» Street Fighter is one of the greatest story telling games
Street Fighter is one of the greatest story telling games
|In light of the "Nacht des nacherzählten Spiels" (Night of the retold
that will take place on 26 October in Berlin, I thought it might be
appropriate to share a perspective on story and storytelling in games.
Because what better measure is there than to listen to players' stories,
recounting their experiences of games played? What stuck with them, the
story or.. something else more akin to gameplay?|
sure, not everybody will 'get' everything about a story, and some will
make up their own interpretations. Take David Lynch's
movies or a
random abstract piece of art. But with most videogames our
biggest issue is worrying if players want and can skip dialog and
cutscenes, so it's usually a different angle. But that also points to
how story in games doesn't work the same way...
So. I always
thought I simply picked up my opinion on story and storytelling in games
from one of
Chris Crawford's lectures, but a couple of weeks ago it was
pointed out to me that he apparently means something different than I
do. Alright, so it might be worth the trouble of scribbling some of it
Street Fighter is a game that has great
And maybe Superman 64 and Family Dog told some of
the grandest stories of frustration in the history of all
I know, but there is a point to
You've probably heard of the troubles writers and
developers have with integrating story into a game. That's the
traditional view on stories and storytelling. But it's not the only
The basic think I took from Chris Crawford was
that Story is the static data. Maybe Setting is a better word if you
shove more of what is traditionally called Story into Setting, or
something. But let's not quibble over terminology now where we're still
learning to understand this medium and things are so
The storytelling part is actually what the
game does and allows the player to do, the interaction with the static
data. I guess you could interpret this as some of the books a player can
find and read inside of one of the elder scrolls games. Or the
audiologs from bioshock. Or maybe even more traditional exposition like
cutscenes and monologues or half-dialogues.
But from the
perspective I'm trying to describe, these are actually pretty weak
examples since the interaction is so limited or pretty much nonexistent.
I'm not saying that to be disrespectful, I remember the world's end,
the opera house and ultros pretty well from final fantasy 6 for
instance. This has nothing to do with respect or disrespect, it's trying
to look at things in a different light.
claimed Street Fighter has great storytelling. I'll explain
What do the players do in that game? They fight. They
fight and fight and then fight some more.
The story? The static
story data? Well there's a backstory for each character. Maybe you're
interested in how Ryu is always looking to get stronger, or that Ken is
rich and married or perhaps you feel sympathy for the green fucker that
electrocutes people because he was in a plane crash somewhere in the
jungle and he survived all these years on his own just to grow up into a
horribly mutated man looking for his mother? Or that there are secret
corporations with evil intentions trying to exploit the best fighters in
What is really going on is that the
story is nothing more than: There's a fight between two people. All of
those backstories are really low level, very vaguely contextual to the
fight. The real story is found in the specifics of the fight. The parts
the player can interact with.
And that's not the character's
history, it's the character's body. How does it move, how fast does it
move, in what way does it move, what do these moves do, what can I use
them for, what properties do these moves have, stuff like that. Which is
all still static data for the most part. This all serves far more
directly to influence the core story of: a fight between two
The storytelling is the interaction between
these elements. As soon as you have two human players getting accustomed
to their characters, learning what they do, they are exploring the
static data. And they will use this knowledge to interact with each
other, and thereby creating their own narrative together. And the more
the players start to understand and master this, the more something
magical happens. I think this is because interacting is also exploring
each other's understanding and perspective on the static data, in effect
exploring each other's minds. Are they fooling you? Are they pretending
to fool you? Are they pretending to be pretending to fool you?
And loads and loads of people talk about this
lots and lots in great detail, a great introduction to this are the
UltraChen TV videos for example, which can be found on their youtube
Try looking at match analyses or "first attack". Or "level 3 focus" if
you want something more in depth. The first 5 minutes of this is
probably a good allround example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRUE_ksaObY
They also really can talk for hours just on where a player positions
his or her character on the screen. Street Fighter did a great job
making everything, the tiniest detail, have
What is great to take note of as
well, is that as soon as the other player is taken away and replaced by
an artificial opponent, the game is nowhere near as fun. There is no
magical bond, there are no mind games. Maybe capcom wasn't good at
programming good character control algorithms (it's more likely to be
very hard to program a noticeable sense of anticipation and adaption to
player behavior in a fair way, something which comes natural to humans)
or maybe it's because exploring an algorithm as a player is just not
something humans like or appreciate.
And sure, you could use
this as an argument to say that Street Fighter is bad at storytelling
because it's the players that actually tell the story, or make up and
share a story between their minds. And I think that's a fair point, but
if you wanted to force a clear distinction you could probably say that
the story is just: A fight (with all the character backstories etc.),
and the storytelling is the movement and actions of the
So, where does this perspective leave the
traditional story? And what do we do with all those backstory
I don't know. To me it's like flavouring, atmosphere,
which is also very important (for me it really stands out in games like
super metroid). And for many people this can be an instant turn on or
turn off. This may also be what people mean with books when they
separate literature from pulp.
Also I don't think it's a great
idea to overload words like story and storytelling, novelists think
about storytelling a great deal and these things are very established.
So maybe we should use different or new words, or just put "interactive"
in front of them.
But this probably explains why traditional
writing and story is so often just an afterthought when it comes to
In any case, I hope this illustrated a
different view on story and storytelling. It is certainly not the only
one but maybe it helps to contribute to your own views.
actually still wonder if, measured absolutely, people talk more about
traditional story material, like: "mario is trying to save princess
peach from bowser" or more about the interactive experiences they have,
like: "I cannot get past the ice level, it's so damn hard and that
stupid Birdo hits me all the time!"
Thanks for reading.
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