This one will probably be a quick one, just because I can’t really think of many images to go with it that are actually coherent to the words at a glance. Now the, I’m noticing a major problem with gaming recently, and the worst part is, it has to deal with my other preferred hobby: reading. I’m talking about the almost retarded tendency of releasing of a game with a paper-thin story, and then releasing a book with more story and going “No, see, you didn’t read the book! The book explains everything!” That is extremely bad storytelling. Your job is to tell a complete and thorough story, not to point at a book and use it as an excuse for plot-hole filling. But that isn’t to say using other media as a tie-in or to fill backstory shouldn’t be done. Let’s give off a few examples of how this is done right and how it’s done wrong.

The Bad:

Right out of the gate, Halo falls flat on its face for this one. The Halo universe is one of political intrigue, survival against impossible odds, and the culture clashes of unlikely friendships. Guess how much of this the player sees? About none of it. At all. The closest hint comes in the lowest rating of the series, Halo 2, when you play as an actual member of the alien race, the Elites. The politics and high-stakes games played by the Covenant are intriguing and deep, and the answers are never quite satisfying enough to want to stop looking. The human side of the story involves gunning down hundreds of fanatically religious aliens. The Alien side involves fighting to regain lost honor and a massive conflict of self as Arbiter uncovers more and more of the truth.

Which isn’t to say the Human story is all bad! After all, in Reach you play as the Spartan III’s and… oh. That’s right. Virtually no time went into explaining who the III’s are or where they come from. Guess you should have read ‘Ghosts of Onyx’ before even picking up that game. Well, Master Chief is actually a compelling character! He has a tragic past and a close-knit family… and you don’t know about it without reading ‘The Fall of Reach.’ Okay, fine. What about Halo 2 with its much better story? Well, ‘First Strike’ fills in most of the history and plot for the first 3 levels. “Alright fine, what about in-game lore?” you ask. Well, there is actually some amazing writing in the Halo 3, and a massive burst of lore. It was truly amazing to read. Now, where is this lore, the final battle of the Forerunner and Flood? It’s locked away in terminals across the game on the highest difficulty possible, and very rarely is one near the start of the level. It’s a nice reward for exploration and the lore-hounds, but it’s hardly the way to tell a story.

If you want a more recent game, Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Outsourced bosses that have almost no story in the game proper as for why they are trying to murder you in the first place. All of their motivations and story, the life behind the character, it’s in a book. You know, as far away from the game they exist in as possible. Come on dev’s that’s just bad story telling. We need to see the characters lives, to uncover it ourselves through gameplay, not be told it as a neutral observer in a book.

The Good:

Now, the first example is not from a book, but it is from an outside media source in. The story of Mark Meltzer is known to people who kept up with the BioShock 2 Alternate Reality Game (ARG) as a man who went looking for his missing daughter, following clues from around the world until he finally came to the dead city of Rapture. There, the player can find several audio logs Meltzer makes after coming to Rapture. Now, instead of leaving the player in the dark if they didn’t keep up with the ARG, these logs fill in details without outright stating things the ARG players already know. Instead of opening with him crying about his daughter being kidnapped and his travel around the world, he opens with observations about the world around him, voicing his concern for his daughter and praying she wasn’t in the drowning husk of Rapture, but knowing better. Further logs reinforce the past knowledge by setting up clues and context to who this man is without having to explain much. So you have the story of a man before he came to Rapture, and the story after. Those who know the before know more about Mark Meltzer, but those who know about the after are never left in the dark about who this man is or why he is there.

As always, Rapture herself tells a chilling tale just by the way the city is set up, through the decay and madness. Those that look for it find a hidden side to the world, and those that don’t are not at a loss while in Rapture. So, come on devs and publishers, let’s use books less as a way to fill in important story, and more as a way to keep telling stories. The game doesn’t have to end when the credits roll, and the universe don’t end when the menu comes up. Let’s use books to tell great stories, but also use games to tell a gripping and powerful story as well.