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Naughty Dog Agrees: Game Stories Are ‘Poor’

Naughty Dog Agrees: Game Stories Are ‘Poor’

The Last Of Us will change storytelling in games forever, at least if Naughty Dog is to be believed. Speaking to Eurogamer (I promise I do read other sites), Neil Druckmann, creative director/writer on the upcoming PS3 game recently revealed at the VGAs said these things about gaming tales:

“[We want to] change the fucking industry… because we feel like storytelling is so poor right now.
“We try so hard at Naughty Dog to push things and then games come out that are fun and exciting and get visceral things right, but to read in reviews that they have an amazing story is disheartening to us because we work so hard at it.”

Now there’s much to be said about that statement, but can I first start with: I agree entirely with the sentiment. I don’t necessarily one hundred per cent agree with it coming from Naughty Dog, though.

See, videogame stories are pretty much crap across the board. There are standout, individual moments in games like Bioshock, there are the ambitious failures like Heavy Rain, there are well-integrated though ultimately straightforward and uninteresting backing yarns like in Portal 2 and there are technologically superb, well-realised but ultimately bland, obvious, B-movie tales woven like in the Uncharted series.

These are the exceptions, and these are the finest examples in mainstream gaming. And none of them are, objectively speaking, what would be considered good stories. They rely on tropes, on obvious outcomes, on things we’ve seen done a thousand times better in a thousand other forms of media.

And that’s the problem – because they’re the best stories we have in videogames, they’re said to be as such by critics and games journalists the world over. I’m guilty of it myself. You live in a bubble, and if these are the best examples you have, you call them ‘brilliant’, common consensus tends to be that the stories told are ‘good’ and developers and publishers assume this is the level of storytelling required in their next big game.

Bland, boring, me-too, idiotic, trope-ridden and ultimately forgettable. Naughty Dog isn’t safe from these accusations – Uncharted is sub-Indiana Jones, and Indiana Jones was intentionally pulpy nonsense. But if The Last Of Us can do something – anything – that raises the bar for storytelling in games, it will be a Very Good Thing. And it’s the kind of talk I can get behind.

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