A Brief History of the Evolution of Storytelling in Video games

We live in the golden age of video games today. There are games available on the PC, home consoles like the PS4 Pro, the Nintendo Switch, and the Xbox One, as well as our mobile phones that are never more than an arm’s length away. While there are still plenty of simple stories used for video games, such as what you will find with Candy Crush, other games have developed into legitimately good storytelling avenues. It was not always like this.


The Early Days

Before you could use your gaming controller to have interactive conversations with players, there were elementary games like Space Invaders and Pac-Man. There were no real stories told in those early days. Instead, the games were a fun distraction for people. Even games like Pitfall did not have much in the way of a story. It was pixels running across a screen and swinging over alligator invested water. However, there were attempts at story, such as the arcade game Dragon’s Lair released in 1983. It was imperfect, and it was beyond what home consoles were capable of at the time.


A Slow Evolution

Through the remainder of the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, the games evolved at a regular pace that kept up with the technology for the most part. The Legend of Zelda is just one good example of how developers were using technology to deliver exciting stories even early on. The stories continued to advance and grow more complex and mature over the years.


The Modern Age

However, things changed with the release of a game called The Last of Us. Thanks to the technology for facial capture, the acting skills of Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker, and the emotional story, it helped to bring storytelling to a brand new level. Other companies have been providing more and more story-driven games over the years, as well.


How Have Controllers Contributed?

Whenever there have been new iterations of consoles that have come to the market, there have been changes to the game controllers. It is true when you compare the new PS4 controller to the old PlayStation controllers, controllers for the Switch, the Xbox, and more. The controllers for PC have typically matched what becomes available on the consoles.

As the consoles and the controllers evolved, so did the ability for the developers to tell more stories and to do more with a game. There is simply no way for a game like Pong with a simple single dial to be as engaging and engrossing as a Dragon Age or Mass Effect game, for example.

That is not to say that there weren’t some exciting and fun stories told in the early days of gaming – there were. However, with the new systems, controllers, and available storytelling techniques, it has allowed the writers and developers to do a lot more. The future is sure to hold even more great games, including The Last of Us II.