Video game storytelling has come a long way, but there's still a ways to go.

Bioshock creator Ken Levine has been writing for a while; he started his career as a screenwriter. And he says one of the biggest mistakes developers make involving scene creation is as follows- they just hand out way too much information.

This is what Levine told Digital Spy :

"People tend to overdo it with their story and not strip it down to the bare minimum. There is a rule that you start the scene as late as possible.

When two people are going to discuss their divorce, you don't start with them waiting outside, going inside, picking up their menus – you come in at the last possible moment while also giving all the information required in the scene, and then you end it as soon as you can."

Levine added that too many cut-scenes simply involve too much talking. Now, bear in mind that he's not saying we require more action and less dialogue; he's talking about conveying necessary information to the viewer. For those who are aspiring writers, you should know that you should always "show" and not "tell." Here's a quick example:

"Catherine sat and stewed. She was upset and angry; she felt like getting revenge on the world."

"Catherine sat, staring at a magazine without reading. The magazine was on the verge of ripping; she clutched it with whitened knuckles."

You can see the difference. And I have noticed that we have too much obvious information in cut-scenes that are basically "telling;" that information can be shown to us in an artful way, as all good writers do. We have made great strides but for the most part, most non-interactive cut-scenes in gaming are amateurish by book and film standards.

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BikerSaint
BikerSaint
9 years ago

I'm liking his style.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
9 years ago

He's right, but if you take a look around most movies and TV are doing it wrong too. I place special blame on the deliberate dumbing down of content for the idiotic, mainstream, twitter-communicating masses.

They spell out every last thing so that the asshats can grasp what is going on and the intelligent people are left rolling their eyes. If you just let the audience figure some things out themselves you'll have a better narrative and less ridiculous dialogue.

Beamboom
Beamboom
9 years ago

One word: Sitcoms.


Last edited by Beamboom on 11/22/2011 5:36:43 AM

Fane1024
Fane1024
9 years ago

Another word: procedurals.

Gordo
Gordo
9 years ago

Is quality writing becoming niche?

I rarely watch TV nowadays, especially the commercial channels. That is dumbed down to the nth degree.

There is a lot of quality around mind you. I've enjoyed Rome, True Blood and Dexter over the years for example.

TV seems to have taken a good share off of the movies. Video games are doing the same.

Good writing will shine through regardless!

Warrior Poet
Warrior Poet
9 years ago

It's not very often I play a game for the storyline. Heh. Since games are mass entertainment – hundreds of thousands of sales can be considered a LOW number – they will, for the most part, follow whatever the trend is in terms of storytelling. Of course, we will always have our exceptions 🙂

I think Nintendo is really good at showing instead of telling their stories. Sure, they're archetypal and all that, but their pacing and delivery is perfect. Especially Miyamoto. Super Metroid and A Link To The Past are two of the best examples I can think of – games that tell stories as games, not as movies or dialogue. And if you've never played either of those…well…shame on you 😛

So the art is already there. It's just not being adopted very much.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
9 years ago

Sometimes it's better to tell though.

___________
___________
9 years ago

and this is why bioshock has, and probably will, have the best story put in a video game ever!
exactly why i so cant wait for infinite!
the combat in bioshock has never been anything really special, but the story has more then made up for it.
just goes to show how important a good story is, and how much it can save a game.
as ive said a billion times a game that looks like avatar is not going to keep bringing you back.
a game with a fantastic thought provoking story on the other hand definitely will.

Lairfan
Lairfan
9 years ago

I assume because you hold the first BioShock in such good standing that you're gonna hate the new one.

Seeing as how you seem to hate/enjoy/hate again all sequels that you play. Just saying.

karneli lll
karneli lll
9 years ago

I think his way of telling a story is lazy. Picking up recordings of what's going on is boring but i think i was the only one who didn't bother to finish Bioshock so im in the minority

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
9 years ago

Yeah you are. The recordings don't tell you what is going on, they are slices of life around the city and it is up to you to put those pieces together. While I had enough information to figure out the twist at the end, I still hadn't figured it out until I was told, that's what makes it great. Like the Sixth Sense had enough information to figure out the twist, but it all makes sense at the end. Very effective storytelling.

Lawless SXE
Lawless SXE
9 years ago

I like this guy.

Beamboom
Beamboom
9 years ago

BioShock Infinite is in good hands.

Fane1024
Fane1024
9 years ago

By the way, if you see the name "Ken Levine" in the credits of a movie or TV show (e.g., Cheers), it's probably the other Ken Levine (who was also an announcer for the Mariners).

Excelsior1
Excelsior1
9 years ago

I agree that most storytelling in games is very amateur at best. Some of the writing going in videogames is just plain awful. Even some the best storytelling in videogames would be considered B movie material for the most part. They have a long way to go.

Robochic
Robochic
9 years ago

I love this franchise, I really can't wait for the next installment, i never thought when i first heard about it that i would have so much fun.

BikerSaint
BikerSaint
9 years ago

Levine gives true meaning to the phrase…
"Actions speak louder than words"

Gordo
Gordo
9 years ago

Never played Bioshock. Is it still worth picking up now even after all these years?

Love a good story me…