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Mass Effect artwork
Mass Effect artwork

Video Games and the Future of Storytelling and Character Development

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Since the days of text-based video games, storytelling has always been at least a minute facet of the gaming industry. However, as the conglomerate form of entertainment has evolved, so, too, has its techniques for weaving a web of intrigue.

From the interactive dialogue in titles like Mass Effect or Detroit: Become Human to the cinematic experiences in titles like Death Stranding or World of Warcraft, storytelling has become a central aspect of the video game industry (especially in RPGs), and the future seems ripe with opportunities to capitalize on that angle.

Technology

The simplest place to begin when contemplating the future trajectory of storytelling in video games is considering the perpetually advancing state of technology. The industry has come far since the inception of text-based video games in which the gameplay was complemented by condensed fables that provided brief overviews of the title’s characters, world, and overall lore.

The history of storytelling in video games will be discussed at a later date. However, it doesn’t take much looking back to realize how much evolving technology contributes to the tools developers have at their disposal to assist them in creating a tapestry of enthralling characters, plots, and worlds that leave fans craving more.

The last year alone has seen an influx of new graphics cards, processors, RAM sticks, and other components that take gaming systems (both PCs and consoles) to a whole new level, going so far as to allow users to see the sweat glands on characters’ skin or the most subtle emotional states on their faces to drive the point of any given scene home.

All this hardware creates an amalgam of advancement that will carry the industry into the future, bringing more individuality and reality to animated characters who are, in actuality, nothing more than pixels.

Techniques

The evolution of video game narratives has brought about the implementation of techniques influenced by other forms of media. The ever-evolving techniques of literature, cinema, and music lend themselves to contributing to the intricacies of crafting a believable and riveting fantasy in the games players know and admire. Love interests, relatable characters, compelling worlds, and more are all influenced by the groundwork laid by the anecdotal complexities of other mediums.

With the way the landscape and techniques of spinning a yarn shifts, combined with the technological enhancements that have permitted the employment of cinematics in video games, the industry will see itself heralded into the future with an elephantine arsenal that allows developers to compose the grandest tales, leaving fans captivated and pleading for more of their favorite characters and worlds.

Twists and turns historically reserved for the flowery verbosity of high fantasy novels will continue to reveal themselves to gamers through the immersive cinematic experiences they have come to enjoy. Titles like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will continue offering cutscenes that allow fans to become invested in the characters between campaign missions, forever finding ways to improve upon how players feel connected to the story’s different personalities.

Moreover, the interactive dialogue found in titles such as Mass Effect and Dragon Age will proceed to expand, giving players more choices to make and listen as their character(s) elaborate upon the brief description of the choice they made in the form of dictation.

One day, perhaps, players will be able to type out or speak their own custom replies and watch (and listen) as their character uses their own voice to relay the user’s words. Such a task would be difficult, no doubt, because developers would have a challenging time coming up with coding that would allow for an infinitesimal amount of different inputs by players, but what a phenomenal achievement that would be, which would allow players to assist in crafting their own story.

Length

If games like Death Stranding are any indication, video game storytelling will start blurring the lines between video game and cinema. Between extended bouts of gameplay will be several minutes of cutscene experiences that showcase the facial expressions, thought processes, animations, and spoken interactions of the story’s heroes, villains, secondary characters, and more. The RPG genre will be the largest benefactor of this evolution, as RPG is arguably the genre that is most suited for an in-depth fable.

These blurred lines should result in games that are well worth the $60 standard edition price tag due to the sheer number of hours players can sink into both the gameplay and the cinematic experience, which allows them to get both a game and a movie (or TV show for those titles that are episodic) in one package. For those gamers who would point out that if they wanted to watch a movie, they would, it could be argued that purchasing titles that are such a heavy blend of video game and film is completely optional, and there’s nothing wrong with waiting for the publication of reviews to decide whether or not a given game is worth one’s investment.

In the future, with the way developers, writers, and several others expand their horizons to find new ways to bring their games to life, the cohesion between video games and cinema will be fully formed. This will bring about an apex form of entertainment to which fans of both mediums will flock. Similarly, just as an intriguing film cannot exist without decent writers putting the world and its characters on paper (or screen), so, too, must the realm of gaming rely upon the skills and talents of those who fancy the written word. Thus, another consumer joins the ranks of the gaming niche: Readers.

Combining these three powerful entertainment mediums into one earthshattering harbinger of story will propel the gaming industry forward, making it one of the most financially profitable, emotion awakening, and intellectually profound sources of escape utilized by people all over the world.

Furthermore, franchises like Assassin’s Creed or Final Fantasy will continue to offer a fair balance to those gamers who enjoy a good story as much as they do impressive gameplay.

The Assassin’s Creed franchise has always put an interesting spin on history, bringing famous historical figures (George Washington, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.) to life while fictionalizing major events and time periods just enough to make the happenings plausible (once one discounts the fantastical abilities characters employ with the Pieces of Eden).

Then there’s the Final Fantasy series, which offers gorgeous worlds, characters with which players fall in love, and soundtracks that reinforce those gut-wrenching emotional moments that can either bring forth those pesky tears or give fans a ride up to Cloud Nine.

These two franchises promise to take the gaming industry’s storytelling to new heights, influencing competitors, which will cause developers and publishers to churn out more story-focused titles that also offer stupendous gameplay for gamers to enjoy.

The Reality

Video games remain in infancy. In less than a century, this industry has risen to one of the most popular outlets for human interaction, emotional growth, and pure entertainment. The competitions are real, but only persist for as long as a given game is relevant. The stories, however, the characters, live in perpetuity.

From exploring cobwebbed ruins in an abandoned village and drab caves in the wilderness to fighting to survive against hordes of mutated beasts and enemy soldiers, gamers will forever remember joining their most beloved characters on the most arduous, gruesome, and twisted journeys through cyclonic plots that both scar and heal.

And the future will see those stories taken to new heights.

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