Chapter 2.30. Emotioneering Techniques Category #30: Tying Story to Gameplay and Mechanics
What the player does should enhance the story, and vice versa.
In some games,
the story and the gameplay seem to be unrelated. Even if the story is compelling and the gameplay is fun, the ideal is to link the two. This chapter addresses this issue.
A failure to mesh game design and mechanics may not be a fatal flaw, but it's a waste of a good opportunity to further emotional engagement by the player.
Many games don't need to worry about this problem. The game Spider-Man is about a guy who turns into a human spider. Naturally, the principal game mechanic has you rapidly flinging your character on a string between skyscrapers like a yo-yo amped up on steroids. So story and game mechanics tie together nicely.
Thus, in some games, this potential problem is a non-issue, while in other games it deserves serious thought.
Final Fantasy X
Please note: If you intend to play Final Fantasy X, please skip this sidebar. I'll be giving away key plot twists and character revelations.
Final Fantasy X is a game that elicits strong reactions, both pro and con. Most fans of fantasy found the game wonderfully inventive and evocative, and felt that the world the game puts forward is intriguing and unique, and the plot is nothing short of amazing. But it's a mixed picture….
In an earlier chapter (Chapter 2.24, "Self-Created Story Techniques (a.k.a. Agency Techniques)"), we discussed the fact that the game limits the player's agency. It suffers from an additional weakness as well:
The biggest recurring story element in the game is dreams. In fact, the very character you play turns out to be someone else's dream. The subject of dreams weaves itself into the story in many additional ways. And yet, there are no dream mechanics. In the game, you should have been able to do things such as:
Dream up weapons
Go into some kind of dream mode where you receive special information
Be able to escape into a dream world where you can receive some kind of power-up when you're overwhelmed in battle
Go into a dream mode where you can leave your body and go into the mind of your opponents to see their weaknesses
Project a dream image of yourself so that your enemy temporarily sees two of you and gets confused as to who to fight (making the wrong choice about half the time)
Do something that involved a dream mechanic!
But you can't, which is a missed opportunity for tying the gameplay to the story.