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.