Worst Things About Video Game Storytelling

Video games can get real lazy in their storytelling, falling back in clichés we’ve experienced a thousand times before. Clichés so well-worn and familiar, in fact, that you can probably guess what’s going to happen before it occurs.

Choices Actually Mean Nothing

Prime Offender: Wolfenstein: New Blood, all Telltale games

Video games are a vehicle for empowerment. We feel like the heroes, in charge of our own destinies and controlling what happens in the universe. Makes sense, then, to offer choices, right?

Choices, after all, are what separates games from every other type of entertainment (with the notable exception of choose-your-own-adventure books).


But so often in games, those choices turn out to mean… nothing whatsoever. They have no impact on the story, or offer differences so minor that it would’ve been easier not to give us the damn choice in the first place.

Look, it’s not easy for developers to create scenarios in which every choice you make has a genuinely different outcome – but some sort of worthwhile impact would be much appreciated.

You’re The One And Only Hero

Examples: Mass Effect, Deus Ex

Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some – almost invariably in video games – have greatness thrust upon them. In the real world, heroes tend to be one of the first two (you know, soldiers, leaders, philosophers, that sort of thing).

Out in videogamesland, pretty much anyone can be a hero, for just about every contrived reason you can name.


Usually this involves in them cartoonishly stumbling and bumbling into a MacGuffin that enhances their lowly human powers, or they witness an event that miraculously transforms them from Joe Schmo into Joe Hero. It’s a lovely, lazy Mary Sue piece of fiction.

Because in games, champions aren’t always born; they’re created through manufactured plot points, allowing gamers to identify with this apparently ordinary individual in extraordinary times.

Kill The Cutie

Examples: Titanfall 2, Final Fantasy VII

Need a quick and dirty emotional punch? Easy. Kill the super-loveable character – the one that audiences have grown to love over the course of a few hours.

It’s sad, when you think about it, that the only way developers think we can connect with a story is by offing the cutest character in the game. There are so many ways to create an emotional bond, to stir investment in the plot, that this just feels like the easy way out. It requires zero thought.


Zero effort. Just pick the best sidekick and write him or her out of the script – preferably with a death scene that callously plucks at all the emotional chords without ever putting in the hard work.

Typically, this occurs to show you just how evil the bad guy is (as if we hadn’t guessed), or to force the protagonist to act. Or both. This is base-level storytelling; the emotional equivalent of waking up and discovering it was all a dream.

Source – Whatculture