Now that we have some idea of what goes into a great story, the types of game stories out there and the ways in which game stories can be structured, it’s worth asking why developers-and players-should care.
No, it’s not. It’s the wrong question.
Games are only one possible way of creating art with interactive media. To assume that you have to make a game is not necessary. The question should not be whether we can add stories to games but whether we can add games to stories. The answer to that question might be yes or no. But should not impact the desire to tell stories with interactive media.
The real question is not why but how.
Games allow us to tell stories. Stories make games more desirable. But the very nature of games limits the kinds of stories that can be told. Games are about overcoming obstacles and challenges. So if you want to tell a story through game interactivity, the story needs to be about that. This why most protagonists in games are heroes who save the world.
To achieve more diversity in interactive stories, we need to abandon the idea that we should be making a game. While interaction as such probably implies a certain playfulness, there is no requirement for this playfulness to take place within a game structure.
If you want to make a game, please go ahead and make one. If you need a story as mental lubricant, don’t let me stop you. I enjoy pretending to be superhuman once in a while as much everybody else. But, please don’t make any claims as to the artistic merit of your story. Your creativity is enslaved by the format you have chosen. You might get lucky and end up making great art, but chances are slim.
If you want to tell a story, please consider the rich interactive medium. It has enormous potential for telling new kinds of stories in entirely new ways, for creating experiences that no one has had before. Tell your story through interaction. Find ways for the interaction to express your theme, your character’s personalities etcetera. Use game concepts where they suit this purpose but reject them where they don’t help the telling of the story.
Note that I use the word “story” in its broadest possible sense. By no means should the concept of story be limited to linearity or the requirement of a plot. We’re not writing books here.