The 'Narrative' Straw Man: We're Not Doing That Badly Michael Abbott of the Brainy Gamer has a great piece up on the straw man of the 'quality of narrative' debate that's been going on in the industry for quite some time now: things aren't as bad as the collective we make them out to be. Really, they're not. Sure, there are broken promises along the way, disappointments here and there, and certainly the future to look towards — but there are plenty of games who are doing pretty damn well, considering that most can agree that narrative design for games is in its relative infancy:
... We are reminded of sports or puzzle games with unnecessary story elements tacked on as evidence of the misguided nature of narrative games. Or we explore the limits of games like GTA4 and Bioshock and bemoan the promises broken when it comes to fully identifying with Niko or making truly meaningful ethical choices in Rapture. These "failures" are seen as defining the limits of narrative gaming - reminders that games just aren't quite up to the challenge of telling good stories. Really? I'm the first to admit this narrative medium is still emerging from its infancy...but what a handsome baby it has been! It requires no strain on my part to recall a fairly large collection of games that have provided narrative experiences I've found compelling and meaningful. System Shock, Deus Ex, The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker, Planescape: Torment, Bioshock, Planetfall - these are only a handful of the many I could name. Are any of these perfect? No. Could they be improved in all sorts of ways? Certainly.
Amidst the teeth gnashing and wailing that frequently accompanies these discussions of narrative, a little injection of positivity is a welcome thing every now and again. Also worth keeping an eye on — and a bit of a tie in to this article — is a developing 'conversation about Braid' and interactive story telling. Beware the straw man [The Brainy Gamer]