Ian Bogost’s essay comparing the TV adaptation of The Last Of Us to its video game forbear was a good read. I especially enjoyed his thoughts about what content makes sense in a video game vs. a television series.
I don’t fully buy his argument that video game storytelling is inherently inferior to other media. It works differently, which I don’t think the author fully realizes. At one point, when descriving his experience playing The Last of Us (the video game), he states:
I couldn’t shake the sense that the combat was getting in the way of the story, acting as filler, just there to give me something to do in between metered doses of narrative.
Video game narratives are compelling, even if they are shallower than television or movie narratives, because you, the player, are put into the shoes of the protagonist. You are not watching a story happen to someone else; the story is happening to you—and it is happening right now.
That’s why it doesn’t matter that all the actions you perform in a video game may fall into a video game trope, like first-person shooter-style combat or even quick-time events. That stuff is the game. Gameplay, not story, is the essential element of video games. In the best games, the gameplay, more than the narrative, is what sparks your imagination, even after you’ve stopped playing. The experience sticks with you because you did it. The story sticks with you because it happened to you.