The Power of Story

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What makes a video game work for you?

I have spent the last six days playing Dragon Age: Origins. When I first started the game a few weeks ago, I was a little skeptical. The graphics look old, and high fantasy in games have never been my thing, my preference being Sci-Fi. But friends and my daughter encouraged me to keep playing, to give it a chance, to allow myself to be immersed in the story.

Guess what? I’m hooked.

I still think the graphics are eye cancer and I find that some of the missions feel downright padded. I mean, is it really necessary for me to travel through miles of underground tunnels for an hour just to reach the werewolf den? It’s enough to make a novice like myself scream and throw the controller out of the window. The game isn’t terribly diverse with regard to the humans, but there is character creation, so…well, there’s that. And do not even get me started on the system of combat. Boring. Or the complicated controls. Argh.

Obviously these aren’t the aspects that keep me coming back. And for the record, that is my unofficial gauge to determine if a game is good. It’s the, Do I want to go back and finish this?, test.

I do want to finish DA: O, because of the story. Admittedly the whole “You are charged with saving the world/universe.” is incredibly overdone, yet there is still something compelling about knowing that the fate of everything rests on your shoulders. Even better though, is playing a game where the relationships you create and cultivate with other characters have a direct impact on if and how well you meet  your goals.

Stories like this force you to care. This is where all of my unfinished games have failed. Weak stories. Beautiful graphics and great fighting mechanics can not carry a game, at least not for me, longer than a couple of hours. They won’t make me care. They won’t compel me to return.

So, I’m going to finish DA: O, and I never thought I would say this but, I might even do a second play through so that I can really catch all the nuances and side missions and explore all the nooks and crannies I’ve missed this go around.