Interesting thread. As I get older and play more games and expose myself to more media from different eras (plus we also live in a time where we can see ongoing shifts in current media too in terms of trends, memetics, etc) I do notice context of media and background.
Examination of genres might be helpful:
I’m new to Visual Novels but really enjoy this genre so far. I had never really thought highly of it because of how the games tend to look buedgety and ‘ungame like’ (i’m also only partial to anime) Vn’s can have some really interesting payoffs, even if it isnt a fantastic story they tend to be expressive and creative with certain eleemnts. The Vn is a fairly old genre that had different names at different points too (light and sound novel during the SNES era… where the focus was using light and sound for ‘dramatic effect’) I think as far as this concept of literature is concerned. the VN should be the first thing mention (that or text adventure or… ‘graphic adventure’)
Point and Click adventure are a bit similiar. too, there’s a large focus on a more laid back story and a player pushing things along at their own pace. the difference here is you have a lot of Douglas Adamsy’ ‘side stories’ with minor characters and events. (Perhaps that’s why, almost every PnC i’ve played almost has some kind of humor tone)
a lot of first person puzzle games also seem to gravitate towards story. often really abstract story. Walking sims tend to have a similar feel.
MMO is a wide umbrella. Without focusing on RPGS (MOO MUD, MUSH MMO) this really was a unique thing for games. multiple players in persistent place who shape a story, in a sense. While I dont care about stuff like pokemon go (or their first game) and find it fun, conceptually its incredible to have people and politics always active in a persistent underlying basement reality. Very william gibson.
You also have VG’s like Symphony of the Night or Metal Gear Solid which are real dynamos as far as blending a lot together with delicate balance and skill, (in addition to having creative vision and even a message,) Often games that are heralded with a genre (like Unreal, or Half-Life) have something to say or speak in ways that are worth looking into
In terms of narrative heavy games games like god of war series, Detroit Become human, and red dead series have all hit some very high marks (i haven’t played those myself)
a flat and linear thing like a VN can immerse and bring the observer into the experience. its similar to a book or movie, often there are creative bits that can make the experience feel more ‘intimate’ as well (for lack of better word) so i think the VN stands out.
I always felt like first person dungeon crawlers… whether they are new ones like Skyrim or really old things like Betrayal at Krondor, Arx Fatalis, Ultima Underworld, often find a real sweet spot in delivering a kind of immersive and game like experience (partly from the First person perspective) combined with a lot of ‘values’ that you find in role playing games which lean towards narrative.
As much as I loathe the way bethesda do many design choices the fact is they make some of the most immersive first person games and they arent flat shooters.
elements themselves of games can stand out. In particular, choice and consequences (CNC) which some people like and some do not. This brings a sense of being a part of whatever is happening and influencing it. It also brings a kind of anxiety and wonder about what to do. What was everyone’s first game that pushed for some hard CNC? (I certainly remember playing Deus Ex for the first time and the weird feeling I had completing the Airfield.)
Another element is world building Minecraft is probably the purest experience I can think of in terms of world building. No book lets a player build their own world like that.
Sure there is the other world-building… That of something built for you. It can be through Lore. Dragon Age. Elder Scrolls. Etc. or it can be more subtle and be things like the way things are depicted in something like Thief, Dishonored. Often its some combination or scale between the two of course. With games I find this is rarely something that a lot of emphasis is placed on. If you want a game that has really solid and deeply fascinating lore or a very meticuluosly crafted and inspired ‘world’ it can be hard to look for. Often, you’ll just have games with a lot of content, often written by different people. Sometimes it doesn’t always match up, and reveals itself as filler. Some sandboxy games completely randomize the world building too or provide a minimal amount of it (No Man’s Sky… kind of, and Kenshi… kind of) which is a strange approach that encourages and drives the player to interpret things either in their own way, or make up their own story.
similar to the way a game lets you direct the world building, character development is another thing. Especially games where you manage a party of people. JRPGs are probably the ones I am most familiar with that have an emphasis on this but a lot of games can integrate this in interesting ways (World of Warcraft, Kenshi, Jagged Alliance 2, XCOM) the whole draw of MMOs is character development. MMORPG is a huge part of gaming history. This is a real interesting aspect of video games in that it can let you shape characters or do things to them in odd ways.
Also exploration. Quite a classic element. It’s hard to write something interesting to read with soft characters or no characters. But in games, you can do that. You can simply allow the player to experience the act of exploring a virtual place, solving puzzles (Adventure) or busying themselves looking watching and doing things for a very long time (any action-adventure whoopty-do title) Even a shitty A/A game has a scope of depth that IMO outclasses any kind of book that is going for the same sort of thing (Gulliver’s travels, Treasure Island, etc) you aren’t on a passive ride, you are choosing where to go and i think, that really makes a difference.
One thing that is very different about a game compared to say… a book or a movie is that it doesn’t actually have to be a well written or even necessarily a well made thing to be fun. Plenty of games that blew up and are fun to play were made by people who had an idea and no prior experience as a brilliant designer.
Some video games are art. but people please, they don’t have to be lol
Oh finally you have something else that ought to be mentioned which is ‘crossover media’ stuff either inspired by another media and adapted into a game (The Matrix, Blade Runner, LotR: Shadow of Mordor) Can go in different directions, either retelling things in alternate ways, allowing player to go someplace with the story, or just providing a kind of playground with the characters, concepts, events or ideas of the original work. Often, I find that crossover media has a decent payout as far as decent writing or lore, since there’s usually some appeal to some kind of fandom. Crossover media is imo, simply the badass. often a lot of it is terrible, but i think this is where the video game shines. its certainly played its historical part (all those bad games from various franchises in the C64/atari/nes eras), and it lets you experience something, yourself.
A rather interesting game (I was quite mixed on it) that might be worth looking up to anyone who came into this thread (and read my post) is ELEX. ELEx is a lot of things but it plays a lot like how a weird sci-fi fantasy type fiction book tends to read. But maybe i just say that because that’s kinda of how the lore is flavored.