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Could LittleBigPlanet 2 be the saviour of storytelling in games?

Could LittleBigPlanet 2 be the saviour of storytelling in games?


In case you hadn’t heard, good stories in games don’t exist. If you need confirmation, follow that link. It’s all true. I know ‘cause I wrote it. If you can’t be bothered to read it then the general gist is that if you think stories in games are good in their own right then you must be setting your sights pretty low. There’s some good storytelling in some games, but generally games have a long way to go as a storytelling medium.

So anyway, what can be done to improve this situation? Well, I already argued that we should stop settling for less and heaping undue praise on game stories that really aren’t that good, but no one ever listens to me so no doubt Halo: Reach is going to be praised for its ‘compelling’ narrative or some such nonsense. But having spoken to Media Molecule co-founder Kareem Ettouney last week, I’ve seen a new beacon of storytelling hope, namely LittleBigPlanet 2.

There’s a great deal to look forward to in LittleBigPlanet 2, and you can find out more about here, but the one thing that Ettouney himself is looking forward to more than anything is seeing how people use it to express something personal about themselves. For him, the moment he saw that someone had created a marriage proposal in LittleBigPlanet was a real turning point,

“I started thinking, ‘Wow! What about more expression? What about commentary? And people making statements?’ And that’s one of the things that encouraged us in improving the cinematic tools and the storytelling, to let people express more.”

Indeed, LittleBigPlanet 2 has a wide range of vastly improved storytelling tools, to the point where it’s possible to make completely non-interactive movies with it, should you so wish. Ettouney hopes that this will result in stories the like of which are rarely, if ever, seen in other games,

“For me, personally I like personal and expressive stuff. I think it’s lacking at the moment because of the amount of slickness that is around. There is no me and you and our problems and our things and our jokes – a bit of that is nice. I want to see… you know the animation Persepolis? It’s a good story, it’s her story, it’s her childhood and it’s very interesting. We’ve all got interested in that one person’s story. I would love to see some of that.”

So would I. Persepolis is a great example of the kind of storytelling games need to do if they want to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with books and movies in that regard. It’s based on the autobiographical graphic novel of an Iranian woman who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and its aftermath, and it’s a great story because it oozes personality and is about so much more than just her life. Unlike most game stories, it has meaning. Now, it’d be a struggle to work a story like that into most traditional game genres, and I don’t necessarily think it’d be a good idea to try – personally I think some games almost benefit from having bad stories. But LittleBigPlanet 2 is not a traditional game. It’s scope is so wide open that there are no game conventions standing in the way of genuinely good, meaningful storytelling. For Ettouney, this is what matters most about LittleBigPlanet 2, even above the mind-boggling myriad of technical possibilities,

“Meaning. They [LBP user creations] start having meaning. I think expressive comes after impressive, that’s always the sequence because we’re in the game business and in the technology world. People have to shine technically and it’s cool, it’s a good way in, but expression then comes because you have more vehicles to use it. It’s almost like nobody’d be interested in John Lennon if he wasn’t a good musician who can play good melodies, and then we got to hear what he had to say. And so I’m hoping that we’ll start seeing the meaning, the expression, the stories of life, people’s outlook, people’s messages.”

Again, so am I. It’s already begun in the LittleBigPlanet community as is, but there’s potential in LittleBigPlanet 2 for people to start expressing themselves with much greater depth, detail and meaning. It seems highly likely to me that once LBP is released, this hope will be realised and some of the best stories ever told in games will be told by the LittleBigPlanet community. But I have another hope on top of that. I hope that as well as LittleBigPlanet inspiring regular people to become game makers, it also inspires game makers to become better storytellers. That might sound a little wacky, but I’m confident LBP 2’s release will see the LBP community become creative ground so fertile, and so free of the constraints of convention and commerce, that the game development industry would be foolish not to look to it for inspiration.

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  • lDEFYl

    this game’s only potential flaw is too much content. this sequel sounds overwhelming