Why Bother with Story?

Rage came out today and I found myself defending its most certain lack of meaningful story. My defense was that if the game-play is fun, ala Doom, Quake, etc, then it doesn’t matter if there’s no story or the story is bad.

Most games have a start and an end. Getting from one to the other is just a matter of moving through pre-defined checkpoints. I ignore story a lot these days; I don’t read quest text. I finished Mass Effect, Bioshock, and Deus Ex Human Revolution without paying attention to the story. I couldn’t tell you what those games were about. I skip every cut-scene I can. I pick dialog choices arbitrarily because I know the game designers wouldn’t implement a story choice that leads to a dead end.

Essentially, no matter what I do in the game, as long as I kill people and move to the next checkpoint, I will ultimately get to the end; or one of a few pre-defined ends. I feel powerless, my in-game decisions physically can’t move me into story that wasn’t pre-defined on the media when it shipped.

Understanding that I cannot influence the story, and ignoring the story is of no consequence, what is the point of story in video games?

I ask because video games are supposed to be an interactive medium, yet the same as movies, we are only along for the ride; the story exists without us and we are powerless to influence it. So I say, story doesn’t matter. I am happy moving from checkpoint to checkpoint killing as many lifeforms as I can along the way.

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