There was once a time where video games were considered utterly incapable of telling a legitimate story.
Decades ago, the medium was in its infancy, and the art of game design was more about pioneering gameplay experiences, with that alone being a difficult challenge; story was considered the cherry on top, and it was almost always sparse at best.
But the technological advancements, collective industry experience, and ambition of video games grew, and before we knew it video games were very deliberately crafting stories, more than a few of which are highly revered today as being just as good as any other medium.
However, player retention when it comes to the story a game is trying to tell has something of a dubious reputation.
Sometimes it can seem like a hassle, delaying the player from getting back into the gameplay experience.
So, the question remains: Do players pay attention to storylines in video games?
When stories in games captivate
There have been more than a few games in the past that have had enriching, engaging, and even emotionally moving stories.
GameMine explains that gaming is an art form like any other, where artists communicate and express themselves to their audience, and even though the story isn’t a strict requirement, more than a few game designers have expansive stories to tell.
The medium of video games allows for some unique storytelling opportunities, and the fact that they can’t be experienced in any other art from seems like motivation enough for players to give the stories their due.
The ability to make choices within a video game is something that movies and books struggle to provide while it can be seamlessly integrated into video games.
The smartest game designers will incorporate a story that leaves the player wanting more, not overstaying its welcome or competing with gameplay for the player’s attention.
Rather, the ideal game story supplements the rest of the experience, sometimes even being told through gameplay itself so it is far more assured of not seeming intrusive.
Furthermore, sometimes there are games where the gameplay itself is simply lacking; when a good story is present here, it can be the defining element that saves a game from being lackluster, pushing it to the heights of memorability.
Whether it’s a remarkable character, an imaginative world, or a combination of both – when the story in a game is the only good thing it has going for it, it’s reasonable to assume the player will give it undivided attention.
When stories in games aggravate
Unfortunately, there are times where stories in video games aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Just like with other forms of art, it’s entirely possible for the audience to be misled by advertisements and even the developers themselves regarding what the story is about.
GameMine notes that this can lead straight into bitterness, disappointment, and a drastically reduced sense of hesitation when prompted to press the ‘skip’ button to end a cutscene early.
Additionally, this leaves a lot to be said about the value of video games themselves.
If a player is disinterested in the story, there is often a large portion of game left to enjoy.
Really, how many times have there been games that attempted to have a story, only for the result to be nothing more than a nuisance, an additional obstacle to the challenges the player endures during actual gameplay?
The bottom line is that gameplay is the inherent primary aspect, and everything else, including story, is secondary and therefore not necessary to many people.
When players express an interest to fast-track or bypass a story outright, it makes logical sense because it is not the number one thing that they want to experience.
GameMine notes that even if a story sparks some level of interest in the player, sometimes it also comes down to a matter of time: In the event that a player is strapped for time, and they have to choose between watching a cutscene or skipping it to get back to gameplay, doesn’t it make more sense to choose the latter?
In short, regarding the matter of player retention to storylines in games, there are explicit reasons both for and against it.
GameMine concludes that it’s the responsibility of the game designer to craft a story that engages players, without being intrusive or overstaying its welcome, and even then they need to accept that gameplay is the only crucial element that is guaranteed to be experienced.