Jon Christensen at /gamer makes a good point here based on an clip of an interview of David Jaffe:
There are many reasons why video games don’t tell an incredible story, one huge reason for me is the character development. In order to have a true masterpiece in storytelling, the person reading/watching the tale must truly care about the main character. Sadly, there has yet to be a game where I truly hope the main star achieves his goal. I believe many factors contribute to this, but one main reason always sticks out of my mind. The person we play as — never dies. Sure, most games we play; the character can get shot, fall off a cliff, get stabbed to death, run over etc…but we can select continue and the story is back where it left off. There is not a punishment, we always know he/she always wins in the end — as long as we put the time and effort into it. So, how could we care for someone/something if for the most part — works out in the end.
Jaffe is best known for directing God of War and the Twisted Metal series, neither of which hang their laurels on narrative. But it seems we all three agree there are major hurdles for game designers to overcome if they want their games’ stories to be considered great. Especially difficult when many of them seem to be working in revenue-focused corporatations (as they should be, just saying its not an environment that’s conducive to creativity).
I really don’t see the medium as being able to weave a tale as complex and profound as The Godfather anywhere in the near future. But it is far more valuable to judge pieces within their media as opposed to comparing to pieces in other media.
Each medium’s capability at carrying a tale has it values and faults. Books are more detailed, but require time to explore their depth. Movies are visual and can be more exciting. Music and poetry require an emotional filter. But can you really say whether the opera Carmen is better then The Great Gatsby or Star Wars?
The best bet I see at setting a new standard for weaving together an intriguing story with gripping gameplay is the Mass Effect trilogy. The first installment has set the bar high by creating a credibly detailed setting. And the promise of using save games in the second installment to carry on from one of several potential endings will create an opportunity to make an incredibly complex tale.
And if you want to completely spoil for yourself the ending of the Xbox Live Arcade game Braid like I did, follow this link to Games Radar (massive spoilers) to hear about the ultimate intended meaning behind this game. Braid’s story depends on the game mechanics to be understood and appreciated.
But like a movie, a game does not have to have a good story and character development in order to be enjoyable, like Dawn of the Dead or Clerks. Well, I guess all Clerks was is character development, but still, no story.