In 1972, the famous video game Pong was released and quickly became the first popular arcade game. A simple game based on ping-pong with archaic graphic design and controls. Thirty-nine years later we have gone from Pong to elaborate Hollywood style games that are based around narrative like Call of Duty or Metal Gear Solid. Video games have come from simply being games to becoming what some argue is a new medium for narrative that can tell a story uniquely and completely unlike film and literature.
Now Pong included no narrative, but other early video games did. Mario Bros. tells the story of an Italian plumber who must travel through a magical kingdom to defeat a dragon-like turtle who has captured his love, the princess. A very shallow fairy tell that is only used as a back-drop for the icon of video games. The classic game Space Invaders tells its narrative by the title and game play alone. There are invaders from space that must be stopped, and that is exactly the game. The narrative simply gives you setting for the game. (Juul n.pag.) This was the basic use for narrative within a video game.
Current games like the Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda series prioritize and even sell around their stories. The Final Fantasy series play as turn-based role-playing games with a huge focus on story and character. Playing and completion is encouraged through engaging in and reaching the end of the narrative. The Legend of Zelda games stray from linear story-telling and use a more open-world game. That roughly means the player is able to explore many things at their own leisure and continue on with the story when they wish.
Since it is now established that video games past and present tell at least some form of a story, what is unique to gaming that allows this? First the heart and core of video games must be presented. It will be seen that these actually clash with traditional narrative.
The heart and core of video games are rules, objectives, laws, and goals. (Juul. n. pag.) Players play to make and complete the goal. Commonly the goal is the end of the narrative, or reaching the narrative's end is what pushes a player to complete the goal. Objectives also have the same function and normally intertwine with narrative advancement. Games have rules and laws that the guide how the game is played and what makes it that game. These mechanics are what make video games, games. These essential mechanics directly fight against narrative form. It isn't possible to have narrative happen at the same time as interactive game play. When a cut scene occurs the player is left inactive, this in essence is no longer a game. When a player reads onscreen text, the player is only as engaged as one reads a novel. Again, it is no longer a game by all game definitions. (Juul. n. pag.)
The first and most differentiating story-telling method of video games is player involvement. Games allow players to engage and interact directly with events and the...