Due to the huge market share that the video game industry has, it is common to see many AAA titles, which are releases from major video game companies, that rival the budgets of Hollywood movies. Thanks to advances in technology and computer graphics, the scope and size of video games are greater than ever. For these reasons, it’s no wonder that this abundance of resources has made artists look to video games as the best platform for their stories.
When in the hands of passionate programmers, artists, and writers, video games are arguably the best storytelling medium available to us. With incredible graphics, immersive gameplay, and the ability for players to customize their experiences, it’s easy to see why video games are better suited to storytelling than traditional time-based media.
However, as the popularity of video games continues to rise and the resources that enable game developers to invest in new and existing hardware flourish, the desire for profit continues to undermine efforts to make games video a respected storytelling medium.
While great narratives exist in the realm of AAA games, such as God of War and 2018’s Red Dead Redemption 2, many critics and fans are quick to point out that many AAA games miss the mark when it comes to to tell captivating stories.
This is likely due to game developers’ focus on innovation in the tech space, as opposed to narrative. While the big budgets can deliver amazing visuals and gameplay, it lacks engaging and thoughtful stories.
Judging by the successes of critically acclaimed indie games like Undertale, Night in the Woods, Hades, Omori, or Disco Elysium, it’s clear that more resources don’t mean better storytelling. Although AAA studios’ budget dwarfs that of indie titles, they still struggle to write compelling stories.
According to an article by Polygon, while many big-budget studios attempt to engage with deeper themes, fear of rejection or a loss of profit compels these studios to avoid making meaningful statements in their titles, which means that players receive mediocre storylines. But, as evidenced by the successes of indie games, gamers value story as much as visuals or gameplay.
This is best explained by the way some AAA games prioritize profitability and focus on pushing the visual boundaries of the medium, which inevitably forces narratives to the back.
With the immense amount of money spent on development costs and marketing AAA titles, it’s understandable that developers aim to provide fun gameplay instead of challenging gameplay to ensure the studios can turn a profit. However, as reviewers and fans will attest, there’s nothing more infuriating than splashing out your hard-earned cash on a premium-priced game that’s lacking in the narrative department.
Therefore, while indie game developers can tell more engaging stories with less money, AAA game studios need to provide gamers with narratives that reflect their larger budgets. AAA game developers must focus on the delicate balance between storytelling and gameplay.
According to an article by Game Rant, indie games benefit from various conditions that allow them to be more profitable and accessible. When a studio has fewer funds, developers are forced to make the most of those resources. This may explain why indie developers are more willing to take risks when it comes to the kinds of themes they explore in their projects.
It should be noted that while video games provide a great platform for exploring deep and challenging themes, not all gamers are interested in engaging with these stories. Since games are seen as an outlet for escapism, it’s understandable that some prefer to keep heavy themes out of games.
Adding more games with storytelling elements doesn’t have to lead to a reduction in fun, light-hearted, or action-oriented games.
Games like Cookie Clicker will always exist for those looking for simple fun, but experiencing a story with engaging, well-developed characters and the ability to explore social issues in order to gain empathy is quite another. affair.
AAA game studios must attempt to create stronger, more substantial stories or risk failing to carve out a place among the great literature and movies of our time.