Discussion point: What kind of game deserves a high score in Story and Setting?

By The TAG Team

Story and Setting

If puzzles are the defining element of adventure games, story and setting are essential for a full adventure game experience. In the beginning, adventure games often had no plot beyond “find seventeen treasures” and the game world could have modern computer facilities and robots next to a medieval dungeon with sword wielding goblins. Nowadays, these early efforts seem lacking, although their puzzles can still be excellent. Indeed, as such genres as puzzleless IF and visual novels attest, good interactive stories can be enjoyed without any puzzles.

They sure are more enjoyable than climbing this beanstalk

While in judging puzzles and interfaces we can keep at least a semblance of objectivity, evaluating stories appears inevitably subjective. So far, the games with highest story scores could be grouped under a common label of adventure, with such varying subgenres as sword and sorcery, science fiction, detective story and spy fiction. Often these games have had witty humour and they have rarely been grim dark, KGB being the clearest exception. Of course, adventure gamers often enjoy only these genres, but could we find good stories in all genres? For instance, could a romcom adventure game be enjoyable? Other questions you might consider:
  • Complexity of a plot often raises the possibility that the plot contradicts itself. Should we emphasise complexity of a plot over its coherence or the other way around?
  • Should we consider it important if a game tries to be more than mere entertainment and makes a statement with its plot?
  • How traditionally should we have to interpret a plot? Could a game emphasising mood over narrative score highly in this category? Could we even have a good surrealist adventure game?

Surrealist IF at least does exist

  • We often think of the setting as a mere backdrop for the narrative of the adventure game. Still, could a rich and complex setting allow for a high score, even if the game had a minimal or even non-existent plot (say, a treasure hunt in a detailed Third Age Middle Earth)?

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