Story or Gameplay?

  • Do you value story or gameplay more in a videogame? I prefer gameplay because it's what makes videogames unique from all other mediums and artforms.

  • I could post the old Carmack quote and leave it at that, but I mean if your game has good gameplay it doesn't really need a story, nevermind a good one. There's no story worth slogging through bad gameplay for. If I can watch a stream or a let's play of a game and feel like I got all that game had going for it out of the video alone then I consider that a failure.

  • Banned

    Honestly depends on what I'm looking for from a game, and also what the developer's intentions are with said game.
    If a game has good gameplay, it can generally survive on that, though a good story can help elevate it to greatness. Take Nier Automata as an example. The core is there, but everything surrounding it helps make it more than the sum of it's parts.
    That isn't to say I can't enjoy an incredible story if the gameplay isn't exactly there. Detroit Become Human is largely automatic in it's gameplay, but the narrative of the game is the gameplay. Making choices that vastly effects the narrative is the core of the game, and so I don't necessarily mind that often times the gameplay is nothing more than selecting a choice or pressing a button when it pops up on screen.

    One could argue that the majority of JRPGs amount to nothing more than making selecting an attack and watching an animation, but the learning the story and becoming invested in the journey of the characters is the driving force. Final Fantasy 6 is one of my favorite games of all time, despite you really not doing more more than pressing a few buttons to select attacks and read dialog boxes.
    Hell, I know some people who will forsake terrible gameplay and incredibly poor storytelling for nothing more than pandering and fanservice.

    So yeah, really depends on what you find important, and what the game and its creators were going for.

  • Gameplay. I can say that confidently. I'm assuming I'm supposed to treat this as a binary question (ignoring other elements besides these two) and that giving one answer does not discount that sometimes in some situations the other one is valued more.

    The question can be hard to answer. If you stop and imagine some games as reference points, you can feel lost with how all the parts contribute to what you value. Especially at the extremes. That is, it is easy to imagine examples how one or the other being really good or really bad will overwhelm the experience. So here's how I setup the question to make it more answerable: if I imagine playing a game whose gameplay and story are both of average quality (among, say, the general population of games that I've sought out and played), which quality ultimately contributed more to my play satisfaction?

    For most games I play, the gameplay occupies more of the time spent and it is the greater (but not sole) contributor to my personal motivation or "reward seeking feeling" to resume playing that game in a future session. In some games though, I would say that story -- or more specifically characters that I like hearing/seeing/roleplaying and settings that I find alluring to inhabit -- can be greater.

    Just to give story another nod, there's also the rare games which provide memorable emotional experiences, the majority of which are story related and not gameplay related. Gameplay moments can be emotional in their own way -- the tension when facing dire straights comes to mind, or perhaps the euphoria of mastering a challenge that requires a very lengthly process -- but these are less common. Even moreso when considering just the very top such experiences.

    Perhaps a simpler way to think about it is to ask, when there's a new game trailer or announcement or review what do you find yourself mentally looking for about the game? I frequently find my brain trying to judge what the genre is and whether I'm expecting it to feel stale after a while. So this is very much on the "gameplay" side of the equation. The game's story (and especially characters+setting) certainly has an impact, but I find myself less frequently trying to critically evaluate it.

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  • I think many will say that they appreciate both and that it depends what they are looking for at that given time.

    There are many games that push a good balance between gameplay and story, but there has been a steady decline when it comes to pulling this off recently. Wrpg's and shooters in particular have been increasingly dumbing themselves down since the early 2000's in favour of a more cinematic approach.

  • I can say that stories take my attention more than gameplays mostly. I look at games as interactive stories, so as long as gameplay isn't something really fun/satisfying, I usually see it as a device more than a purpose.

  • In a good game, they're the same thing.

  • @ringedwithtile Super deep thought. Care to expand?

  • @e_zed_eh_intern haha I can't tell if you're being facetious, but I'll elaborate or ramble a bit:

    It's a common question that's relevant to basically any artistic medium: form and content (gameplay being form, story being content). I don't think 'story' is really the right stand-in for content since there are a lot of games that don't have any story and are just designed gameplay loops, but perhaps that's just a symptom of video games starting as an abstract art and becoming representative over time.

    My point is that story and gameplay, should a game have both, are inseparably linked. Form is content and vice versa. Even the most rudimentary arcade game builds drama through its interaction with a player, and uses symbols/story logic to make its gameplay legible and points to indicate dramatic significance. A virtual novel's story's progression is entirely at the behest of the person reading it, even if there isn't any 'gameplay' or even any choices in story progression.

    Now, I do like games that are abstract. Ones that have no story to speak of. I love Tetris, I love Super Hexagon. Their symbols are meaningless, meaning no associative or implied stories can be formed. But like music, there's still drama to these. Beating the hardest level of Super Hexagon was still dramatic---probably more dramatic than other abstract art given my inputs are part of the visual feedback. Like other abstract art, there was still meaning and feeling to be drawn from it that was deeper than just overcoming the challenge of ingesting it. I guess if I had to propose a form/content dichotomy for games it would more about design/meaning instead of gameplay/story. It's broader, includes games with minimal story (keeping people from mistaking story for plot) and allows for internalized rather than solely external conversation.

    I guess it's easy to say I'm being pedantic about all of this, but I think that gameplay vs story is a lot more unspecific than it sounds because A LOT of what I like about one is also the other, and games that I think are great kind of use both at the same time, or in unconventional ways. Having a button committed to holding Yorda's hand in ICO is entirely dramatic despite being purely mechanical. Just like pressing a button to pull a trigger without a prompt at the end of Gungrave or MGS3, which you've probably done hundreds of times in the hours before, puts a mechanical strain on what is an instance of pure story. These things are bigger than their games, they tell us things about life or ourselves just by having a single button to press---the perfect unity of significance in video gaming.

  • If a game has amazing gameplay and a terrible story, it's a great game
    If a game has an amazing story and terrible gameplay, it's a bad game

    I personally favor gameplay

  • Banned

    @kaminski What dictates bad gameplay?
    Like I mentioned in my post, Detroit has mostly automatic gameplay where you only need to direct characters, make choices, and press a few quick button prompts, but the narrative focus and wildly changing narrative based on your decisions is the focus and makes up for those gameplay shortcomings, at least in my opinion.

  • The better question isn't about Gameplay or story, but can you shoot out lights.

  • Problem with this story Vs gameplay debate is that some people have a very limited understanding of what gameplay is and tie it only to very basic stuff like movement, precision and little else.

    It's like looking at modern cinema by 1903 standards. "Yes this picture moves."

  • @phbz Ok, so what else falls under gameplay?

  • @e_zed_eh_intern

    Well what doesn't fall in gameplay? That would be a better question.

    A simple example. Death Stranding, the shooting isn't top tier, the driving is mediocre, stealth is simplistic and AI isn't very bright. One day I had to go to an enemy base, to avoid detection I've decided climb down from a cliff, stealthily pick up my objective and exit. Midway as I was returning to my vehicle I am detected so I have to use my weapons (non-letal) to clear the base. But, alas! I quickly run out of ammo so I have to run to a nearby knocked down enemy while holding cargo and avoiding enemies to pick up his gun. I pick up the gun and clear the remaining adversaries. But there's a problem that didn't occurred to me, my adversaries had letal weapons and killing people in DS is a problem since the dead turn into "nukes" that explode after a few minutes. So now I have to run until the place where I've parked my van, bring the van, pick up all the dead and quickly take them to the incinerator where you can safely dispose of the bodies.

    The layering of several simple mechanics made for a deep emerging gameplay experience. Same for the traversal in the game with weather, terrain and enemy systems making what could be taken for a simple walk from point A to B into fertile terrain for emergent gameplay situations. And while I'm of the opinion that DS narrative is beyond mediocre, and made me and my GF laugh to tears at some parts for how ridiculous it is, I'll say that my journey, my story, is full of rich moment directly coming from gameplay.

    Even a walking simulator like What Remains of Edith Finch have moments where gameplay drives the narrative brilliantly. The cannery segment is one of my favourite moments ever in a game because it tells a story in a way only possible in a game through gameplay.

    Youtube Video

    I think one must first look what a game tries to achieve and if it achieves what it wants through gameplay. A FPS where you spend 90% shooting has to have very solid shooting mechanics. A game where you spend hundreds of hours exploring might have not so good combat and still have what I would consider good gameplay if the mechanics that feed that exploration are good.

  • 90% gameplay
    10% story

    A good gameplay makes me stick with a game easier than the story which I can just watch on YT. Of course I'm more invested if I had played it myself.
    And it varies by genre too since some "gameplays" are just reading and picking choices while others is just all about timing like rythm games that has more to do with music so sound based "gameplay".

    Like I didn't like The Last of Us for the most part since gameplay is lesser than Uncharted that has doable gameplay but at least has that verticality among others and really hated the crafting in that game.
    Sekiro was just monotonous with finishers and mikiri counter was just too easy to pull of that it was getting repetitive which is why I didn't like it either.

    And yet I like games that have lesser gameplay than either of them. So it comes down to the tools the game provides and whether I like to use them in the game itself is the gameplay judgment.
    Storywise I appreciate if it has smart writing but I also like campy/cheesy stuff. Even bad dialogue doesn't bother me much so a good story is just a bonus for me most of the time.
    Probably why I go toward more japanese games than western games. Japan for long time and still majority has mentality to have games more focused on fun factor while western is more on immersion. Of course nowadays there are less focus from some people and indie games are good at giving you more variations.

    I mostly play games I'm interested in or at least had a decent impression that I want to try them so I skip plenty of stuff because life is short and have no time to play all of them while also having a huge backlog.

  • Story all day. I'd rather play a game that has a amazing story but plays like shit than a game that has amazing gameplay but a shit/no story.

  • @el-shmiablo that's a good question

    There's always a sliding scale with these things.

    I think games suffer most when they have a strong focus on story, but also try to be a game just as much. I wouldn't say Uncharted 2 or Bioshock infinite have very strong gameplay segments or that the gameplay feels like it meshes with the characters and story that are focused on so much. It feels like the gameplay is there because these products have to be games. I see these cutscenes and then I feel like I'm playing a Rambo game with less than inspiring mechanics.

    The Last of Us on the other hand worked for me because the gameplay was incredibly versatile and compelling on its own while fitting absolutely perfectly with the characters and themes of the story. Even if the gameplay didn't fit with the story, I'd probably like the Last of Us more than the above mentioned games.

    With graphic novel type choose your own adventures, the gameplay isn't focused on. It's squarely on the story. You dont have to spend so much time on basic, non- compelling mechanics and the like. You have agency, but you dont feel like your stuck going through the motions until the next cutscene.

  • Just for the argument that bad gameplay and good story still lead to a bad game. I'd just throw out something like Deadly Premontion which is a pretty horrendous experience gameplay wise, bordering to funny or just so janky but the story elevates that game and is a huge reason why it's held up as this cult classic type game.