I love to devour a good book.

With that said, there are a good handle of games that I would be perfectly happy with reading like a novel. I play these games for the story and the characters rather than the gameplay itself. Sure, the gameplay mechanics may be amazing, but if the story has snagged my attention, the gameplay is always going to be second fiddle. Fantastic gameplay mechanics will not redeem a game with a dull story line in my eyes.

Take Undertale and Deltarune, for example. There is so much lore and theories behind the developed stories of these games. Especially in Undertale’s case, there are multiple ways you can take the story through your actions, whether or not you decide to do a peaceful or violent run-through of the game. And if you played it through a second time? There are characters that remember your first playthrough. There are characters that remember if you killed them before. I didn’t care much for the game’s battle mechanics, but I continued to play it to see how the story ended.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is another example. War and faith are the general themes of the story, like many Fire Emblem games, but I was intrigued by the characters and definitely impressed with the voice acting. It was enough to keep me playing until the end, even though I found some of the battles repetitive and the dungeon sequences unappealing.

The most recent game we played through was Gris and we went into it knowing that it was a game with minimal enemies (if any at all). I picked it up first for it’s gorgeous art and stayed for the music and haunting narrative of trying to figure out the main character was searching for. My sister and I both teared up at the end once we realized how heavy and bittersweet the story was.

Thinking on all of this, it’s no wonder that I’ve gotten a newfound appreciation for visual novels and simulation games.

How important is story to you in games? Or do you prefer amazing gameplay to the story? Let me know in the comments below! If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Preferred Gender Tropes

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Monday, everyone!

Have you ever noticed if the gender of the protagonist effects the game? Perhaps one gender has better stats or different powers or something as simple as clothing options?

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Many games, particularly RPGs, allow the player to choose between playing a male or a female protagonist. While most games tend not to have much of a difference between the genders, there are some games that can be skewed to favor one over the other.

One of the most notable examples that I’ve heard of Harvest Moon 3. While I’ve never played the game myself, I have heard that the game is cut short as soon as you marry while playing as a female. While, as a male, you get married and can continue working on your farm, as well as get a child. Granted, each gender had different perks — males tended to be better with the farmland, while females were better with the animals — but why would the game just end if you get married as a female?

Different stats in games, such as the Fire Emblem franchise, favor one gender over the other as well. Males tend to have higher strength and defense while females are better with magic and speed. In many Fire Emblem games, some character classes are restricted as well — only males can be fighters while females can be pegasus knights, for example. One of my favorite aspects of the Fates trio is that these class restrictions were lifted, and I was disappointed when Echoes brought them back.

In hindsight, being a remake, Echoes probably brought the class restrictions back in order to be as faithful as it could to the original. With that said, though, I do wish it was updated to not only lift those restrictions, but also lift the healer restrictions. In the very beginning of the game, if you are following Alm’s story and have Faye with you, she has one less class promotion available than the boys. Archer is not available for her, yet when she was introduced to the Fire Emblem Heroes mobile game, archer is her class rather than cleric.

If the female gender is favored over the male, it tends to be for aesthetic reasons. In Pokemon X and Y, the female character has almost double the amount of clothing and hair options. The Sims franchise also tended to have gender options based on aesthetics only — with jobs and skill building being exactly the same across the board — but Sims 4 took this a step forward to allow transgender sims and lift the gender restrictions on all the clothing and hair options.

Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of Stardew Valley is how absolutely little your gender matters. No NPCs treat your character differently no matter what gender they are and your skills do not depend on your gender. You can also marry whatever eligible NPC you want, no matter the gender.

Any games that you’ve played that tend to favor one gender over another?

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Rule of Three

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Monday, everyone!

Video games, like movies and novels, love to employ tropes — for the characters, the settings, the plot and story — because they have proven time and again that they work well. The Rule of Three is another such trope that, when done well, can keep us spellbound when playing a game.

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There’s a common trope in storytelling called the Rule of Three. Generally, three similar events happen in the plot with a few changes to a variable or two. The first two events usually drive up the tension while the third event gives a twist on the outcome. It’s a tried and true trope, and video games have plenty of instances of threes in them.

This Rule of Three is as old as the common trio of warrior, mage, and rogue in most RPGs. They work in tandem personifying the classic stats of defense, attack, and speed. Or, if you wanted to go a step further, as physical attacks, special attacks, and perhaps skill or evasiveness. It’s common for side quests to have three parts, with the final task being the most important, or for final bosses to be fought in three phases. In racing games, three laps is the usual length for the course, and games with branching story lines tend to have good, bad, and neutral endings.

Many RPGs tend to have three members of a party out in a battle at once, such as Kingdom Hearts with Sora, Goofy, and Donald, or Super Mario RPG, where Mario and two other members can battle at once. The Legend of Zelda has the Triforce with Courage, Wisdom, and Power, each based upon one of their patron goddesses and personified by the three main characters of most of the games. Even the Harry Potter mobile game uses this trope with your character’s personality being shaped by how strong your courage, knowledge, and empathy are based on your choices in classes and interactions with other characters. Even duels in the game are performed by choosing sneaky, defensive, or aggressive spells, another rule of three.

The Pokemon core games have had trios up until the fifth generation when they ended the trend and gave us Black 2 and White 2. On that note, it is the last three Pokemon generations are the ones where we did not get a third title (Nintendo, I’m still waiting for my Gray, Z, and Eclipse games!). The generations that did have three titles tended to have more in-depth story elements in the third titles as well — while Yellow had Pikachu as the starter Pokemon, Crystal, Emerald, and Platinum each starred the third Legendary in a deeper plot. Pokemon GO has the three teams in Valor, Instinct, and Mystic.

Three seems to be the magic number when it comes to video game aspects.

Have you noticed the Rule of Three in your favorite video game? Do you think this trope works well?

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