Stories have been accompanying humankind since the dawn of time and have endured throughout civilization. First, they would be passed on non-verbally, through facial expressions, gestures and uncoordinated bodily movements of early men trying to express their excitement with successful hunting or first encounter with fire. Some of the Egyptian hieroglyphs that are still puzzling today tell the story of the technologies used by the pharaohs, and relations between humans and gods. The philosophical story of the Decalogue was engraved in stone tablets. Stories also covered historical facts, just like when Sun was stopped, and Earth was moved from the centre of the Universe.
A good story is something that lingers in the memory of others, long after it was told; it can make people ponder and revise their way of thinking or it can simply brighten your day. A story requires certain storytelling abilities to be good – it needs solid narration, author’s knack for words, and ability to build suspense in order to evoke a range of emotional response from his reader. Stories have no limits or borders.
A story can be told by a three-year-old scribbling in the sand at the beach, a sailor who sent a bottle-letter to sea or by an intermedia performer starring in a drama. It can be narrated by an author of a radio drama on two lovers sitting on a park bench or by a charismatic leader teaching his values to his nation. It can be related by a speaker at a TedX conference summarizing how our world evolved from atoms to a global village. Stories are also the lifeblood of human relationships. We love to listen to our beloved telling us how their day was, and when it comes to flirting, girls tend to chose those who can entertain them with a great story and don’t get them bored. Or something.
As time passes by, stories take on new forms. The new media revolutionized the way we absorb information: literature now comes with hypertext, media have converged, and cross-media and transmedia storytelling projects have come to life. Despite mass tabloidization and iconization in media communications, stories and narration retain their significance in the modern digital world, which can be confirmed by the phenomena observed in video games as well as promotion and marketing campaigns.
More and more games tackle difficult subjects and are addressed to mature audience, and their creators are continuously looking for new modes of video game narration. Games like Journey or This War of Mine prove that game developers have finally started telling stories not only by weaving them inside games, but also by using game mechanics themselves, i.e. employing all mechanisms behind the player’s interaction with the reality portrayed in the game.
Storytelling also gains more and more importance from the point of view of promotion. Entrepreneurs have noticed that long-term and multi-channel relations between them and their customers prove to be more profitable. Buyers became all the more careful and demanding, and at the same time started to depend on the entertainment and storytelling aspects of promotional communication rather than on dry emotionless press releases.
Content marketing and storytelling marketing come with a far greater viral potential than e-mailing or SEO marketing. Good narration in video games has already proven that it is not always special effects or fast pace that wins the heart of a finicky gamer. If only I had the time, I would gleefully replay my personal indie hits at least once a month: Device 6, Thomas Was Alone, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, Dear Esther, Cart Life and Papers, please. And what about YOU?! Have YOU already played them?