Single player games aren't dead!


In one of the earlier devlog entries, I have professed my love for Beyond Good & Evil. Now, I have criticised Ubisoft as well for its more recent insistence that video games should not promote any message. Sure, making messages sound preachy may undercut their relevance, yet so is avoiding it in its entirety. However, maybe that is merely a pretext.

Let's face it: Multiplayer games offer less opportunities for narrative experiences than single player games. That is not to say multiplayer games are necessarily completely devoid of it. For instance, multiplayer games can carry a narrative through their level design. However, going much further will be very difficult. Besides, Fortnite and PUBG are quite generic: They don't tell you why you fight, only how you fight. The Call of Duty series' multiplayer modes do actually have level designs that do actually tell a story. Not to mention the single player campaigns in the Call of Duty series explain the very same world as were you do multiplayer matches. In other words, you get involved and a deathmatch in a Call of Duty title feels like these have stakes attached to them.

Unfortunately, video game publishers have started to neglect that video games can definitely still be leveraged as a narrative medium, like movies, music and books. By making a video game multiplayer only and ignoring the medium's storytelling potential, the whole medium of video games is devalued. Remember why I started out with mentioning Beyond Good & Evil? Now that game had a story. Its upcoming sequel is planned to be an MMORPG. Admittedly, what it promises to do better than Fortnite and PUBG, is that Beyond Good & Evil carries on narrative baggage from the first game. Thus, you feel your work in the game world actually means something.

However, despite the success of the CD Projekt Red games, at and by large, gaming as a narrative medium is underrated. Maybe "narrative-driven" is a better way to describe games with narrative design goals, as opposed to "single player". Narrative driven titles such as The Witcher, Dreamfall Chapters and Deus Ex, can help us inspire and generate a much larger impact than passing multiplayer fads such as Fortnite. That something is a fad does not necessarily mean it is a bad game, although the long-term impact of Fortnite will simply not be as great as the first Beyond Good & Evil or the first Deus Ex. In fact, Grand Theft Auto made its largest impact before Rockstar Games started to shift focus towards multiplayer gaming in GTA V. 

Indeed, we have yet to tap the full potential of video games as a narrative medium. If Total Rendition helps to create just a small dent, in favour of games as a narrative medium, I'd be happy.

-Mordechai Gabai

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