Avoiding Story Clichés in Developing Your Game
Due to the continuous growth of the gaming industry, graphics, mobile and console, and online capabilities have all increased. The genre of games available are also diversifying as developers are forced to be more creative rather than just rely on looking better or using addictive physics. The biggest innovations of late are in the storytelling in the game, the Hollywood level scripts that add a degree of complexity, depth, and texture to the gaming experience.
The issue is, it’s too easy to fall into clichés have developed over time and repeat video game plots and stories have been done to death. No matter how good a game looks or plays if we keep experiencing similar stories we get bored fast. Since storytelling has become a key element to a game’s success, how do game developers avoid the clichés?
You are the chosen one
Many games are fond of the idea where the protagonist is destined for greatness, possessing great powers and strength as the game goes on. Games like these give the player a sense of purpose they might not have. Kingdom Hearts, Skyrim, and Assassin's Creed are all great games, but they all possess a similar element for their main characters - they are the chosen ones, they battle against evil and save the world, blah blah blah. That was great when game play and graphics were that only things that mattered.
An overused and a convenient way for game developers to present a story to the player is making their character start with having no idea who they are or what is going on. As the game goes on, amnesia allows the player to learn about the character’s past at the same time the character himself discovers that past. This also allows the supporting characters to have to explain everything to the main character and the player. Amnesia is an effortless way to present a backstory and attempt putting a connection between the character and the player.
Dead loved one
What is the best way to give a character the motivation for revenge? Kill off a loved one. How can you get players invested on the protagonist’s backstory? Give the players a massive emotional experience where they watch their character’s family die or be taken. Another similar tactic for this is destroying the village or house where your protagonist has an emotional attachment, too. Revenge will usually be the ulterior motive for the protagonist’s quest.
What else is better than a game where all hope is lost. Although the idea of a post-apocalyptic lawless world is fun, it has ended up being a cliché used up by game developers. Apocalyptic games occur too often that the emotional impact of the game will be similar as of the other similar games’. It has resonated long enough that the apocalypse is no longer seriously taken when presented in a game.
The undead were once an original concept that could entertain and simultaneously terrify prospective gamers. Hell, we even built one of these. Unfortunately, the success of this theme has made the idea of zombies overused and unoriginal. Just like post-apocalyptic games, a zombie-themed game is now a saturated market.
If you have to go cliché then make sure there’s a twist
Game developers should try to stay away from the mainstream concepts or reintroduce these clichés with a fresher perspective. Let’s take Silent Hill 2 as an example. Silent Hill 2 is a survival horror game where it revolves around the story of James Sunderland in search of his wife after receiving a letter from her a year after her death. How you interact with the game affects the outcome of how the game ends. Symbolism also plays a big role in the game, with every creature that comes being the manifestation of the protagonist’s emotions. This has a twisted psyche which affects the player's sense of empathy. Even if Silent Hill 2 is a horror-themed game, it successfully intrigued players by integrating a mind-boggling story in the gaming experience, adding additional elements of psychology, suspense and survival altogether.
Break the mold
Here are just a few examples of people breaking the mold and try to create a storyline that impacts as much as graphics.
This science fiction tale follows Simon Jarrett trying to figure out how he wound up in an underwater research facility where things have gone very, very wrong. Rather than turn to combat, the game uses stealth and puzzles to tell Simon’s unsettling story.
Grim Fandango This may be old now but, but it still a brilliant and unique game. Our protagonist Manny Calavera, is a Grim Reaper who doubles as a travel agent, arranging the journey that fresh souls will take on their way to the peaceful Ninth Underworld.
Portal 2 Again, old now but still brilliant, where the minimalist narrative introduced gamers to the silent Chell and the decidedly less silent GLaDOS. Intricate puzzle solving in a whole new way.
Beyond 2 Souls
Now, I am not sure you can even call this a game. It is an interactive move, or TV series. Jodie, who is portrayed by actress Ellen Page, possesses supernatural powers through her psychic link to Aiden, growing from adolescence to adulthood while learning to control Aiden and the powers they share. Willem Dafoe co-stars as Nathan Dawkins, a researcher in the Department of Paranormal Activity and Jodie's surrogate-father-figure. It may be controversial to say, but I found parts of this taken so far towards the everyday life of a person, that it was actually boring and painful to get through, but my gaming expert and partner BeckFu, loved it, and it is a true example of exactly what we are talking about here. Cliche avoidance.
Stories should become an integral part of game development. It is time for clichés to die or get reinvented in order to create new emotionally invested journeys, so it can be exciting and to play. The storyline has slipped in favour of blood, gore, fast paced impact, sports and fancy graphics effects. It’s time for the heart and soul of the game to become centre stage again.