Gameplay vs. Story: Choose One | GameSided Roundtable

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Greetings! This is our weekly GameSided Roundtable feature, where our writers converge to provide their opinions, wishes, statements or critical thought on one general topic centered around video games. Sometimes it can be funny, sometimes it can be serious. Contemporary, classic; we hope to cover a wide variety of things in this segment as a group. If you wish to submit an idea for a GameSided Roundtable discussion topic, you can leave the editor an email at: We’ll totally give you (and your Twitter account, if applicable) a shoutout!

This week’s GameSided Roundtable topic: “Would you rather play a video game with excellent gameplay and a terrible story, or a video game with an excellent story and little/no gameplay?”

Georgina Young (Twitter)

Well, isn’t this just the question of the week. I actually have become really truly and utterly addicted this week to HuniePop, a “match 3” dating sim with RPG style elements. There is absolutely no story (unless you count walking around town meeting attractive women a story) because that’s all you do in it. The dialogue is hilarious, and the puzzle strategy brings something new to the genre. It’s fun, it’s fast paced and it’s massively addictive.

However, Papers, Please! is still one of my favorite games of all time. There aren’t particularly any gameplay elements, you just check and file papers, and make moral decisions. No difficult strategy to learn, just emotion and depth. Both games contain nudity; I guess that says more about me than my preferences of gameplay over story.

Annie Narae (Twitter)

I will always, always choose a video game with an excellent story, even if the gameplay suffers for it.

If a game doesn’t have much of a narrative, the gameplay, for me, flops and puts me into factory mechanic mode.

My love for video games stems from the fact that I sincerely believe in games as a fantastic medium for storytelling (one that I hope critics will start taking more seriously, rather than dismiss as unproductive time-wasters). If you look at Telltale’s games like A Wolf Among Us or The Walking Dead, the gameplay isn’t complex. You make choices and you mash buttons. But the games are incredibly immersive, and I’d even go so far as to say they’re more interactive media than video games.

If we’re looking at it from the other way around, my interest for Destiny plummeted on the day of its release when people were already many hours into the game and reviews emerged of a poor storyline. I’ll probably get around to it eventually, but I’m turned off from hearing there’s not much of a story motivation in the game, so it’s not quite the priority on my list.

Games are unique as a story medium because unlike movies or books, the audience is not passive. It includes us, guides us in its narrative, and if a game is made well, it will actively engage us the whole way through. And if a game doesn’t have much of a narrative, the gameplay, for me, flops and puts me into factory mechanic mode.

Rebekah Valentine (Twitter)

Argh, so hard to pick. As a lover of stories, I know which one I should be picking, but I’m actually going to go with great gameplay, little story.

It’s a hard choice. Right now I’m playing Captain Toad, which has less story than a children’s alphabet book, but it doesn’t need the story to work. It’s a puzzle game. It’s fun! I don’t know that it would be improved all that much by having a story. Conversely, Game of Thrones Episode 1 had some gameplay (not a lot) and was largely story-and-choice-based, and I loved that too, but for different reasons.

But, if you’re going to tell a story with a video game and not a book or film, there has to be a reason you’re doing it that way. If your story isn’t enhanced or supplemented in some way by the fact that it’s in video game form, then it’s probably better served in another medium, such as film or text. Now, gameplay can come in many different forms–Telltale’s choice-based systems, simple exploration, point-and-click are all valid forms of gameplay used to enhance stories. But I believe they should be used to their fullest extent to tell the story better or uniquely.

A video game without a story is still a video game. A video game without gameplay…isn’t a game.

Next: Opposing Viewpoints On Story vs. Gameplay