Back in 2003, when the book Masters of Doom was released, an American programmer – John D. Carmack – used an extremely risky statement, saying that the storyline in video games is just like the one in porno movies: “it’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important”. This declaration is even more shocking, considering how many wonderful and innovative lore-based titles had been released by that time (e.g. TES III: Morrowind, Baldur’s Gate or Fallout).
How does it look in practice, though? Most of the multiplayer titles are focused mostly on the gameplay itself, alongside with climbing the ranking ladder - if the player’s into the competitive part of it. What’s more – some of the single player games explain nothing more but controls and the main goal. Games focused on competing with other players don’t really need to explain what our characters’ motives nor answer questions like “why are we here?” and “what’s the story behind it?”.
But they do anyway!
A purpose, a character and a place are enough to tell a story, even if a game isn’t doing it directly. Famous Tetris and Tic Tac Toe are the best examples of games without any background that just focus on getting the best score. By all means, some researchers are still looking for a proof of a tale in those titles, but it’s a topic for a whole new article.
Q.U.B.E. seems to be only a logical game. We don’t have any information nor any context to begin with. The player even needs to learn the controls by himself. All we have to do is to find the exit. But this goal is exactly what the story is. After dealing with all puzzles and reaching the very end of the game, we discover that space located base was only the beginning of our journey. The game doesn’t give many answers but raises extra questions that are being answered in the second part of the series.
Let’s take a look at the latest EA’a release – Apex Legends. To do this we need to focus on the roots of the battle royale genre. The concept, for that sort of gameplay, has been commenced in Japanese movie (actually titled Battle Royale), and later popularized by Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and its movie adaptation. As we know from the book – every single character has their own interests in winning. Sometimes they might be full of empathy, sometimes - disgustingly selfish and concentrating only on the prize. We can find an identical condition in Apex. The only information given to the player is an explanation of the reason why all the playable figures compete on the arena. Rest of the backstory is being refined by every playing individual; thanks to this factor every character becomes even more one-of-a-kind hero, making every match unprecedented, expanding the story of their characters.
Blizzard’s Overwatch or Riot Games’ League of Legends use a completely different method in creating lore. Can someone imagine Overwatch without all of its cinematics? Or LOL without all the narrative content that accompanies the release of a new champion?
Ignis: Duels of Wizards is way more comparable to those two than the Apex. The game might be focused on magical fights, but it doesn’t mean there are no reasons for joining the challenge. One of the modes takes players for an unusual journey that allows them to discover the secrets hidden in the wizards’ past. The game doesn’t introduce tons of characters but limits itself to few, so it’s easier for the player to identify with one of them. We hope to satisfy both type of players – those who care about the gameplay and those who are interested in discovering a new story.
The lore doesn’t seem to be a crucial factor in most games. There are also players who find the story not interesting at all. For others, exploring the lore is the main reason to play the game in the first place. Nowadays every game has a story. It’s an element that makes most of the people attracted and focused. Things that are possible to imagine and relate to are kept in our memory much easier than the ones that are not playing on our emotions and empathy. That’s why most of the players have a pleasant flashback in the back of their minds when thinking about a particular title. Maybe – just like in Carmack’s case – it’s a risky statement, but every game needs lore. The game community would be awfully empty without stories to talk about.