How important is a game’s story to you? How does being an MMO change that to you?
We all have various reasons why we play video games . But in some genres — namely, RPGs — story matters more than in others. World of Warcraft is an MMORPG. While it’s true that the RPG elements definitely exist, and the story is a major force that shapes the content, the WoW developers themselves have said, on occasion, that “gameplay trumps lore.” That is: game design decisions will (nearly) always take precedence over the story. It’s the reason why the entire Alliance speaks “Common” and the entire Horde speaks “Orcish,” but the races of either faction seem incapable to learn the other language — game mechanics.
Recently, content creator Jesse Cox put out a video comparing his experience playing WoW and another behemoth of the MMORPG genre, Final Fantasy XIV. In his video, he makes the point that FFXIV can be opposite to WoW in that regard. It values story first, and gameplay revolves around the story. It is, in his words, an RPG first, and an MMO second. Which is to say, you’re unlikely to play FFXIV if you don’t appreciate its story. For many players of that game, the story is the whole point — some even play it almost exactly like they’d play a single player Final Fantasy game.
In WoW, on the other hand, there are plenty of players who jump into the game to raid, or to PVP, or to do dungeon content, or to hang out with their friends: the story is secondary to what their real purpose in the game is. But even to those players who do value the story, that valuing can come in several different degrees. To a few, the story is the sole reason why they play. They can get extremely involved with, and invested in it. They might consider quitting the game if the story no longer goes in a direction that pleases them. To others still, while the story is important, it’s just a cog in the machine. While they might be bummed if the story doesn’t please them, they will still keep playing and enjoying the game for a multitude of other reasons, often related to gameplay itself, or to their social ties.
And the same can be said of other games, RPG or otherwise. Videogames can be an extremely valid means to tell a story, allowing players to interact with the narrative in a truly unique way, that a book or a movie simply cannot replicate. Games like BioShock, or Heavy Rain, or 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, among so many others, deliver incredible tales in ways that simply couldn’t be properly experienced in other types of media. You’ll likely be playing one of those games for a combination of story and gameplay-related reasons, but you’re unlikely to play them if you don’t care about the stories they’re telling.
What kind of player are you? How much do you value the story, not only in WoW, but in videogames as a whole? Do you get invested, and expect payoff for your investment? Have you ever had truly emotional moments and experiences when playing games, akin to what you would get from a movie or book? Is the story, by itself, enough of a reason to make you start playing a game, or quit playing one?
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