This article is based on a CGS community poll in which we asked everyone about their thoughts on storytelling.

Good storytelling is the key aspect in elevating a game from an exercise in strategy to a rich and exciting experience. It’s the difference between just playing to win and the opportunity to explore, discover, and influence the story and even the whole game world. Since we’ve already shared our thoughts on storytelling in this article, we wanted to let the community voice their opinions as well. To do that, we have started a discussion in the form of a community poll, and these are the results.

First of all, let’s just say that storytelling really matters to almost everyone. While a game with exceptionally well-designed mechanics might sometimes be able to get away with a lack of theme, it’s just not possible to get away with a bad story. And as long as we’re talking about writing good stories, why not throw the ability to make decisions into the mix as well? Branching storylines where players can influence how the story will develop is clearly preferred to a linear story that never derails from its predetermined course. 

When it comes to the choice between playing long campaigns and single scenarios, people clearly like campaign games a bit more, although the majority of people don’t mind playing either. That being said, when you look at the games that the community actually voted for as having the best story, you’ll find that all of them have long campaigns sprawling through multiple connected scenarios. And that’s understandable – as far as the absolutely best stories go, writers just have much more potential when they are not limited by having to wrap a compelling plotline within a single gaming session.

What is it, then, that makes a story good? As a response to this question, the community has named a number of things, all of which build a strong sense of immersion. Simply put, anything that helps players lose themselves within the story is good, and vice versa. An interesting plot with a few unpredictable twists is a good start, but the really important thing is the ability of players to get into it. This can be aided by building a comprehensive world with secrets to uncover, writing believable characters that players can relate to, and also presenting players with difficult choices that have the power to change the story, or even the shape of the world. However, everything that happens needs to be believable for the setting, characters, and their motivation.

In connection to the trinity of games that conquered the chart above, people kept repeating several other things, such as multiple interwoven story arcs, the fact that the gameplay is connected with the narration, or a sense that you can lose yourself in the world, just like when playing a tabletop RPG. On the other hand, there is also a list that can be made out of the elements that make the overall story feel underwhelming, such as a stereotypical or generic setting, a lot of unnecessary text that doesn’t serve any purpose, or predictable characters and unimaginative plot points.

The answer to good storytelling also doesn’t have to be tied to the story itself but to how it is presented. Is the text engaging to read? Does it flow well? Does it come in manageable chunks? Is the illustration of what’s happening guided through the cadence of the writing? The technical aspects of the story are important as well, and that’s why many people have actually drawn the distinction between a good story and good writing in their responses.

What about you? Do you agree with the results?

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