For me, story’s in video games are the most important aspect of the playing experience. Of course the game-play mechanics need to be up to par so the person can play without being hindered by awkward controls but if the story is poor then it shouldn’t have been made in the first place. I like to feel a part of what I’m playing, I want to feel shock and awe as I enter a giant temple as the character does on screen (Tomb Raider as an example here). The best playing experience a person can have is if they feel they are being led on a journey and they feel a part of that journey, so many times I’ve seen people buy games and not be satisfied because they picked something generic like a sports title and if they do have anything good to say it’s usually about the graphics or the controls. Now in my opinion I don’t want a game because the controls are good… I want something with substance, depth and emotion that makes me want to play it again because I actually enjoyed myself.
Now we get to the trick one... MMO’S. Playable experiences such as Second Life (because it’s not technically a game) don’t have any story; they actually rely on the social aspect of the experience to create its own story between its users. There nothing but empty space and land that players purchase and then go about building their own buildings, shops and landscapes that other player can then visit and experience. This kind of freedom is cool, but with the content being completely generated by the players some things may not be suitable for all audiences. World of Warcraft on the other hand is a world that is built and controlled by Blizzard Entertainment (now Activision/Blizzard) and is a very in-depth world with themes and characters; both NPC’s and User’s, to interact with. It is story based, but the way you go about completing this story and the how long it takes to do it is completely controlled by the player, some don’t even choose the story route and rather use the landscapes to interact with other people much like a social website. (FaceBook come to mind).
Now MMO’s aside, you can look at games like Call of Duty. Now the main single player campaign is set during the second world war (excluding 4 from this) and you as the player must experience all the horrors that this sort of battlefield may contain. Now, is it a war story…? I would say not entirely. Yes its set during the war but each of the games are putting the players in control of a character that must experience the war first hand. I think the story is more about the persons experience during the war rather than just the war itself, Some may not agree but I think that the war was not just between the country’s that fought it, it was about the people involved and their experiences during that time and I think that what the game is trying to convey more than anything.