From Pixels to Frames: The Cinematic Experience of Storytelling in Video Games

With the development of digital technologies, video games have become one of the key pillars of online entertainment and in some cases, they even have overshadowed traditional movies due to the variety and especially interactivity that movies cannot provide. 

However, there are two elements that have been borrowed from moviemaking by game design and development that made it possible for video games to stand out. Traditionally, games were more mechanics-centered and focused on challenges for players rather than a story and its background. However, as the industry developed and evolved it turned out that storytelling can be one of the crucial elements that drastically increase emotional engagement and make gaming more enjoyable. 

Yes, games are still made to play and not to watch or read, but high-quality storytelling (which is part of movie making really) takes games to a completely new level. 

The second element of movie making that was borrowed by the gaming industry is cinematic vision instead of “gaming” vision. Making the game look like a good movie and making the game tell a story like a good movie while still preserving the interactivity is a new age in the video game industry. 

The Importance of Narration in Video Games 

Narration and storytelling are a big chunk of the cinematographic approach to video games. A high-quality narration can do many things for a game, for example: 

  • make players more deeply invested in the game emotionally if they like the characters and story 
  • expand the game’s lifespan by offering a deeper and wider context to its players; players are more likely to return to experience the same universe and the same backstory context rather than go through the same missions again 
  • cultivate a long-term fanbase and stir user-generated content like fan theories, fan art, etc, around the game by its dedicated community 

Storytelling wrapped into cinematic vision and means used for making movies engages the viewers even more, drawing them into the game’s world and lives. Moreover, quality cinematic games attract older players (who can also afford to pay more for the game) who are interested in non-mechanical aspects of the game, like its unforgettable visuals, its complicated intrigue, its deep emotional connection with certain values, its historical or cultural background, and so on. All these things can be added to a video game to make it a truly long-lasting masterpiece. 

Games build on a story, especially a story told according to some decent movie traditions, can be developed into parts II, III, IV, and so on, and will find their audience, sometimes in different generations, in contrast to games built solely on mechanics. If done skillfully, the games’ universes grow not only bigger but richer, and more intricate, worthy of exploration. 

A good game is an interactive movie that one can watch many times and take a different approach every time, changing the scenario and the characters’ fates. 

More Than Just Visuals: Cinematography in Games 

When speaking of a cinematic game we mean more than just watching snippets of the story in-between the action of a video game. Cinematic means in a game go beyond scenes and dialogues, including things like shot composition, lighting, plot twists, and so on. Used cleverly, these means take the user journey to a higher level. There are several concepts that help game developers fuse the gaming and movie-making approaches to create outstanding cinematic experiences. 

Shared Experiences

In the real world, shared experience is one of the most powerful bonding elements for people. We connect to each other, sometimes in unexpected ways, when sharing events and processes in life. 

When this concept is taken for a video game, the player shares experience with the character they use, and feels the story unfolding through the character’s eyes. 

However, this concept is taken a step further when the player can control more than one character and experience the same story via more than one approach. This way, the player shares experience with their characters but also they can feel the connections between characters. These are complicated psychological nuances that players are not always aware of but they crave the experience they can get. 

Interactivity Via Options 

Video games usually give their players options – options for dialogues, options for activities, and so on. This is the element so lacking in books and movies where you can only experience one variation of the story given as it is. 

However, the interactivity of the in-game story that includes options makes playing so much richer emotionally and gives the players opportunities to decide where the story goes. Moreover, giving options means the player is likely to come back later to see where other, previously unchosen options can take them. This scenario is not available in other forms of online gaming like gambling; when players want to find the best payout casino in Canada they will end up in the same place but when choosing other actions or dialogues in a video game they can end up in a completely different situation or even find an easter egg! 

Depth of Plot and Characters

Besides backstory, characters and the plot can be experienced deeper through intense and dramatic effects of editing, camera angles, musical and visual effects, and so on. Being not only meaningfully, but also sensually more emotionally intense, such characters in the game make players more engaged. Deep plot twists together with smooth character development make the game world more compelling. 

Final Thoughts 

To be honest, in modern games, the cinematic effects in modern games are no longer an extra benefit because more and more game developers take this approach. Cinematic elements became an important component that enriches the gaming environment and maintains a balance between visually satisfying experience and the joy of interactivity. A visually rich game with an engaging story attracts both newbies and experienced players, makes the players come back for more, and meets the needs for just enjoying the atmosphere or going through all the possible missions. 

This way, modern video games are true works of art that can be interacted with in the first place. 

Written by Austin Crane

Austin is the principle web director for Untamed Science and Stone Age Man. He is also the web-director of the series for the High School biology, Middle Grades Science and Elementary Science content. When Austin isn't making amazing content for the web, he's out on his mountain bike or in a canoe.

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